"The Wondering Jew"
Jul. 02, 2006 - 19:48 MDT
WHY NOT ?
One thing that Eminent Domain enthusiasts forget are things already in place and almost forotten in the world of this age.
There is a column in today's The Denver Post by Neal Pierce of the Washington Post Writers Group quoted here in full:
ROAD BUILDERS SHOULDN'T CALL TUNE
"Lacking any other noteworthy legacy, outgoing Secretary Norman Mineta may be best remembered for his proposals to relieve transportation congestion by encouraging private investment in mega-road projects."
"The idea has merit: In some locations, private investment in toll roads can -- with appropriate local deliberation -- make sense."
"But Mineta, the man who kept pushing to eliminate federal funding of Amtrak, amazingly omitted both freight railroad improvements and potential passenger rail improvement in the expansive congestion relief initiative for America he unveiled last month."
"The danger of his formula is a wave of steamrolled, behind-the-scenes road-building deals that ignore the many opportunities for commuter and city rail expansion that clearly do reduce congestion (and our demand for foreign oil)."
" For Exhibit A of the perils, check what's happening in fast-growing Atlanta. First, there's the sheer immensity of what the Georgia Department of Transportation favors. Top example: a widening of I-75 in fast-growing suburban Cobb County, as it heads into the city, to include an incredible mile-long section of no less than 23 lanes."
"The thought of . . . .23 lanes makes me shudder with fear," a Cobb County correspondent wrote to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution."
"Another expanded: "The confusion of merging, exits, acceleration and deceleration lanes, speed demons, weaving drivers and cell phones is more thant the average driver would be able to comfortably handle in, sometimes split seconds." Another possibility at play in current Atlanta road debates: double-deck I-285, which cuts across the north side of the region -- a project critics say could trigger "a lifetime of delays in construction alone." Still another: a major truck-only toll road, being pushed by a consortium of construction firms and Goldman Sachs, the global finance firm."
"To push such expansive road building projects front and center, Georgia state agencies set up a "congestion mitigation" process to determine which projects are most pressing. The state's road-happy Department of Transportation played a dominant role, pushing thorough a definition of congestion focused almost exclusively on sheer throughput of vehicles."
"Almost obliterated in the process: the years long work of the Atlanta Regional commission to create a balanced transportation network, including a "Livable Centers Initiative" to steer future growth to existing population centers. The process allowed communities to compete for a share of transportation funding based on increased population density, revitalized town centers and rempapped street and pedestrian networks that would assure less new roads and air pollution."
"It's a tragedy." says David Goldberg, former Atlanta journalist now commmunications director for Smart Growth America. "We spent years getting metro Alanta communities to think smart growth, plan, and now we're yanking the rug right out from under them." Adding to the roads thrust: Georgia's so-called "Public-Private Initiative" law that invites private construction firms and investment companies to propose big road projects for which they'd be paid back either in toll revenues, or government transportation dollars, or both."
"Late in May the state transportation commissioner, Harold Linenkohl, signed an intial $1.8 billion deal -- "flanked" according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution report, "by five men from builders Bechtel, Kiewit and C.W. Matthews, most of whom smiled. hands clasped in front, eyes on the moving pen like delighted guests eyeing a tasty meal." Under the PPI law, much of the specific project information remains trade secrets of the companies. "It's really scary," says Goldberg -- "a road lobby closely allied with the state DOT, and huge projects coming through. The window for corruption and poor public policy is wide open." Atlanta does offer some sensational positive news: the first land transactions for the new BeltLine, a 22-mile loop of historic railroad right of way around downtown that's designed to become a connected system of parks, trails and transit through more than45 neighborhoods. The project will increase Atlanta's green space by 1,200 acres, a "green infrastructure" treasure for a historically park-poor city."
"The BeltLine represents "a paradigm shift for American urban parks, raising bars for cities nationally," says Peter Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence of the Trust for Public Land (a major player in arranging the BeltLine's land transfers). By connecting green spaces with housing and commercial redevelopment, and then with fresh public transit, says Harnik, "it raises the bar for cities across the country to rethink the role of parks in urban revitalization and growth." But as the city of Atlanta bootstraps itself into greater livability with the BeltLine, the peril is clear : potential state assistance funds will be diverted to the kind of highway extravaganzas that so often end up triggering more of the very congestion they're designed to cure."
"Public-private partnerships are as American as apple pie. But as excesses of some Iraq War contractors suggest, letting private firms call the tune can be a very bad idea."
Something that sticks in my craw is, quote, "Under the PPI law, much of the specific project information reamins trade secrets of the companies." unquote. Good way to hide the facts looks to me.
I guess with the advent of the big rig tractor/semi-trailer much rail hauling went to those companies with the equipment. I do remember that during World War Two, the railroad I worked for began to run the Rio Grande Motorway, and if I remember correctly also began to haul on flatcars, semi-trailers from town to town. In their own way they were trying to be competitive.
Also I remember the Tramway system here in Denver, a system of rail network through our town that put most anyone within walking distance from their house to a street car line. But then the war came, shortages of material and metal began to affect the system. And, to my mind the system missed the boat. Seems to me that most of us realized that when the men came home from war there would be an instant demand for housing, which meant the whole metro-area would expand. To my way of looking at it they should have put on a big advertising campaign stressing the fact that as soon as possible there would be new streetcars on the line, the lines would constantly be lengthened to cover new neighborhoods and a fleet of short run buses would be put on the streets.
Now we have here "Light Rail" which is super expensive but electric and is gradually being expanded (as their fares go up), but not quickly enough to prevent bottlenecked traffic to and from business centers.
Too late now to try to sell mass transit to the public I guess, the convenience of a car is a lure hard to resist. But the growth of excess lanes on our highways is much like a snake swallowing a pig, ugly, ungainly and so very expensive.
Railroad rights of way are seeming to disappear as time goes on, I do know the Tramway's south line from downtown Denver to the city of Golden is still intact for much of its run, but has been unused except for a town-bound portion that is run for a more or less tourist attraction.
Needed are methods of mass transit that can get people from home to destination for little or no fare. Heh, no fare not practical I know. "Little fare" could be gained by subsidizing from the city and state.
Seems as if AMTRAK is doomed by the big money folks who do not want the public using rails between towns and states. And of course, the railroads go along with it as it is cheaper for them to move freight over the rails than people. But oh so many people could be moved economically by AMTRAK, but the politicians can't seem to live with a system that is established, they have to be tearing up real estate, creating upheaval constantly, widening streets, roads and highways.
Makes me shake my head it does, remembering back to the days of the Tramway when a wait at a stop was no more than fifteen minutes. It would be nice to set up a system like the Tramway was, I think it is possible, so perhaps our politicians will ignore the big bucks and come up with something practical, not likely I know, but WHY NOT? . . . . . . . . .0 comments so far