Pedestrian Observations: Surreptitious Underfunding
One third of the MBTA’s outstanding debt, about $1.7 billion, comes from transit projects built by the state as part of a court-imposed mitigation for extra Big Dig traffic; interest on this debt is about two-thirds the agency’s total present deficit. Metra was prepared to pay for a project to rebuild rail bridges that would increase clearance below for trucks and cut the right-of-way’s width from three to two tracks. Rhode Island is spending $336 million on extending the Providence Line to Wickford Junction, with most of the money going toward building parking garages at the two new stations; Wickford Junction, in a county whose number of Boston-bound commuters is 170, is getting 1,200 parking spaces.
In October, when an Australian metal-recycling company purchased two deep-water berths in Providence, R.I., Mayor Angel Taveras hailed it as “a major accomplishment in the city’s efforts to revitalize its waterfront industries.”
Five months later, locals are unhappy about the “eyesore” their new neighbor has created: a 50,000-ton hill of steel. “Where did the scrap metal pile come from?” asked a Providence TV station.
It’s the epilogue to a battle that’s been raging in Providence for several years – on one side, a developer who wanted to turn the shoreline into apartments, offices and hotels. On the other, the maritime industries that have been working there since the turn of last century. In the end, industry won, but the complaints that followed – who put this big, ugly heap of metal on our lovely industrial port? – say something about our attitude toward working waterfronts.
So much for bipartisanship.
Even though his efforts to whip his party into passing a five-year transportation bill that attacks transit, biking, and walking have been fruitless, House Speaker John Boehner isn’t about to follow through on his threat to take up the Senate’s two-year bill. That bill passed with 22 GOP ayes (and 22 nays) in the Senate earlier this week.
The Transport Politic: The Senate’s Transportation Program
The U.S. Senate’s passage of a transportation reauthorization bill Wednesday was big news, if only because it has now been 898 days since the last transportation bill officially expired. Three years of debates in both houses of the Congress have brought us one proposal after another, but only one piece of legislation has actually made it out the doors of one of the chambers. That is a serious accomplishment for Barbara Boxer’s leadership in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Senate Bill 1813, also known as MAP-21 (“Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century”), is a $109 billion law that will remain in effect for 18 months if it is passed by the House. It reorganizes several national transportation programs and includes a number of interesting features, some of which I describe later in this piece.
Greater Greater Washington: Planners: Stop building linguistic bollards with jargon
Urban planners, transportation engineers, and professionals in many other fields often write with a lot of jargon. This makes their writing harder for people outside the profession to understand, and even inside, it can simply make writing less clear.