Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Step Towards Death, But the Ledge Is Still Far Away

The Washington Post is reporting that the FTA has all but killed the Dulles Rail project. Everyone is saying almost because they know it isn't dead. Governor Kaine, Senator Warner and others are going to fight back hard and I expect you'll see some congressional intervention. Virginia Transportation Chief Pierce Homer told the Washington Times, "We believe there will be rail on this corridor, the only question is whether there will be a federal partner in doing that."

At issue according to Administrator Simpson is funding for the capital maintenance backlog of projects that Metro has not completed along with the change orders not submitted in writing to the FTA. Officials dispute the amount but any backlog has been exacerbated by the year to year funding that is not permanent and often in doubt.

Much of Northern Virginia has been planning their new growth along the rail line because they learned from the Rosslyn Ballston Corridor that has created walkable neighborhoods, boosted tax base and shown that TOD is a real solution to autocentricity. This is a real blow to their efforts as well.

But what does this mean for everyone else? The implications of this death are not just for Metro and Northern Virginia but the rest of the country as well. Heavy Rail line expansions have been limited lately due to costs because the FTA doesn't measure all the real benefits of these projects. If this project goes down, what does that mean for expansions of Heavy Rail in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Miami? Other regions are building light rail and staying away from heavy rail completely. A complaint is that the areas aren't dense enough, but neither was the Rosslyn Ballston corridor before that was built, so the economic development issue needs to be addressed before the next transportation bill comes out.

For more commentary on this, I suggest a visit to The Bellows, or DCist for commentary and comments about the project.

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