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Silver Line to Largo requires extra silver: Silver Line trains may not be able to turn around at Stadium-Armory, and will have to go to Largo. This will cost an extra $4.5 million per year and 20-30 extra railcars. (Post)

Spingarn gets historic: The Historic Preservation Review Board named Spingarn High School a historic landmark. It's unclear if the designation will slow down plans for a streetcar barn on the site of the school. (City Paper)

No rentals at St. E's?: Marion Barry is trying to block any rental housing at St. Elizabeths and instead wants any housing to be owner-occupied. He's concerned with Ward 8 having the lowest ratio of homeowners in DC. (Post)

Council committee giveth: A bill that would make it easier for cyclists to sue the motorists who hit them cleared the DC Council Judiciary Committee. The bill guarantees cyclists at least $1000 of damages plus attorney fees if they win. (DCist)

Council committee taketh away: The DC Council's finance and revenue committee approved an $11 million tax break for a Georgia Ave. development that CFO Natwar Gandhi said was unnecessary. (City Paper)

What changed after Rhee?: A new memoir from Michelle Rhee effusively defends her work and praises Adrian Fenty, but under Kaya Henderson, this year's school closings are a lot less contentious than when Rhee ran the show. (City Paper)

Can Amtrak ever satisfy Congress?: Amtrak is reorganizing itself to try to please skeptical House Republicans. What about also loosening outdated FRA rules and letting Amtrak choose its long-distance routes? (Streetsblog)

And...: The SE/SW Freeway and 395 might get higher speed limits. (WTOP) ... How WMATA's costs get allocated to each jurisdiction. (PlanItMetro) ... Trump unveils plans for the Old Post Office. (Post) ... Seattle gets a frequent network bus map. (Human Transit)

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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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+1 for the speed limits, -1 for creating a employ-a-lawyer bike liability law.

by charlie on Nov 30, 2012 8:34 am • linkreport

How did Silver Line planning get so far without someone realising that the pocket track at Stadium/Armory wasn't going to work?

And isn't that track on the other side of the river?

Related question: Anyone know the minimum turn time for reversing a Metro train at a non-terminal station? I've watched them do it at Mt Vernon and it looks to be about 5-6 minutes.

by Jack Love on Nov 30, 2012 8:39 am • linkreport

It is clear Rhee had decent 50,000 foot ideas but had little capacity to work with the community or implement. Ms. Henderson, at least for the District, is MUCH better. Still to see how DCPS improves, but it sure wasn't going anywhere before.

The other true test is the aftermath of the falsified testing issue.

by William on Nov 30, 2012 8:43 am • linkreport

The Silverline will hold the title for "America's boondoggle" for decades to come. WMATA, MWAA, both hilariously incompetent. To think a pretty significant detail like this went unnoticed during the 10 year study period and the 6 year construction.

by Silverline on Nov 30, 2012 8:47 am • linkreport

Can't WMATA just fix the pocket at Stadium-Armory?

By my measurements, the pocket is 650 feet long if you count the distance between the switches. By comparison, an 8-car train is only 600 feet long.

Is 50 feet not enough wiggle-room, or is there some other issue? Through-trains need to navigate those same turns, so I'm not really sure what the issue is.

by andrew on Nov 30, 2012 8:51 am • linkreport

Mr. Barry,

If someone is looking to rent in DC and even Ward 8 and they find there is nowhere to rent that's not going to make them think, Oh maybe I'll buy a house instead.

Amtrak
Here is a perfect instance where republicans can put money where their mouth is by loosening regulations and basically creating an environment that encourages competition. Instead they look at one of the most economic ways of moving people over medium businesses and see socialism and democrats and decide that it must be buried.

by drumz on Nov 30, 2012 9:02 am • linkreport

And of course, these idiots are forgetting the reason Amtrak was created in the first place. Commercial carriers decided passenger rail was no longer profitable, so they abandoned that service. But Congress in a rare act of wisdom, decided passenger rail was worth preserving in some form, and if private industry wouldn't do it, the government would. The whole reason Amtrak exists is because privatized passenger rail VANISHED.

by MetroDerp on Nov 30, 2012 9:10 am • linkreport

@Silverline

I can think of many projects that are much worse than the Silverline. Namely Houstons third beltway, which is MUCH MUCH more of a boondoggle than the Silverline will be. Sure, it may have been poorly managed, and I agree, I am quite shocked this "detail" fell through the cracks for TEN years.... With that said, this line was desperately needed, and in ten years, you will certainly be eating crow on this one.

by Kyle-W on Nov 30, 2012 9:11 am • linkreport

RE: What changed after Rhee?

Under Henderson, DCPS has continued along the same course (good) with a lot less controversy (also good). Shows what you can accomplish when the head of your org puts getting things done over promoting their own career.

by MLD on Nov 30, 2012 9:11 am • linkreport

I would like to hear more details about the problem with the Stadium-Armory pocket track. Metro regularly turns services there during peak hours, sending 8-car trains back into the core rather than run the all the way to New Carrolton.

If they do it already, what's the problem? More details would be helpful.

by Alex B. on Nov 30, 2012 9:31 am • linkreport

Hmm... What's the big difference btw Rhee and Henderson that makes Henderson more palatable to DC "stakeholders"? I'm pretty sure it's not method or ambition.

by Col. Brentwood on Nov 30, 2012 9:33 am • linkreport

Projects worse than the Silver Line? Boston's Big Dig saga is basically required study in project mgmt curriculum on how not to design/manage a project.

by ksu499 on Nov 30, 2012 9:34 am • linkreport

Col. Brentwood - I think it's an issue of respect to stakeholders. Rhee appeared on TIME magazine, holding a broom, when she was starting her tenure. Her criticism of teachers sometimes involved bringing up the worst in a sort of straw-man argument. She fired a principal on air while a national news crew was following her.

Henderson hasn't done those things.

by Schools Watch on Nov 30, 2012 9:47 am • linkreport

Silver Line trains may not be able to turn around at Stadium-Armory, and will have to go to Largo.

And yet people keep saying that WMATA is full of competent people...

Spingarn gets historic

Sigh. Great to be in the most conservative city led by democrats.

Marion Barry is trying to block any rental housing at St. Elizabeths

Barry is doing what he accuses others of: gentrifying his ward. People rent because they can not afford to buy. If Barry had been any successful in fighting poverty in his ward, this problem would not exist. However, thanks to his lack of leadership, he will now reduce the possibilities of his residents of living in ward 8 and push them out to ward 9 where they will be able to rent.

under Kaya Henderson, this year's school closings are a lot less contentious than when Rhee ran the show

When something is hopelessly stuck, sometimes you need someone who kicks widely around a little, so that positions loosen up a little and a successor can be successful in achieving things that were previously unthinkable.

From the Amtrak link:“We’ve applauded their reorganization of their Northeast Corridor services, in particular the creation of two separate Northeast Corridor divisions,” Schned said. “That’s something that we have found to be very successful in other countries around the world, as they’ve unbundled their national railways and created separate infrastructure managers and operating divisions that can create open access.”

This approach is failing miserably in the Netherlands. The problem is that in stead of having one underfunded unit, there will now be two that will blame each other for being underfunded and will have competing interests. Meanwhile, politicians will side with whichever side is convenient at the time. The reason it works in Germany is undoubtedly that the Germans do fund their stuff well. Oh, and that German trains are horrendously uncomfortalbe. At least the Stadlet Flirt I rode in http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stadler_Flirt. Bleh.

by Jasper on Nov 30, 2012 9:57 am • linkreport

Rhee took on the teachers union, and gutted the central administration (some of which was naked patronage). Once these problems were solved, Henderson has the luxury of actually focusing on education and how the resources are allocated. It is no wonder she has less controversy.

by goldfish on Nov 30, 2012 9:58 am • linkreport

I also would like to see more specifics on what the issue is with turning Silver Line trains at the pocket track pass Stadium Armory. Is the problem that they did not fully consider interference with through Blue and Orange Line trains at the peak periods? It would provide more service to the Blue Line stations east of Stadium Armory, but at a cost.

The Silver Line trains were already facing a very long run with 23 miles from Ashburn (after Phase 2) to the merge just before WFC and then ? miles to Stadium Armory. Add in more miles to Largo and I think it could easily be the longest heavy rail rapid transit route in the US. What is the longest line or run in NYC? Or Chicago?

by AlanF on Nov 30, 2012 10:02 am • linkreport

The Howard Town Center on Georgia Avenue will have 320 underground parking spaces.

Not only is DC giving $11M of unneeded subsidy, but since much of the building is Section 8, taxpayers are providing free underground parking to Section 8 recipients. That policy needs to be reviewed. Section 8 should not pay for private parking spots.

by Tom Coumaris on Nov 30, 2012 10:03 am • linkreport

Barry's overall point is great. As usual, his delivery sucks.

Re: Rhee, did she really praise Fenty? If Alan's reporting is correct, she believes Fenty undergoes a transformation from an easily distracted, unpolished, and uninspiring mayor-elect to an übermensch who offered her unfailing support and heroically sacrificed his political career for the sake of the children.

Is that really a compliment?

Rhee continues to demonstrate why she was ill-prepared to run DC schools.

Once these problems were solved, Henderson has the luxury of actually focusing on education and how the resources are allocated. It is no wonder she has less controversy.

Isn't this a bit if revisionist history? The reason that she was able to ride roughshod is because she was given the power that no other "Superintendent" had...the very thing that her boss, Adrian Fenty, voted against when he was CM.

Funny how everyone seems to conveniently gloss over that face.

Henderson performs will and w/little fanfare because she is equally interested in education..and the concerns of city residents. It's worked well for Chris Christie.

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2012 10:14 am • linkreport

@ AlanF,

Not sure about NYC or Chicago, but the distance from the Pittsburgh/Bay Point BART station to SFO is approximately 50 miles.

by Aaron on Nov 30, 2012 10:23 am • linkreport

@HogWash -- Previous supers did not confront the teacher's union -- how it highjacked the primary focus from education to the employee-employer relationship -- either from ineptitude, lack of political resources, or due to the fact that they were the union's sycophant. The reason vary; the result was the same.

The fact remains: Rhee had the power, used it, and went where no other super had gone before. Henderson is riding that coattail. This explains why she has had an easier time.

by goldfish on Nov 30, 2012 10:25 am • linkreport

RE: raising speed limits on SE/SW Freeway and 395

On the surface I agree, as I have rarely driven the speed limit on this stretch of road. However, a critical question that needs to be answer is will this increase the number and severity of accidents at the on/off ramps? The 9th Street on-ramp eastbound has to be one of the most dangerous merges in the city, if not the region. The 7th Street on-ramp that requires crossing 2 lanes of traffic, between cars taking the off-ramp is almost as dangerous.

by Veronica O. Davis (Ms V) on Nov 30, 2012 10:28 am • linkreport

Who cares about Houston? Certainly not me. The Silver Line is a boondoggle the likes of which we have not seen in the DC area.

by movement on Nov 30, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

Totally agree. Parking should not be included in these types of projects when there is even a remotely adaquete public transit option available. In this case, there is a very good transit system available, and many different bus lines available as well.

by Kyle-W on Nov 30, 2012 10:38 am • linkreport

Once again, Barry doesn't seem to be living in the same world as the rest of us. Building housing units for private ownership doesn't magically qualify people for mortgages to purchase them. The housing challenges that a sizable segment of Ward 8 residents face will not disappear if private ownership units get built. They'll still be renting because they cannot secure a home loan.

by Birdie on Nov 30, 2012 10:39 am • linkreport

Re: silver line boondoggle
Is it? compared to other projects even in DC? It seems that the only controversies behind silver line are

Elevated vs. tunnel - Actually a worthy debate but eventually just had to be decided
Governance of MWAA - Well that is an issue but considering that Va. was so eager to be off the hook for paying for construction that's on the state somewhat.
Raising tolls on DTR to pay for construction - Again, it's MWAA's project and that's how they decided to pay for it.
Loudoun's handwringing - non event it turned out to be
Gov. McDonnell's handwringing over unions - another non-event
Turn around at Stadium-Armory - This is a technical problem and there are numerous fixes

Those events don't seem to add up to epic mismanagement to a project that has stayed relatively on track and on budget despite the obstacles. Certainly not as rage inducing as say, pouring the wrong type of concrete for the SSTC or trying to add lanes to a beltway by ceding total benefits to an australian company that lets said company punish the state if the lanes aren't used.

by drumz on Nov 30, 2012 10:40 am • linkreport

[Marion Barry is] concerned with Ward 8 having the lowest ratio of homeowners in DC.

What's the unemployment rate in Ward 8 these days? Still hovering around 20%?

by Oboe on Nov 30, 2012 10:44 am • linkreport

"Certainly not as rage inducing as say, pouring the wrong type of concrete for the SSTC"

that does look like the biggest boondoggle. Maybe even worse than the ICC

"or trying to add lanes to a beltway by ceding total benefits to an australian company that lets said company punish the state if the lanes aren't used."

if the lanes are not used, it would be a boondoggle even if not a PPP (see ICC). Indeed theres got to a certain amount of breathholding about usage for the H Street streetcar. Lets wait and see on that one.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2012 10:44 am • linkreport

The fact remains: Rhee had the power, used it, and went where no other super had gone before. Henderson is riding that coattail. This explains why she has had an easier time.

Excellent point. Rhee came in with a sword, and made the reforms that made Henderson's less confrontational style possible. I might also point out that it doesn't hurt that Henderson is a middle-aged black woman.

by Oboe on Nov 30, 2012 10:49 am • linkreport

The SE/SW Freeway and 395 might get higher speed limits.

The A2 in the Netherlands between Utrecht and Amsterdam was widened from 3 to 5 lanes each way. This loosened up a massive choke-point in the Dutch highway network. The price driver have to pay is that the speed limit went down from 120km/h to 100km/h for environmental and noise reasons.

The new, lower speed limit is enforce through a trajectory control, which measures the average speed of cars on the road by taking pictures when entering and exiting the road. This makes the speed check way more accurate because distance and time can be measured with scary precision and accuracy, so drivers can't complain anymore they got caught while passing, or during a moment of not paying attention (if that's an excuse).

The trajectory speed check is now in force in only one way, while they're working on the installation in the other way. However, fines total €200,000 per day.

Just consider yourselves very lucky when it comes to speed enforcement in the US, where the government ups the limit if you complain enough.

by Jasper on Nov 30, 2012 10:54 am • linkreport

@Alan F

A few of the BART routes are very long - Yellow Line is 50mi, Blue Line is 48. The A train in NYC is just over 30 miles end to end.

by MLD on Nov 30, 2012 11:00 am • linkreport

How about some electronic speed limit signs that are prominently visible and vary based on the traffic load? I am flabbergasted that this isn't commonplace around here.

by NikolasM on Nov 30, 2012 11:00 am • linkreport

Considering the massive, massive expense of running the Silver Line trains all the way to Largo, couldn't WMATA just build the extra track that it needs to build in the RFK parking lots? It's federally owned land, and if it hasn't been classified as surplus, then it really should be surplussed ASAP anyway.

by Tom Veil on Nov 30, 2012 11:01 am • linkreport

AWITC,

true. Boondoggle is one of those words that people like to use that doesn't mean anything. It's always used tautalogically. I wish I could strike it from the lexicon.

I also wish I could fine people for bringing up the monorail episode of the simpsons whenever a planning story is posted.

by drumz on Nov 30, 2012 11:01 am • linkreport

I wonder whether a solution to the Silver Line turnaround problem would also help expedite matters after blizzards when the system is only operating below ground.

by JimT on Nov 30, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport

What's the big difference btw Rhee and Henderson that makes Henderson more palatable to DC "stakeholders"?

African-American racism toward Asians.

by Vinh An Nguyen on Nov 30, 2012 11:25 am • linkreport

NikolasM,

They tried that on the beltway from mixing bowl to Wilson Bridge. They were up for a year or so then disappeared. They put them up for part of the Wilson Bridge project. My impression is that they didn't work or wasn't managed well. For instance they would say 45mph, but the road was wide open so everyone was going 65. I think over time the signs where just ignored as people just assumed the traditional speed limit of 50-55mph, regardless of what the sign said.

Just found this report on the VSL on the project. Results were mixed: ftp://ftp.hsrc.unc.edu/pub/TRB2011/data/papers/11-0529.pdf

by RJ on Nov 30, 2012 11:28 am • linkreport

@MLD, I was not considering BART when I wondered whether a Silver Line trip from Ashburn to Stadium-Armory to Largo would be the longest. Ok, so BART wins the US contest for really long long heavy rail rapid transit lines.

If the issue with turning around Silver Lines trains at the Stadium-Armory pocket track is that the SL trains would interfere too often at peak rush hour traffic frequencies with through Blue & Orange Line trains, maybe the solution is a Silver Plus service. Extend the Silver Line trains to Largo at the peak rush hour periods, turn them around at S-A at other times. Checking the http://ridingmetro.com/ data, there are 100s of passengers who travel from the Largo - Benning Road stations to/from Courthouse, Ballston, WFC on the weekday AM and PM peaks. Might be enough traveling to Tysons to justify extending the Silver Line trains to Largo if turning around the trains at the pocket track is a problem at peak periods.

by AlanF on Nov 30, 2012 11:33 am • linkreport

How about some electronic speed limit signs that are prominently visible and vary based on the traffic load? I am flabbergasted that this isn't commonplace around here.

The NJ Turnpike uses digital speed limit signs that are frequently lowered in bad weather. However, I was told by someone who worked for the state that the lower limits were essentially unenforceable since drivers can contest the tickets by claiming that they were so used to the regular limit that they didn't realize it was temporarily lowered. No idea if that is true or not, but can tell you that I have seen the lowered limits frequently ignored.

In any case, I think variable speed limits are a very good idea. On a road like 295, the traffic conditions on a Sunday afternoon are so completely different from at rush hour that having just one speed limit makes no sense.

by dcdriver on Nov 30, 2012 11:34 am • linkreport

The fact remains: Rhee had the power, used it, and went where no other super had gone before. Henderson is riding that coattail. This explains why she has had an easier time

Sure. But that's quite a shallow view because it completely disregards the structure before and after Rhee. Anthony Williams attempted to isolate the power of the DC's Education Chief to the Mayor's office. He didn't get that chance. Yet, Fenty turned around and asked and received the same thing.

I understand many of you see Rhee as the Patron Saint of Education but the facts aren't on your side. The schools are great thanks to the previous sup's school modernization plan..undertaken by Lew. The scores have continued the gradual on again off again rise in test scores since the earliest part of the last decade. Her greatest achievement is working w/the teachers union.

Despite the attempt to marginalize Henderson, she has capitalized on Rhee's efforts in the same manner Rhee capitalized on the efforts of her predecessors. The meme that she and Fenty came in as groundbreaking pioneers and created something out of whole cloth has been proven a myth time and time again.

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2012 11:39 am • linkreport

495 in the area where variable speed limits were used moves freely when lanes are not closed. Slightly off-topic, but I like what is in West Virginia and other states for work areas where the work zone limits are enforced only when lights on the signs are flashing. People are much more likely to follow it if they believe there is a more legit reason.

Who came before Rhee?

by selxic on Nov 30, 2012 11:42 am • linkreport

I might also point out that it doesn't hurt that Henderson is a middle-aged black woman.

Likely not. Much like the fact that Rhee was Asian (and not black) didn't hurt considering the overwhelming amount of support she received from nonblack households.

African-American racism toward Asians.

I have noticed this as well. Especially since we know black folk religiously patronize Asian nail salons, corner stores, chicken/chinese/seafood carryouts, beauty supply stores etc.

*attempting to refrain from lol*

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

Over the weekend, I purposely drove the speed limit as much as I could.

Verdict: There's no reason to race like a speed demon on 295 through benning/kenilworth area. Speed limits on most of the residential streets are appropriate. Many cars are made for speed. So naturally, people want to speed.

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2012 11:51 am • linkreport

@ NikolasM, RJ:How about some electronic speed limit signs that are prominently visible and vary based on the traffic load? I am flabbergasted that this isn't commonplace around here.

True. Variable speed limits are a very good tool to prevent traffic jams. In the Netherlands and Belgium, variable speed limits pretty much apply to most major highways and certainly to the large choking points. It works by slowing down traffic UPstream from congestion so that less traffic get stuck into the jam, and the jam can loosen up quicker. As we know, the difference between jam and free flowing is often only about 10% in volume.

The problem is enforcement. I have never noticed enforcement of the variable speed limits on I-495 during the works there.

It also takes a very long time to convince the public that the speed limits on the electronic signs supersede the signs along the road. And also that slowing people down UPstream from developing congestion is a good thing. After all, they don't see congestion, so why the slow down? Finally, variable speed limits are an excellent tool during inclement weather. Even if they're largely ignored, it's a great way to remind people to slow down during rain, snow or fog.

by Jasper on Nov 30, 2012 12:03 pm • linkreport

@HogWash
I understand many of you see Rhee as the Patron Saint of Education...

LOL I don't think anyone here is saying that. Actually, it looks like most of the comments are about how she got some good things done (new WTU contract) but was too controversial and self-serving in doing it.

Despite the attempt to marginalize Henderson...
Who is marginalizing her? Looks like most comments here think she is doing a just as good if not better job than her predecessor.

The idea that somehow the people in charge at the time (Rhee/Fenty) deserve no credit for changing the environment because the structure was different is ridiculous. Fenty managed to get Mayoral control over the schools, and then they used it to change the system. People before them were unwilling or unable to spend enough political capital to do those two things.

by MLD on Nov 30, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport

Letting MWAA and Metro build and run the Silver Line was like giving Tony Soprano the keys to the bank and telling him "Have at it. Lock up when you're done".

Between the cost over-runs, junkets, contracting shenanigans, and outright stealing of MWAA executives coupled with Metro's incompetence, the Silver Line will beat the Boston Big Dig project for the America's Biggest Boondoggle title hands down.

If this was a road project, we would never hear the end of the howling. As a matter of fact, we STILL have to put with whining about the Intercounty Connector which came in about 5% over budget in spite of being held up for decades by opponents' legal and political maneuvers.

by ceefer66 on Nov 30, 2012 12:19 pm • linkreport

Who is marginalizing her?

- Rhee came in with a sword, and made the reforms that made Henderson's less confrontational style possible.

The idea that somehow the people in charge at the time (Rhee/Fenty) deserve no credit for changing the environment because the structure was different is ridiculous.

I agree..which is why I credited her for fighting the teachers union. But equally, it's ridiculous to push the notion that Fenty and Rhee were Captains Save-A-School because no one else was willing to do the hard work. I believe you just alluded to that.

People before them were unwilling or unable to spend enough political capital to do those two things.

Anthony Williams did. He didn't get the votes..including Fenty's. So it's a bit unfair to herald Fenty as the Patron Saint because he was for something after he was against it. He had mad political capital after his resounding win and support for every racial group in the city..including blac folk. He used, abused it and was rightfully ousted.

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2012 12:21 pm • linkreport

Between the cost over-runs, junkets, contracting shenanigans, and outright stealing of MWAA executives coupled with Metro's incompetence, the Silver Line will beat the Boston Big Dig project for the America's Biggest Boondoggle title hands down.

If this was a road project, we would never hear the end of the howling. As a matter of fact, we STILL have to put with whining about the Intercounty Connector which came in about 5% over budget in spite of being held up for decades by opponents' legal and political maneuvers.

You have to actually show some proof that it is a boondoggle for the label to stick (while you're at it, please define what 'boondoggle' means).

Yes, MWAA has issues with their board. However, all of the audits laud their professional staff for doing good work, on time and on budget. So, scratch that off your list.

Cost overruns: what cost overruns are those? So far the project is on budget. The whole thing costs more than it should but that is a general problem for all American infrastructure and likely has more to do with Federal regulations than any incompetence.

WMATA: they're not building it, so where's the boondoggle there?

Calling this a boondoggle is to erode all meaning from the term.

The comparison to the ICC is terrible, as well. People opposed the ICC because it was a bad idea and a bad project, not because the project itself was executed poorly.

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

The Silverline doubled in price in the four years between getting FTA approval in 2004 and breaking ground in 2008, all for a line that the most optimistic projections show will carry ~40K people a day a decade after it opens.

Now we find out, 10 years after all the studies were done, they they can't turn the trains around where they wanted to, and it is going to cost millions more a year in operational costs, and require the purchase of more trains.

Yeah..."Boondoggle" fits this pregnant hot mess very nicely.

by Silverline on Nov 30, 2012 12:35 pm • linkreport

Who came before Rhee?

Clifford Janey, who did not make any improvements.

I understand many of you see Rhee as the Patron Saint of Education but the facts aren't on your side. The schools are great thanks to the previous sup's school modernization plan..undertaken by Lew.

No, the real motivation for school improvement came from the outside, the charters. They showed that DC schools could perform, and consistently better than DCPS, without excuses. Even with that, the challenge was ignored. What got attention was the loss of students. Rhee's genuine contribution to DCPS was recognizing that if they did not improve, the loss of students were going to marginalize DCPS. She saw that she had to appeal to parents who now had alternate public DC schools that were viable; no other superintendent understood that.

Let me offer a story to flesh this out: About a year before Rhee took over, I tried to get a meeting with the principal of my children's elementary school. The receptionist would not give us an appointment. Now I all I have to do is make a call and I get one.

by goldfish on Nov 30, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

@Kyle-W,

I can think of many projects that are much worse than the Silverline. Namely Houstons third beltway, which is MUCH MUCH more of a boondoggle than the Silverline will be. Sure, it may have been poorly managed, and I agree, I am quite shocked this "detail" fell through the cracks for TEN years.... With that said, this line was desperately needed, and in ten years, you will certainly be eating crow on this one.
-----

You left out one significant detail, Kyle.

The cost of the SH99 Houston outer beltway toll road (boy, I wish we could build one here, but that's another issue) is being borne primarily by those who will directly benefit - its USERS.

There is talk of a public-private partnership similar to what was done with the HOT lanes in Virginia, but the cost will be paid by the investors and road users.

That's not the case with the Silver Line which is being 52% funded with tolls from road users.

Big difference.

by ceefer66 on Nov 30, 2012 12:44 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66 "The cost of the SH99 Houston outer beltway toll road (boy, I wish we could build one here, but that's another issue) is being borne primarily by those who will directly benefit - its USERS."

You omitted probably the greatest beneficiary of beltways: developers, who stand to gain an enormous windfall when the roads are pushed through.

by Jack Love on Nov 30, 2012 12:51 pm • linkreport

Compare:

"Rhee had the power, used it, and went where no other super had gone before. Henderson is riding that coattail."

with,

"Despite the attempt to marginalize Henderson, she has capitalized on Rhee's efforts in the same manner Rhee capitalized on the efforts of her predecessors."

Isn't those saying essentially the same thing? OK, aren't they saying EXACTLY the same thing? That a superindendent builds on the work of the previous one(s)? It's not marginalizing Henderson to point out that she built on the efforts of her predecessor.

by dcd on Nov 30, 2012 1:02 pm • linkreport

No, the real motivation for school improvement came from the outside, the charters.

Lew was in charge of modernizing the schools. At the time of Rhee's initial statement (post-appointment) she said that she would implement Janey's school modernization "master plan" while she focused on the central office and (something else I can't remember." I'm specifically talking about building improvement. I won't attempt to argue where the push for improvement came from but know that Fenty did stake his reelection on improving DCPS.

I tried to get a meeting with the principal of my children's elementary school. The receptionist would not give us an appointment. Now I all I have to do is make a call and I get one

And what specifically did Rhee do to ensure that you could get a meeting w/your child's principal? Aren't you giving her..instead of school leaders..too much fanfare?

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2012 1:06 pm • linkreport

Boondoggle (n) work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.

I think Phase 2 of the Silver Line qualifies. Even if construction was free, it will take decades for the value to approach the operational costs. There are lots of better ways to invest four billion dollars.

by movement on Nov 30, 2012 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Silverline:
The Silverline doubled in price in the four years between getting FTA approval in 2004 and breaking ground in 2008, all for a line that the most optimistic projections show will carry ~40K people a day a decade after it opens.
I'm not really seeing how absolute rider projections relate to growth in costs due in large part to things like inflation and changes in construction costs. Could you explain this connection for me?
Now we find out, 10 years after all the studies were done, they they can't turn the trains around where they wanted to, and it is going to cost millions more a year in operational costs, and require the purchase of more trains.
I think everyone is concerned by this article, but many of us have also recognized that it's alarmingly sketchy on actual facts. Could we hold off until we actually know what's going on before freaking out?

Unless you have the facts to fill in these gaps for us, in which case I'd be glad to freak out with you.

Yeah..."Boondoggle" fits this pregnant hot mess very nicely.
Pregnant?

by Gray's The Classics on Nov 30, 2012 1:13 pm • linkreport

It's not marginalizing Henderson to point out that she built on the efforts of her predecessor.

As you put it, I agree. But saying Henderson's "less confrontational" style wouldn't be possible w/o the confrontational style of her predecessor does strike me as an attempt to marginalize her especially when you add race (Rhee/Henderson) into the mix.

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2012 1:14 pm • linkreport

@HogWash: And what specifically did Rhee do to ensure that you could get a meeting w/your child's principal?

Rhee fired principals of schools that were not performing. That got them to pay attention to the parents.

Aren't you giving her..instead of school leaders..too much fanfare?

Actually I give her less credit than most, but it was astonishing to see Rhee at school information night -- this showed she took parents as the customers seriously. But the real reason for the improvement in DCPS is the competitive challenge from the charters; any other super in Rhee's place would have recognized this as well.
I lay the

by goldfish on Nov 30, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

Goldfish - you mentioned earlier that Rhee's actions came as a response to the charters. You also said that charters could perform consistently better than DCPS schools.

I'd like to know what you are basing that second conclusion on. I know a subset of charter schools outperform their neighborhood alternatives, but I was under the impression that DC charters were generally on par with traditional DCPS schools overall. I'd be interested to see studies that contradict my view.

by Schools Watch on Nov 30, 2012 1:34 pm • linkreport

@Grays,

The price for the entire silverline went from 3.2 billion to its current 6.8 billion in the four year period from when all the studies were done, the EIS approved and the FTA approved the project in 2004, to when they started in 2008. Are you actually saying that the reason it more than doubled in price in 4 years is due to inflation?

If that were the case, the price would have decreased substantially between 2008 and 2011 when prices for steel and concrete hit inflation adjusted 25 year lows during the depth of the recession.

That’s the first issue…

The second is that we are spending nearly 7 billion dollars so that (we hope!!) 40K people a day will use the silver line by 2025. Talk about your cost benefit ratio being all skewed. If we were to spend 7 billion on a road project that only serviced 40K people a day a decade after it was built, we would never hear the end of it from the “cars are our enemy” crowd.

by Silverline on Nov 30, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

Boondoggle (n) work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.

I think Phase 2 of the Silver Line qualifies.

The Silver Line as pointless? The Silver Line will cost about $5.6B. It will result in $10B of property value increases in Tysons ALONE. Not to mention all the property value increases along the line, directly benefitting the landowners who are paying higher tolls for the DTR. The Silver Line is one of the highest returning transportation investments out there. And, it's being done in large part by making the people who will see direct returns in the form of property value increases pay for it.

The point of the Silver Line is to make Virginia landowners a lot of money and create a lot of jobs. Is that not a good enough point?

Now, compare that to VA's proposed outer beltway. That project would likely never happen if the people who's property is increasing in value had to pay for the project. THAT'S a boondoggle. An investment that can't even pay for itself much less turn a profit. What's the point of that?

by Falls Church on Nov 30, 2012 1:46 pm • linkreport

Rhee fired principals of schools that were not performing. That got them to pay attention to the parent

I understand that's your point of view but there is nothing remotely empirical about that. I believe suggesting that Rhee was responsible for a single principal of DC's 100 or so schools, responding to you is a bit of a stretch.

I don't understand your link to the article about DCPS and Charter schools. It concludes that Charters perform about 3 or 4% points better than DCPS.

She saw that she had to appeal to parents who now had alternate public DC schools that were viable; no other superintendent understood that.

And you're basing this conclusion on what? Do you not think the 100% change in reporting/responsibility/power source enabled Rhee to do things far beyond her predecessors? I believe there should be a limit to the extent which we compare her success to her predecessor's failures. The "because they didn't do" isn't a realistic nor fair assessment.

I could be wrong but prior to Rhee, was the Superintendent responsible for their own budget?

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

had control over

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2012 2:02 pm • linkreport

@Schools Watch:

I know a subset of charter schools outperform their neighborhood alternatives, but I was under the impression that DC charters were generally on par with traditional DCPS schools overall. I'd be interested to see studies that contradict my view.

Your impression is correct...

http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/if-youre-keeping-score/

by oboe on Nov 30, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport

Without any details as to why. My best guess is the ability of the operator to change ends during the time is in the pocket track. At Mount Vernon Square operators "fall back", meaning an operator boards the rear of train before heading into the pocket track, that operator takes control of the train to begin the run south. The operator, now at the rear of the train, gets off the train walks the length of the platform and board the rear of the next train terminating at the station.

Doing the fall back procedure at D&G junction may involve some other issues.

by Sand Box John on Nov 30, 2012 2:16 pm • linkreport

@HogWash, Rhee fired dozens of principals. I'd provide the links but I am way too busy now -- suggest you do your own research.

The process of choosing a new principal is very complex and requires community approval, so obviously Rhee's input there is less direct.

It concludes that Charters perform about 3 or 4% points better than DCPS.

This is beyond the experimental uncertainty. The comparison is more pronounced when you consider that the "good" schools in upper caucasia (W3) are all DCPS. These are the schools that bring up the averages for DCPS. Down in the hood residents do not have access to these places, and the DCPS options are far worse. This income-normalized comparison is showed in the first link.

by goldfish on Nov 30, 2012 2:18 pm • linkreport

*got my numbers wrong. The increase in property value for Tysons alone is only $5B, not $10B. That's still most of the entire cost of the Silver Line recouped by Tysons value increases alone.

by Falls Church on Nov 30, 2012 2:19 pm • linkreport

@goldfish:

Special education students, ELL students and middle/high income students are not included in order to get a quick closer to apples to apples comparison.

Given that the proportion of special education students is much lower in charters, and given that in high-poverty districts "special ed" more often refers to behavioral disorders, I'm surprised that the overall advantage enjoyed by charters isn't greater.

But just comparing the poorest kids with no behavioral issues isn't apples-to-apples as Green's blog piece admits.

by oboe on Nov 30, 2012 2:20 pm • linkreport

@Sand Box John

Could it be that the distance between the Stadium-Armory station and the pocket track (which is up on the elevated structure nearly a mile away) is part of the problem?

by MLD on Nov 30, 2012 2:24 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church
#1 I said Phase 2. You even copied the text in your reply. If you aren't going to pay attention to what I write, why reply?
#2 The cost of Phase 2 is projected to be much closer to $4 billion. I haven't seen any projections of property values for Western Fairfax/Loudoun that are any near that and I am willing to bet that the projections are overly optimistic.
#3 The outer beltway is a myth. People are talking about it but there is no plan to build it, much less funding. Bringing it up in this discussion is a distraction.

by movement on Nov 30, 2012 2:32 pm • linkreport

@oboe, given that all schools in Ward 3 are DCPS, where the wealth of the city is concentrated, I am surprised that DCPS does not outperform the charters.

by goldfish on Nov 30, 2012 2:32 pm • linkreport

@movement

1. I don't think the value in Tysons can be captured based on phase 1 only. Phase 1 basically serves commuters FROM Tysons, and reverse commuters. Without a rail mode in from the west, I don't think you can manage the transformation to higher density, more walkable.

2. Using the DTR ROW required extension at least as far as the airport, IIUC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

The problem with the Silver Line is that, at the end of the day, whatever the cost, it simply is not needed. Dulles has been one of the most successful airports in the country since the day it was opened, despite limited to no public transit into the city. For those that absolutely insist on public transit to the airport, DC is served well by DCA (now with more cross-country flights) and BWI.

No one has ever made the case that Dulles' location or lack of public transit affects DC area tourism or business or that has any effect on airlines choosing to fly into Dulles. Today, Dulles is served by 24 (at my count) foreign carriers while transit-served BWI is served by 3. The airline industry has spoken and Dulles has won, even without transit.

In addition, the placement of Dulles was a major force in developing one of the country's most successful high-tech corridors between the city and the airport, a corridor that has developed entirely without transit. Why does Tysons Corner need transit? The fact that without transit it is now one of the largest concentrated job centers in the country shows that it doesn't need Metro to thrive.

The data shows that many of the Silver Line riders will be Dulles employees. While that may be convenient for them, there are no critical job shortages at Dulles right now, so obviously enough people are able to get there to work without the Silver Line.

by dcdriver on Nov 30, 2012 2:51 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver "transit-served BWI" is about as well-served by transit as Dulles is itself. A bus from terminal and non-core stations is hardly an effective transit system for getting commuters with heavy bags to and from airports, and especially when it requires multiple transfers to bus to train to shuttle, etc.

There's a reason that, for instance, that BART runs to SFO and that the Piccadilly Line runs to Heathrow (of course, they also have an express train option but that's far too much to hope for in this transportation wasteland).

by MetroDerp on Nov 30, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

And @dcdriver, just because something has functioned to date doesn't mean it's right or perfect. That's the same attitude that has prevented any Metro lines being built in the core, or actual change at WMATA. Just because roads are enough now doesn't mean they will be in the future, nor does it mean that having only road connections to Tyson's is the natural state of affairs and e'ermore shall it be.

by MetroDerp on Nov 30, 2012 3:06 pm • linkreport

I think by now the focus on having a rail link to Dulles is secondary to what the Silver line is expected to help do in Tyson's Corner and make that as big a hub as Rosslyn-Ballston. The transportation element is impressive but its the county's work on the changing the land use there that will really boost everything up.

by drumz on Nov 30, 2012 3:08 pm • linkreport

"Why does Tysons Corner need transit? The fact that without transit it is now one of the largest concentrated job centers in the country shows that it doesn't need Metro to thrive."

In its current state, with its congestion, Tysons cannot grow. I suppose the republic can survive without further growth at Tysons - but that the growth will effectively pay for the transit, shows that there is demand for space at Tysons. And for FFX county, this is needed to keep the county growing and thriving, as its housing stock ages and its population diversifies.

By transforming Tysons, in addition to the new silver line riders, there will be more walking and biking within Tysons - which will provide FFX residents with more options for living, and will lead to more sustainable lifestyles. But this is very difficult to achieve without the transit access.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2012 3:11 pm • linkreport

Also, I might add, making it possible for people from DC and North Arlington to reverse commute by rail to Tysons, will make car free and car lite life in those places that much more viable.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2012 3:12 pm • linkreport

@movement

The property value increases in Tysons are entirely dependent on Phase II. Sure, Phase I is higher returning than Phase II but it's not like Phase II somehow reverses the very good economics of the Silver Line as a whole. Loudoun just financed their contribution to the Silver Line by creating a special tax district for property owners who stand to benefit from the line. They can do this because the benefits exceed the costs.

Fine, let's say the outer beltway is a myth. There is no shortage of road boondoggles to choose from. How about the Charlottesville bypass? That's not a myth. According to Bacon's Rebellion (a very centrist, non-partisan blog) written by the former editor of Virginia Business magazine:

The Road to Wealth Destruction
The soon-to-be-built Charlottesville Bypass provides a lousy economic return on investment. Only government would spend $244 million on a project that yields less than $8 million a year in benefits to the public.

So, to recapitulate:

+ $5.8 million in savings from congestion mitigation
+ $2.4 million in savings from reduced accidents and injuries
- $0.5 in increased operations and maintenance costs
-----------------------------
= $7.7 million net economic benefit

http://www.baconsrebellion.com/2012/02/the-road-to-wealth-destruction.html

by Falls Church on Nov 30, 2012 3:23 pm • linkreport

There has been no explanation as to why the pocket track can't be used to turn Silver Line trains. It was designed to turn trains, after all.

by Matthias on Nov 30, 2012 3:25 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver The problem with the Silver Line is that, at the end of the day, whatever the cost, it simply is not needed. Dulles has been one of the most successful airports in the country

The problem is that you're looking at the Silver Line as a project to meant to get people to Dulles airport. That's just a small side benefit. The point of the Silver Line is to increase Tysons property values by $5B, create the infastructure necessary for an additional 100K jobs and 200K residents in Tysons, spur further development and jobs in Reston, Herndon, and Loudoun, and increase property values for every land owner within 2 miles of a stop.

by Falls Church on Nov 30, 2012 3:27 pm • linkreport

@movement, the current projected costs I see for Phase 2 is $2.7 billion total. Where does your $4 billion number come from? The $2.7 billion probably does not include the parking garages, but the garages should not be that expensive.

Given the typical pattern of big construction project awards in the past 3-4 years, I would not be surprised if the contract awards for the major components of Phase II come in well under the amounts budgeted for.

For all the fuss some raise on here, Phase 1 is on schedule according to the latest updates. While Phase 1 has used a substantial portion of the contingency funds due to design changes, unexpected utility relocation costs, that is what contingency or reserve funds are for. What I have seen in the newspapers on the problems with MWAA board are mostly petty items in travel expenses, not following proper procedures, handing out consulting contracts to ex-board members. The MWAA board will be overhauled and restructured. Not that big a deal. No evidence that it has resulted in big delays or too high costs for the Silver Line. The Silver Line will serve a series of large population centers and connect Tysons, Reston, Herndon, Dulles directly to the city rail transit system. I don't see that as a boondoggle in any way.

For examples of cost overruns and ever sliding schedules, look up the East Side Access and Second Ave Subway Phase 1 projects in NYC. Both of those projects are markedly more technically challenging than the Silver Line, but the SL is not even in their league for cost increases and delays.

by AlanF on Nov 30, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

@HogWash, Rhee fired dozens of principals. I suggest you do your own research.

You're being a tad bit obtuse. The question wasn't whether she fired ineffective principals. Rather, it was whether you now being able to schedule a meeting with a specific school's principal is because of Rhee. Was there something written into the new contract that mandates the minimum number of one on one meetings w/parents? Because i don't have kids I obviously can't speak w/any authority, but I just don't recall "inability to meet w/principals" as one of the many long-standing problems w/DCPS.

Given that the proportion of special education students is much lower in charters, and given that in high-poverty districts "special ed" more often refers to behavioral disorders.

Yes. Friends of mine who had no developmental/physical challenges were placed in classes w/those who were and classified as "special ed."

by HogWash on Nov 30, 2012 4:17 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church
The fact of the matter is I simply don't buy the rosy projections for Western Fairfax and Loudoun. I don't believe that people are going to want to live in new, pre-fabricated communities 15 miles from their workplace with no culture or identity to speak of. They either like the suburban life and will want their big house and car or they will continue the trend towards Reston, Alexandria / Arlington, or an newly urbanized Tysons.

I also don't buy the jobs projections. NOVA is not going to continue to grow at the same crazy pace forever. Jobs will migrate to Tysons as Tysons becomes a better place to work (and live) but it will mostly be at the expense of the lousy office parks that litter the landscape.

I'm not totally up to speed on the Charlottesville plan, but I submit that at 1/10th of the cost, it is not nearly the boondoggle. However, thank you for reminding me of the recalibration of the cost estimates from $3.8B to $2.7B. That slipped my mind somewhere along the way. Still that is a lot of money that would be better spent on the US1 corridor which is much better positioned for expansion than the 267 corridor. Tysons will grow just fine with or without Phase 2.

by movement on Nov 30, 2012 4:48 pm • linkreport

"The fact of the matter is I simply don't buy the rosy projections for Western Fairfax and Loudoun. I don't believe that people are going to want to live in new, pre-fabricated communities 15 miles from their workplace with no culture or identity to speak of. They either like the suburban life and will want their big house and car or they will continue the trend towards Reston, Alexandria / Arlington, or an newly urbanized Tysons. "

Have you been to Brambleton? townhouse, including two family townhouses, selling like hotcakes apparently. and apartments in Villages at leesburg. It seems there are a lot of people who work in LoCo, but want a more TNDish style. Or who work in Reston/Herndon, and will commute a few miles to Loudoun for cheaper TND than they can find in RTC.

"I also don't buy the jobs projections. NOVA is not going to continue to grow at the same crazy pace forever. Jobs will migrate to Tysons as Tysons becomes a better place to work (and live) but it will mostly be at the expense of the lousy office parks that litter the landscape."

Which seems to me to be a good thing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 30, 2012 4:59 pm • linkreport

They either like the suburban life and will want their big house and car or they will continue the trend towards Reston

It wasn't too long ago that Reston looked a lot like Sterling and Ashburn look today.

Only time will tell but there's significant, credible research out there that points to big pentup demand for metro accessible, walkable communities. Many developers are putting their money where there mouths are and investing in just such development. If they are correct, then creating the infrastructure for more metro accessible communities will look very smart. If the business community is wrong about this, then yes, everyone is screwed. Personally, I trust the wisdom of the market.

I also don't buy the jobs projections. NOVA is not going to continue to grow at the same crazy pace forever.

We don't need to grow at a crazy pace for there to need to be new infrastructure to support a substantial number of new jobs. Today Fairfax Co has 600K jobs. Let's say that number grows at only 1-2% a year. That's 10K jobs a year that need a home. Where will you put them? Most people don't want the added development in their backyard because that will lead to more traffic congestion and other negative effects for them. It makes most sense to put those jobs in Tysons where there is an actual appetite for them from landowners rather than community resistance.

Tysons will grow just fine with or without Phase 2.

What about Reston? Phase II is key to growth at Reston Town Center.

by Falls Church on Nov 30, 2012 5:36 pm • linkreport

@HogWash: Rather, it was whether you now being able to schedule a meeting with a specific school's principal is because of Rhee.

Hey HogWash, you missed my point. I never said that Rhee made the principals more responsive to the parents; it was the competition from the charters that did that. Now you may point out that the correlation is not the same as proof, to which I admit is correct. OTOH, the turnaround of DCPS over the past 10 years is all a coincidence and has nothing to do with competition, right? Right.

by goldfish on Nov 30, 2012 6:06 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church
Tysons, Reston, Alexandria, and Arlington are growing at a nice clip and are well-positioned for more growth in the next decade. This will happen with or without Phase 2. After that, Alexandria, Fairfax County and Springfield have an enormous amount of untapped potential and are much better positioned for growth than Western Fairfax and Loudoun. They are attractive places to live culturally and are well linked to both DC and Tysons. It would be nice to extend transit into these areas but we won't be able to do it because of the Phase 2 albatross around our necks.

by movement on Nov 30, 2012 9:46 pm • linkreport

@MLD

That could be one of the issues.

The thing that puzzles me, after further thought, is the fact that every other train will not need to be turned there. And those that will need to be turned there will not have to turned that fast. A terminating Silver line in the pocket track may need to wait for 1 or 2 westbound train coming from points east to clear interlocking before it is cleared to enters the mainline to head back to Virginia. All of WMATA's terminal interlocking are automatic, a train waiting to depart inbound will not depart until the automatic interlocking gives the train a clear signal based on scheduled departure time.

by Sand Box John on Nov 30, 2012 10:43 pm • linkreport

@movement

How are Tysons, Reston and Arlington well positioned for further growth. The existing metro and road infrastructure connecting those places with the rest of NoVa is tapped out.

I'd be cool with getting more transit to Springfield. Good luck getting DTR users to pay for that with their tolls. And you can forget anymore than 5% support from VDOT for transit projects. The biggest reason the silver line (both phases) works is because the financing works without state money because there is basically none for transit.

by Falls Church on Dec 1, 2012 3:19 pm • linkreport

@movement

And the biggest reason financing can be extracted from the landowners along the silver line in the form of tolls and special tax districts is quite simply that people along the DTR corridor are richer than along any similar area in NoVa (or arguably the entire country). I'm not saying it's necessarily fair or right but infrastructure gets built where the money is at.

by Falls Church on Dec 1, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

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