Greater Greater Washington

WMATA's $529 million economic stimulus wish list

A lot of the recent discussion about "shovel-ready" stimulus plans has centered around the idea that highway and road projects are inherently "shovel-ready", while transit projects like new light rail systems would happen too slowly for the stimulus to do any good. Some say that even though light rail may be a good investment, we wouldn't get the win-win of economic stimulus as well in a short enough time frame. Well, WMATA has its own list of "shovel-ready" projects.


Photo by rwiedower on Flickr.

At Friday's Board of Directors meeting WMATA General Manager John Catoe presented a list of $529 million in economic stimulus projects that meet the American Public Transit Association's recommended guidelines. According to APTA, projects should be implementable within 90 days, eligible for Federal funding, and projects that would not happen during the current fiscal year without funding help.

Metro categorizes the requests as follows:

Vehicles and parts: $120M for buses, railcar truck parts, and miscellaneous parts. WMATA states that the purchases will support the American auto industry, especially through the purchase of bus parts like seats, windows, doors, and transmissions.

Maintenance facilities: $177M for repairing, replacing or expanding bus garages and railcar maintenance facilities. WMATA says that the improvements will help employ workers in the construction industry that has been hit hard by the economic downturn.

Passenger facilities: $167M for replacing platforms, installing station canopies, improving credit card readers, etc. Just like with the maintenance facilities, local construction companies would get some business.

Safety and security: $4.2M for emergency tunnel evacuation cars and expanding the "chemical sensors detection system".

Maintenance and repair equipment: $43M for cranes, cars for carrying rails and equipment, and de-icing equipment.

Operations systems: $11M for fare collection equipment, signage and "grout pads" which are an installation method used to improve the strength and stability of vertical columns installed on concrete surfaces. By eliminating warping of the base plate, a grout pad stiffens a column installed by bolting a flange plate to studs embedded in concrete. See this UF research paper (big PDF) conducted for the Florida DOT for more on grout pads.

Information technology: $12M for hardware and software to improve maintenance efficiency, monitor network traffic and provide disaster recovery.

There's a lot of good stuff on that list. WMATA hasn't prioritized it yet, though. What if, as is likely, WMATA doesn't get all of the funds they requested? What would be the highest priority, and what can wait? As it stands now, none of these projects will be completed this year without external funding, so we can't just say "it's all important".

What do you think? What appeals to you from this list?

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Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia. 

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This actually isn't such a big number. The latest APTA ridership survey shows WMATA carrying 112 million unlinked trips in the third quarter of 2008. Total national transit ridership was 2,845 million. So WMATA carried 3.95% of the national transit ridership.

APTA's national total of shovel-ready projects is $12.5 billion, so WMATA's request is 4.2% of the total, very much in line with ridership. Rep. Oberstar, the House committee chair, has proposed funding the whole thing. $12.5 billion is not so much in the context of a trillion dollar stimulus.

Oberstar says more recently that only half the stimulus projects have to be shovel-ready within 90 days, and half needs only to be obligated within a year. There are surely many more projects that fit this criterion.

With the recession forecast to last until 2014, there ought to be a longer-term stimulus plan. What's needed is a speedup of the FTA approval process so that projects like the Purple Line, Farragut Square pedestrian crossover, Columbia Pike streetcar, and lots of un-sexy investments that could make Metro more efficient can be included in a longer-term program.

We should think big.

by Ben Ross on Jan 10, 2009 9:47 am • linkreport

Ben, the graph you linked to shows that 2014 is the date that the unemployment rate is expected to decline to the early-2008 level. But I thought that the definition of a recession is two quarters of consecutive decline in national output (GDP). We didn't hold off on declaring the 1990-1991 recession over until 1996 when the unemployment declined to 1990 levels. See this link for a graph of unemployment levels in previous recessions. By your definition, the recession that started in 2001 would still be ongoing because our unemployment levels have still not decreased to Clinton levels.

So the prediction in the NYT graph is that we'll be in recession into mid-to-late-2009 if the stimulus works, and mid-2010 if we do nothing.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 10, 2009 10:13 am • linkreport

Quite frankly, I see nothing that appeals to me as a metro rider, aside from over-due maintenance. All these points are introspective. Nothing for the customer.

Are there really no plans for expanded service? Anywhere? No new routes? Extended routes perhaps? No extra buses on existing routes? Really?

How about some decent bath rooms for customers in metro stations?

There's talk of fixing the platforms, but what about the escalators? The ones at Foggy Bottom haven't worked decently for months. I guess that's over-due maintenance.

How about some money for upgrading bus stops? Rail-station beautification? No more gruesome grey and boring brown? Some art perhaps?

Maybe some IT money, so they can provide their schedule for free? To Google-transit? And a website where the public (blogs) can download reports?

The list above is utterly introspective and shows a complete lack of ambition. What a disappointment.

by Jasper on Jan 10, 2009 11:48 am • linkreport

Jasper, it's a list of stuff that's been planned and is ready to go within 90 days. It is by nature introspective. Given that this is a stimulus package, it's also by nature focused on capital improvements over service improvements.

In short, I think much of your disappointment stems from an unrealistic expectation from a list of stimulus-ready projects.

by Alex B. on Jan 10, 2009 11:55 am • linkreport

"Grout pads" as defined by the maintenance and engineering folks at WMATA are the cement pads that are under the direct fixation rail fasteners on concrete track beds in tunnels and on elevateds.

The descriptions in the UF research paper is not really applicable to the type of grout pads that are in the Board Action/Information Summary.

by Sand Box John on Jan 10, 2009 12:14 pm • linkreport

Personally, as a rider, I like the idea of performing necessary maintenance and thus maintaining current service levels with minimal interruption. I'm sure everyone has noticed Metrorail getting less and less reliable with every passing year due to aging infrastructure. I'd much rather spend money on maintenance projects (including replacing aging infrastrucute in the stations) than on pretty art for the stations or somesuch.

by Lindemann on Jan 10, 2009 12:29 pm • linkreport

Isn't the Metro to Dulles tunnel "shovel ready"? If there's so much federal money available for mass transit projects and we STILL go over ground, I'll be forever confused.

by RM on Jan 10, 2009 12:32 pm • linkreport

Jasper, we'd all like to see more colorful squiggly lines on the Metro map, but this list contains a lot of things necessary for Metro to continue to provide good service. As they say, lets not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

by Chris Loos on Jan 10, 2009 1:15 pm • linkreport

One thing I wonder about: could WMATA install whatever GPS trackers are needed in its buses for real-time tracking, and add electronic display signs to all stops? That technology already exists in other cities, so it seems it should be pretty "shovel-ready". And how about signal priority along the major bus corridors?

by David Alpert on Jan 10, 2009 1:27 pm • linkreport

I see nothing that appeals to me as a metro rider, aside from over-due maintenance

Jasper, as a metro rider, and not a transit operator, of course new transit lines/service are going to be what you want. However, Metro has been deferring a ton of maintenance simply because of the enormous lack of capital funds (separate from operating costs - which are different. drives me nuts every time someone asks why their raised fares don't cover buying more rail cars or building the Silver Line)

While building new lines is sexy, Metro has been deferring maintenance for decades. It's oldest rail cars are 30-40 years old - they really need new ones. Many buses are nearing the end of their useful life. Many transit agencies (with systems built in the 70s and 80s) are needing to do major overhauls of their vehicles and systems - just as our highway system, bridges, etc. are at the same place. Metro's breakdowns have occurred precisely because of deferred maintenance. They just don't have enough funds. If you look at where FTA formula grant money (not New Starts), but the annual allotment each agency gets - it goes almost all the time to system maintenence.

What's needed is a speedup of the FTA approval process so that projects like the Purple Line, Farragut Square pedestrian crossover, Columbia Pike streetcar, and lots of un-sexy investments

Ben, these projects can very easily happen without FTA money. For instance, if the states recieve transportation money directly, they could choose to route it towards projects like the Farragut Square crossover. One of the biggest holdups is NEPA, which is an environmental regulation and mandate, that is something that drags out FTA's New Starts process much longer than it would normally. (NEPA is a great idea, but one that has a number of structural issues).

by A on Jan 10, 2009 2:03 pm • linkreport

How sad is it that DC area residents are dependent on money coming from the FTA when the FTA got the money from taxpayers in the first place.

by Marginal Utility on Jan 10, 2009 2:19 pm • linkreport

@ Some of you:

I realize that WMATA is a sourly underfunded organization. I know they are way behind on maintenance. I walk up the broken Foggy Bottom escalators every day. I've got stuck under the Potomac for 45 minutes in a sardine-filled train last Summer because the breaks broke.

My disappointment is that WMATA is apparently so desperate about money that they are willing to use 'stimulus' money for maintenance. By doing so, WMATA apparently accepts their lack of funds as a status quo, with no faith that they will ever be decently funded. That is IMHO a lack of vision.

WMATA should already be banging on doors to get their normal operating funds. 'Stimulus' money should be used for projects that they want to accomplish, but that will never happen, due to budgetary constraints. Call it a 'wish-list'.

And then on the notice of 'shovel ready'. Isn't the Silver line shovel ready? If not, how is that not due to a lack of vision?

How 'bout the realignment of the blue line under M street? Again, if that's not ready, how is that not a lack of vision? It's a matter of taking the old I-street plans - that have been implemented -, and replacing all the 'I's with 'M's. It should be a matter of finding the reports they wrote when they made the cute little metro maps with an re-aligned line under M-street themselves.

Again, I am painfully aware of the lack of maintenance of WMATA. But if an organization can only come up with maintenance when a big bag of money comes their way, they lack vision. Any organization of that size should have a permanent wish-list ready.

They may be realistic. But they lack a vision. And ambition.

by Jasper on Jan 10, 2009 2:20 pm • linkreport

How 'bout the realignment of the blue line under M street? Again, if that's not ready, how is that not a lack of vision?

Jasper,

Do you understand how long-term projects like this have to be? New construction cannot be done short term. The federally required environmental review process alone can take several years. A basic idea and/or conception/plan for a new line is way different than the many studies (community, engineering, etc) which must be undertaken before this can happen. Not to mention utility relocation, eminent domain for needed properties, etc.

My disappointment is that WMATA is apparently so desperate about money that they are willing to use 'stimulus' money for maintenance.

WMATA has 11 billion dollars in unmet capital needs (vehicle replacement, station repair, rail repair, etc) over the coming decade. These necessary repairs can be made immediately with stimulus money and would provide immediate employment, to boot.

Do you remember what happened to MTA a few decades ago? They had absolutely no money, did no upkeep. Trains were breaking down every 6000 miles instead of every 300,000. WMATA is getting to this point if it doesnt spend money on upkeep. Building new extensions when your current system has 11b in deferred upkeep is tantamount to building a new addition to your house when the foundation of your existing house is about to collapse.

WMATA should already be banging on doors to get their normal operating funds. '

They've been trying to. Coburn (R-OK) has pretty much killed the bill/funding stream that would have provided a federal match to a 1.5b annual match from DC, MD and VA. In addition, Virginia (Richmond, not the N. Virginia part) had pretty much killed the bill. Despite its best efforts, WMATA can't strongarm three state governments into giving it money whenever it wants.

by A on Jan 10, 2009 4:09 pm • linkreport

@A: Do you understand how long-term projects like this have to be?

Yes. But I also observe that metro hasn't been able to get any significant extensions for a long time, except for the infill on NY ave, and two stations on the blue line. The silver line is a 20 year project and still isn't moving. Don't say it isn't possible. Bejing has built an entire metro system in a couple of years. And if you want it a bit more democratic, go get out the beautiful new lines and stations in London, made possible only by their socialist mayor who made it his priority. The tube was also suffering from exactly the same problems as metro. They banged and banged and finally got things done.

> WMATA is getting to this point if it doesnt spend money on upkeep.

I understand that. But it's still pathetic that they can't get that money.

> They've been trying to.

If one man and a bunch of farmers are really responsible for this, we don't live in much of a democracy anymore.

You know why in London, a mayor got elected that fixed metro? Because the Londonners got sick of getting stuck in the Tube.

WMATA does not use its public power to get its way. Has WMATA ever called on its users to contact Oklahoma boy? And, not to only blame them: Have we as WMATA users ever organized ourselves in a massive way to force politicians to action? Are there WMATA PACs? Has WMATA ever said: "Sorry, maintenance is below quality control today. We have to close for a day/week to fix things up"? Just to show the gridlock that would exist without them?

Or is WMATA busy denying access to bloggers, not providing information to Google-transit, worrying about accidents with its addicted board-members, getting in massive financial trouble with risky lease deals and foreign banks, and mostly having infinite meetings about nothing?

So, no. I do not think that WMATA has been banging on doors. I think they've been politely waiting outside to be called in. Wasting our time.

by Jasper on Jan 10, 2009 5:41 pm • linkreport

A-- Executive Order 13274 provides for an expedited NEPA process for certain critical transportation projects. The Executive Order gives the Secretary of Transportation the discretion to decide which projects should be expedited. This is being done at Philadelphia International Airport to speed the construction of a new runway. This is great when it is used for a transit project but not as desirable when used for a project such as the ICC. The LA Times has an article about this, "Schwarzenegger's effort to expedite highway projects angers environmentalists." (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-enviro11-2009jan11,0,2221.story)

by Ben on Jan 10, 2009 6:35 pm • linkreport

also observe that metro hasn't been able to get any significant extensions for a long time

You do realize that the Green Line was just finished in 2001, right? That U Street wasn't open till 1999? That Largo stop was built right after in 2004? Here's a station launch list if you want to see: http://wmata.com/about_metro/docs/metrofacts.pdf.

It's hard to build new rail extensions in the US, partly because of the time-lengthing factor of NEPA (do some reasearch on this env. law, and you will see why), and beacuse we have a much stronger system of property rights than Europe (makes building a system much more difficult when you have to obtain land and claim eminent domain). I'm not saying that it can't be done (it can!), but it's harder politically (lots more oppportunities to get a project waylaid) than most of Europe. China just shovels tens of thousands of people out of the way without even blinking, so that's not a good example of how to build rail infrascture.

by AA on Jan 10, 2009 6:47 pm • linkreport

Or is WMATA busy denying access to bloggers, not providing information to Google-transit, worrying about accidents with its addicted board-members, getting in massive financial trouble with risky lease deals and foreign banks, and mostly having infinite meetings about nothing?

The info. openess issue, while it is an issue - isn't related to the topic at hand. And the lease deal was something all transit agencies have been doing - it's a tax loophole that they all have been taking advantage of.

WMATA does not use its public power to get its way. Has WMATA ever called on its users to contact Oklahoma boy?

I hope you realize that public agencies - esp. ones that receive federal funds - can't use that to lobby. That is usually the function of citizen groups (Rescue Muni in SF, Straphangers in NYC - who aren't biting the hand that feeds them, but achieving results. I wish DC's version was more vocal)

So, no. I do not think that WMATA has been banging on doors. I think they've been politely waiting outside to be called in. Wasting our time.

Ok, that's fine. But from your previous sequence of comments, you appear to have no conception of how transit agencies actually operate, build new lines, or maintain their systems. So think what you want. WMATA has a lot of problems - structural and organizational ones to be sure - and there are things that HAVE GOT to be fixed with them - but you're not making the right arguments at the right people.

by A on Jan 10, 2009 6:53 pm • linkreport

They passed WMATA's funds as part of the original $700B bailout package. Sen. Coburn wasn't able to maintain a hold on that bill.

And as far as the Senate is concerned, we don't live in a democracy because one senator can prevent even popular bills from making it to the floor for years. I did the calculation once and found that with a cloture vote, Senators representing something like 1/3 of the country could feasibly block legislation indefinitely (assuming 41 Senators from the least populous states band together). If anyone knows the real number I'd like it.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 10, 2009 7:28 pm • linkreport

Jasper, I'm just reading these comments. I like your fighting spirit! I will continue to read....I'm learning a lot.

by Jazzy on Jan 10, 2009 8:08 pm • linkreport

@ AA: So in the last 10 new stations, and a whopping 12.6 miles of new track. Allow me to not be impressed.

We are one of the fastest growing metro-areas in the nation, with a consistently low unemployment range. We are also consistently in the top three of most congested cities.

In the same decade, only in Virginia, the Springfield-Interchange has been upgraded for almost 700 million, and the WW bridge is being replaced for 2.5 billion.

Then on the property rights. I acknowledge that I have no knowledge whatsoever about property rights law in Europe nor the US. But most of the blue re-alignment would be under M St. Isn't that public property? You don't need a whole lot of eminent domain claiming to get that re-alignment going. You do need a vision though.

By the way, I also added up what happened in metros first decade. Between 1976 and 1986, they got 61 stations and 70 miles of tracks done.

Did property rights change that much since then? Somebody should have paid attention....

> But from your previous sequence of comments, you appear to have no conception of how transit agencies actually operate, build new lines, or maintain their systems.

I can only observe that WMATA is in operation (for the time being while slowly falling apart), that they are not building any new lines at the moment (I am not holding my breath for the Silver and Purple lines), and that they are barely able to maintain the existing system.

Sounds like the state General Motors is in, not like a progressive expanding *public* transit system in a prosperous and growing region with low unemployment en massive congestion.

Look, I am not an idiot. I understand that it's not easy to slap some metro lines underground. There's an enormous amount of legal mumbo jumbo necessary, as well as a good bit of shoveling. I can be done though. As a starter thoguh, you do need vision. And ambition. Currently, I see neither with WMATA.

Fixing overdue maintenance is not an expression of vision. It's rearguard action.

by Jasper on Jan 10, 2009 9:17 pm • linkreport

Fixing overdue maintenance is not an expression of vision. It's rearguard action.

Yeah, I have a vision of one hundred additional route miles and thirty additional stations that are decrepit and crippled because there are also ninety additional broken escalators, forty broken elevators, a broken down train in the Potomac tunnel, a derailed train near National Airport, a bus offloaded and waiting for a tow truck, a few dozen broken faregates, rain falling on escalators, and all above-ground third rails frozen over in a snowstorm forcing most of the system to shut down for three days.

I don't like this vision. I don't think Catoe likes it either. That's why he's asking for these things that you deride as not being "visionary."

by Omari on Jan 10, 2009 11:26 pm • linkreport

This is great when it is used for a transit project but not as desirable when used for a project such as the ICC.

LOL! NEPA is great when it blocks things I don't like but sucks when it holds up things I want!! I've never seen NEPA cynicism expressed so clearly!

by Omari on Jan 10, 2009 11:29 pm • linkreport

Vehicles and parts: How will the parts purchases really support the auto industry most of the actual buses and trains come from europe. How does buying seats affect the auto industry I don't recall Ford, GM etc actually making seats.

Maintenance facilities: This would help the construction industry but what are the chances of the maintenance starting while the economy is still down.

Passenger facilities: What about Nextbus, How about Giant screens at some stations with huge bus service so there would be no need for individual signs at each bus stop. How about large wrap around canopies over bus areas so there is no need for individual bus shelters

Maintenance and repair equipment: How about adding elevator and escalator equipment also.

How about not relying on one vender for things (smartrip) and going in with another transit agency to purchase all new rail cars and buses so that it could be more cost effective.

by kk on Jan 10, 2009 11:49 pm • linkreport

But most of the blue re-alignment would be under M St. Isn't that public property? You don't need a whole lot of eminent domain claiming to get that re-alignment going. You do need a vision though.

Maybe, but where do you think the stations are going to go? In the middle of M Street? What about all the utilities already there? Venting, etc? What happens to businesses on the street when cut and cover construction wipes out any economic activity on the street above?

I can only observe that WMATA is in operation (for the time being while slowly falling apart), that they are not building any new lines at the moment (I am not holding my breath for the Silver and Purple lines), and that they are barely able to maintain the existing system.

The Silver and the Purple will happen. Not a question. And infill stations will happen at Potomac Yards and West Alexandria.

Look, I am not an idiot. I understand that it's not easy to slap some metro lines underground. There's an enormous amount of legal mumbo jumbo necessary, as well as a good bit of shoveling. I can be done though. As a starter thoguh, you do need vision. And ambition. Currently, I see neither with WMATA.

I don't think you do understand. If you worked in transit, you would understand how these things actually worked. Omari (above) is right. Catoe has a vision. Not a sexy one, but it's the one that needs to happen before growth does. As I said above, you dont build a new addition on your house when the foundation on the existing house is collapsing.

by AA on Jan 11, 2009 1:10 am • linkreport

AA - Putting aside the point on whether the city can currently tolerate the C&C obstructions that it has in the past to put up new metro lines... We're at the point where deep-bore stations are technologically & economically viable. A much lower surface footprint is possible for the M street subway.

by Squalish on Jan 11, 2009 2:42 am • linkreport

Catoe doesn't want to ask for more money from the jurisdictions that subsidize metro. I do think it's a tough call for him there, but it does factor in to his vision.

The operative word these days in discussions about transit really isn't wish list, or improvements, it's cut backs.

"The rest comes from government subsidies out of the jurisdictions that receive the transit services. Metro General Manager John Catoe said last week that the recession has hit those communities hard and he doesn’t want to ask them to increase the overall subsidy in the coming budget."

Examiner (immediately above)

by Jazzy on Jan 11, 2009 10:54 am • linkreport

It is deplorable that Metro must seek to use stimulus money to pay for necessary maintenance. But, considering the alternatives, this is the best use of the funds.

Catoe can't change the reality that Metro is the only publicly-owned mass transit system in America without a dedicated source of funding. Metro is begging at a time when its member governments are all facing serious shortfalls. Deal with it, Jazzy and Jasper. Catoe can't walk into those meetings packing a piece.

Part of the eventual stimulus package should provide money to put American manufacturers to work building mass transit vehicles. There is no reason why we have to go overseas to buy subway cars with our tax dollars while factories are shutting down and unemployment grows. Industry, like charity, should begin at home.

by mikesilverstein on Jan 11, 2009 1:47 pm • linkreport

Deal with it? Why so aggressive? And besides, why make the question settled? Why not put it on the table for discussion? Maybe some solution will come from such a discussion.

by Jazzy on Jan 11, 2009 1:53 pm • linkreport

@AA:

> The Silver and the Purple will happen. Not a question.

I don't question it. I am just not holding my breath, because metro has been saying for 20 years that the Silver Line would come.

> If you worked in transit, you would understand how these things actually worked.

I don't work in transit. Correct. I ride transit. I pay for transit. But I have to walk up escalators. And I see no vision. Perhaps me not working in transit keeps me free from the molasses-tunnel view of impossibilities that hinder WMATAs operation, in stead of having a vision of where it needs to go.

BTW, you dodged the question how it's possible that between '76 and '86 a massive amount of stations could be built, while the score in the last decade is pathetic. Were there no utilities under Eye St?

And whining about street closures goes nowhere. After the streets open again, the loss of the closure will be easily off-set by the extra traffic caused by the shiny new metro line.

@ mikesilverstein:

>Catoe can't walk into those meetings packing a piece.

I think that as WMATA chief, it's his job to get that money.

Again, the Springfield interchange and WW bridge got over 3.2 billion in the last years. They're building HOT lanes on 495.

What did metro get? Zippo. Sounds like somebody's not doing his job.

by Jasper on Jan 11, 2009 4:39 pm • linkreport

I don't question it. I am just not holding my breath, because metro has been saying for 20 years that the Silver Line would come.

FYI, The Silver Line is a MWAA project, not WMATA. The lead agency and the one doing the construction is MWAA.

..not working in transit keeps me free from the molasses-tunnel view of impossibilities that hinder WMATAs operation, in stead of having a vision of where it needs to go.

No, it doesn't. It makes you make wild speculation and false assertions about why things aren't working right, because you don't understand the regulatory framework and the financial constraints that transit agencies work under.

Look, I'm an enormous transit advocate. Don't own a car and don't plan to. And I work in transit. Trust me, it kills me when I have to see no system growth and no plans for expansion in a rapidly growing region like the DC area. But the system really, really is falling apart. Seriously. WMATA desperately needs capital funds to spend on upkeep and repair, and this stimulus money can make it happen - so the system doesn't fall apart.

And whining about street closures goes nowhere. After the streets open again, the loss of the closure will be easily off-set by the extra traffic caused by the shiny new metro line.

Well, yeah. I agree. Most of the businesses affected by cut and cover will lose serious business. Several will go out of business, particularly small, locally-owned companies. You can judge for yourself (i have no opinion either way), but trust me - the inevitable lawsuits that come out of it will slow the project down tremendously.

Again, the Springfield interchange and WW bridge got over 3.2 billion in the last years. They're building HOT lanes on 495.

Highway money is not given out like transit money. FHWA (from the Highway Trust Fund) distributes money to the states based on formulas, and the states are able to spend it how they please. Transit money (from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund), is very limited and competitively bid on by transit agencies all over the country. Is this fair? Absolutely not, and I hope the pot of money gets a lot, lot bigger for transit. But it's really an apples and oranges comparison.

by AA on Jan 11, 2009 10:52 pm • linkreport

I think Alex pointed it out earlier, but Jasper's complaints sound to me like "unrealistic expectations" of what the stimulus money is to be used for.

I'd also like to point out that many DOTs are intending to use any stimulus money on road/bridge repair, maintenance, and replacement. Why should things be any different for Metro? So long as it meets the 90 (or 120 or 180, depending on what's passed) day "ready for bidding" requirement...

Lastly, the WWB didn't exactly come from normal highway funding. The original WWB was one of the few bridges directly under the responsibility of the Federal government (VDOT, MD SHA, and DDOT didn't have jurisdiction). So funding the WWB replacement became a function of the US DOT and Congress, not a function of VDOT or MD SHA's Highway trust Fund allotments. Now once the WWB project is finished, it'll be the joint responsibility of VDOT and MD SHA, but funding the current bridge project wasn't directly their responsibility.

by Froggie on Jan 12, 2009 8:40 am • linkreport

I think what Jasper is trying to say is that Metro should have at all times fully fleshed out expansion plans so that when a giant recession roars on through and the Government decides that 'shovel ready' projects are needed to kick start the economy, Metro can get in line and say we can do X, Y, and Z and the economic impacts will be this and that.

Metro asked for patch up money, but they could also have asked for visionary growth money.

by NikolasM on Jan 12, 2009 1:05 pm • linkreport

Agree they could've asked for visionary growth money, but the stimulus package is not the place to ask for such. The transportation reauthorization later this year *IS* the place to ask for such.

by Froggie on Jan 12, 2009 2:52 pm • linkreport

Fair enough about the transportation reauthorization bill, but money to fix things employs people that already are on the Metro payroll unless they hire extra contractors for repair work (I don't really know either way) whereas a new line through DC would employ thousands and spur much new development when finished. Either way Metro needs to get butt in gear.

by NikolasM on Jan 12, 2009 3:32 pm • linkreport

If Metro does maintenance the same way most DOTs do maintenance, it's a mix...some in-house, some contracted.

Even so, replacement programs (i.e. new buses or rail cars) would help manufacturing jobs, especially if those items are manufactured in the U.S. (are they?).

And ITS-type improvements would definately involve local/regional contractors.

As for new Metro corridors, keep in mind that Metro is hamstrung by the same NEPA laws that often hamstring (or delay) highway projects.

by Froggie on Jan 12, 2009 4:56 pm • linkreport

In reading these comments I find far too many of you believe that WMATA has more power then it actually has. As a former MTA planner and spokeman I realize that the actions or inactions that these agencies take are simply a reflection of the budget and laws that govern them. The "vision" for pushing the Silver, Purple, Blue lines these are all not in WMATA's decision making power but the counties. WMATA provides a great deal of leadership in planning, design and construction and budget management but it does not decide what is done or shovel ready. you decide. the public and that is all contingent on how much collective pressure you put on your pols. Now having worked in city council in Phila for 3 years I can tell you rarely did I see the kind of discussion go on about transit that goes on here in these pages. So get out there and let you pols know what you think. only our collective pressure will get the vision we want done.

by bob previdi on Jan 21, 2009 7:29 pm • linkreport

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