Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Significence of the Waffling on the B&O North Central Freeway

The Failure to Commit to the B&O Route North Central Freeway

The negative popular response that subsided with the subsequent supplementary North Central Freeway engineering study released in November 1966 (that essentially followed the 1962 Kennedy plan), would be re-kindled by various officials waffling between the 1966 and 1964 designs, as late as 1968.

That included the supposed highway 'advocacy' of the Federal City Council, with its highly questionable prioritization against delaying highway construction, hence meaning supporting the 1964 plan over the 1966 plan in order to start construction a few months sooner. That amount of time, would be sufficient to reverse the official positions of the U.S. National Capital Planning Commission, and the D.C. City Council.

Letter to Maryland Governor Agnew, 1967 on how waffling on North Central Freeway planning was inciting opposition.

Citizens of Takoma Park and Silver Spring had reason for their demonstrations of bitter dissatisfaction with the highway authorities of your predecessor's administration. After we had been given reason to believe that the causes of our protests had been in at least some part overcome, the matter now threatens to break into renewed bitterness. I am sure you will wish to avoid this as much as many of us.

We showed that the methods of traffic projections which were claimed to justify the North Central were fallacious, the results in error by as much as 400 percent. Our contention was tacitly admitted in "re-studied" versions of the proposal made public last year, sharply reducing the original plan of 5 lanes each way.

The re-studied proposal also tacitly admitted that the route first proposed was needlessly, even carelessly if not ruthlessly, destructive of our communities. The new version hugged both sides of the existing Baltimore and Ohio railway, thus avoiding a new swath of destruction to divide our communities and sharply reducing the number of homes to be taken.

The reduced, re-routed proposal was made public last year with endorsement of D.C. And Maryland highway authorities. The D.C. Portion was forced through the National Capital Planning Commission by votes of representatives of the D.C. Highway Department and of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads. From this we concluded, reasonably enough, that the highway authorities of the two jurisdictions (Maryland and D.C.) had reached a firm understanding with the Bureau of Public Roads.

Many of us were therefore astonished and aroused to preparations for renewed protests when Washington newspapers recently reported that the Bureau has acted to open it all up again. We have not found the Bureau forthcoming with candid information, but the press articles intimate an intention to force Maryland to accept modifications of route or design ostensibly "cheaper."

The result is that the whole controversy, which had been somewhat quiescent, is beginning to agitate the communities again. I can assure you this is so, for although I recently resigned chairmanship of the Metropolitan Citizens Council for Rapid Transit and write this simply as an individual citizen who wishes your administration well, I do remain in close touch with neighborhood sentiment on transportation-related issues.

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