$5.2 Billion Rail Project in Washington, D.C. A Sign of the Times
Image Credit Fabio RaphaelPublic Transportation Gets a BoostSeveral trends are emerging in the current political and economic climate that are conducive to public transportation. First, there is the surging popularity of public transportation in the United States (in fact, on election day, voters approved $75 billion worth of new mass transit projects)). What's more, there is an incoming administration keen on investing in American infrastructure, and an economic downturn that is even fostering a bipartisan consensus on bailouts for the financial industry and the Big Three. Given all of the above, it isn't surprising to hear that "Federal regulators have approved a long-awaited" extension to the Washington, D.C. metrorail, "virtually assuring construction of a $5.2 billion project that regional leaders say is crucial to ease congestion and spur economic growth in Northern Virginia."
In fact, the news seems to be a sign of the times. Read on for more on the project, and how it speaks to a broader trend.Details of the projectThe project, which has been in the planning stages for 4 decades, will run 23 miles from Northern Virginia to the Dulles Airport and beyond, serving as "a major commuting route for as many as 60,000 riders a day, providing an alternative for the thousands of drivers who take the jammed Dulles Toll Road each day. . ." Scheduled to be completed by 2015, the project is expected to be an economic boon for cities and towns along the route. In fact, "the planned Metrorail stations have become the focal points of a planned transformation from suburban office park and malls to a series of walkable downtowns with shopping, nightlife, city-style residences and jobs."
Funding and BipartisanshipThe Metrorail expansion will be funded by a combination of a federal grant, "the proceeds of two special taxing districts (one in Tysons and one in Reston) and the revenue from future increases in tolls." Across the country, it seems, there is growing recognition that these sorts of investments have numerous benefits, ranging from decreased congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, to development along the rail line, to a more competitive, modern and efficient transportation infrastructure. Of course, as Obama is arguing, investments in infrastructure also create jobs and provide a return on investment (unlike, say, spending money on wars).
What's most interesting is that so called "tax and spend liberals" and "small government conservatives" are, for the most part, in agreement on the need for more spending of this nature. Clearly, the recession is creating an opportunity for new projects that would normally be caught up in partisan bickering, and the new administration is taking advantage of this dynamic. If Obama follows through on his promises, we could end up with a less car dependent society that is more competitive globally, more conducive to community building, and more in line with the demands of a carbon constrained world.
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