Tuesday, October 16, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
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.
Friday, October 12, 2012
When the NY MTA agreed to sell the Atlantic Yards to Forest City Ratner to build the Barclays Arena and some 17 other buildings, the authority's board waxed enthusiastic about how the city was getting a new subway entrance out of the deal.
But so far, in the mornings, it's totally dead.
Pretty much every morning since the stop's been opened, for about three weeks -- and we've checked -- it looks like this. Seven am, 8 am, no one. A sort of strange, post-Apocalypse feel.
As we've been reporting, lots of fans are going to events at the arena by transit. The 18,000-seat arena has just 541 car spots on site, about 150 of those for season or VIP ticket-holders. Even last night, when Brooklyn-born Barbra Steisand performed, and drew a heavy crowd from the suburbs, people took the train.
The subway stop is set in a vast, uninviting plaza, with not much there to entice a morning subway rider, like newsstands or coffee-shops.
However, once you do cross Flatbush Avenue from Park Slope to get there, it is by far the cleanest and easiest way to enter the subway stop. Working escalators. Plenty of turnstiles. Tidy, well-lit hallways that don't smell (yet). And the shortest, least confusing ascent (or descent, in the case of the B-Q), from any entrance.
Word from transit officials: "Use It!"
Ratner, BTW, paid $76 million for the new subway entrance. But the whole deal with Ratner was heavily criticized at the time as a sweetheart deal for the developer, which was allowed to work with the MTA over a period of years to develop a bid to obtain the railyards for its arena.
Ratner offered $100 million less for the Yards than the rival developer -- but the MTA board argued that building a new subway entrance would in part compensate.
After much pressure, the MTA opened the bidding process for the rail yards to other developers, but then rejected the one other bid it got because it wasn't as detailed as Ratner's bid.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
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.
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
With four new Metrorail stations coming to Tysons Corner next year -- as well as a 40-year plan to to bring high-rise condos and gleaming corporate offices to the area -- local lawmakers are considering rethinking the road network.
The Fairfax County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors dug into a report Tuesday from Planning Commission member Walter Alcorn that includes about $1 billion in taxes on current and future developers to cover the costs of infrastructure for cars, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians.
“Right now Tysons has a super grid of very, very large blocks which are not walkable,” Alcorn said in an interview with Transportation Nation. The county's plan states the "vehicle-based road network will need to transition into a multi-modal transportation system that provides transportation choices to residents, employees and visitors." That means, in part, building smaller, more walkable blocks.
County officials say they want the population of Tysons Corner to increase fivefold by 2050. Currently, the community has 20,000 residents.
The infrastructure redevelopment cost is $2.3 billion, and to pay for it, the planning commission wants to levy new taxes on developers and increase existing property taxes. However, tapping general fund revenues, issuing bonds, and adding a commercial and industrial tax are also under consideration.
“The actual street in front of the development that’s being constructed should be paid for by that developer. However, larger transportation projects that have a major benefit inside and outside of Tysons probably should be paid for by the public sector,” said Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
“These are extrapolations,” said Bulova, referring to the revenue figures. “We’re looking ahead to an extent we’ve never done before to look at what it is going to take to support the new development.”
And Alcorn says it's worth it. “The point of all these improvements is not to facilitate traffic through Tysons or across Tysons, but frankly to help Tysons become more of a walkable, transit oriented community,” he said. “It’s a grid of streets. It’s also new connections from surrounding roads into Tysons, for example, new connections from the Dulles Toll Road, and improved connection to the Beltway.”
The board will take up the proposal next at its scheduled meeting later this month.
See Fairfax County's "Transforming Tysons" slideshow:
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) Jay-Z has been playing sold-out concerts at the 19,000-seat Barclays Center Arena in Brooklyn and, so far, the biggest traffic problem has been caused by crowds of people coming up from the Atlantic Avenue subway stop and streaming across the street to the arena before the shows. So few people are driving, the scant official parking spaces aren't even filling up.
That's according to Sam Schwartz, who was hired by Barclay's Center management to come up with a traffic plan for the area during arena events. Neighbors had feared traffic bedlam because the center sits at a complicated intersection of three major thoroughfares notorious for its danger to pedestrians, and that's before the sports and entertainment complex came to town.
But now walkers are winning. "As the herd of pedestrians comes out, we shut down Atlantic Avenue for cars and get the people across the street for about ten minutes and then we let the cars flow," Schwartz said. "It hasn't backed up traffic much."
Schwartz says more than half of all concert-goers so far have come and gone by subway. Besides surges in turnstile use at the Atlantic Avenue stop, riders have also been using subway stops a short stroll from arena: the Fulton Street stop of the G, the Lafayette Avenue stop of the C, and the Bergen Street stop of the 2 and 3.
Others have walked, and about 1,200 people have taken Long Island Railroad trains.
Relatively few fans seem to be driving, judging by the lack of gridlock and the fact that the arena's surface parking lot, with its 541 spaces, has been half empty. Schwartz added that, as of now, not many drivers have been patronizing a group of satellite lots up to a mile from the arena that offer half-price parking and free shuttle buses.
The prospect of drivers circulating en masse through the nearby tree-lined streets looking for free street parking has also failed to materialize. "I've heard no complaints about parking," said Robert Perris, district manager of New York Community Board 2, which includes the area around the Barclays Center Arena.
In hearings and planning meetings leading up to the opening of the arena, residents have been vocal about calling for a parking permit program to keep fans who arrive by car from parking on their streets. The NYC Department of Transportation has so far declined to institute such a program.
Perris said he joined other city officials in inspecting the scene on opening night last Friday. "Traffic was heavy but moving in a well-managed way," he said. "There were police officers or traffic engineers at all major intersections, and pedestrian managers at the crosswalks, both sides. People were going where they were told."
Perris said traffic flow in the streets around the arena, which was heavy before the Barclays Center opened, might be benefiting from the small army of police and traffic managers. "My question is whether we’re always going to have the same level of resources as we had on night one," he said.
Despite the traffic plan's initial success, officials caution that results are preliminary. Brooklyn Nets games may draw greater numbers of fans who arrive by car. And planners will be watching to see how Barbra Streisand's fans choose to travel to Barclays Center Arena for her sold-out show on October 13.
The arena is accessible from 11 subway lines and commuter rail.
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
We've gotten questions about how we crunched New York City subway turnstile data for the opening of the Barclays Center. WNYC's senior editor for data news explains all in this post for the station's data news blog, which we've reprinted below.
(John Keefe - New York, NY, WNYC) Saturday morning we did something fun: We counted the number of people who took the subway to the opening-night Jay-Z concert at Brooklyn's new Barclays Center the night before.
Or at least got pretty close.
Traffic and transit were closely watched for the new arena, as the 19,000 or so concertgoers would have just 541 parking spaces. So we decided to grab data from subway turnstiles to measure the crowds leaving the Atlantic Ave-Barclays Center station for the show.
How we did it
Turning around the data overnight took a little planning. Here's how we pulled it off:
Every Saturday morning, the MTA posts turnstile data for the previous week. Fortunately for us, the last reading is 8 p.m. Friday, the scheduled start time for the concert.
The data files contain the entry and exit counter readings for each turnstile in the system as a sort of "odometer" reading. The data is a little tricky to use, though it does have a regular structure.
So Steve Melendez, our Data News Team programmer, wrote some Python code that grabs the data files and puts the individual readings into a SQLite database. He then sorted the readings by station (using this chart), and calculated how many exit clicks were logged for the Atlantic Avenue station from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
We suspected there would be a jump in the time period before the concert. So earlier in the week, we ran the numbers for each Friday for much of the year and calculated those averages (I ended up using just September, because they were higher, post-summer vacation readings). Then, Saturday morning, Steven got up really early and ran the program again, including the newly posted numbers.
He sent me the latest values, and I added them to the chart in a taxi on the way to the station. At 8:35 a.m., I was on the air talking about how it appears about a third of the concert-goers took the subway.
It could be more than that. Some people could have left the system at another station. And if anyone left through an emergency exit, or if they showed up after 8 p.m., they wouldn't be in our turnstile data.
But it's a place to start, and we'll be watching how these numbers change for future concerts and for Brooklyn Nets games.
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
More than two years after its southern segment opened, bicycling advocates are asking District and Maryland transportation officials why there has been no progress extending the 8-mile Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) that is supposed to run between Union Station and Silver Spring, Md.
The southern segment is a completed, off-road bicycle path running straight north from Union Station through Northeast Washington to the Brookland neighborhood, but the remaining three segments are a combination of off-road and “interim routes” that force cyclists to leave the path and crowd onto city streets.
“In a couple of places it actually goes up relatively steep hills. In one place it goes against traffic,” says Shane Farthing, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. The group is urging the District Department of Transportation to begin work on the northernmost segment inside the district, from Riggs Road to the Montgomery County line.
“We’d like to see DDOT pushing harder on that,” Farthing says.
But starting work on the MBT’s center segment in D.C. is more complicated: there are outstanding land-use issues that have to be resolved by the National Park Service, DC's transit agency (WMATA), and the DDOT concerning federal property around Fort Totten, where the proposed trail makes a sharp left turn in the vicinity of a trash transfer station. That is where bicyclists face the thorniest part of their ride as two-way bicycling traffic has to squeeze into one of the “interim trails,” a one-way street for cars.
“For kids and novice cyclists who might want to try this connection, I do think where you are sent into oncoming traffic it is intimidating,” says Farthing, who gave an interview at the noisy intersection of Fort Totten Drive NE and Gallatin Street NE.
“All of the area around Fort Totten is National Park Service land, and there are certain agreements that WMATA has with rights of use to get the Red Line through. So they have to make sure (that) all those different legal agreements on land use work together to allow for the trail access,” he added.
The partial completion of the MBT is not stopping bicyclists from using it as part of their daily commutes or for recreation. There were 11,503 trips on the MBT last year, a nearly three-fold increase from 2010, according to DDOT figures.
Sam Zimbabwe, DDOT’s associate director for policy, planning, and sustainability, said funding and land use issues have delayed progress.
“Some of what we face is a challenge of resources and dealing with multiple trail projects moving forward at the same time,” he says, adding that the Fort Totten area “is probably one of the most challenging sections of the trail in terms of dealing with competing needs of the right of way.”
Zinbabwe countered criticism that the DDOT isn't prioritizing the project.
“We don’t feel that we are [idle]. I think that we continue to try to move it forward,” he says. Although Farthing says he believes the entire bike trail could be finished in two to three years, Zimbabwe called that goal “optimistic.”
In Montgomery County, where the proposed trail would end at Silver Spring, there are also outstanding conflicts concerning land use.
The group Montgomery Preservation Inc. is unhappy with a plan to run the trail between its building that houses a B&O Railroad museum and Metro’s Red Line tracks. The plan also calls for building a bicycling bridge over Georgia Avenue that would block views of the historic railroad bridge. The MBT is part of the county’s master plan and the Montgomery County Council has approved funding.
“The county council, county executive, and bicycling community are all interested in completing the design and construction and opening up this important part of this heavily used trail,” says Bruce Johnston, the chief of MCDOT’s division of transportation engineering.
Although frustrated by the slow progress, Farthing looks forward to a day when commuters can ride their bicycles all the way from Silver Spring to Union Station without squeezing past moving vehicle traffic.
“The ability to take your bike on and off Metro, the ability to mix it with bike share, we’ve got a lot of different ways that you can integrate biking into daily life, but it is important to have the trail so the people can do it safely and easily,” Farthing says.
Monday, October 01, 2012
By Kate Hinds
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.
You can watch a video about the project below.
Monday, October 01, 2012
Electric vehicle charging stations are springing up all over Florida -- and a lot of them are concentrated around Orlando, which has more than 150 stations within a 70-mile radius. But uptake in central Florida has been ... slow.
The Orlando Utilities Commission, which has installed 78 charging stations around the city, estimates there are about 700 electric vehicles currently on the road in Orlando. That's a tiny percentage of the 915,960 cars and pickup trucks registered in Orange County, which encompasses most of the Orlando metropolitan area.
But alternative fuel advocates are hopeful the vehicles will eventually catch on in the Sunshine State. Florida's electric vehicle infrastructure is growing quickly, and the U.S. Department of Energy lists 319 public charging stations across the state, provided with funding from federal stimulus money.
Orlando resident Mark Thomasen has been an advocate for electric vehicles in the city since 2008. He worked for a company that installed many of the charging stations and now writes an EV blog. He says it's been a challenge to build up acceptance of electric vehicles in the area. "There's not as much of a green movement in central Florida, and in Florida versus say Washington, or Oregon or Colorado."
Motorists might also balk at the upfront price. Chevrolet's plug-in electric-gasoline hybrid Volt sedan has a list price of $39,145, while Nissan's all-electric Leaf, has a base price of $35,000. Even with the $7,500 federal tax rebate, the cars are comparatively expensive.
But Thomasen is confident EVs will catch on in Florida. He says they don't face some of the challenges of hydrogen, such as how to generate and store the gas, as well as the need to dvelop a high capacity, durable and inexpensive fuel cell. And he says even if drivers aren't worried about the environmental cost of gasoline, EVs should appeal to people who don't want to rely on foreign oil.
"Over here, what matters to people is energy independence," he says. "People don't realize how much fuel we use and how little we have within our border. So by moving to an electric car and getting off of that, we go to a different fuel source."
And Thomasen says electric vehicles at least have the infrastructure to support them, unlike hydrogen fuel cars.
Seven years ago there was a big push to build a hydrogen fuel infrastructure in California and in Florida. In 2005, Florida Governor Jeb Bush broke ground on the state's first hydrogen fueling station in Orlando. “Florida is spurring investment in the development and use of pollution-free hydrogen technology,” said Gov. Bush. The new station was to be part of a "hydrogen hub" in central Florida, and the first of a series of stations fueling a fleet of clean energy vehicles.
After Jeb Bush left office, Florida's new governor Charlie Crist grabbed the renewable fuel baton. He cut the ribbon on the station in May 2007, and touted it as a way to wean the nation off foreign oil. A fleet of minibuses operated by the Orange County convention center was adapted to run on hydrogen supplied by the station. Progress Energy, one of the partners in the project, opened a second refueling station near Oviedo as part of a nationwide demonstration project on fuel cell vehicles, led by the US Department of Energy. Eventually though, Florida's hydrogen highway evaporated. After two years and 3,200 fill-ups, the two hydrogen refueling stations shut down and the pilot program finished.
James Fenton, who directs the Florida Solar Energy Center, a research facility at the University of Central Florida, says hydrogen still has a place in the future of alternative fuels in Florida. But he says it's more likely to be used in fuel cells in electric vehicles rather than powering internal combustion engines. "Eventually we'll get to the point when all the battery-powered electric cars will have fuel cell range extenders," says Fenton. "You'll have electric cars with batteries for short trips because the electron out of the wall is dirt cheap, then you'll electrolyze water somewhere else, fill your car with hydrogen and extend the range."
And while electric vehicles aren't yet a common sight on central Florida roads, Fenton says he's upbeat about their future because mile for mile, electricity out of the wall is cheaper than gasoline. But he says there are still some obstacles to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
"We don't have a hydrogen infrastructure," says Fenton. "That's the kicker."
Monday, October 01, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
This is the third part in an ongoing series of reports about the metropolitan Washington region’s changing neighborhoods. Read Part I and Part II )A recent study by a George Washington University real estate expert called the D.C. region a pioneer in creating WalkUPs, walkable urban places. In this report, WAMU’s Martin Di Caro visits the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Ward 1.
When Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham sat down for lunch at Red Rocks Firebrick Pizzeria on a weekday afternoon it was easy for him to remember what the neighborhood used to be like here around Park Road and 11th Street, about three miles north of the White House.
“A few years ago this would have been unthinkable, unimaginable,” he says, considering his new neighbors.
The pizza place is situated in one of the D.C. region’s 43 WalkUPs designated by George Washington University’s Chris Leinberger, and in a zip code that has seen dramatic demographic changes through gentrification. The 20010 is tenth fastest gentrifying zip code in the country, according to U.S. Census data compiled by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
“Where we are sitting right now was a house that was taken over by squatters who lived here without running water,” Graham said. “You wouldn’t have had any daytime restaurant opportunity. In fact, these restaurants and bars that are around us right now weren’t open.”
The opening of Metro's Green Line in 1999 was the catalyst for so many of the positive changes that include rising property values.
“The Green Line made an enormous difference in terms of transforming what were vacant lots with chain link fences which gave rise to crime and other undesirable activities. So the Metro was key,” the councilmember said.
In Leinberger’s study Columbia Heights is considered an urban commercial WalkUP, meaning it is dominated by for-sale housing but has significant blocks of office, retail, and rental space.
Columbia Heights has experienced the challenge of retaining affordable housing as prosperity took hold.
“We’ve obviously brought a lot of newcomers into this neighborhood with the new apartment buildings… but it is very useful to keep in mind that we have the whole length of 14th Street starting at W [Street] and running all the way to Oak [Street], we have three thousand units of very low-income affordable housing,” Graham said.
Ward 1 is known for its ethnic diversity, the center of the district’s Latino, Ethiopian, and Vietnamese communities. Graham said the government has actively worked to preserve those communities and resist the real estate pressures brought by gentrification.
“This is all quality housing that we now have for extremely low-income persons," Graham said of the housing 14th street housing stock. "Each and every one of those could have been a condo easily because of the real estate pressures,” said Graham who added D.C. has some of the most progressive affordable housing laws in the country.
“It took a determined effort. It just didn’t happen willy-nilly. What you see at 14th and Irving and 14th and Park was something very carefully understood and bought into by everyone who was a stakeholder,” Graham added, referring to the retail center built up around the Columbia Heights Metro station, including a large Target.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
30 Issues in 30 Days is our election year series on the important issues facing the country this election year. Today: The necessity of borrowing to initiate and maintain essential infrastructure projects. Visit the 30 Issue home page for all the conversations.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
By Kate Hinds
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.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Not too long ago, an ad for Audi cars sought to relate to the average driver with grimly shot footage of rutted roads, rotting bridges, and frayed guardrails. “Across the nation, over 100,000 miles of roads and bridges are in disrepair,” a female announcer intones.
That this rhetoric could turn up in an ad is a metaphor of the current acceptance of America’s rather sorry infrastructure. In its latest report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave American infrastructure a "D.”
In 2008, Republicans and Democrats pretty much agreed that investing in infrastructure is a national priority. Here's an excerpt from the 2008 GOP platform:
We support a level of investment in the nation's transportation system that will promote a healthy economy, sustain jobs, and keep America globally competitive. We need to improve the system's performance and capacity to deal with congestion, move a massive amount of freight, reduce traffic fatalities, and ensure mobility across both rural and urban areas.
We urgently need to preserve the highway, transit, and air facilities built over the last century so they can serve generations to come. At the same time, we are committed to minimizing transportation's impact on climate change, our local environments, and the nation's energy use. Careful reforms of environmental reviews and the permitting process should speed projects to completion.
It's hard to remember that that was just four years ago -- when Senator Barack Obama was running against Senator John McCain.
In 2012, supporting infrastructure couldn't be more partisan.
In one of the most-quoted pieces of video />made this campaign, President Barack Obama argues that success relies on collective action, including big infrastructure projects. Obama: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help... Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
But to Republicans, that sounded like an argument against individual ingenuity. "We are the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the ones who wanted a better life, the driven ones," former Governor Mitt Romney said in his acceptance speech, describing all the reasons our parents and grandparents came to this county, including "freedom to build a life. And yes, freedom to build a business with their own hands."
It was huge applause line. The theme even became a country song Lane Turner performed at the convention, with the refrain, "I built it, with no help from Uncle Sam."
That Uncle Sam has a big role in building infrastructure has been a pretty consistent theme for President Obama. His $800 stimulus bill had big sums for highways, transit, and high speed rail. He's proposed big transportation budgets every year.
But republicans see it differently. Arguing the country can't afford more debt, Republican Governors sent stimulus money back to the federal government. In Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, they stopped high speed rail projects in their tracks. But they weren't the first republicans to send big bucks back to D.C.
But before Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida had even won office, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie started a modern trend: sending billions back to the federal government for a local transit project rather than risk incurring extra debt for New Jersey taxpayers. In October, 2010, Christie pulled the plug on an already-started transit tunnel under the Hudson River -- the so-called ARC tunnel. " In the end the taxpayers of New Jersey would be on the hook for every nickel of the cost overruns," Christie said, explaining the decision.
"When you become governor, and you start to become presented with the information I was presented with you're presented with now a choice of a project that I do think is a worthwhile project but that we simply can't afford," Christie added.
Christie's Democratic counterpart in New York, Andrew Cuomo, took a different approach. Without the financing in hand, Cuomo greenlighted his own massive infrastructure project -- a new $5 billion Tappan Zee bridge.
"As a society, as a government, as a state, we have to be able to get to yes," Cuomo told reporters after he'd applied for the funds. "We have to be able to build a bridge that needs to be replaced. If we want this state to be what we want this state to be you have to be able to tackle a project like this."
Thursday, September 20, 2012
By Bob Hennelly
(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.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY -- WNYC) The one-word street markings started appearing around Manhattan in mid-summer. An eagle-eyed TN reporter snapped a photo of one and, with no help from the city's tight-lipped Department of Transportation, deduced it was the start of a new pedestrian safety campaign.
That $1 million campaign has now been officially launched with the help of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who joined NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at the corner of Second Avenue and 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan to show off an oversized stencil that read "LOOK!"
The emphatic order is meant to be spotted by a pedestrian with his head buried in a smartphone as he launches into traffic. The "O's" in LOOK! also double as eyeballs pointing toward a presumed onslaught of vehicles. Sadik-Khan said New Yorkers need the heads-up: more than half of those killed in city traffic accidents are pedestrians. She added that at that very corner, 75 people were hurt in crashes between 2006 and 2010.
The LOOK! markings are installed at 110 crash-prone intersections throughout the city, with 90 more to come.
LaHood said it's critical for pedestrians to remain alert while crossing the street because even when they're in the right, they can still be hurt--more than half of all New Yorkers killed last year by cars at a crosswalk had the green light. "Having the right-of-way does not guarantee your safety," he said. "Hold off on emailing or texting until you've crossed the street."
Sadik-Khan said she got the idea for the markings when she visited London and came across its well-known suggestions to "Look Left" or "Look Right" before crossing.
The NYC DOT isn't putting the burden of safety solely on walkers. The LOOK! campaign includes ads on the backs of buses that admonish motorists to "Drive Smart / LOOK!" Other ads tell drivers to yield to pedestrians when turning at an intersection.
A NYC DOT spokesman said the campaign is largely funded by the Federal Highway Administration.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
By Bob Hennelly
(New York, NY -- WNYC) Two consulting firms hired to conduct an independent review of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have concluded that the bi-state agency has experienced major improvement in how it is operating -- but still must find additional ways to raise revenue to pay for the region's aging transportation infrastructure.
Last year, in the midst of a public outcry over toll and fare hikes at the agency's bridges and tunnels, Navigant Consulting and Rothschild Inc were retained to take a detailed look at the Port Authority. The consultants reported that under the agency's watch the redevelopment costs for the World Trade Center had ballooned from $11 billion to $14.8 billion.
The initial outside review described a dysfunctional bureaucracy with a debt load that had more than doubled -- from $9 billion to $21 billion in just ten years -- while boosting the compensation pay for its employees by 19 percent over the same period.
Now, just seven months later, Port Authority chairman David Samson says a multi-faceted push to reform the agency has paid off with glowing reviews from the same consultants for the management team put in place by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Samson quoted from the latest Navigant report which concluded "the Port Authority has made great improvements in transparency and efforts to complete the World Trade Center program within the estimated costs." Samson said the agency had embarked on "50 distinct initiatives" to revamp everything from its basic governance structure to how the agency manages its capital projects.
The consultants also backed up the Port Authority's controversial toll and fare hikes as being "necessary" to support the agency's capital spending for its Interstate Transportation Network. That point is still hotly contested by local elected officials from both states and the Automobile Association of America. AAA has taken the Port Authority to court over what it claims is the illegal diversion of toll revenues to support non-transportation related projects like the World Trade Center.
And the same day that the Port Authority rolled out the consultant report on the agency's increased transparency, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis was expressing outrage over the agency's decision to appeal a judge's order requiring the Port Authority to turn over an internal report on the impact of its toll hikes on the New York Container Terminal on Staten Island. Malliotakis says the terminal, which provides 550 good-paying jobs, has already lost 58 percent of their business "mostly due to these toll hikes." "What makes this organization so unbelievable is their arrogance in that they feel they can hide this information from the public who partially paid for this study to take place," Mallitokis said. The agency maintains the report is just a draft.
On the conference call to announce the major reset at the Port Authority, executive director Pat Foye insisted the agency's efforts at cost containment had produced tangible results. According to Foye, requiring the agency's non-union staff to contribute to the cost of their health insurance will save the Port $41 million dollars over the next 18 months and tens of millions of dollars in the out years.
But Port Authority officials conceded they still face formidable fiscal challenges. "Our ambitious ten-year capital plan budgets $26.9 billion dollar in capital expenditures for the 2011-2020 planning period. But there is more than $44 billion dollars of known investments that we need to maintain our region's competitiveness," said Port Authority vice chairman Scott Rechler.
"The agency's 80-plus year-old faculties are at capacity and are in critical need of state of good repair work," Rechler said. "There is a significant backlog of projects due to past deferral of state of good repair expenditures. For more than eight years our tunnels, bridges and terminals departments have not met its 80 percent target of preventative maintenance routines which could lead to more costly emergency repairs down the road in the future."
"The region's airports have aged significantly, frequently ranking among the worst in the nation in terms of customer satisfaction, and upgrades will require up to $6.5 billion dollars in additional capital through 2020," Rechler added.
Foye says the Port Authority is going to look to the private sector to help it finance some of its big ticket items -- like the rebuilding of the Goethals Bridge, which links Staten Island and New Jersey. Foye says the public-private partnership model is being given "serious consideration" for upgrading the Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia, as well as at Newark Airport's Terminal A. He says using this model could help the agency raise the $6 billion dollars needed to complete all three projects.
The consultants identified several areas where they felt the Port Authority could bring in as much as $150 million dollars in additional cash annually in non-toll revenue. On the list of possible money makers: additional advertising revenue, improving toll violation recovery, selling off some of the agency's real estate portfolio like the Newark Legal Center and the Teleport business park -- as well as selling air rights to the Port Authority's midtown bus terminal and its Journal Square PATH train station.
Port officials told reporters they are also looking to raise revenue by bringing new hotel capacity to the area around JFK Airport. "The JFK region doesn't have the hotel rooms adequate to service the millions of people who go through each day," Foye said. "We are working on two or three hotel opportunities right now that we expect to be announcing in the future."
New Jersey Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a long time Port Authority critic, credited the Port Authority with "responding to years of inadequate accounting and managerial procedures" but hoped "the newfound commitment to proper governance" would endure.
“My greatest concern is that once the agency no longer feels public pressure to reform, it will return to its old ways," Huttle said in a statement. She's still pushing for passage of the Port Authority Accountability and Transparency Act, which legislators say would increase the Port's public accountability and require an annual audit.
Any legislation to reform the agency has to be passed in both Albany and Trenton. The Port Authority, a bi-state compact, was created by an act of Congress in 1921.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
This is the second part in a series of ongoing reports about the metropolitan Washington, D.C. region’s changing neighborhoods. Listen to the radio version of this story here. The first part highlighted Southeast D.C.'s Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.
Columbia Pike stretches three and a half miles through the center of densely populated Arlington County, Virginia just west of D.C. The corridor, extends southwest of Arlington National Cemetery, into an evolving landscape of mixed-use development that builders and community activists alike are hoping to improve into more livable communities. But unlike the nearby Rosslyn-Ballston corridor that was built up around Metro rail, the Columbia Pike has no rail link to attract real estate development. The future does hold plans for a streetcar.
“We’re working toward implementing light rail in the form of the Columbia Pike Streetcar which will connect the density at the west end in Fairfax to Pentagon City and Crystal City in the east end,” said Chris Zimmerman, an Arlington County Board member who has been heavily involved in the county’s transit-oriented planning. He said the county just submitted its application to the Federal Transit Administration for streetcar grant dollars.
The future path of a light rail line is currently used by the busiest bus service in the Commonwealth of Virginia at roughly 15,000 daily riders. While residents have access to transit – a key requirement to be considered a thriving WalkUP in a study by George Washington University professor Chris Leinberger – Columbia Pike’s population is missing some important elements. For one, the corridor needs more people.
“We need more density. Density is sometimes viewed by people as the antithesis of what you want in development, but what density has proven to do in Arlington is create places where you can move around easier,” said David DeCamp, a real estate developer, who accompanied a WAMU reporter on a tour of the pike along with John Murphy, the vice president of the board of directors of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.
The corridor also lacks commercial development.
“Mixed-use has three components: residential, office, and commercial," Murphy said. "The pike sorely misses office right now.”
A streetcar line will not be a cure-all, so county planners implemented two other measures to spur development along Columbia Pike: zoning laws were changed to make development easier, and the housing overlay zone was altered to double the unit density. Landowners will be required to maintain roughly one-fourth of their new apartment units as affordable housing; the county will build a streetcar line so their tenants can move easily up and down the corridor.
The combination of maintaining some affordable housing and expanding access to transit will allow the pike to avoid some of the negative consequences of gentrification, namely population displacement, Zimmerman said.
“Our goal is to make it possible for everyone who lives there today to live there tomorrow,” he said. “We believe it’s possible to accommodate the same number of people who make, say, 60 percent of the area median income or less, if we build it into our planning.”
Zimmerman said thirty years ago, when the county began planning for the Orange Line, it was so focused on attracting affluent residents to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor it neglected affordable housing units. That lesson is serving Columbia Pike planners today, he said.
“The community is very supportive of this because people understand that a lot of what they like about the Columbia Pike corridor is its diversity,” he said. “We don’t want it to become homogeneous. We don’t want it to become a place that is just for affluent people.”
Arlington County is considered a national leader in urban planning and land use. Although the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor on the Metro's Orange Line covers about 10 percent of the county’s land mass it produces 55 percent of its tax base, according to George Washington University professor Chris Leinberger.
“If you were to look at it 25 years ago you’d say, this may become a slum. All the obsolete strip retail was vacant,” Leinberger said in an interview with WAMU. “Today they have fabulous public schools. It’s a very diverse community and it’s extremely walkable.”
Murphy and DeCamp believe the same will be said for the Columbia Pike corridor.
“I’m excited about the potential of the pike to save the diversity of residents we have here,” said Murphy, who said the goal of zero population displacement is attainable. “They’ve made that happen. It’s going to be an incredibly dynamic, diverse, energetic engine with the streetcar in combination with the housing overlay.”
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
By Kate Hinds
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 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
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 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 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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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 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.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
This just in from the Dept. of Transportation: Virginia is getting an additional $74 million in federal money for high-speed rail. Upon closer inspection, it's really higher speed rail that will top out at 110 m.p.h. The money will help pay for laying an extra 11-mile stretch of rail meant to speed freight and passenger travel between Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, N.C.
The Obama administration has allocated around $10 billion to high-speed rail that was meant to lay whole new track and connect regional lines into a national rail network. Republican governors in Wisconsin and Florida returned federal money, saying the plans were too expensive and the states would be on the hook for cost overruns. That leaves California as the the biggest beneficiary of federal money, for an ambitious nearly 400-mile plan to connect Los Angeles with San Francisco by high-speed rail. DOT funds have been distributed around 153 projects, most of which are more like today's Virginia announcement than California's plan: projects meant to incrementally push the nation's rail network toward true high-speed rail through construction that will help an eventual HSR network, but also offer near-term intermediate benefits like faster travel time on congested stretches.
Here's the full release:
U.S. Department of Transportation Awards More than $74 Million to Further Development of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor in Virginia
Added Capacity Will Improve Passenger, Freight and Commuter Rail Service Between Virginia and Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON –U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today awarded more than $74.8 million to the Commonwealth of Virginia to continue development of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor. The funding will help improve passenger and freight rail service between Virginia and Washington, D.C. and reduce delays on the Virginia Rail Express (VRE) commuter service.
“The Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor between Charlotte and Washington D.C. serves one of the fastest growing regions in the country, which is why it is critical to eliminate congestion points so that intercity passenger, freight and commuter rail can all run smoothly without delays,” said Secretary LaHood. “This is a great example of how federal, state and local governments are working with rail carriers to build capacity and improve service for the public.”
The project will build up to 11 miles of third track and related improvements from Arkendale in Stafford County to Powell's Creek in Prince William County, Va. The third track will provide the capacity needed for higher speed trains on the Southeast Corridor to operate without conflict from freight and commuter trains. On a daily basis, 40-50 freight trains, 10 Amtrak trains and 14 VRE trains operate over this segment, and the addition of a third track will allow for traffic to flow unimpeded. In addition to adding a third track, the project includes final design and improvements to the station at the Quantico Marine Base in Quantico, Va.
“The Washington, D.C. area transportation system has been plagued with delays as population in the area has increased and more commodities flow through the region,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “Reducing congestion and adding capacity are two key outcomes we and our state partners in Virginia planned for in making this investment. Projects like this will make a real difference for passengers while maintaining our world class freight system. We are building a rail infrastructure for an America built to last.”
When completed, the Corridor will have have at least eight high-speed trains traveling at 110 mph between Charlotte, N.C. and Washington D.C. Travel time between Charlotte and Washington D.C. will be reduced by up to three hours, and travel time between Richmond and Washington D.C will be reduced by 35 minutes. The Southeast Corridor is one of five originally proposed high-speed passenger rail corridors designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1992. It is part of an overall plan to extend service from the existing high-speed rail on the Boston to Washington Northeast Corridor to points in the Southeast. Future plans for the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor call for extending service from Charlotte to Atlanta.
The Federal Railroad Administration and its 32 state partners are making great progress on High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail projects across the country. With $10.1 billion in federal funding, states are moving forward with 153 projects, laying the foundation for a 21st century passenger rail network.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
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.