Monday, April 09, 2012

Continually Ignoring Un-Built D.C. I-95 - 3

Nice of the Washington Times to run an editorial titled "Freeways are the solution to congestion" without mentioning any of the still un-built freeways within the Beltway, particularly in Washington, D.C., though dissing the concept of tolling which would make such new freeways more fund-able

As is the case in major metropolitan areas throughout the country, congestion plagues Northern Virginia. The constant traffic snarls impede business, pollute the environment and generally make living in the region an unpleasant experience.

This doesn’t mean - as the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce suggests - that toll roads are in any way a solution to the problem. To the contrary, a toll road’s financial survival depends upon perpetual congestion in the road network as a whole.

The explanation is straightforward. Given alternative routes without traffic, no rational consumer would fork over his hard-earned cash to take a tolled highway. Purportedly “innovative” public-private partnerships ensure that this situation never exists by securing non-compete contract clauses that either directly prevent or indirectly discourage improvements to nearby free roads. Happy commuters are not paying customers.

Take the Capital Beltway high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane deal between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the tolling firm Transurban. Under section 9.02 of the contract, improvements made to the Beltway’s general-purpose lanes without Transurban’s permission trigger “compensation events.” This scheme forces Virginia taxpayers to pay ransom to the Australian firm before the free lanes can be widened within the next 80 years. The payment would be based on an estimate of the financial loss to the tolled lane from improvements to the free lanes.

This is the equivalent of Ford customers being forced to make payments to Toyota if improvements to the American product attracted customers away from the Japanese marque. Nobody would consider such an arrangement to be in any way free-market. Nor is market competition involved when a private foreign corporation profits on the backs of taxpayers after taking federal and state grants, loans and guarantees subsidizing 82 percent of the project’s total cost.

That sum, including tolls paid over the lifetime of the scheme, amounts to billions more than it would have cost the public to construct the same lanes as part of a traditional freeway. The construction of additional free-lane capacity is the only permanent solution to gridlock.

Local bureaucrats steadfastly have opposed adding new capacity. Instead, officials kowtow to special interests infatuated with the concept of spending other people’s money - in this case through motorist user fees. No better example of this can be found than the $5.3 billion that drivers will pay to subsidize the Dulles Metrorail extension, not counting the billions more in cost overruns, financing charges and operational subsidies over the project’s lifetime.

Fortunately, Northern Virginians can look forward to a small bit of relief on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway. This summer, VDOT will begin a modest project expanding the overloaded highway’s capacity, starting with the stretch between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street. Commuters should thank Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, for his persistence in driving this project over the objections of the not-in-my-backyard crowd.

This road carries 110,000 vehicles to and from work every day, and the first phase of Mr. Wolf’s project will cost just $19 million. By comparison, the Federal Transit Administration estimates that the Dulles rail project will benefit about 35,000 persons on weekdays - meaning the cost for each regular user will be $150,000.

Unless this region puts a stop to these wasteful transit boondoggles and tolling schemes, the congestion will only get worse.


OK then- how about the Washington Times calling for constructing the I-270E/I-95 Grand Arc Mall Tunnel, under-grounding the B&O Metropolitan Branch RR, I-95 PEPCO connector, crosstown I-66 K Street New York Avenue Tunnels, and augmented Center Leg/under-grounded SW-SE Freeway?

How about protecting the Center Leg (3rd Street Tunnel) from ill advised details that would squander its design capacity, of otherwise sensible real estate development projects.

How about ensuring that SW re-development preserves the space for USNCPC's excellent Washington Channel Tunnel concept?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Continually Ignoring Un-Built D.C. I-95 - 2

It's good they are considering something with the Beltway in Maryland, especially the segment alongside President Eisenhower's favorite hang-out; but it's a continuing testimony to the disproportionate influence of the Master's of CUA & Georgetown U in keeping the freeways away

When they finally build PEPCO I-95, southbound people shall be able to see the rotunda of what is now CUA

By Ashley Halsey III, Wednesday, April 4, 11:34 AM

Maryland’s top transportation priority should be a $5.8 billion project to widen the entire Capital Beltway, from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to the American Legion Bridge, a leading national transportation group said Wednesday.

The first step would be the investment of $800 million to relieve the weekday congestion between Interstate 270 and the American Legion Bridge by widening the roadway, adding High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes and designating lanes where the direction of traffic could be reversed to accommodate the flow of the morning and evening rush hours.

In a report released Wednesday, the group said that Maryland’s recovery from the recession and its future economic viability depended on investment in relieving congestion and improving mobility.

“Maryland’s transportation system has significant deficiencies that could prevent the state from reaching its full economic potential,” the report said. “Maryland’s economy and quality of life could be adversely affected if its transportation system cannot provide for the efficient movement of goods and people.”

The cost of the top 10 projects TRIP (The Road Information Program) listed amounted to almost $13.7 billion.

In addition to the Capital Beltway project, they include replacing the Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge in Charles County ($885 million); widening the Baltimore beltway ($1.2 billion); building the state’s Purple Line from Bethesda to New Carrollton ($1.9 billion); widening and adding interchanges on Route 5 in Prince George’s ($1.1 billion); widening Route 295 to six lanes near Baltimore ($220 million); building Baltimore’s Red Line light rail from Woodlawn to Bayview Medical Center ($2.2 billion); widening U.S. 29 northbound to three lanes ($104 million); building an interchange where Route 97 and Route 28 meet in Montgomery County ($142 million); and building an interchange where Route 210 meets Kerby Hill and Livingston roads in Prince George’s.

The Gov. Nice Bridge is substandard and doesn’t meet needs at peak hours. The report projected that by 2025 weekday bridge traffic will increase by 45 percent and weekend traffic by 33 percent.

The Baltimore beltway project would require rehabilitating or replacing three bridges at an estimated cost of $85 million.

The proposed 16-mile Purple Line is estimated to carry 60,00 daily riders by 2030, with 21 station stops. Maryland transit planners are seeking federal funding for half of the construction costs and have said it would open in 2020 at the earliest.

Widening Route 5 would relieve east-west congestion in Prince George’s and encourage development along the corridor.

Widening three miles of Route 295 from Route 100 to I-195 would ease access to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The Red Line Light Rail Transitway is projected to serve 57,000 Baltimore area riders per day in 2030, provide faster, more reliable transit in congested corridors and provide a connection to other transit services.

The widening of Route 29 northbound from Seneca Drive to Route 175 would relieve commuter congestion through Columbia between Washington and Baltimore. The southbound section already is three lanes.

Construction of the Route 97 interchange would relieve congestion and provide bicycle and pedestrian facilities. It also would speed access to and from the Intercounty Connector and regional corridors of I-95 and I-270.

The interchange construction for Route 210 would improve north-to-south movement in southern Prince George’s County.

TRIP said it prioritized the state’s transportation needs by evaluating transportation and economic trends, and using data compiled by the Maryland Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.

All well and good, at least in basic principle.

Especially widening the "Nice" Bridge.

But just look at a map.

They say widen the Capital Beltway and do the improvements to the outside.

All the while they neglect the missing inner radials and upper downtown Beltway, which can be sensible routed almost entirely via existing right of ways and be enclosed (cut and cover tunnel) to shield local neighborhoods, while providing a shorter and hence more cost effective solution providing greater benefits. Notably the "Grand Arc" Mall Tunnel which I first had published in the July 1997 Takoma Voice, provides a cut and cover design solution for the North Central Freeway with the added benefit of the new northern mall and uncovering of upper Tiber Creek culminating in a waterfall at the site of the ill advised Washington Gateway real estate development project.

Yet since, the authorities have shown only this new fixation upon pretending that the massive inside the Beltway 'de-mappings' are not worthy of review, as if such de-mappings sold on the premise that highways would not be needed because the world would run out of petroleum by sometime during the 1990s where saroscant- irregardless of the sheer irrelevance between the political sloganeering and the physical realities.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Takoma Railside Development to Be Demolished

"We need to stop letting the Masters of Catholic University of America be the tail that wags the dog, and build the I-270/I-95 Grand Arc Mall Tunnel"

Ray LaHood to Demolish Takoma, D.C. developments built too damn close to the B&O Metro Branch Corridor

Developments all built after 2001, inexplicably after 911 reminded us about the importance of transportation evacuation routes, under the mania of "Transit Oriented Development" based upon premise that people could not walk more than 100 feet away to the Takoma WMATA station.

The to be demolished projects are: Elevation 314 (opened 2004), Cedar Crossing (opened 2007) and Spring Place (started later)

The projects are too damn close, being within the footprint of a potential RR car derailment, including the relatively lightweight aluminum WMATA cars, and the far heavier CSX freight cars. Earlier derailments along this RR corridor, just to the south in 1976, and about a mile to the north near 16th Street, resulted in relatively little loss of life due to the buildings being setback respectively by Blair Avenue and a parking lot, compared with what would happen to Cedar Crossing or Elevation 314 which are not only too close, but also LOWER than then this locally environmentally preferred mode of transportation. Additionally, Cedar Crossing and Elevation 314 were constructed with wood framing, as this was deemed cheaper and irrelevant to safety because no freeway was constructed along this railroad, and we know there will never be any more de-railments ever.

The lands they were built upon were industrial with some of it cleared for the WMATA Red Line, which had been anticipated with a tightly routed parallel North Central Freeway first endorsed by the White House in November 1962 and shown in 1966-71 planning, though seriously politically subverted by the perversion of the planning starting in late 1963 with the released in October 1964 J.E. Greiner initial study with 37 routes (all far more imp-active than the apparently non-controversial JFK plan) all over the map and a recommended route #11 veering 1/3 from the RR on a longer route through Takoma Park, MD, taking 471 houses instead of only about 30, and than with officials waffling towards the infamous 1964 plan as late as 1968 to ensure an official reversal at USNCPC upon the erroneous notion that a freeway is simply another arterial- like Wisconsin, Connecticut or Georgia Avenues.

USNCPC Reverses Itself- 1968

I-70S North Central Freeway- Takoma area

District of Columbia Interstate System, by DeLeuw, Cather Associates and Harry Wesse & Associates, LTD, 1971, prepared for the District of Columbia Department of Highways and Traffic, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration.

This represents the last past formal planning study design for the B&O Low Level Route I-70S Low Level North Central Freeway. As if planned to create opposition, it is entirely routed to the railroad's east, thus forcing the removal of the architecturally more significance along Takoma Avenue, plus the landmark Cady-Lee mansion previously spared.

A look at this railroad corridor during the 1990s revealed the geometric potential to re-craft it with the highway in an infinitely more socially sensible configuration placing highway and railway underground with the surface as a new linear park: that there was sufficient space to widen the corridor without conflict with landmark structures, and minimum displacement; for instance the tunnel would go beneath Takoma Avenue and avoid Cady Lee (which has an 85 foot setback); and since we were removing that railway berm, relocating the WMATA into a part cut and cover tunnel while retaining use of the existing overpass of Georgia Avenue and the CSX and MARC into a drilled tunnel owing to the grade requirements of 1% versus 5%, opening up the area laterally and lineally. Have you seen the M30 through Madrid, Spain?

This was being written about on the internet at newsgroups as misc.transport.road in 1997, and was that year published in the Takoma Voice:

Nonetheless, planning officials began looking in earnest at cramming real estate development blocking this corridor, with the first such project, the "Elevation 314" residential apartment building approved after 911 (and the brief lip service to evacuation routes). Yes, one year after 911, the Federal government would turn its back upon this route's security by allowing such limited benefit real estate development situated to subvert the greater good. Like a enclave run by a government somewhat invisible, yet omnipresent to effect a clear wobble effect of political power gravity pulling the strings.

2012 - April 1 - South Mall Blogger