|Rail Transit. Who pays is main question at this time|
|ICC: More money for roads and bridges? The current MD|
Governor took the ICC over from a republican and completed it.
This would have been the thinking when L'Enfant laid out the plans for the District of Columbia, when America built its railroads, when Baltimore, Philadelphia and scores of other cities built their sewer and water systems early in the last century (systems that lasted to this day and are now finally giving out with no replacement dollars in sight). Imagine this would have been the argument when Dwight Eisenhower envisioned the Interstates or Lyndon B. Johnson laid the ground for the Great Society Metro in DC, the Dulles Airport, the BART subway in San Francisco. There is nobody in his right mind today, who would want to miss any of these projects because generations later the general public is still enjoying the enormous benefits. But make no mistake, all these projects required sacrifices, they cost lots of money and they had their enemies at the time.America’s infrastructure networks are critical for economic growth, international competitiveness, and national security. Infrastructure programs have traditionally been non-partisan; everyone recognized that we all need clean water and safe roads, rail, bridges, ports, and airports.
|Purple Line Maryland|
"Most Marylanders never use transit":
Yes, true, even in Baltimore the mode split is only 16%. But if we want this to improve, the transit system must be expanded. How true that is demonstrated by DC where just under 40% use public transit. Current transit ridership is not a good, let alone the only, available metric to determine the proper proportion of transit investment compared to roads. For example, one must consider where the vast majority of Maryland's gross economic product comes from, i.e. the metro areas around DC and Baltimore. Neither of these areas can thrive without good mobility. Transit is an increasingly highly ranked mobility choice. Lack of transit holds the economy back. The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore finds that businesses report lack of good transit as the # gripe of area employers. The leading business organizations, the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) and the Washington Board of Trade fully support the Red Line and the Purple lines. Aside from that, the transportation investments projected for the coming years include significant amounts of investments in "roads and bridges".
|MDOT Capital Program Summary shows that Red and Purple Line are not sucking up all money|
The Red Line and Purple lines have been investigated and studied for over twelve years now, four of which were under a previous Republican state administration. Each project has used up millions of dollars in planning money and thousands of community hours in participation. Surface rail, underground rail, rapid bus and various route alternatives were studied, compared and evaluated. Full environmental Impact Statements (EIS) were prepared, reviewed and approved. A locally preferred alternative (LPA) was selected on merit in terms of the best cost benefit ratio as calculated by strict FTA standards originally conceived by George W. Bush when he as President initiated the comprehensive transportation bill which was called ISTEA. Under that recently modified formula benefits were expressed in cold numbers such as ridership forecast, and based on rigorously tested and calibrated metropolitan models that include demographic projections, time savings for riders, and environmental benefits. The high tunnel costs of the LPA are offset by travel speed increases and higher ridership due to routing the line through areas with the highest densities of transit riders (compared to where it is the easiest and cheapest to do). Alternatives to the LPA that were studied never gained real traction because they were found either to not provide the hoped for cost savings, were simply not technically feasible, or did not have the same benefits. The few alternatives still proposed by project opponents are all reformulations of these old plans. They all fare just as badly or worse, and for the same reasons. Furthermore, anybody who thinks that design modifications can still be made at the time when the projects are ready to be bid completely misjudges the time it takes to get altered design documents bid ready. In the case of the Purple Line, the request for P3 proposals is long out and responses were due in January with the deadline now extended by 2 months to give the incoming administration some time to settle. Each submitter of a valid proposal receives a stipend for the substantial effort it takes to submit under design-build rules, making this bids useless alone would cost $8 million. In the case of the Red Line 50% of the work is also P3 with proposals to be requested concurrent with standard bids for the other 50% in 2015.
A Red Line downtown station will look much like a subway
Any delay would most likely be tantamount to death for the projects through loss of the $1.8 billion of federal funding that would most certainly come with delay. New Starts projects are incredibly competitive. Dozens of cities compete with projects over the about $14 billion that the FTA has set aside for transit funding annually. Maryland's two New Starts projects both received a letter of recommendation and are funded in FY 15 with $100 million each. It is more than likely that any delay would not only increase the cost of construction but move the two projects back to the back of the queue. The Governor, who was already part of the previous Republican administration eight years back when the Red Line was already in planning should recall that extensive attempts of pushing the project in the direction of BRT were already undertaken back then and included in the analysis of alternatives. Bus tunnels proved to be more expensive than LRT tunnels and surface BRT proved to either be too slow to really bring benefits over the existing bus service or the required dedicated lanes were too intrusive to the flow of downtown traffic.
Any time a new administration takes office, there is much moaning and groaning about how terribly the previous administration managed the budget. In fact, every year when a new budget has to be proposed by Maryland's Governor, projections downsize the expected revenue and increase expected expenditures. This is a well-worn ritual and Maryland is no worse off in this than most states, and in fact is actually better than most. In addition, the current Governor has proposed and the General Assembly has approved significant revenue increases for the Transportation Trust Fund from higher gasoline taxes, coupling the tax to inflation and making several other small tweaks. The resulting $400-600 million annual additional revenues (depending which year since the increases are gradually introduced between 2014 and 2016) pay for more than what the two New Starts transit lines draw annually from the trust fund. That was exactly the idea, to make the fund flush enough to afford investments. And to create some balance, the budget for 2015 includes significant amounts going to roads and bridges. In 2014 the legislature approved a "lock box" provision that makes it much harder to divert transportation revenues to balance the general budget.
With a price tag of nearly 3 billion dollars, nobody can contest that the Red Line is a very expensive project. How did it get that way, when initial estimates were so much lower? The main reason has to do with the decision to tunnel the project through all of downtown and through the entire historic Fells Point area as well as for a short segment on the west side of town near the county line. Even with trains that are shorter than subway, underground segments of LRT approach the cost of metro subway systems because the construction method of bored tunnels and cut and cover stations are identical and many of the station accessories, escalators, elevators, smoke evacuation systems etc. are also the same. Underground sections also require a much more detailed investigation of existing conditions than surface rail because many surprises could lurk down below. It were the tunnels, then, which drove the Red Line cost up. The per mile cost is at nearly $203 million still significantly below that of a full fledged metro system which requires full track separation on bridges or tunnels throughout.
A governor whose agenda is a better business climate and job creation must recognize these facts, even if he is from the suburbs and represents the more rural areas and fiscal prudence is his goal. It is fiscally prudent to invest in the future.
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA
edited by Ben Groff
Krugman: Cannibalize the Future
Top 10 American Infrastructure Projects of the 20th Century
American Transportation History Videos (History Channel)
Metropolitan Transportation Infrastructure Survey (Mayors Conference)
Rail Transit Cost Comparisons
Cato paper comparing cost and benfit of Metro and Light Rail
Purple Line website
Red Line website
CNN: Americans fall in love with transit