Thursday, February 18, 2010

In hindsight, maybe bridge idea not so hot

Even hindsight isn't always 20-20 of course, but if you look at the breakdown of which transportation projects across the U.S. won pieces of that $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money, it's pretty clear the feds were favoring transit, rail and pedestrian projects. The top-ranked highway-only project was 10th on the list.

So did N.C. officials miscalculate by putting their big weight on repairing highway bridges over the Yadkin River, instead of making a big push for Mecklenburg County's languishing-for-lack-of-federal-money commuter rail line? Charlotte and CATs submitted the request, of course, but in order to be team players with N.C. DOT and the governor they weren't pulling out the big guns to lobby for it.

New York City's project to improve dowdy Penn Station (the "Moynihan Station, Phase 1") got $83 million. The "Tuscon Modern Streetcar" project won $63 million. A commuter rail project in Massachusetts ("the Fitchburg commuter rail extension and Wachusett station") won $55.5 million. The DC area got $58 million for bus enhancements, and Philadelphia got $54 million for pedestrian and bicycle improvements. A lot of the money went for freight rail improvements, too.

"Selected projects must foster job creation, show strong economic benefits, and promote communities that are safer, cleaner and more livable," the press release said. Later, it said the 22 so-called "livability projects" were "aimed at giving Americans more choices about how they travel and improving access to economic and housing opportunities in their communities."

I think North Carolina's Yadkin River bridge project, although a sorely needed repair job, failed to score on the "cleaner and more livable" factors. And I think it's quite possible the shovel-ready but fed-funding-lacking North Corridor commuter rail line to Davidson would have hit high marks for "cleaner and more livable," because of its obvious connection to more environmentally sound development, and for taking a load of traffic off I-77. It's an example of regional cooperation, too, with four municipalities (Charlotte, Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson) involved.

Conti demurred when I asked him to second-guess the request on Thursday. "It would have been just as hard to get any significant funding for the North Corridor," he said. I wonder.

In any case, now that the state has learned the bridge repair project gets only $10 million in stimulus money, it's moving to start the repairs in a few months.

32 comments:

heavymetal said...

Shameful, what we've allowed this bridge to become, especially after improving the roads from Raleigh to Manteo.
That bridge has seemed rickety for the past 20 years, at least.

Anonymous said...

In hindsight, No one would have voted these morons in office.

Anonymous said...

Mary, Have you ever driven I-85 or I-77?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered establishing a commuter rail line from Monroe to Charlotte?

Anonymous said...

All Mary seems to care about is trains.

To hell with the bridge connecting us to Raleigh, right, Mary?

heavymetal said...

How about a decent road connecting us to Raleigh?

Why is it that no reporter in Charlotte will pick up the irony of this?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

We need to send a new kind of leader to Washington. A leader who has a track record of seeing our economy for what it is, not for what some hope it to be. Someone with the courage to stand up and let the world know what is coming even when it is vastly unpopular to do so. Not because it is the easy thing to do but because it is hard and because it is right.

heavymetal said...

We need the same kind of leadership in Raleigh.

Anonymous said...

Mary, you were moaning about this yesterday. Enough already, please and thank you.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Mary, What do you actually want? Do you actually believe in freedom and liberty?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Have you ever actually driven over that bridge? "Repair" h@ll, that bridge is a death trap that should have been replaced 25 years ago.

Anonymous said...

The City of Gastonia will be putting 4 road projects on the ballot for approval, revenue neutral to be paid by bonds. Taxes will not go up.
One of th eprojects will fix a mile stretch of Union Road that is grossly inadequate and several people have lost their lives. Cars in two way traffic barely a foot apart and telephone poles inches from the road.
They are doing this because the state has no money and they were told by NCDOT it could be decades before this was fixed.
The state got NO stimulus funds that could alleviate this problem just as the above mentioned road projects in Mecklenburg County, namely I-485.
This is an ongoing joke from Raleigh, where corruption reigns and the east keeps what it gets for their road needs.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big proponent of rail but the YRB needed to be replaced long, long ago. It's a disgraceful deathtrap. One day it's gonna collapse like that bridge going into Minneapolis on I 35 and then there will be much hand wringing and ahumminas and harrumphing and demanding to know why it collapsed.

Anonymous said...
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Adam said...

What Mary doesn't discuss is the amount of rail projects that didn't get any grant money.

A streetcar proposal in Cincinnati did not receive any grant money. As was a streetcar proposal in Atlanta did not win any money. Nor did a regional bus proposal in the Upstate of SC.

There is and was no guarantee that putting in money for a rail project in Charlotte would have gotten money in the round of stimulus grants.

Anonymous said...

Besides, we did very nicely with the high speed rail funds.

Mary, if you mean to be an advocate for rail (and I appreciate your advocacy) this was one of your worst efforts. Today's blog was a rehash of yesterday's.

Anonymous said...

In hindsight, maybe your blog idea was not so hot.

Maybe you could write about all transportation needs for our area, including rail. You might get more rail fans that way.

Anonymous said...

Its all about Charlotte isn't it!

You're a SPOILED RICH city. Build this stuff yourself instead of stealing from other struggling communities.

Lily Longing said...
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Anonymous said...

I'm a train fan too, but the Yadkin River Bridge is more important than any other transportation issue in this state right now. If that thing collapses, we are all screwed. Everything else can wait. get this done!

Anonymous said...

Amen, Lily, amen...
The bridge needs to be repaired. it has needed it since before the eighties. Where has NCDOT been all this time?

Anonymous said...

The YKB should be replaced, not repaired. It is definitely a deathtrap, an accident waiting to happen. With the very large volume of traffic that it sees, replacement of that bridge should be number one on the state's list.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with Mary that we would have had a better shot of getting a larger chunk of the funds if the application would have been for the commuter rail.

The problem is that the NCDOT, due to its own long standing neglect of road needs in the Western part of the state had no choice but to give the bridge that is a public safety hazard their primary focus in this funds request.

That the federal government gave us so little for this vital project speaks more to me that it is gallingly apparent to all but Raleigh that N.C. has more than enough money for necessary road works if they would stop abusing the budget to fund pet road projects for areas that don't require them.

Roads are the most tax-subsidized form of travel and it's about time that the roads that served the most vital interest to the state's economic health and let those other areas become the number one state priority at the expense of unjustified road projects in areas with less vehicle traffic.

Until that most basic change is made I foresee the state continuing to lose chances for federal assistance for road projects.

Anonymous said...

why doesnt preventing a bridge from killing passengers constitute as "livable"?

The Huntersville Flash said...

Mary, you are dead on with this. it is critical for the region to go to bat for the Northern Rail line for the reason you state, but also because i) it is the least expensive option presented right now for rail (NE Line is three times as expensive); ii) it can be comepleted the quickest of the rail options; and iii) it presents, in my opinion, the best chance for economic and job creation in both Charlotte and the corridor north of the city.

I hope you will help begin a steady and stronger drumbeat to encourage the state DOT and local transit commission to focus on funding the Northern Line. The next really big funding event will likely be the federal surface transportion bill (SAFETEA-LU??) that keeps getting put off in Washington. It would be great to see NC and our federal delegation make the Northern Rail Line a high priority in that bill. I hope everyone will encourage Senators Burr and Hagan and Congresswoman Myrick and Congressman Watt to work to make this project a reality. Thanks.

barkomomma said...
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consultant said...

Whew!! The gaskets are flying today.

Look folks, some adults are trying to plan for the "sooner than you think day" when gas will be too expensive for most folks to buy. At that point we'll need alternatives to get around.

Of course those who can't think that far ahead only want to deal with yesterday.

So make your noise. Let the adults get on with the business of planning for the future.

tarhoosier said...

I read this blog entry without prejudice and see a report of federal spending news with some minor added interpretation. Many others see these same words a call to warfare, insults, and pretensions to intellectual arrogance. I am with Lily.

Anonymous said...

Consultant, if you think cars are going away, you need to re-evaluate. At some point they may not burn gasoline anymore, but the reality is that automobiles (and the roads they drive on) are never going away -- and the #1 reason for this is that most people like to go WHERE they want, WHEN they want. Those who give in to trains are nothing more than mindless sheep who do what they are told and go only where they are told they can go.

But maybe you like being a mindless sheep.