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Breakfast links: Battle plans

Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.
Transportation battle at Manassas: The National Park Service may allow paving 12 acres of Manassas Battlefield Park to build a new highway, in exchange for reducing traffic on 2 other roads. CSG says this will create even more sprawl. (WAMU)

MoCo gets bus bill: Montgomery County expects to pay $12.3 millions to replace the type of Ride On buses that were taken out of service after several fires. (Post)

More Silver oversight: An a Department of Transportation inspector general report calls for more FTA oversight of Silver Line construction on cost and safety issues. (Post)

That smell: Metro seems unsure of what the foul smell in some of its stations is. Theories run from sewer gas to brake pads, but it's possible the unknown smell could represent a health risk. (Examiner)

Teens imagine recreation bridge: DC teenagers brainstorm ways to use the proposed 11th Street recreation bridge. Their ideas include food trucks, hotels, waterfalls, water filtration, and a playground. (Post)

Big BRT or big lanes?: An MWCOG study envisions a 500 mile BRT system stretching from Frederick to Prince William County, but it would mainly involve a massive and expensive expansion of highway lanes.

Green roofs get more green: Green roofs can be good for the environment, but they can also be good for the pocketbook for DC residents, as they are eligible for rebates from fees related to stormwater runoff. (Post)

And...: DC is considering updating a tax credit that helps low-income families afford housing. (DCFPI) ... Tysons Corner's largest mixed use development breaks ground. (Post) ... Arlington cracks down on food trucks. (ARLnow)

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Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  


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RE: Stinky Subways

Can't speak for all smells, but the ones I always experienced when I was commuting through McPherson were undoubtedly brake pads. I've caught the same smell occasionally in my present commute through Dupont, but McPherson was an almost daily occurrence.

by Bossi on Jul 30, 2012 9:37 am • linkreport

I'm not sure why WMATA is being so stubborn on the smell issue. I've only experienced it once (I don't ride Metro often) but it was clearly a rotten organic smell mixed with brake dust smell. Obviously a brake issue.

by MLD on Jul 30, 2012 9:44 am • linkreport

Yep. my own metrorail horror story (train comes into Foggy Bottom with brakes locked and smoking, and it takes 20 minutes before they decide to evacuate the station) was clearly the same smell.

by charlie on Jul 30, 2012 9:50 am • linkreport

Does anyone know the process in Virginia to settle conflicts between historic preservation and transportation? I understand the trade-offs that the park superintendent is describing, but parceling off land for a highway sets a bad precedent for the National Park Service. I wonder what options could be examined for DC? Close Beach Drive and expand Oregon Avenue and Cathedral Avenue?

by William on Jul 30, 2012 9:51 am • linkreport


That "study" is just the typical highway lobby puff piece. It uses "BRT" as an excuse to build more highways. It's not about transit or improved anything except more contracts for road builders.

by Cavan on Jul 30, 2012 10:12 am • linkreport


We already have HOV on I270, on I66, and on I395/I95 from the Pentagon to PWC. Beltway HOT lanes arrive in less than 6 months. A BRT plan that layers a BRT network on those routes, plus on the planned off highway transitways (CCPY, Beauregard transitway in Alex, and MoCo) with possibly some connectivity added (notably on the American Legion bridge) could be a very decent system without a lot of incremental highway lanes miles.

Examiner article did not make clear if that is what is envisioned

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 30, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

Re: Manassas Battlefield,

I'd like to see the burden of proof be put on VDOT to prove that they can't get the same results by upgrading 234 in some areas and extending it to Dulles. That seems to be the push for the new road, to make it easier and more of a straight shot to Dulles from 95. If you can get close to the same results without creating a new ROW thats seems to be the best compromise.

by drumz on Jul 30, 2012 10:47 am • linkreport

note from the article

thats 3.5 billion over 20 years. If thats total expenditure on highway widening in the region for 20 years (well under the total cost of the Silver line, for ex) , with most of that paid by pricing the new highway capacity, I think that suggests about as transit focused a regional approach as is politically feasible.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 30, 2012 10:48 am • linkreport

It would be very simple to run BRT on 66 from downtown to Rosslyn and/Ballston during Rush hour. Sort of a duplicate orange line.

Likewise from Rossyn and Ballston to Tysons.

What is interesting is none of the people quote really are interested in moving people. CSG just wants density. AAA quote is really more about road pavers and auto manufactures than drivers.

by charlie on Jul 30, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

ehrlichs point is correct - this should connect to planned off highway systems.

And CSG is right to push it in the direction of encouraging smart growth - for example by pushing genuine stations, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 30, 2012 10:57 am • linkreport

Hey, 'zaminer. Link to your source material, please. If you're reporting on a plan, link to the plan.

It seems the BRT plan isn't really a plan at all, but one of the scenarios analyzed by COG previously:

The scenario calls for a massive expansion of highway lane-miles, funded via variable pricing tolls. The BRT along those lanes is a throw-in. Most of those lane miles would be new capacity, not simply the tolling of existing capacity.

The other element was policies encouraging denser land use around transit station areas. The full plan analyzes a 'land use sensitivity', in other words, looking at what you'd get if you only did the land use changes.

The results aren't surprising - nearly all of the benefit from the scenario comes from denser land use around transit.

by Alex B. on Jul 30, 2012 11:02 am • linkreport

at least in NoVa most of it is either where an HOV lane already exists, or where a new lane is politically unavoidable (Like rte 7 northwest of Tysons). I suppose we could debate the merits and sprawl impacts of HOT lanes on rte 28 and on FFX county parkway. If those are going to be alternatives to a western bypass (and in the case of rte 28, I think further widening is already in the TIP) I think it could be a compromise.

I can't speak to all the maryland routes. Im not sure if HOT lane all the way around the beltway makes sense. I do think that adding HOT lane across the American legion connecting Tysons to I270 seems almost inevitable, esp if we succeed in stopping a new crossing further out. I believe it could complement an eventual purple line crossing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 30, 2012 11:25 am • linkreport

"The scenario calls for a massive expansion of highway lane-miles, funded via variable pricing tolls. The BRT along those lanes is a throw-in. Most of those lane miles would be new capacity, not simply the tolling of existing capacity."

well the also offered this alt (though I cannot find a map of it)

"In a "streamlined" version of the scenario designed to reduce new construction costs, approximately 650 of the remaining 1,500 lane-miles (or 43%) would require new construction, while the rest would be converted from existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) or general-purpose travel lanes."

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 30, 2012 11:28 am • linkreport

That alternative is rather useless from a scenario planning standpoint, however. A far more interesting scenario would be an analysis of no new highway lanes at all - just toll the existing lanes (all of them) to HOT standards, and see what results the scenario produces.

If the land use sensitivity analysis shows that land use changes is where the real benefit is, why not toll existing road capacity and use the proceeds to fund transit that's actually successful in promoting dense development, rather than BRT lines along freeways.

by Alex B. on Jul 30, 2012 11:32 am • linkreport


I assume you are discounting benefits from incremental road trips? I can assure, here in NoVa where people avoid going to the mall during rush hour, and resent that, voters do not consider the the incremental value of "induced" trips to be zero.

Building zero new highway lanes at all is politically unacceptable, even to Fairfaxians relatively sympathetic to smart growth (and I imagine to MoCoers, and a fortiori in PWC, PG, and LoCo). Ditto tolling all existing highway lanes.

Again, within the existing politicial context, which reflects the preferences of voters, a proposal in which ALL new highway lanes are toll funded, in which a large number of existing lanes are tolled and/or converted to HOV, and this is done while new rail transit (and bike/ped infrastructure) is built, is a very aggressive plan in terms of moving the region away from autocentrism.

Im also not clear why there would be zero benefit from new tolled lanes - the tolls after all should limit induced trips, and insure some auto trips on uncongested facilities. There may be more benefits from density, but if the benefits from the tolled lanes are in excess of the costs, AND if they make the higher density more politically acceptable, that seems like a net win to me.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 30, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport


This was a COG scenario analysis, not a concrete plan. The very value of such an analysis is to do these kinds of sensitivity analyses - it's not meant to be a politically feasible plan. (Which, again, the Examiner could easily clear up if they would link to the source material.)

Im also not clear why there would be zero benefit from new tolled lanes - the tolls after all should limit induced trips, and insure some auto trips on uncongested facilities.

There was a congestion reduction benefit, but the air quality impacts were actually worse - as the new capacity reduced congestion but increased overall traffic, therefore increasing emissions.

Note that with the denser development, congestion did not increase - it was just flat.

There may be more benefits from density, but if the benefits from the tolled lanes are in excess of the costs, AND if they make the higher density more politically acceptable, that seems like a net win to me.

But the benefits of tolling existing lanes will almost certainly be higher than the benefits of tolling newly added lanes.

And the idea that this concept of transit will suddenly make denser development more palatable is silly. The assumption is transit along expanded highways - not exactly the kind of walkable environment that makes dense development successful.

Read it for yourself:

by Alex B. on Jul 30, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

The difference in vehicle hours delay was significant. If that matters to you (and it sure matters to voters)

"The very value of such an analysis is to do these kinds of sensitivity analyses - it's not meant to be a politically feasible plan. "

Well thats good, because this probably is not politically feasible. Too much tolling of existing lanes, for example. But it does suggest that tolling existing lanes has significant benefits, and that a scenario with no new non-tolled lanes does as well.

seems quite amenable to scenario analysis. I suppose they could also do an aspiration plan tolling all existing lanes - though I suspect publishing that even as an aspiration could create quite substantial backlash.

And yes, I strongly think that much BRT, whether in existing or new toll lanes, needs to be in streets, not highways, though Im not sure why genuine stations as they seem to envision could not support TOD - for example Shirlington Station in Arlington. Also I suspect a highway BRT from MoCo to Tysons would help support TOD in Tysons. Thats a benefit of BRT - you can feed from a local conventional residential street, to an onstreet transit lane, to a highway HOT lane, to an employment center onstreet transit lane.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 30, 2012 12:34 pm • linkreport

but again, when I said palatable, I meant politically palatable.

Here in FFX TOD gets resistance based on expected (by voters) increase in delay. reduction of delay (from the aspiration and streamlined plans, but not the land use only plan) addresses that concern.

I agree that the NOX (and the unmentioned, CO2) is a concern. That suggests splitting the difference further, perhaps (and/or more rail and bike/ped) but I still think a toll all existing highways and build no more new ones, tolled or not, would lead to a major backlash in the NoVa burbs, even if the doc is suggested to be for scenario building only.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 30, 2012 12:38 pm • linkreport

A credit that glues folks in place who just sit on the stoop and drink all day, or busily run illegal home-based businesses with little reportable income, isn't much good to the community.

Make no mistake, Schedule H is not necessary for long-time senior citizens either. Property tax rises slowly, at a capped rate, for people who are already in their homes. Over time it catches up, but old folks are canny enough to understand that if they simply sell and move during every cyclic real-estate trough, thereby resetting the property tax to a low property value, they can avoid the high property taxes new residents pay.

So all in all, the property tax credit could be improved by requiring a minimum income, counting both reportable and illegal unreportable income. (That might sound difficult, but the same algorithm that comes up with real estate assessments can probably do it fairly enough to meet local standards.)

by Turnip on Jul 30, 2012 7:29 pm • linkreport


Agree in some regards. Not sure why we need to help the person who bough a house at 11th and U 20 years ago for $35,000 and their house is now worth $600,000, to pay their property tax bills.

by Kyle W on Jul 30, 2012 10:03 pm • linkreport

Transportation battle at Manassas

If they want better access to Dulles from I-66, they need to upgrade VA-28 to I-666. North of I-66 they're almost done. If they want a good shot from I-95 to Dulles, they need to upgrade the Fairfax County Parkway (VA-286, OLD-7100) to the interstate it was supposed to be. East of Hooes and Pohick, the road is pretty much an interstate. Taking out a few more traffic lights is far more preferable than destroying parkland. And if Mansassass wants a by-pass, well they have the PW Parkway for that (VA-234 and VA-294/OLD-3000).

BTW, US-50 needs massive upgrades out there. That's the congested road. That's also where all the new sprawl is. in South Riding you can get your own McMansion in the 600ks!

by Jasper on Jul 31, 2012 9:37 am • linkreport


I don't see how VDOT can justify a new road when they've been constantly upgrading the other two roads (and 234) piece by piece for years. They oughtta just go ahead and go whole hog on one of them.

by drumz on Jul 31, 2012 9:46 am • linkreport

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