Transportation Infrastructure, Making Headlines

By January 8, 2009Infrastructure

Struck by the dominant play of transportation issues in today’s Washington Post:

Page A1, “Inauguration to Close Bridges and Highways

The U.S. Secret Service and regional transportation officials unveiled a plan yesterday to ban personal vehicles from all Potomac River bridge crossings from Virginia into the District and from interstates 395 and 66 inside the Capital Beltway on Inauguration Day.

The plan would also cordon off a large section of downtown Washington from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. to help manage the unprecedented crowds expected

Much gnashing of wailing on WMAL talk radio this morning over the apparent overreaction. We remain convinced that the authorities are emphasizing the inconveniences in order to hold down the crowd size. The folks who have paid thousands of dollars for hotel rooms, etc., will be fine, but the hoi polloi will be discouraged.

Page B1, “U.S. Transportation Chief Backs Dulles Rail Project“:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters gave the final federal seal of approval to plans to extend Metrorail to Dulles International Airport last night, ensuring that the $5.2 billion project can move forward without restrictions

After a series of regulatory setbacks in 2008, rail to Dulles was revived last month when the Federal Transit Administration discarded long-standing skepticism about the project’s cost and management and sent it on to Peters for final action. Yesterday’s news marks what state, local and congressional boosters said is the government’s irreversible approval of the project.

Page B1, “Rail Gains Momentum As Purple Line Pick”:

Despite its substantially higher cost, light rail has emerged as the clear front-runner among Maryland officials as they prepare to choose a transit system that would link Montgomery and Prince George‘s counties.

After more than 20 years of debate, a 16-mile rail line is the widely popular alternative to a rapid bus system, even though light rail could cost three times as much to build and 50 percent more to maintain and operate, according to state estimates.

Twenty years of debate? Is that what they mean by shovel ready?

We had the occasion of traveling on Portland’s light-rail system, the MAX, the Monday before Christmas from Portland International Airport to Hillsboro, a distance of  35 miles or so. The trains traveled through the snow and ice when nothing else was moving in town, so that’s a mark in favor of rail over buses. But how important is that weather advantage in the D.C. area? (Washington Post info box, “The Purple Line Debate: Light Rail vs. Bus Rapid Transit“)

The most notable thing about MAX, transportation issues aside? The aggressive lecturing on behavior carried out in bilingual parity. Political correctness meets Emily Post, en Espanol. Weird.

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