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Transportation Nation

Virginia County Approves $2.3B Tysons Corner Transportation Plan

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Metro Rail construction from Tyson's Corner to East Falls Church station on Route 267 in Northern Virginia. (Photo by Trevor Wrayton, VDOT)

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors has given final approval to a massive transportation funding plan for the future Tysons Corner.

The Tysons Plan looks 40 years into the future, anticipating 113 million square feet of new development by 2050 in a modern city rising west of Washington. The board on Tuesday approved $2.3 billion to build a new transportation network for the future Tysons Corner, which includes a grid designed for buses, pedestrians, and cars -- as well as four new Metro Stations. It will be paid for in part by commercial and residential taxes.

Fairfax County Board chairman Sharon Bulova heralded the move, calling it "a major step in the right direction" for the area. “Investing in Tysons is an investment in the future of Fairfax County," she said. "Never before has such a long range, comprehensive plan been developed to support a major redevelopment initiative."

But the vision of high-rise condos and gleaming corporate offices doesn't mean much to Lucille Weiner, a senior citizen who lives in a condo in Tysons and who spoke at a public hearing Tuesday before the board approved the plan. She said the tax increases on residential properties in Tysons Corner would make her life more difficult.

"As I read the reasoning around taxing the neighborhood that is Tysons Corner, I read the phrase 'the folks that will benefit the most,'" said Weiner. "It sure isn't me who will have to move if this happens. I appeal to my elected representatives to help stop this frivolous idea on the extra tax on the people who live in Tysons."

Michael Bogasky, the president of the residents association in Weiner's condominium, agreed with that assessment. "Let's create a new tax district so that we can pay more in taxes than anyone else in Fairfax County," he said.

Weiner believes the new taxes should not be on homeowners at all.

"When the Metro reached Greenbelt [Maryland], residents of Greenbelt did not get taxed, nor did residents of Vienna [Virginia]. when the Metro reached Vienna," she said.

Developers stand to gain the most from Tysons' future growth. One of them, CityLine Developers, supports the tax plan.

"If I ever thought there was a day that I would come and ask you to approve $13 a square foot in transportation proffers and ask you for a 7- to 9- cent tax on top of that, I probably should have retired," said Thomas Fleury a CityLine vice president, with a laugh. "That's what it takes to get the job done."

Other critics argue there is a risk to predicting tax revenues over 40 years and if the county's projections don't work out, the plan will fall apart.

But lawmakers say the plan is flexible enough to adjust to swings in the economy and the real estate market.

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Transportation Nation

Washington, D.C. Region's Economic Future Tied to Cars -- Or Is It?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

(photo by Elvert Barnes via flickr)

For the thousands of commuters who spend too much of their lives sitting in traffic on the Washington area’s hopelessly congested roads, the future may not look much better than the present. Despite some large investments in mass transit projects, like the Silver Line rail link to Dulles Airport, about three-fourths of all economic activity – from shopping to commuting to work – will be the result of automobile trips in 2040, virtually unchanged from present day, according to a report by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis.

In 2007, 74 percent of gross regional product (GRP) – a measure of all income -- was the result of car travel. By 2040 it will be 73 percent, according to the study’s authors, who forecast total GRP by that year to potentially amount to $1.8 trillion, up from the current $429 billion. The projections are based on where the study places the region’s major job centers: in the outer suburbs, implying that a regime of road building will be necessary to accommodate the region’s growth.  The study was prepared for the 2030 Group, a group of real estate developers.

The study is flawed, according to mass transit advocates.

“I think it is out of sync with changing demographics and the huge market demand to live not just in the city but to live in neighborhoods that are walkable and near transit,” says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which advocates transit-oriented development. “This is a report that seems to, through some magic they have applied, allocate significant portions of regional growth to outer suburban job centers.  They are arguing for more highway investment over transit investment in the region.”

The study designates the Tysons Corner-Dulles corridor as the most prominent “activity center” that will see significant changes in transportation use thanks to the arrival of the Silver Line, but the overall forecast allows for minor shifts in mode changes, including bicycling/walking.  Schwartz says the forecast overlooks surging demand for living in urban, walkable places.

“We are changing our land uses and have shown that compact, walkable neighborhoods with transit generate far fewer car trips and shorter car travel distances,” he says. “A younger generation is driving less, living in cities and an older generation of downsizing empty nesters and retirees will not be driving as much. They are out of touch with the trends. They are trying to justify more outer suburban growth,” referring to suburban real estate developers in the 2030 Group.

Whatever transportation infrastructure will be necessary for the expected population and job growth, current levels of government investment are grossly inadequate, according to Bob Chase, the president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a group that supports highway construction.

“What the study shows is that most of the economic activity centers are heavily dependent upon a good road network, but roads also move buses.  It’s not just about cars,” Chase said.  “We’re not going to have the transportation network to support that type of economy. If we don’t invest more in transportation, we’re not likely to have the economic future that most people would want.”

One possible source of funds would be an increased state and/or federal gas tax, something few politicians are willing to publicly endorse. The current federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has not been increased since 1993.

“The cost of construction and the cost of maintenance have gone up. The cost of just petroleum products that go into asphalt has gone up 350% in the last ten years,” Chase says.  “If you want to have a strong economy, if you want to have jobs for your kids, you need to make a greater investment in transportation, and the failure to do so is going to cost every person far more in terms of lost wages, lost opportunities, and a deteriorated quality of life, than paying a few more pennies on the gas tax.”

Chase says Virginia and Maryland could also raise sales taxes or create surcharges on income taxes to pay for infrastructure investment.

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Transportation Nation

Yankee Stadium Parking Company Defaults On Its Bonds

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mural near Yankee Stadium. (photo by Flickr / wallyg)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The Yankees are in the playoffs after another successful season. But a key part of their stadium operation is a failure: the company that owns the Yankees Stadium parking garages has defaulted on more than $237 million in bonds.

The default means city taxpayers contributed about $39 million in subsidies to a project that is teetering on the brink of collapse. The city also spent $195 million to replace the parkland it gave to the Yankees, some of it now the site of languishing parking structures.

Financial advisor Edward Moran has told the Bronx Parking Development Company, a nonprofit that owns and operates the stadium parking system, that its cash flow can't keep up with its required payments to bondholders. Moran's analysis comes to a grim conclusion: “Unless debt service costs are lowered through a voluntary restructuring, bankruptcy will eventually be BPDC’s only option."

It is the Yankees' fourth season in their 50,287-seat stadium, a season that saw the team win its division while posting the second highest attendance in the major leagues. But the eleven parking lots and garages owned by the BPDC were only 43 percent full--and that's on game days. Other days, they're largely empty.

Most fans have been traveling to games by subway or taking a train to the new Metro-North station near the stadium. Others have looked for street parking or lots with prices lower then the $25 to $48 dollars charged by the stadium lots.

That means less money than expected for the company, which has been drawing from a reserve fund to pay off bondholders. That fund is all but depleted, which has thrown the company into default.

A source with knowledge of the company's finances tells TN that if bondholders can't be convinced to take less than the $15 million they're owed next year, the company is likely to declare bankruptcy. The next payment is due April 1.

Bettina Damiani of the advocacy group Good Jobs New York says Bronx residents tried to warn the city and the team that 9,000 parking spots weren't needed. "If only advocates and residents saying, 'I told you so,' would somehow make this go away," she said. "But the reality is officials and the Yankees refused to have anybody at the table on this decision."

The Yankees wouldn't comment for this story, except to say that the garages are owned and operated by a private company."The Yankees do not run them," spokeswoman Alice McGillion said.

But as TN has previously reported, the Yankees pushed hard in 2008 to add 2,000 parking spots, paving over parts of two nearby city parks to do it, even though the new stadium is smaller than the old one. The team made it a condition for staying in the Bronx.

Then Yankees president Randy Levine assured the City Council that despite the high cost of the new parking system, it would bring in sufficient revenue. "Those revenues will go back to pay the cost of the project and go to the city and a private operator," he said.

That hasn't been the case. Kyle Sklerov, a spokesman for the city's Economic Development Corporation, said that the BPDC owed the city $25.5 million in back rent and taxes as of the end of 2011. The company is obligated to pay its bondholders before it pays the city.

An arm of the city Economic Development Corporation approved the company's business plan before acting as the conduit for $237 million in tax exempt bonds. Sklerov said 5 percent of the corporation's bond issues are in default; the Yankee Stadium parking system has now joined that dubious list.

Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg, said in an email that though the city will not be required to pay off the BPDC's debt, "we are going to continue to work with creditors to get the project back onto sound financial footing." He wouldn't give details on how that might be done. He referred TN to the city's Office of Management and Budget, which did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, similarly refused comment. When asked whether the BPDC was in default, she said, "I’m not sure what the legal term is at this point in time."

In the meantime, Moran is telling the company that it "needs a dedicated manager and accounting person to control its operations." He also recommends wringing extra money from the parking spots during non-game days by pursuing deals with "circuses, ZipCar and auto dealer parking." BPDC attorney Steven Polivy didn't reply to emails and phone calls.

Damiani said the BPDC's default should be a lesson to the city. "If you're going to take your development cues from a corporation like the Yankees, I think it's safe to assume they don't have the residents' and the taxpayers' priorities in mind," she said, adding that "one of the lasting legacies of the Bloomberg administration, one of its most prominent economic development projects, is going down in flames."

The home games in the Yankees' playoff run will bring in more parking money. But then, the Yankees made the playoffs last year and that didn't prevent the company that runs the stadium's parking system from defaulting on $237 million of city-issued, tax exempt bonds.

Plan for a new Yankee Stadium with expanded parking.

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Transportation Nation

In Test of NYC's Public Support for Bike Lanes, A Tabled Plan Gets Second Look

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Columbus Avenue bike lane in September, 2011 (photo by Kate Hinds)

A stalled idea of putting a protected bike lane on a stretch of a Manhattan avenue is coming up for air, offering a test of public sentiment about New York City's often-contentious bike lane boom.

On the docket Thursday for Community Board 7's Transportation Committee meeting: whether to ask the New York City Department of Transportation to look at lengthening the existing two-year-old Columbus Avenue bike lane -- and redesigning Amsterdam Avenue to accommodate one.

Again.

When the Upper West Side's CB7 first began mulling over bike lanes in 2009, the group requested a study looking at protected lanes on both avenues, stretching from 59th to 110th streets. The DOT came back with a proposal for a single Columbus Avenue lane, running southbound from 96th Street to 77th Street. Amsterdam Avenue, the DOT decided, was too narrow to accommodate three travel lanes and a protected bike lane. The Columbus Avenue proposal was passed by the full board -- after failing at the committee level -- in 2010.

So why is an Amsterdam Avenue lane back on the table?

"This is an effort to see whether our priorities as a community might have changed," said Mark Diller, the chair of CB7, "not whether the width of a lane or the width of an avenue has changed."

He said that a member of the CB7 board wants the city to take another look at an Amsterdam Avenue bike lane -- as had other community groups. " It's a matter that's of interest to members of the community," said Diller, "so the community board will respond by taking a careful look at it."

And lessons learned during the first few months of the Columbus Avenue bike lane could help smooth the way for future lanes in the neighborhood.

Amsterdam Avenue and 84th Street (image from Google street view)

But Andrew Albert, the co-chair of CB7's transportation committee, said he couldn't ballpark what was going to happen at Thursday's meeting. "Because this hasn't come up yet, we don't know how the discussion is going to go."

Albert -- who in 2010 didn't support the installation of the Columbus Avenue lane --  said the committee wasn't won over by the idea of putting in another protected lane a block west. "There's a good number of people that don't believe the Columbus one is working as intended," he said, "so we're going to reserve judgment on Amsterdam for sure."

In one respect, said CB7 chair Mark Diller, the neighborhood had gotten off easy with the Columbus Avenue lane. Installing something similar on Amsterdam could require a politically sensitive decision that could spark some...lively debate. "Are we willing to trade a travel lane for a bike lane?" he asked.

Another view of  Columbus Avenue, with protected bike lane on the right  (image from Google street view)

 

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Transportation Nation

MWAA Board Member Rips Secretary LaHood and Silver Line Funding

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Work on the first phase of the Silver Line rail to Dulles Airport is ongoing, but officials are still fighting over funding for Phase 2.  (Photo by Sean Marshall via flickr)

An outgoing member of the agency running the Silver Line rail project is accusing U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood of “coercive” and “heavy-handed” oversight that has created a distraction from finding funding for the second phase of the rail link to Dulles Airport.

In a letter sent to LaHood’s office on Tuesday, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) board member Robert Brown, whose tenure on the board of directors is expected to end this month, says the transportation secretary has taken unprecedented steps of questionable legality to monitor the airports authority following reports of profligate spending and unethical practices.

In August, Secretary LaHood sent MWAA a letter of his own, signed by the governors of Virginia and Maryland and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, expressing “outrage” at “ongoing reports describing questionable dealings including the award of numerous lucrative no-bid contracts to former Board members.”

“I haven’t disputed that there have been some questionable governance practices at the airports authority. I think those by and large have been addressed and corrections put in place,” said Brown in an interview with Transportation Nation.

In defending MWAA’s record, Brown is attempting to draw attention to projected toll rate increases on the Dulles Toll Road that would pay for 75 percent of Phase 2’s costs. More federal and Virginia state funding would lower the projections, he said.

“There is no other transportation project of this scale anywhere in the country where the local community bears such an inordinate share of the total project cost,” he said.

There is currently no federal funding for Phase 2 of the Silver Line, which has an estimated cost of roughly $3 billion. The state of Virginia has provided $150 million, a sum Brown describes as “paltry.”

“That is not the kind of contribution Virginia is making to any of the other transportation projects in the state. It is funding 20 to 25 percent of project costs on three other megaprojects in Virginia and it is funding 6 percent of the cost of this project,” Brown said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation said the agency received Brown’s letter but had not had time to review it.

MWAA had come under intense scrutiny for months leading up to LaHood’s critical letter. The overseas travel expenses incurred by some MWAA board members, especially Dennis Martire, led to charges of profligacy. Martire recently settled a legal battle with the administration of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who tried to remove him from the board of directors.  Martire agreed to resign his post this month.

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Transportation Nation

Work in Progress: Photos from NYC's 7 Line Extension

Monday, October 01, 2012

The future 34th Street Station of the #7 line extension (photo courtesy of MTA Capital Construction's Facebook page)

Even subway construction projects share on Facebook.

New York's MTA regularly posts updates on megaprojects on its Facebook page, and the update to the #7 line caught our eye.

The #7 train currently goes between Manhattan's Times Square and Flushing, Queens. As part of the redevelopment of Hudson Yards -- a stretch of land on Manhattan's far West Side -- the city has been working on extending the subway line southwest to 11th Avenue and 34th Street.

Earlier this year, MTA chairman Joe Lhota said item  number 1 on his wish list is extending the line even further south to 23rd Street and 11th Avenue. But here's what he said won't happen: extending it across the Hudson River to New Jersey -- something Mayor Bloomberg had put some money into studying last year.

Ventilation building for the 7 Line extension at "Site K" near the Javits Center (photo courtesy of MTA Capital Construction's Facebook page)

According to the MTA, the $2.4 billion project will open for service in June 2014 -- later than originally planned.

The 7 line extension's ventilation building at "Site L" at 41st Street and Dyer Avenue in Manhattan (photo courtesy of MTA Capital Construction's Facebook page)

You can watch a video about the project below.

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Transportation Nation

Neighbors of Brooklyn's Brand New Barclay's Center Want Their Benefits

Friday, September 28, 2012

Groundbreaking of the Barclay's Center, Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Spencer T Tucker)

As the NBA's newest arena opens in Brooklyn, neighbors still haven't warmed to the arena nor it's rusty swirls of metal sheets that dominate the nearby brownstone-lined streets.

Our partner WNYC has a detailed look at the promised concessions to the communities around the Atlantic Yards Complex of which the Barclay's Center is the first phase and anchor element.

The 675,000 square foot Barclays Center is part of the first phase of the project, which also includes five other buildings, most of which will be residential buildings in the Brooklyn neighborhood.  The second phase of the project includes 11 other buildings.

(...)

But the hoopla surrounding the opening still can’t quell the controversy that has surrounded the project. The construction has been the subject of dozens of challenges from community groups.

In 2005, Forest City Ratner signed a deal that was supposed to ease neighborhood concerns, called a Community Benefits Agreement. It laid out in detail all sorts of concessions Forest City Ratner would make to neighborhood groups in exchange for support of the Atlantic Yards project. The document was signed by eight community groups, including Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) and the now defunct Association for Community Organizations for Reform (ACORN).

But some neighbors and groups opposed to Atlantic Yards alleged that the CBA failed to include all of the people who would be affected by the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development.

See photos, and hear the rich history in audio at WNYC.

There's also this time lapse of the construction of the Barclay's Center so you can geek out to construction.

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Transportation Nation

Sen. Schumer: Fast Action Needed for New Amtrak Tunnel

Friday, September 28, 2012

(New York, NY -- Ilya Marritz, WNYC)  Senator Charles Schumer  (D-NY) warned on Friday that it will get more and more difficult to construct two Amtrak rail tunnels linking New Jersey and midtown Manhattan, unless the forces of government and the private sector quickly align.

"There is a major issue that has to be resolved right now or else the project may end up in the graveyard, as it did with ARC,"  Schumer said, referring to a previous rail tunnel plan that was killed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2010.

The reason? A new mixed-use neighborhood is being built on Manhattan's west side, on a platform directly above the site where the rail tunnels would emerge from below the Hudson.

"Amtrak's engineers have determined that the only place they can bring these new tunnels into Manhattan is under Hudson Yards, along a Long Island Railroad right of way," Schumer told real estate developers at a breakfast gathering organized by the New York Building Congress.

Schumer said the Related Companies, which are building the Hudson Yards neighborhood, are prepared to cooperate with Amtrak and the federal government. But Related plans to begin construction by the end of this year, making the Amtrak project especially urgent, the senior U.S. Senator from New York said.

"We will need contracts, design plans, and construction dollars to flow over the next six to twelve months to make this a reality. We need action, we need it fast," Schumer said.

The Senator said his next step will be to work to get agreements inked between the parties, so tunnel construction can begin before the end of 2013.

Schumer will also lobby for federal dollars to build the tunnels, known as the Gateway project. He estimates Gateway will require $20 million in 2013, and $100 million in 2014 for preliminary work.

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Transportation Nation

Should We Trade Infrastructure for Debt?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Four Self-Propelled Mobile Transporters (SPMTs) relocated the fully assembled 4.3 million pound, 394-foot-long, 67- foot-high truss bridge from its assembly site to its final position on the new bridge piers a few hundred feet away. (CDOT)

(image courtesy of Chicago DOT)

On Thursday's 30 Issues in 30 Days, the WNYC election series took a look at infrastructure.

Host Brian Lehrer notes that word did not come up in the convention speeches of either President Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Neither, for that matter, did transportation.

How times have changed. President Obama once talked so often about building roads and bridges we turned those mentions into an interactive chart.

Meanwhile, said one of the Brian Lehrer Show guests, it's not just that we have an infrastructure problem. "It's that we can't even deal with it how bad the problem is. "We are beyond denial of the crisis," said Infrastructure USA's Steven Anderson.

Listen to the conversation below.


Want to learn more about how infrastructure became a partisan issue? Go here.

 

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Transportation Nation

Feds Gives Final OK to Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

(photo by duluoz cats via flickr)


The federal government has given its final approval to New York State's plans to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. It's the final regulatory hurdle the $5 billion project had to cross before the state could award a contract and begin construction.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo was elated by the Department of Transportation's decision, which is the result of a year-long sprint by his administration to fast-track plans to replace the 56-year old bridge linking Westchester and Rockland Counties.

"From my point of view, that was the most difficult step all along here," Cuomo said. "Building the bridge is actually the easy part. Relative to the environmental review, it's a straightforward task. "

The environmental review is a 10,000 page document laying out the environmental impact the project will have on the surrounding Hudson River area -- and demonstrates how the state will conform to federal law.

"It doesn't build the bridge -- we still have to pick a contractor, we still have to work out the financing," said the governor, "but the environmental review is basically completed."

The state is currently reviewing bids from three contractors. Once a team is picked, which is expected to be later this year, it will be constructing the bridge under New York's new design-build legislation. Last week, the governor named a design team to help review the bids and provide aesthetic guidance.

But one big question has yet to be answered: how the state will pay for the new bridge. New York is in the process of requesting a low-interest loan from the federal government, and Cuomo has said that the basic source of financing will come from tolls. But the state has yet to release a comprehensive finance plan.

Still, the governor said, the hardest step was in the rear-view mirror. "I'm going to exhale today," he said.

 

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Transportation Nation

Port Authority Board Gets an Earful from Public Over 9/11 Memorial, Community Relations

Thursday, September 20, 2012

One World Trade Center (photo by Kate Hinds)

(New York, NY -- WNYC) The day after the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released a consultant's report lauding the agency's newfound zeal for transparency and accountability, the public showed up at the agency's monthly Board of Commissioners meeting with a very different assessment.

It was a full house.

A contingent of 9/11 family members used the public comment period to urge the Commissioners to reject a Memorandum of Understanding entered into last week between the bi-state agency and the National September 11th Memorial and  Museum. The deal, reached a day before the eleventh anniversary of the terror attacks, cleared the way for work to resume. Construction at the site had halted last year after a funding squabble.

Sally Regenhard, who lost her firefighter son on September 11th, took the Port Authority to task for not sufficiently involving the 9/11 families in the process. "Do not approve this MOU until we can have full public disclosure involving the 9/11 families as well as the community."

Richard Hughes of the Twin Towers Alliance told the panel it was being expedient with their deal with the Memorial and Museum that calls for passing ownership of the former site of the Twin Towers to the non-profit in exchange for adjacent land where the Deutsche Bank building once stood.

"You have eight acres of prime important downtown real estate -- a site that is sacred to all of us  -- and you are giving it away or swapping it, but it is really giving it away, without public debate, behind closed doors," Hughes said.

Under the agency's public comment period protocol, Commissioners don't respond directly to the public. But speaking to reporters afterwards, officials defended the deal as breaking a lengthy impasse and insuring the project stays on budget while guaranteeing the site remains a memorial.

Of particular concern to family members at the hearing were the plans to place several thousand of the unidentified remains from the attack in the museum. Boosters of that plan say it will permit work to continue on identifying the remains. The 9/11 families want the surviving families to be polled.

The full board approved the MOU over their objections -- but after the vote, Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye reminded reporters the agency had lost 84 employees in the attack. He said he understood the families' concerns about the remains. "Given the grievous loss those family members experienced that is an issue that resonates with me," Foye said.

But it isn't only how the Port has handled Ground Zero that had members of the public fuming.

Casandra Dock came with residents of of the city of Newark. She chastised the Commissioners for not holding public meetings of the board west of the Hudson in New Jersey.

"I come before this board today -- since this is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey  -- to ask this board to have some of these board meetings over in Newark, New Jersey," Dock said.

In the board's brief public meeting it did move on some items without controversy. John F. Kennedy International Airport will host a animal handling facility that the Port Authority says will be the most comprehensive facility of its kind in the nation. The board also approved the deal with ARK Development LLC to convert a vacant building at JFK into what Foye says will be a state-of-the-art facility that will handle everything from household pets to horses.

"And this facility will provide animal daycare and kenneling services, more efficient animal transport services--a full service veterinary hospital. The facility is expected to serve approximately 70,000 wild and domestic animals a year,"Foye said.

The deal will net the agency more than $100 million dollars in rent over the next 20 years.

The Port also funded a study looking at the feasibility of taking over Atlantic City International Airport. It will also take a look at running its existing PATH train from where it currently ends -- in Newark Penn Station --  out to Newark Liberty Airport.

The latest board actions come as the agency grapples with how to fund some $44 billion dollars in upgrades it says the region's transportation infrastructure will need by 2020.

 

The World Trade Center construction on 3/8/12 (photo by Kate Hinds)
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Transportation Nation

New York Governor Cuomo Names New Design Review Team for Tappan Zee Bridge

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Earlier this summer New York Governor Cuomo promised that a "blue ribbon selection committee" would review designs for the new $5.2 billion Tappan Zee Bridge. And on Wednesday morning, he named the members.

Artist Jeff Koons, architect Richard Meier, and Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Campbell provide star power for "The Bridge Design Aesthetic Team," which is tasked with recommending a final design for the new bridge.

The state is currently reviewing the bids from the three finalists for the project and will select one later this year.

Cuomo had promised to put a design review team in place to address aesthetic concerns about what the final bridge would look like.

But in his announcement today, he wouldn't be pinned down on what the team was looking for. "I think we'll know it when we see it," the governor said. "We want an attractive design that enhances the region." He added that the Tappan Zee, which connects Rockland and Westchester Counties, spans "a magnificent part of the Hudson River" and "design is an important element here."

But the governor's press release makes it clear that the team's job is advisory. "When the review team has made its recommendation," it reads, "a final formal decision will be made by the Thruway Authority, subject to the approval of its Board."

 The full press release is below.

____________________________________

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES TEAM OF ARTISTS, TECHNICAL EXPERTS, AND COMMUNITY LEADERS TO HELP SELECT FINAL BRIDGE DESIGN FOR TAPPAN ZEE PROJECT

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a selection review team for the new bridge to replace the Tappan Zee. The review team will include internationally renowned artists and architects, under the auspices of the New York State Council of the Arts, who will review proposed bridge designs as well as assist local community leaders and transportation experts in the evaluation process.

The artists and experts who will review the designs include:· Jeffrey Koons, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
· Richard Meier, a Pritzker Prize winning architect and Gold Medal awardee for architecture from the Academy of Arts and Letters
· Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
· Keith Brownlie, an internationally acclaimed bridge designer"Another day, another big step toward building a new bridge to replace the Tappan Zee which will be stronger, safer, better as well as one which will live up to the beauty and splendor of the Hudson River," Governor Cuomo said. "For this project, we are creating a different kind of review team – it’s a team that combines technical experts, architectural experts, local experts as well as artists to ensure the new bridge is the best choice and fit for the region."

The selection process will evaluate the technical quality of the proposals in conjunction with pricing information, to identify the proposal that offers the best value to New York State. The "best value" approach, made possible by the design-build legislation enacted by Governor Cuomo last year, looks at factors such as design and long-term quality of the project to ensure that the proposal chosen meets the needs of the region, the transportation system and toll payers.

Specifically, the selection review team will be evaluating the best value of each bid based on criteria stated in the RFP, which generally include:· Best price for toll payers
· Bridge structure and design
· Investment in future transit options, including BRT and rail
· Traffic management plan
· Plan for working collaboratively with community and local stakeholders
· Ability to meet strict environmental requirements
· Construction plan
· Bridge lifespan
· Geotechnical for bridge foundations
· History and experience of design-build team
The review team members will undergo rigorous procurement training before beginning the bid evaluation process as required by federal procurement law. Once the evaluation process is complete, the review team has a number of options before it sends a final recommendation to the Governor. The team can:· Recommend one of the three bids submitted in July
· Authorize negotiations with one or more bidders based on its submission
· Authorize a request for a best and final offer from multiple bidders.
When the review team has made its recommendation, a final formal decision will be made by the Thruway Authority, subject to the approval of its Board.

MEMBERS OF BRIDGE DESIGN AESTHETIC TEAM

Jeffrey Koons: Artist
Internationally recognized artist Jeff Koons is widely known for his iconic sculptures Rabbit and Balloon Dog as well as his monumental floral works Puppy and Split-Rocker. His work has been exhibited extensively around the world. Working with everyday objects, his work revolves around themes of self-acceptance and transcendence. Koons has received numerous awards and honors in recognition of his cultural achievements. Most recently, the Royal Academy of Arts presented Koons with the John Singleton Copley Award, Governor Ed Rendell presented Koons with The Governor’s Awards for the Arts - Distinguished Arts Award, and President Jacques Chirac promoted Koons to Officier de la Legion d’Honneur. He has become a fervent advocate for protecting children and has served six years on the board of directors for the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC). With both the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children, Mr. Koons developed the Koons Family International Law and Policy Institute in 2007, with the purpose of combating child abduction and exploitation. Koons lives and works in New York City.

Mr. Koons said, "As an artist I'm honored to participate as a voice to try to help assure an aesthetic Tappan Zee Bridge project. It's a wonderful opportunity for our generation to contribute to a project that will not only enhance everyday life but help define a sense of place for New York."

Richard Meier: Architect
Richard Meier received his architectural training at Cornell University and established his own office in New York City in 1963. Since that time his international practice has encompassed major cultural and civic commissions as well as private residences and corporate and academic facilities. He has received the highest honors in the field including the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, the Gold Medals of the American Institute of Architects and the Royal Institute of British Architects as well as the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association. He is best known for the Getty Center in Los Angeles; the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art; and the Jubilee Church in Rome. His current work includes the Mitikah Office Tower in Mexico City, Mexico; a condominium complex in Jesolo, Italy; the Rothschild tower in Tel Aviv, Israel; two residential towers in Tokyo, Japan; two hospitality and commercial projects in Mexico; a hotel in South Korea; a condominium tower in Taiwan; the Leblon Offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and private residences in Europe, Asia and North America.

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Since becoming the ninth Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009, Thomas P. Campbell has pursued an agenda that focuses on scholarship and accessibility. These priorities maintain the Museum’s excellence in its exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and permanent collections, while encouraging new thinking about the visitor experience. Prior to his appointment, Campbell was a curator in the Metropolitan's Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts for 14 years, where he organized two major exhibitions on Renaissance and Baroque tapestry.

Mr. Campbell said, "I was very pleased to be asked by Governor Cuomo to become a member of the artistic design committee for the new bridge. I am well aware—as a former resident of the Hudson Valley and as director of a great museum holding a distinguished collection of Hudson River School paintings, which portray the majestic beauty of the region—of the great significance that the project holds from a practical as well as aesthetic standpoint. It’s a privilege to work on a project so important to New York, one that will serve such an important practical purpose while preserving and honoring the scale and scenery of the area."

Alison Spear AIA, LEED AP : Architect
Alison Spear is a local and LEED certified architect licensed to work in New York as well as other states and is presently a Senior Designer with Ennead Architects, (formerly James Polshek & Partners), in New York City. Spear was formerly the principal of her architectural and design firm, Alison Spear AIA in Wappingers Falls, New York City and Miami, Florida. She has taught at several universities including University of Miami School of Architecture, Parson’s School of Design and a visiting critic Syracuse University School of Architecture and University of Toronto. She has received several awards including the Design Star Award from the Design Center of the Americas and was named the 2005 Interior Architect of the Year by the American Institute of Architects. Spear is a resident of the Hudson Valley.

Keith Brownlie: Bridge Architect
Keith Brownlie is a leading international Bridge Architect specializing in the design of major infrastructure and engineering projects worldwide. He has been responsible for shaping numerous landmark bridge structures including the Gateshead Millennium and Twin Sails Bridges in the United Kingdom, the Metsovitikos Crossing in Greece and the Sutong Yangtze River Bridge in China. He has also directed the architectural design of many significant infrastructure projects including High Speed One rail link in the UK and the 18km Fehmarnbelt Tunnel between Germany and Denmark, as well as super high rise buildings such as the 1450ft Guangzhou International Finance Centre in China. Projects with which he has been involved have received the highest international architecture and engineering awards, including the RIBA Stirling Prize in the United Kingdom, the Arthur G. Hayden Medal in the United States and the Balthasar Neumann Prize in Germany. Brownlie graduated from Brighton School of Architecture and the Mackintosh School of Architecture at the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow University. He is a chartered member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and a member of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineers.

Thomas Wermuth: Director, Hudson River Valley Institute & Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, Marist College
Thomas Wermuth is a published expert on the social and economic history of the Hudson Valley. He is editor of the book series, “The Hudson River Valley: An American Region,” which focuses on the history, culture, literature and tourism of the Valley. He was an associate editor of the Encyclopedia of New York State and author of
Rip Van Winkle's Neighbors: The Transformation of Rural Society in the Hudson River Valley and edited America's First River: The Hudson, published by the State University of New York Press. He serves on the Executive Board of the New York Academy of History and is chair of the editorial board of the Hudson River Valley Review. He resides in Harrison, Westchester County.

MEMBERS OF THE SELECTION COMMITTEE

State Representatives
Brandon Sall, Chairman of Selection Committee
Brandon Sall is a member of the Thruway Board of Directors and a partner at Sall & Geist and Gellert & Rodner, located in White Plains. Sall has vast experience with real estate law and knowledge of the process involved with land transactions. He is admitted to the Bar in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida and is a member of the New York State Bar Association. Sall received his B.B.A from the University of Miami and attended the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. He resides in Harrison.

Nuria Fernandez
Nuria Fernandez is Chief Operating Officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). She previously served as Senior Vice President of CH2M Hill, a firm that provides engineering, construction, and operations services for businesses and governments throughout the world. Prior to that, Fernandez served as Commissioner for the Chicago Airport System, where she directed all airport operations, planning, engineering, and management services for O'Hare and Midway International Airports, the second busiest airport system in the world. She has also served in executive positions at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and the Chicago Transit Authority.

Joan McDonald
Joan McDonald is Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation. Commissioner McDonald previously served as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development for the State of Connecticut, as Senior Vice President of Transportation for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and as the Vice President in charge of New York and New Jersey at Jacobs Engineering. She began her transportation career as Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Traffic Operations for the New York City DOT and as the Director of Capital and Long Range Planning for the MTA Metro-North Railroad.

Karen Rae
Karen Rae is Deputy Secretary for Transportation in the Executive Chamber. Prior to joining the Cuomo Administration, she served as Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration in the Obama Administration, where she managed the federal high speed rail initiative and developed national freight and passenger rail policy. She also served as Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, including negotiating and executing the multi-billion dollar public-private partnership contract for the Dulles rail project. She was previously General Manager of transit systems in Austin, Texas, Glens Falls and Buffalo. Rae was also Deputy Commissioner of Policy and Planning at the New York State DOT, where she was responsible for finance, planning and policy, and Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania DOT, where she led the creation of a streamlined, performance-based funding program for transit.

Community Representatives
Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef
County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef has designated County Commissioner of Planning Thomas B. Vanderbeek, P.E., to represent Rockland County on the Selection panel. Vanderbeek has a wealth of experience with respect to facilities and water supply planning, having successfully worked with major governmental agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as Rockland County’s towns and villages. He is a licensed professional engineer specializing in civil and environmental engineering as well as water resources planning. For eight years, he was a member of the Rockland County Planning Board. Vanderbeek also served as Stony Point Town Engineer and was project manager and engineer in the development of sewer systems in western Ramapo, overseeing environmental impact study, survey and design. Vanderbeek has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Princeton University and is a member of the state Fire Prevention and Building Codes Council, the Rockland County Parks Commission and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino
County Executive Rob Astorino has designated County Department of Planning Commissioner Edward Buroughs to represent Westchester County on the Selection panel. Buroughs’s career has since 1980 focused on municipal planning in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties, following earlier experience in county and town governments in Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the county staff in 1994, he served as Director of Planning for the towns of Somers and Lewisboro in Westchester and as consulting town planner for the town of Carmel in Putnam County. He earned a Masters of City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University and a
B.A. from the University of Delaware.

Village of South Nyack Mayor Tish Dubow
Mayor Tish Dubow has designated Richard L. Kohlhausen to represent the Village of South Nyack on the Selection panel. Kohlhausen was appointed to the SUNY Rockland Community College Board of Trustees by Governor Pataki and was reappointed by Governor David Paterson. He also serves as President of the Board of Nyack Hospital, and formerly served as President of the Nyack School Board and as a Member of the Board of the Edwin Gould Academy in Ramapo. A West Virginia native, Kohlhausen moved to Rockland more than 30 years ago and currently resides in South Nyack. He has worked as a chemical engineer in the pharmaceutical industry, and now works in the insurance industry for Capitol Risk Management Services, Ltd. in Nanuet. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from New York University and an M.B.A. from Iona College, New York.

Village of Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell
Mayor Drew Fixell has designated David Aukland to represent the Village of Tarrytown on the Selection panel. Aukland is a member of the Village's five-person Planning Board, to which he was appointed in 2006. His work for the Village has included reviews of the implications of various Tappan Zee Bridge replacement proposals with the Mayor and other officials, as well as other activities relating to the future development of the Village. Prior to his formal association with the Village of Tarrytown, Aukland worked for IBM. After early work in the United Kingdom, he spent fifteen years at the company's European headquarters in Paris, France.

Technical Experts
Al Biehler
Al Bielher is a Distinguished Service Professor of Transportation Systems and Policy at the H. John Heinz III College at Carnegie Mellon University, Executive Director of the University Transportation Center, and an adjunct professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department in the Engineering College at Carnegie Mellon. He previously served for eight years as Secretary of the Pennsylvania DOT, leading an organization that operated the nation’s fifth largest state highway system and administered one of the country’s largest grant programs for mass transit, rail freight, and aviation. As Secretary, he launched a program known as Smart Transportation to streamline and stabilize Pennsylvania’s transit program. In 2009, Biehler was elected President of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, where he helped to create the State Smart Transportation Initiative to assist state transportation agencies wishing to accelerate sustainable practices. Prior to his post at DOT, he was a Vice President with the international transportation consulting firm DMJM-Harris, where he was project manager for preliminary engineering of the North Shore LRT Connector project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Director of Planning and Preliminary Engineering for extension of the Tren Urbano rail system in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Earlier, Biehler was Director of Planning, Engineering and Construction at Port Authority of Allegheny County, in charge of the agency’s $500 million capital improvement program. He received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and a masters-equivalent Certificate in Highway Transportation from Yale University. He is a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania.

Gene McGovern
Gene McGovern is widely known and respected as a manager of large construction projects. In 1979, he co-founded Lehrer McGovern Inc., which ultimately became a part of the construction industry leader now known as Bovis Lend Lease. Lehrer McGovern was the construction manager for the mid-1980s restoration of the Statue of Liberty, and worked on other high-profile projects including renovations of Grand Central Station and Ellis Island and the construction of Euro Disney and London’s Canary Wharf business district.

Robert Yaro
Robert Yaro is President of Regional Plan Association (RPA), the nation's oldest independent metropolitan policy, research, and advocacy group. He led development of and co-authored RPA's Third Regional Plan, A Region at Risk, and has authored and co-authored numerous papers and articles on planning and infrastructure for the five boroughs of New York City and the metropolitan region. He founded and co-chairs America 2050, RPA's initiative to create a national development and infrastructure plan. He is co-chair of the Empire State Transportation Alliance, on the board of the Forum for Urban Design, and an honorary member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. Yaro holds a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Harvard University and a B.A. in Urban Studies from Wesleyan University. In addition to leading RPA, Yaro is a professor of practice at the University of Pennsylvania and has consulted on city and regional planning issues across the United States and in Europe, China, Japan, Turkey, and North Africa.

TECHNICAL ADVISORS

Mark Roche, Senior Technical Advisor
Mark Roche is a Principal of Arup and leads its Highways Business in the Americas. A civil and structural engineer, Mr. Roche has worked in the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and the Americas on a wide range of complex multi-disciplinary bridge, rail and highway projects where innovation and constructability have been key issues. His bridge experience includes post-tensioned segmental, arch and cable-stayed plus other more common bridge forms. He has extensive experience with bridges and other structures in high seismic activity zones and areas of high environmental forces. He brings innovation and value to projects with his knowledge of bridge aesthetics, risk and extensive experience on design-build projects.

Robert Brownstein, Procurement Expert
Robert Brownstein is Vice President of AECOM and an internationally-recognized expert with 40 years of experience in infrastructure related industries, with particular expertise in procurement and project development. He has served as a procurement advisor for numerous public agencies throughout the United States and other countries. He is a frequent speaker at conferences throughout the world.

Steven Polan, Counsel to the Selection Committee
Steven Polan is a partner at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips. He represents government agencies and contractors worldwide in the development and construction of significant transportation infrastructure projects. He was general counsel for an international construction and engineering company, and previously served as Commissioner of Sanitation for the City of New York and as General Counsel of the MTA.

Construction
Jay Bayersdorfer
Jay Bayersdorfer is the Chief Estimator for AECOM NYC Metro and has over 29 years of experience in all types of heavy and civil construction. His experience includes planning, costing and implementation of heavy/highway projects, underground utility construction, complex excavations for underground structures, earth support systems, slurry walls, groundwater control, environmental remediation, heating, energy, and ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips is a Principal of Arup, a member of the Arup Americas Board and Chair of Arup's Transport Market in the Americas, with a particular focus on major projects in the fields of transport, civil structures, bridges, tunnels and heavy civil engineering. He currently holds senior management and engineering positions on a number of projects that include Lake Mead Intake #3, A30 P3 Highway project in Montreal, and California High Speed Rail Los Angeles to Fresno Segments. He was chairman of the Association of California High Speed Trains. He also acts as a reviewer and provides support and expert advice on major infrastructure projects and has been an expert on several legal cases.

Environmental
Robert Conway
Robert Conway is an environmental engineer with over 30 years of experience in the environmental assessment of complex infrastructure and development projects. He has led the environmental review and permitting processes for a number of major transportation projects in the region including the Long Island Rail Road Eastside Access Project, New York State DOT Route 9A Reconstruction Project, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey World Trade Center Permanent Path Terminal and Bayonne Bridge, the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak Portal Bridge Project, and New York City DOT Belt Parkway Bridges Program.

Financial
Thomas Kellerman, CFA
Thomas Kellerman, CFA is a senior vice president with Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors. He pioneered a methodology to evaluate and optimize project finance deals and developed an analytical tool based on this methodology. He has years of experience in asset valuation, capital markets, simulation modeling, risk analysis and mitigation and financial structuring. He has worked on a wide range of public sector projects including the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Goethals Bridge Replacement Project and Illinois DOT Elgin-O’Hare West Bypass, as well as a range of major projects for the Florida Department of Transportation. He has a B.S. from Virginia Polytechnic University and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Jeffrey A. Parker
Jeffrey Parker is a senior managing director of Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors. One of the nation’s leading advisors on public-private partnerships and financial planning for transportation projects, he played a key role in helping to bring to fruition projects including the Port of Miami Tunnel and I-595 public-private partnerships and the Miami Intermodal Center, the largest intermodal complex in the U.S. He is currently an advisor on the Georgia Multi-Modal Transportation Project, a mixed-use redevelopment and intermodal complex in downtown Atlanta. He is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Robert Megna
Robert L. Megna is New York State's Budget Director, where he is responsible for the overall development and management of the State’s fiscal policy, including overseeing the preparation of budget recommendations for all State agencies and programs, economic and revenue forecasting, tax policy, fiscal planning, capital financing and management of the State’s debt portfolio, as well as pensions and employee benefits. Mr. Megna previously served as the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, responsible for overseeing the collection and accounting of more $90 billion in State and local taxes, the administration of State and local taxes, including New York City and City of Yonkers income taxes and the processing of tax returns, registrations and associated documents.

Before joining the Department of Taxation and Finance, Mr. Megna served as head of the Economic and Revenue Unit of the New York State Division of Budget, as Assistant Commissioner for Tax Policy for the Commonwealth of Virginia, as Director of Tax Studies for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and as Deputy Director of Fiscal Studies for the Ways and Means Committee of the New York State Assembly.

Geotechnical Advisors
Tony Canale
Tony Canale has been involved in managing a wide range of design projects covering transportation, private development, and public structures. He has been responsible for traditional geotechnical studies, such as laboratory testing of undisturbed soil samples, consolidation settlement estimates, slope stability analyses, seepage analyses, and rock bolting design. Canale’s design projects have included foundation recommendations for high-rise structures in Manhattan such as One Bryant Park, the New York Times headquarters and Times Square Tower. He has been involved in projects that required piled foundations and caissons such as the new Mets baseball stadium, Citi Field, and the East River Plaza Retail Center in upper Manhattan. He has also worked on the Tappan Zee Bridge Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) project over the past nine years. During that time, he has supervised several subsurface investigations and the recently completed pile installation demonstration program, and was the primary author of several foundation related reports that were included in the EIS report.

Tony Kiefer
Tony Kiefer is a project manager and project principal for geotechnical and civil engineering projects with AECOM. He is responsible for management and principal review of complex projects, and his experience includes scheduling, design of explorative programs, supervision of support personnel, and writing and reviewing of reports with engineering recommendations.

Hugh Lacy
Hugh Lacy is a partner with Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers (MRCE). He is an expert in underpinning, protecting existing structures during adjacent construction, and ground freezing technology. He was instrumental in developing the frozen soil testing capability for MRCE's in-house soil laboratory as a state-of-the art facility, and the only private lab in the United States that offers these services. He directs numerous high profile projects involving tunnels, subways and shafts, bridge foundations, building foundations and deep basements, wastewater facilities, dams, and the majority of the firm's work in Washington, DC. He specializes in geotechnical investigations, analysis of probable foundation performance, pile foundation performance, pile foundations, design and construction of building and waste water facility foundations, railroad structures and tunnels, associated dewatering and excavation support including ground freezing.

Legal
Peter W. Denton
Peter Denton is an attorney with Nossaman’s Infrastructure Practice Group, advising clients on design-build and other innovative contracts for development of major transportation projects. These projects include the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s intercity passenger rail system, the Virginia DOT Midtown Tunnel project, the North Carolina DOT I-77 HOT Lanes project, the Georgia DOT West by Northwest Managed Lanes Project and the Sonoma-Marin Area Rapid Transit District’s commuter rail project.

Management
Tom Cascino
Tom Cascino is Vice President in charge of AECOM’s upstate New York transportation business practice, covering all design and construction inspection services. He has worked on multiple design-build projects, including the Gauley Bridge in West Virginia, and has a wide breadth of experience with staff throughout the region and with various New York State agencies, including the New York State Thruway Authority and New York State DOT.

Charles Dwyer
Charles Dwyer is a Program Director with AECOM with over 20 years of experience in the procurement and management of design-build projects. His skills include planning, design and construction of highways and bridges, and he formerly worked as the design-build project manager at the South Carolina DOT for the new Ravenel Bridge mega-project in Charleston. His responsibilities included budget, schedule, quality, public relations, partner/dispute resolution, and environmental agency coordination.

David Palmer
David Palmer is a principal consultant to Arup. He has extensive U.S. and international experience in the planning, design and construction of major infrastructure projects in rail transit, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, ports and harbors. He has recently been principal-in-charge for the design of Second Avenue Subway and Fulton Street Transit Center in New York City and the Tappan Zee Corridor. He provided construction management for New Jersey Transit new Hudson River tunnels, the California High Speed Rail Los Angeles to Fresno segments, and numerous other projects throughout the Americas.

Operations & Security
Jerry Gluck
Jerry Gluck is a senior manager at AECOM with more than 30 years of experience in transportation planning and traffic engineering. His vast experience comes from both the private and governmental sectors and includes highway operations/planning, access management and system analysis. He has directed major studies including the Long Island Expressway Capacity Improvement Project, and has a unique knowledge of access management from his involvement supporting numerous state DOTs.

Procurement
K. Gunalan
Mr. Gunalan is a vice president of global alternative delivery with AECOM with 30 years of engineering and construction experience throughout North America. He has served on both the owner’s and contractor’s sides in many alternative delivery projects, and most recently as the lead for development of technical requirements for the $1 billion Presidio Parkway public-private partnership project in California.

Peter Matusewitch
Peter Matusewitch is an associate engineer with Arup, with expertise in structural design, rehabilitation, planning studies, cost estimates and inspection of fixed and movable bridges. His strength is in the technical leadership of diverse aspects of planning and design of bridges. He served as the technical coordinator for an Airport Taxiway Bridge in Cancun, Mexico and for two major river crossings on a 42km-long design-build-operate project to extend Autoroute 30 around Montreal, Quebec. The coordination included seismic design, foundations, prestressed concrete beam fabrication issues and environmental issues.

Mark Swatta
Mark Swatta is a market segment director for AECOM’s Alterative Delivery Group and a structural engineer with over 39 years of project delivery experience. His diverse background includes structural analysis, design, and construction and project management capabilities, particularly in the transportation industry. He was recently a project director on Florida’s $1 billion Port of Miami Tunnel public-private partnership project.

Public Outreach
Dr. Arnold Bloch
Dr. Arnold Bloch is the principal in charge of the New York Office of Howard/Stein-Hudson Associates (HSH), and has more than 36 years of experience in the private, public, and academic sectors. At HSH, he has overseen hundreds of public involvement projects, including many projects for state DOTs, and most recently he has been in charge of HSH’s efforts on the Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Environmental Review and the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project.

Jennie Granger
Jennie Granger serves as a project manager and planning market segment leader for AECOM. Her focus includes project coordination of major fast-paced National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) projects with extensive public involvement programs. She also specializes in preparation and review of various forms and documentation for NEPA and natural, cultural, and socio-economic resources; coordination of instruction efforts; and preparation and compilation of administrative records for litigation.

Roadway Design Advisors
Philip Cremin
Philip Cremin is currently Assistant Chief Civil Engineer at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. He has over 30 years of experience in civil engineering design at the Port Authority. He has held his current position for the past seven years, overseeing approximately forty staff members. Cremin has worked on the Goethals Bridge and Bayonne Bridge replacement programs and is currently overseeing the civil design for the LaGuardia Redevelopment Program and the Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal A Program. He was on the Port Authority committee responsible for the development of sustainable design guidelines for infrastructure-type projects. In addition, he directs the agency’s pavement management program.

Structural Design Advisors
Jamey Barbas
Jamey Barbas is a design manager for major design build and public-private partnership projects for Hardesty & Hanover. Her 28 years of experience in bridge design, construction and inspection have a special emphasis on complex and long-span suspension bridges. She has worked on many award-winning alternative delivery projects, including acting as the bridge design manager for the major bridges across Autoroute 30 in Montreal, one of the largest public-private partnership bridges in North America.

George Christian
George Christian is currently a transportation quality control engineer with AECOM. He is a structural technical advisor on bridge projects and for design build proposal development, which includes developing design concepts for complex bridges. Before joining AECOM, he had over 38 years of engineering management experience in varied bridge planning, design, construction and evaluation activities in the New York State DOT Office of Structures.

Angus Low
Angus Low is a consultant with Arup with over 30 years of experience with long-span bridges over shipping channels, in a variety of roles as designer, checker, assessor, tender assessor or technical advisor. His extensive experience covers many countries and includes many design build and alternative delivery bridge projects, such as the Hangzhou Bay Bridge in China and the Second Severn Crossing in England and Wales.

Ken Wheeler
Ken Wheeler is a transportation industry director with AECOM with over 35 years of experience in bridge engineering, particularly for major bridge projects. His experience includes particular emphasis on design build projects and encompasses concrete and composite steel cable-stayed, pre-stressed concrete box girder, composite steel box girder and composite steel truss bridges.

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: Federal Money Could Stave Off Dulles Toll Road Toll Hike -- If the Loan Comes Through

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Construction crews work on the Silver Line to Dulles International Airport in Virginia. (Photo CC by Flickr user Wayan Vota)

The federal government may provide a substantial loan to the agency running the Silver Line rail project to Dulles International Airport, enabling the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) to lower projected toll rate increases on the Dulles Toll Road that are expected to cover 75 percent of the rail project’s estimated Phase 2 cost of $2.7 billion, a Virginia congressman said.

MWAA, along with Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, plans to submit a letter of interest by September 30 to the federal government for a loan under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (TIFIA) Act, which established a program that lends money for major transportation projects throughout the country.

Based on recent discussions with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said he expects a loan to come through soon

“I’m very confident we’re going to be able to lock down a TIFIA loan for a fairly substantial percentage of the cost of the construction of Phase 2 by the end of this year,” Connolly said. “We know that [the loan] can’t exceed 33 percent of the cost of the project. It is my hope that it will be somewhere between 25 and 30 percent, but we have to see. We are in competition with other projects around the country as well.”

Effective January, the cost of a one-way, full toll is projected to rise to $2.75. In 2015, it increases to $4.50, with scheduled increases of $2 every five years.

“One of my goals is to move us from zero federal assistance to a substantial federal assistance so we can get the pressure of the toll users and the toll rates,” Connolly said.

There is currently no federal funding for Phase 2 of the Silver Line, which is expected to begin construction next year. The state of Virginia is providing $150 million.  Fairfax and Loudoun Counties have allocated substantial sums, but three-quarters of the cost is expected to come from Dulles Toll Road users.

Because the project, which will extend to the airport and beyond into Loudoun County by the end of the decade, did not meet Federal Transit Administration criteria for expected ridership, the federal government was reluctant to provide any funding at all. After the project was split into two phases the government allocated $900 million for Phase 1, which will end at Wiehle Avenue in Reston, Va.

“One of the flaws in the financing of this project is that the Commonwealth of Virginia really hasn’t put up its own money. It has used our money in the form of toll revenue to finance its share and airports' [authority’s] share of this project, and that puts real upward pressure on toll rates,” Connolly said.

The Reston Citizens Association, which says it represents 58,000 Fairfax County residents, sent a letter on Monday to the MWAA’s chief executive officer, calling the recent public hearings the agency held “inadequate” considering the anticipated impact of higher tolls. The association is asking the MWAA to reduce the toll burden to 25 percent of the Silver Line’s Phase 2 cost.

The letter “details the harm the proposed toll hikes will do to the well being of toll road users, to the already serious congestion on local roads, and to the potential economic and tax revenue growth in the Dulles Corridor.” Opponents of the current financing structure say drivers attempting to avoid the higher tolls will seek alternate routes to work, further congesting already jammed secondary roads.

“[The] MWAA has a responsibility to address the variety of community concerns we enumerate and more.  It is a far broader responsibility than building a 16-mile railroad. We are anxious to help you find new funding sources,” the RCA writes.

“The public needs to be heard. I think the Reston [Citizens] Association is absolutely correct,” Connolly says.  “I share the Reston Association’s concern about the lack of accountability at MWAA.”

The MWAA's proposed toll hike is also the subject of a recent class action lawsuit, which argues that the agency does not have the legal right to raise tolls on drivers to pay for trains.

In recent months the embattled MWAA has publicized measures it has taken to improve transparency after reports of profligate spending and unethical practices by some members of its board of directors.

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Transportation Nation

Could San Francisco Become the Next Manhattan?

Monday, September 17, 2012

(Photo courtesy of Alfonso Jimenez)

This is part 3 of a 3 part series on re-thinking Market Street. Check out part 1 and  part 2.

(Ben Trefny - San Francisco, KALW) Photographer Richard Morgenstein has lived in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood since the late 1990s. Before that, he lived in Manhattan and enjoyed it. In many ways, Morgenstein is still very New York. He doesn’t have a car. He relies on public transportation to tote his camera bags around. But the new construction soaring above a growing San Francisco doesn’t really make him nostalgic for his former hometown. Rather, he’s inclined to give a Bronx cheer.

“I do think that one of the issues of multiple large buildings is a sort of a Manhattanizaton of San Francisco and a change in the character of, say, street life, the character of the light of the city, character of walk-ability,” he says. “I look at them as some sort of negative that comes along with the positive of extra housing.”

San Francisco is in transition. According to the Department of Building Inspection, there are 56 major developments in various stages of the approval process, with more than 5,000 residential units under construction. That means the city is, for sure, Manhattanizing, according to Tim Colen, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Coalition.

He says, “We’re very much interested in increased heights and density to add significantly higher levels of housing production in San Francisco and at the same time reducing the influence of private auto use.”

San Francisco’s General Plan calls for construction of more than 30,000 housing units by 2014 with the majority for affordable to moderate income earners. A third of that is being built on the city’s Eastern waterfront, from Mission Bay to the south. Other primary targets include the mid-Market, and SOMA neighborhoods. The city’s planning department is considering options in every area.

“San Francisco is fortunate that high-tech is red hot right now. The office market is red hot,” says Colen. “There’s an enormous demand in particular south of Market and eastern part of the city for office space, and as a result [the] rental housing market is, in a way, going through the roof. Anyone can talk about the insane levels of rent that we’re seeing on housing now, and that gets to the question of building," he says. "How do we build housing, and who gets to live here?”

Colen’s easy solution, and the one many developers are going for, is to build up. But that’s easier said than done.

He says, “San Francisco, in spite of everything we might think about it, is really a very conservative city as far as land use goes and is very, very resistant to change and anything that adds new housing a lot of folks get quite upset at.”

Throughout the last decade, more than a dozen neighborhood associations have filed lawsuits against the San Francisco Planning Commission over aspects of their housing plans. The plans called for Smart Growth, around “major transit lines.” The associations didn’t think that should include bus routes. Parking is also an issue. There were concerns about infrastructure, like accessing water. Disagreements about how to retain historic character in neighborhoods like Pacific Heights.

“The city was planning on changing the zoning which would have made that entire area have hundred foot plus buildings,” says Greg Scott, president of the Pacific Heights Neighborhood Association. That “would have meant that many of the single-family homes and even some of the smaller apartment buildings would have been demolished to build those much higher buildings. And that whole area would have become like Manhattan.”

But not anymore.

After settlements and environmental impact reports, developers, today, cannot build buildings more than forty feet tall in historically residential parts of Pac Heights and other low-rise neighborhoods, unless they have a permit from the San Francisco Planning Department. And with active neighborhood associations intent on retaining historic character, those are hard to come by. So San Francisco’s skyline is being reinvented, but only so far, and mostly near downtown; which is one reason why residents like transplanted New Yorker Richard Morgenstein are happy they moved to San Francisco in the first place.

“It’s still not quite like Manhattan,” he says. “I think huge swaths of Manhattan are… there’s so much going on, things are moving so quickly that the pace is very different. And the pace in San Francisco has amplified somewhat or accelerated, it’s not even close to Manhattan though. It’s not even close.”

Which, to him, anyway, is just fine.

This is part 3 of a 3 part series on re-thinking Market Street. Check out part 1 and  part 2.

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Transportation Nation

Gentrification and Transportation in Washington: Part II of a Special Report

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Caoital Bikeshare station in DC's Deanwood neighborhood (photo by Martin DiCaro)

This is the second of a two-part series on the relationship between gentrification and access to transit in Washington D.C.'s rapidly changing neighborhoods. Part 2 examines the Deanwood and Kenilworth neighborhoods in Ward 7. Part 1 examined the Shaw and Pleasant Plains neighborhoods in the Georgia Avenue corridor in Ward 1.

Despite the presence of three Metro stations -- four when counting the station just over the border in Prince George's County -- redevelopment has been slow to take hold in D.C.'s Ward 7. If you take the train east of the Anacostia River and arrive at the Minnesota Avenue Metro station in the Deanwood area, you will arrive in what looks like a different city in one significant respect: while other parts of Washington are exploding with new high-rise apartment buildings and retail space, this neighborhood is only starting to grow.

"We still like the small-town feel of this area, and we have an older population," says Dennis Chestnut, 62. He runs the grassroots community group Groundwork Anacostia. "We like to retain a little bit of that as the growth takes place, so I think that very rapid growth has its drawbacks."

"When you look at this Metro station and all of the space that is available here, there is opportunity here for Metro and transit-oriented retail that could support the community in a lot of ways," Chestnut added.

That section of the city has remained underserved for decades, and developers are now beginning to take advantage of what is fertile ground for real estate projects. At the very busy intersection of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road, ground has been broken on the Park 7 development, a $67 million mixed-use real estate project that will include 20,000 square feet of new retail space and mostly affordable rental housing among its 370 apartment units, a key to protecting existing residents from rising property values as gentrification takes root.

"The people who are most vulnerable are renters because their rents can keep going up," says Cheryl Cort, the policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth. "D.C. does have a moderate rent-control law for older buildings, but there are ways for building owners to get around that, so renters are most vulnerable to rising prices."

In July, about 100 affordable housing units for residents 55 and older opened at Victory Square on Barnes Street NE, a component of the ward's Parkside master plan. Tenants with moderate incomes will pay rents ranging from $775 to $960, according to a statement by the Banc of America Community Development Corporation.

There are at least seven major real estate projects in Ward 7 receiving city subsidies.

New transit and gentrification

Coming changes could cause unintended consequences for the ward's poorest residents. A plan to extend the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line east of the Anacostia River is under consideration. A study by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University found that neighborhoods that get new rail transit systems like streetcars experience a significant increase in housing prices. In some places, renters and low-income households have been priced out.

"A streetcar or light rail can lead to gentrification here," says Peter Tatian, a senior researcher at the Urban Institute. "It has in other places. It brings investment into a community and new people who are attracted by the new transportation. What the city needs to do is think about how it can take advantage of the benefits of light rail as well as mitigating the negatives that might exist, particularly for renters."

While many residents may welcome the streetcar line, Octaviah Holt, a 21-year-old professional, has her doubts about whom it will benefit.

"Who would put a trolley in this neighborhood?" says Holt. "I don't feel as though there is a lot of crime, but a lot of people wouldn't want to ride a trolley, the people that I know. I feel as though it's not for us, the people in the neighborhood. It's meant for the newcomers."

The perception that Ward 7 is not a place where developers want to build or people want to move is fading, according to Tatian.

"People who come out here will see the changes, but the problem is getting the people to come out here in the first place," he says. "There is still this perception that this is not a good place to be, but that is starting to change slowly."

New pedestrian bridge over I-295

One can get a bird's eye view of the traffic roaring by on Route 295 by standing on the old, narrow, poorly lit pedestrian bridge connecting Deanwood to Kenilworth. The latter neighborhood has been isolated from its neighbors since the highway was built through here, Chestnut says.

"This bridge is the only connection for this community to Minnesota Avenue and the Metro," he says. Now that Kenilworth is starting to grow, a new pedestrian bridge will be necessary to accommodate increased foot traffic.

"This pedestrian bridge was built a while ago, and it is time for it to be rebuilt," says Cheryl Cort. "It doesn't feel like a very safe place. We talk to residents and there's a tendency to use it during the daylight hours and take the bus home at night. The new pedestrian bridge will be designed to be a much safer place. It will deter crime."

Preparing for change

Whether the neighborhood Dennis Chestnut has called home his entire life can avoid the negative consequences of gentrification remains to be seen. The addition of affordable housing units amid new apartment buildings will certainly help. He says the late development of Deanwood has also turned out to be "a blessing."

"It wound up being a blessing in disguise for this particular area because of how rapidly it happened in some of the other areas," he says. "On the east side of the city, Ward 8 was one example of how rapidly it took place there. It has allowed the residents here in Ward 7 to witness that and to prepare to some extent. This is where the local engagement has been very important to get involved with the process."

Resident O'Neal Odom, 70, who has lived in the ward for 40 years, welcomes the expected transformation as major real estate projects are realized.

"We're finally starting to get some services," he says. "You know, streets fixed, getting stores, we are getting government. It's becoming a better place to live. I have no problem with gentrification. It's going to change like that anyway. Once they start building new houses and new things like that, people will stop being afraid of us."

For more on how gentrification has affected DC residents, listen to the TN documentary "Back of the Bus: Mass Transit, Race and Inequality."

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Transportation Nation

DC "Pioneer" in Walkable, Transit-Friendly Neighborhoods

Thursday, September 13, 2012

(photo by Martin DiCaro)

(Washington, DC - WAMU) D.C. is known for its great tourist attractions -- not to mention political scandals -- but among real estate developers the metropolitan area is receiving attention for what one expert says is a pioneering approach to the development of neighborhoods.

The D.C. metro area is leading the nation in the creation of WalkUPs --Walkable Urban Places -- according to a report released by George Washington University professor and smart growth advocate Christopher Leinberger.

In Leinberger’s view, developers are reversing decades of thinking about how people want to live, work and be entertained by creating anti-sprawl: densely-built office space, housing, and retail space in urban settings where residents can have most of their daily needs met within 1,500 to 3,000 feet of where they live.  While WalkUPs may differ in many respects from neighborhood to neighborhood, they all share one thing in common: access to multiple modes of transit, including commuter rail, bus, and bike sharing.

“There are 43 regionally significant WalkUPs in this region and they total only 17,500 acres, less than 1 percent of the land mass,” said Leinberger, who heads the political advocacy group Locus. “But this is the future of where most regionally significant job growth and development will go over the next generation.”

(photo by Martin DiCaro)

How walkable is your neighborhood? Leinberger developed a zero-to-100 scoring system at walkscore.com.

“These walkable urban places that I have been studying have a walk score that is a minimum of 70. As [a neighborhood] gets more walkable we have found that its economic performance goes up, and this is why developers are so fascinated by these places. Greater walkability, higher rents. But there is a downside to higher rents and that is basic affordability.”

Capitol Riverfront neighborhood Southeast -- near Navy Yard Metro (photo by Martin DiCaro)

The Capitol Riverfront neighborhood in Southeast D.C. may demonstrate the success of the WalkUP model. A blighted industrial landscape of oil storage tankers and trash transfer stations that was scarred by crime, prostitution and poverty, Capitol Riverfront – just five blocks from the U.S. Capitol building with two miles of riverfront real estate – has witnessed a rapid transformation over the past decade. The catalyst for change was the completion of the Navy Yard Metro Station in 1999, according to Michael Stevens, the executive director of the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District (BID), a non-profit that performs planning and infrastructure analysis.

“It was only until the Navy Yard Metro station opened in 1999 that I think people started to understand this could be an in-town neighborhood,” said Stevens, who said once the redevelopment of downtown D.C. was accomplished, developers could “jump” into adjacent neighborhood ripe for change.

In the past decade, the Green Line corridor has caught up to -- and exceeded -- the Rosslyn-Ballston Orange Line corridor in attracting the coveted 18-34 demographic, according to data compiled by the BID.  From 2000 to 2010, the Green Line corridor attracted more than 3,400 new households in that age group, slightly more than Rosslyn-Ballston.  In the previous decade such growth was nearly non-existent along the Green Line.

“We survey residents living down here on an annual basis and year in and year out the most important factor for them choosing to live in the neighborhood has been the access to multi-modal transit and the Metro station,” said Ted Skirbunt, the BID’s director of real estate research.

(photo by Martin DiCaro)

The WalkUP model has thrived because there's been an attitude shift among young professionals. Less interested in living in drivable suburbs where the costs of home ownership are incompatible with college debt bills, this cohort has been seeking smaller living spaces where cars -- and the parking spaces they require -- are unnecessary.

“We call it the five-minute neighborhood. Within a five-minute walk you can be at the grocery store, at the park where your kids are going to play or where you’re going to hear a concert. You can walk to your job. You can walk to a restaurant, a bar or entertainment venue,” said Stevens.

During an interview with Transportation Nation, Stevens pointed to an explosion of development taking place in an area covering just a couple square blocks: new loft apartments with ground floor restaurants, an old industrial building being converted into a retail and restaurant cluster, a 50,000-square foot grocery store, and 30,000-square foot health club.  In a suburban setting, such development would require many more acres of space considering the parking lots that would be necessary.

“We are seeing a paradigm shift from an almost entirely suburban model to a generation that doesn’t necessarily want cars. They want multi-modal transportation choices. They want to live close to the urban cores where the action is and the jobs are,” Stevens said.

For more about DC's history with development, check out the TN documentary Back of the Bus: Race, Mass Transit and Inequality

To read more about this issue, check out How Transit Is Shaping the Gentrification of D.C., Part 1

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Transportation Nation

Deal on 9/11 Museum Reduces -- But Doesn't Eliminate -- Port Authority's Financial Exposure

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

(photo by Kate Hinds)

Just 13 hours before the commemoration of the September 11th attacks was to begin, Mayor Bloomberg and the governors of New York and New Jersey announced they had resolved their disagreement over who owed whom what for building of the museum on the World Trade Center site.

The authority owns the site and is managing construction of the museum for a private foundation. In December, it stopped work because it said it was owed tens of millions of dollars on the project. This agreement will restart the project -- but it won't help the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recoup all of its losses. But, says WNYC reporter Bob Hennelly, it outlines steps to prevent even deeper losses in the future.

Listen to WNYC's conversation about the 9/11 memorial and the Port Authority below.


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Transportation Nation

Lawsuit Says DC Airports Authority Can't Raise Tolls To Pay for Rail

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

(Washington, DC -- WAMU) The agency that's running the Silver Line rail project to Dulles Airport is holding public hearings on its plan to dramatically raise tolls on the Dulles Toll Road to pay for the project. But a Federal Court of Appeals will consider a lawsuit that could derail the project.

The class action suit argues the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) does not have the legal right to raise tolls on drivers to pay for trains. Only an elected legislature can raise tolls in order to pay for something other than the maintenance and operation of the Dulles Toll Road itself, the suit claims.

"A toll is a user fee. That means you are using something and you have to pay for the service," says attorney Robert Cynkar, who will argue the case before a federal appellate court in October. "A tax is anything above that where money is being taken from you to raise revenue for another project."

The lawsuit doesn't address whether the Silver Line should be built. It's focused only on whether the MWAA has the authority to raise taxes, which is how Cynkar characterizes the toll hikes.

Under the Virginia constitution, elected officials are the only people who can vote to raise taxes.

But is a higher toll really a tax? To the drivers who will be paying them starting in January, Cynkar says the answer might be yes.

"The issue of whether the Metro rail is a good idea, whether it makes sense for the economy, how much it should cost and all that, are different issues," Cynkar says. "We just say that if you are going to build this thing and you need to get revenue for it, you have to do it the constitutional way."

A lower court dismissed the case in July. According to Don Williamson, a professor of taxation at the Kogod School of Business at American University, the toll increases might legally be considered taxes — but that doesn't necessarily mean the airports authority is in the wrong.

"The public as a whole could interpret any collection of revenue for any purpose to be a form of tax that they are paying to the government," Williamson says. "And it becomes merely a technicality whether we call that collection a tax or a user fee."

For its part, the airports authority "continues to believe the appeal lacks merit, and we will respond appropriately in court," said a spokesman in a statement. The MWAA filed a response to the original suit in April. But Williamson says the appeals court will have room to draw a different conclusion.

"This is a legal issue, not a factual issue, so the Circuit Court of Appeals has more ability to interpret the law differently," he says, "and disagree with the district court."

(Disclosure: one of the plaintiffs Cynkar is representing is an American University law professor. WAMU 88.5 is licensed to American University.)

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Transportation Nation

HUD Secretary Highlights Central Florida Commuter Line as Sprawl Fighter -- and Economic Driver

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan

Planners designing around Central Florida’s SunRail future commuter line are working to bring walkable communities around rail stops, said Shaun Donovan, secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

They are making sure zoning changes around the stations will be able to increase nearby construction, which creates jobs, but also brings housing and jobs within a walkable distance, he said in an interview with WMFE just before the Florida Housing Coalition’s annual conference.

“Frankly, families are getting more and more fed up,” Donovan said. “I don’t want to spent two hours commuting...the average family now spends fifty cents of every dollar they earn just on housing and transportation...this can lower the cost of jobs.”

SunRail is expected to cost $1.2 billion to construct. It will begin operations in 2014.

 

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Transportation Nation

Rethinking San Francisco's Main Drag

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Market Street (photo by Benjamin Dumas via flickr)

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on re-thinking Market Street. Check out part 2 and part 3.

Around 250,000 people use Market Street every day— and in every way. They take the bus, ride BART, walk to work, shop... even live.

In 2016, the entire road, between Octavia and the Embarcadero, will be torn up and repaved. So city planners figure it’s the perfect time to reshape and re-imagine San Francisco’s main drag.

San Francisco’s transportation director Ed Reiskin says it’s a good opportunity for the city to do more than pour concrete.

“If we're going to go through the expense and disruption to repair the surface and infrastructure of Market Street, let's not just put it back the way it was, let's really fix it,” Reiskin says.

The Department of Public Works is in charge of the project. They’re working with a variety of city and county agencies to draw up a set of plans that balance the practical needs of the street with the vision of a wide variety of stakeholders.

The public is a part of the process, too -- the most recent public meeting was standing room only.

On the table is everything from a total ban on private cars to dedicated bike lanes; from fewer MUNI stops to more sidewalk cafes and parklets. The city anticipates the redesign to cost around $250 million. Funding for repaving is already in place.

I went out to Market to ask some of the people behind these ideas about their vision for the street.

At the corner of 3rd and Market, map-wielding tourists shiver in shorts and tank tops. A man sits on the sidewalk with his dog. The sign in his lap says ‘Anything helps.’ Throngs of office workers walk right by him, eyes fixed intently on the screens of their smartphones. Bikes squeeze in between buses and the curb, dodging taxis and delivery trucks.

Up ahead I see Mohammed Nuru. He’s the director of Public Works in San Francisco. He’s agreed to meet me here to talk about the street. “It's a pretty busy intersection, as you can see,” says Nuru. “It's busy all the time from about 7 o'clock in the morning until almost 10 o'clock at night.”

Standing next to him is Kris Opbroek. She manages the Better Market Street project.

“I think Market Street is the city's Main Street in a sense. I think it always has been, actually,” she says. “I think its identity is our parade ground, and our real civic space is still here. I think where it falls short a bit is in the day to day use.”

Nuru and Opbroek spend their days watching this street. They’re overseeing Market’s redevelopment. And they’re trying to pin down what is, and isn’t, working here.

Traffic is a big issue. Right now private cars, taxis, delivery trucks, paratransit, and bikes all share the road with streetcars and buses.

Leah Shahum is the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Her office is at 5th and Market. She says another thing on people’s minds is how to make Market safer and more inviting for bicyclists. Bike riding is on the rise, and Market is most used bike corridor in the city.

“I talk to a lot of people who are confident riders. They're people who bike elsewhere in the city,” Shahum says. “They’re adults who really are comfortable bicycling, but they say, ‘Wow, I don't want to bike on Market Street because I'm really scared about it.’”

Right now, most of the bike lanes on Market are painted lines on narrow pieces of pavement shared with buses and trucks and cars. Only about six blocks of the street have a physically separated bike lane.

“What we hear from people is: ‘Wow, for those six blocks, I feel calm, I feel safe, I feel comfortable. This works,’” Shahum says.

She wants that kind of comfort to extend the along the entire length of Market Street.

But the road isn’t just for wheels.

Elizabeth Stampe is the executive director for Walk San Francisco. She says that, ultimately, everyone is a pedestrian. Her office is a block from Shahum’s, at 6th and Market.

“This is the place where the most pedestrians have been hit by cars in the whole city,” she says, as we stand at the busy intersection. “And you can see it's a long crossing for folks with wheelchairs and canes, of whom there are many right here. You don't really get enough time.”

Stampe says that expanding the sidewalks at corners like this would help shorten the time it takes for pedestrians to get across the street and slow down the cars fighting to get through the intersections.

Making it safer to cross the street or ride a bike might seem obvious. But there’s always a trade-off. Solving one problem creates another problem somewhere else, or else pushes it a block farther down the road.

“Market Street is a special street,” says Stampe. “It's the spine of the city. And it's a gathering spot. It’s also a little bit magnetic. Both in the sense that it attracts people, but some parts of it still repel people.”

She says the corner where she works is a good example of Market’s confused identity. “It’s about a block from the mall, but it could be a world away.”

She compares the blocks along Market to islands in a stream. In this case, one island is the upscale shopping and tourist district around Powell Street. The next is lined with abandoned storefronts. Many people are either homeless and living on the street, or live in tiny rooms in nearby SRO hotels.

San Francisco’s transportation director, Ed Reiskin, works a few blocks away at Market and Van Ness. We walked through the Civic Center and talked about the street.

“For a lot of people, this is their living room and it should continue to serve that function,” he says. “If you or I had that space, we would also want to spend more time outside than inside.”

The city estimates that about 6,000 people are without shelter on any given night in San Francisco––many on Market Street.

“There may be some undesirable activity, some criminal activity, or unsafe situations that the city wants to address regardless of what happens design-wise on Market Street,” says Reiskin. “But I don't think we want to lose the character of Market Street or push anyone off of it. We want to make it a nice place for more people to be in.”

During the day the street has different feelings. Some new businesses have moved in, joining art spaces like the Luggage Store. But compared to the bustle just a few blocks away, the street here feels empty.

At Market and Van Ness, traffic hits the city from both major bridges. It’s a gateway to San Francisco – but instead of a grand monument marking the spot, there’s a car wash and a donut shop.

“It's not just infrastructure,” says Reiskin. “It's not just design. It's economic development. It's economic vitality. So I think there's more to it than just how we lay out the streets and how we paint the lines.”

That economic vitality is an important ingredient in a complex process. Money for repaving the street is in place. But coming up with the $250 million this project is expected to cost still has to be worked out. Back at 3rd and Market, Mohammed Nuru says some of that money could come from businesses that stand to benefit from the street’s upgrade.

The intersection of 3rd and Market (image via Google Street View)

“We’re bringing the right partners onto Market Street, bringing the Twitters in, bringing the new businesses in, bringing the restaurants in, all that adds to the vitality of a street,” Nuru says. “And they contribute and they partner with us, so together we’ll try to figure out what the bill will look like.”

Ultimately, though, the project isn’t just about the street’s physical condition––it’s about its character. And that’s a big part of what city officials are considering as they re-imagine Market. What does the street mean, and what should it be?

Nuru says it’s a great opportunity to think big. “I think what this process has done is woken everybody up and made them say, ‘Wow if I had an idea, this is the time to get it in because it could happen.’”

Another public meeting is planned for the fall. Get there early—it’s likely to be standing room only.

For more information on the Better Market Street project, click here.

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on re-thinking Market Street. Check out part 2 and part 3.

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