Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Big money


Photo by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr.
Baltimore's big gamble opens: The Horseshoe Casino opened on Tuesday. It is Maryland's fifth casino, and state and local leaders hope to use gambling revenue to revitalize the city and ease unemployment. (Post)

Metro settles suit: Metro will pay $5 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit, which revealed that the agency awarded a $14 million no-bid contract and fired an employee for speaking out. Metro did not admit wrongdoing, however. (WAMU)

DASH bus improvements: Besides the Metroway, Alexandria is seeing many new improvements to its DASH bus system. Among them are a new crosstown route, better Saturday service, and extended King Street Trolley hours. (Red Brick Town, Scott A)

Let kids walk: Petula Dvorak lets her kids walk to the corner store and go unsupervised for other summer activities. Unfortunately, not all kids in the DC area live in neighborhoods with wide sidewalks and easily accessible amenities. (Post)

A council divided: The DC Council is divided on what to do with the reconstruction of the Virginia Ave. CSX tunnel, particularly whether the project should be postponed until a completed comprehensive rail study. (Post)

CaBi signs in Bethesda: Montgomery County has installed new wayfinding signs for cyclists in downtown Bethesda with icons for CaBi and Metro stations. (TheWashCycle)

McMillan building trimmed: A medical building at the McMillan site will be shorter, along with other changes based on concerns from the Zoning Commission. The revised site plans also include transportation improvements and community benefits. (WBJ)

And...: It's a Metro tradition to give away pennants at new station and line openings. (Post) ... Fortune tellers in Front Royal may soon be able to operate legally. (WBJ) ... Scientists are hoping to connect with people emotionally on climate change. (CityLab)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
David Koch is a native of Silver Spring. He first discovered his love of transportation and planning through Greater Greater Washington and Just Up The Pike. He has a planning degree from Rutgers University and is a planner with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. You might see him on his bike around Columbia Heights. 

Comments

Add a comment »

The DC Council is divided on what to do with the reconstruction of the Virginia Ave. CSX tunnel

In stead of trying to stop things that are going to happen anyway, council members might spend their time better trying to get proper accommodations for residents near the construction work. Why delay the project for years and get nothing in return when it happens anyway?

by Jasper on Aug 27, 2014 9:10 am • linkreport

Ugh. The streetcar is going to be such a mess. So depressing and unnecessary.

by JR on Aug 27, 2014 9:11 am • linkreport

I can see a potential for value in delaying the tunnel until the study is finished. It makes sense to be sure that the details of the new tunnel fit with what will be required of it, and the rest of the nearby network, in the future. But what would that actually say that we don't already know[1]? It may give us more details, but I don't imagine they'll change the plan for the tunnel (which doesn't take passenger traffic, making half the future considerations irrelevant) at all. I get the feeling waiting on the study is just another excuse for NIMBYs to delay the inevitable.

[1]: Relevant GGW articles include the two-parter from 2012 on through-running of MARC and VRE at http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/15728/through-running-isnt-so-easy-for-marc-and-vre-part-1/ and http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/15924/through-running-isnt-so-easy-for-marc-and-vre-part-2/

by TheOtherGlenmont on Aug 27, 2014 9:29 am • linkreport

WMATA. We didn't do anything wrong. We just realize that anyone who objectively lo

by JimT on Aug 27, 2014 9:40 am • linkreport

...looks at the evidence will conclude that we retaliate against whistleblowers.

by JimT on Aug 27, 2014 9:41 am • linkreport

@ Jasper - whether the CSX project is going to happen anyway is not the main point here. The council needs to exercise oversight of the proposed CSX VAT project, because both parties have been so secretive and opaque, and the entire process to date has been a complete and utter sham. Both CSX and DDOT refuse to answer the community's very reasonable and very basic questions, and, at yesterday's hearing, the Council’s questions, too. I won't try to list all of the unanswered questions here or attempt to explain the shady deals between CSX and DDOT that occurred well prior to completion of the NEPA process, but until all of the dirty laundry is aired here and basic questions answered (beyond meaningless platitudes and including how this project will impact commuter rail), this project should be stalled. The only harm is waiting is that CSX has to wait to increase its revenues. The Council can't get "proper accommodations" for residents when there are still so many unknowns.

And in anticipation of people throwing around the term "NIMBY" (which too often is just a lazy way to dismiss an opposing viewpoint without addressing its merits), consider that if you lived on a street that is going to be closed for at least 5 years without a clearly communicated plan for emergency vehicle access (among many other unanswered safety and livability questions), you may push for a delay until those questions are answered too.

by JG on Aug 27, 2014 9:44 am • linkreport

I'm worried for Maryland that they're probably already past meeting demand for casinos and will see diminishing returns soon. But maybe not.

Every time I've availed myself of the "Old Town Trolley" it's been super crowded. And that's because the "Trolley" is a tiny vehicle that is designed for nostalgia rather than efficient movement of people. The should ditch the trolley concept and just go with a regular bus.

by drumz on Aug 27, 2014 9:55 am • linkreport

The only harm is waiting is that CSX has to wait to increase its revenues.

The tunnel is functionally obsolete. It is difficult to maintain, difficult to signal, and if anything did go wrong, would be difficult to assist.

What happens if in all the congestion caused by the bottleneck a train derails and catches fire? What if it burns for days because the current tunnel lacks access for fireman.

Delaying the upgrade is a risk. It's a small risk, but it could happen.

by Richard on Aug 27, 2014 9:59 am • linkreport

@drumz - Completely agree with you about the Trolley, especially since it is designed to move tourist/visitors around town, the better experience they have, the better.

by Thad on Aug 27, 2014 10:00 am • linkreport

Gillig does make the "trolley" type buses in longer variants, and I've heard that DASH is at least getting one 35 foot, 2-door version. The current 30 foot, single door coaches are very claustrophobic in busy periods, even for a short ride.

by Lord Baltimore on Aug 27, 2014 10:08 am • linkreport

With the King St Trolley, the other option would be shorter headways. They currently run every 15 minutes and means that the small bus gets crowded (especially at the ends of King St.) during certain times of the day.

by Thad on Aug 27, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport

Or we could figure out how to make King street transit/pedestrian only. At least from Washington Street but preferably for longer. Then you could have the trolley and maybe extend some regular routes as well.

by drumz on Aug 27, 2014 10:19 am • linkreport

Okay, JG, how about instead of "NIMBY" I use "reactionary selfish nihilist."

by JR on Aug 27, 2014 10:19 am • linkreport

drumz

that would create problems for deliveries, taxicab drop offs, handicapped, etc, etc. Not to mention the "war on cars" backlash it would get (I mean there are still folks pissed at CaBi taking away a couple of parking spots) I think there are probably other things that should be tried first.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Aug 27, 2014 10:37 am • linkreport

@ JR - so, someone who cares about and wants to make sure one's loved ones and property are not put at undue risk (e.g., making sure a fire truck is actually able to access one's home) is a "reactionary selfish nihilist"? Um, okay. I would have hoped that people could discuss this issue without resorting to name-calling.

@ Richard - I get the argument for the tunnel being functionally obsolete. The FEIS does state that the tunnel has decades of useful life left with minimal risk of structural failure, but I understand the economic reasons why CSX wants to replace it. That alone, however, doesn't give them the automatic right do expand the tunnel or justify the way they, DDOT and FHWA have gone through the process or excuse them from providing straightforward, honest answers to legitimate questions.

by JG on Aug 27, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport

CBF,

Probably but I figure it's worth mentioning since we're on the topic. But bigger buses and greater frequency is a an obvious first step.

You could easily carve out exceptions to all of those things you mention as well. At least you could find examples that have worked elsewhere.

by drumz on Aug 27, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

I don't have a whole lot of dog in the CSX fight any more, since I've moved out of the neighborhood. But I think the CSX "Community Outreach" office that is part of the VA Ave tunnel project perfectly captures CSX's attitude towards the community. It's a portable trailer, set way back on a lot, with an enormous black fence at least 10 feet tall on every side. I've never seen the gate open for local residents to go in an ask what's up.

by Birdie on Aug 27, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

The current iteration of the King Street "trolley" vehicle is not great, but it's orders of magnitude better than the original ones from a few years ago.

by alexandrian on Aug 27, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

The FEIS does state that the tunnel has decades of useful life left with minimal risk of structural failure

Structural failures are not what one should be concerned about. If it collapses it will make a mess, but likely wouldn't harm too many people. If a fire starts and it burns toxic chemicals for days because there is no way for fireman to access it. That would be a problem.

See Baltimore's Howard Tunnel. It also has decades of structural life left, yet when there was a fire in 2001 there was nothing to be done but let it burn for 5 days and be glad what it was carrying wasn't that toxic.

by Richard on Aug 27, 2014 11:10 am • linkreport

I get that the residents near and along Virginia Avenue don't want their streets destroyed and are concerned about a host of construction-related problems. However, the only alternative I hear the opponents of the tunnel advocating are effectively abandoning the route.

While I'd personally like an alternative for MARC / VRE to bypass Union Station, I acknowledge that CSX has to have a realistic way to get to Virginia. We could create a crossing down river but that will costs untold billions and would need to get through just as many communities. I don't hear them speak on the a regional problem of bringing potentially volatile chemicals along the tracks in Deanwood, Brentwood or Takoma. It's okay if trains go there.

There should be no dispute that tunnel needs to be rebuilt for safety and legitimate monetary concerns. If the thing collapses, that would be a much more serious problem. The residents should excise a pound of flesh for being inconvenienced but they knew the tunnel was there before the purchased and that eventually, they would have to suffer its reconstruction.

by Randall M. on Aug 27, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

@ JG:Both CSX and DDOT refuse to answer the community's very reasonable and very basic questions, and, at yesterday's hearing, the Council’s questions, too. ... if you lived on a street that is going to be closed for at least 5 years without a clearly communicated plan for emergency vehicle access (among many other unanswered safety and livability questions), you may push for a delay until those questions are answered too.

So the problem is that the Council has allowed DDOT to make shady deals (how surprising), leading to questions not being answered. So the council needs to spend its time overseeing DDOT better, in stead of wasting everybody's time and pretending to care about the results of their poor oversight.

@ drumz:Or we could figure out how to make King street transit/pedestrian only.

But that would require eliminating parking or even closing King St for motorized traffic (gasp!). Charlottesville did that for their downtown area, and it paid off.

by Jasper on Aug 27, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

People got upset when they were talking about changing the traffic patterns at King and Union on Friday and Saturday night.

Closing King at Washington St is a non-starter. That's just too much. And actually pretty unnecessary. Car traffic and people traffic doesn't get clogged up there, like, ever. East of Fairfax is a different story and I'd be fine with closing King from there to the river. And making King cobblestones.

by Another Nick on Aug 27, 2014 11:12 am • linkreport

I'm worried for Maryland that they're probably already past meeting demand for casinos and will see diminishing returns soon. But maybe not.

My expectation is that Ocean Downs gets the money of Marylanders who otherwise go to Dover Downs, Western Maryland gets relatively little business no matter what but out there, they take what they can get. Perryville and Baltimore get Marylanders who otherwise go to Atlantic City. National Harbor gets new business from all over.

And Arundel Mills gets squeezed unless they can promote local gambling addiction. This slots parlor was always supposed to be at laurel race track but the track management bungled their application.

Maryland has its borders fairly well covered to keep resident gamblers in the state unless they really want to leave the state. Aside from National Harbor, gambling is unlikely to bring much money into the state and well it shouldn't.

by JimT on Aug 27, 2014 11:31 am • linkreport

A slightly less radical option for King Street would be to eliminate the parking and widen the sidewalks. Use the parallel streets as bike blvds, as is now planned, IIUC.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Aug 27, 2014 11:41 am • linkreport

@JR: nothing you've mentioned has anything to do with delaying the project for yet another study. That's just a way to waste time and drive up costs.

by Mike on Aug 27, 2014 11:44 am • linkreport

'Or we could figure out how to make King street transit/pedestrian only.'

There is a study happening to determine the feasibility of making part of King Street into a pedestrian plaza. It would extend from Union to Lee Streets approximately. That's not to say that this is being planned. It's just being considered.

Apparently, the city had made part of King Street into a pedestrian plaza in 2007(6?) however it did not go over well because the implementation was shoddy. Let's hope they get it better this time.

by CyclistinAlexandria on Aug 27, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

I'm worried for Maryland that they're probably already past meeting demand for casinos and will see diminishing returns soon.

I wouldn't worry about it. It's no different than worrying about how all the bars cropping up on 14th St may go past meeting demand for drinking and will see diminishing returns. It's a problem for bar owners and casino owners, not for their patrons.

by Falls Church on Aug 27, 2014 12:58 pm • linkreport

Why did the streetcar link get removed?

Motorists bring streetcar revenue: The DC streetcar is already bringing in revenue, in the form of parking tickets for motorists who block the tracks. Cars that are parked over the curbside parking line by just a few inches can obstruct streetcar operation. (WBJ)

by Low Headways on Aug 27, 2014 1:02 pm • linkreport

good, I'm glad they're issuing tickets. Because people who block the tracks block it for drivers who use those lanes, too. The amount of double parking that goes on on H Street NE is ridiculous.

by Birdie on Aug 27, 2014 1:32 pm • linkreport

@JG:
It may be that CSX and DDOT are failing to provide information or assurances on emergency vehicle access. But delaying the project won't magically solve that. Unfortunately, the vocal opposition has focused on trying to stop the project altogether, and the political aspirations of the Council appear more inclined to pander to those people, a useless gesture given the inevitability of the project.

by Joshua Cranmer on Aug 27, 2014 2:00 pm • linkreport

FC,

Let me be clear. I don't really have a problem with casinos, but I think Maryland is betting too much (ugh, I know) on them being the big revenue machine that they're hoping for.

So I worry for towns and cities who all thought that they found an easy way to increase their tax base and may end up realizing that they got in the game too late.

by drumz on Aug 27, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

I won't try to list all of the unanswered questions here or attempt to explain the shady deals between CSX and DDOT that occurred well prior to completion of the NEPA process, but until all of the dirty laundry is aired here and basic questions answered (beyond meaningless platitudes and including how this project will impact commuter rail), this project should be stalled.

What basic questions remain unanswered?

(e.g., making sure a fire truck is actually able to access one's home)

This is a basic requirement for any project, is it not? Is there any evidence that this won't be the case? That the Fire Department won't sign off on it?

I understand the economic reasons why CSX wants to replace it. That alone, however, doesn't give them the automatic right do expand the tunnel

Actually, I think CSX (and any railroad) does have an automatic right to maintain their infrastructure.

Part of the challenge about the right of way seems to be due to the fact that the original grant from Congress wasn't particularly precise; it merely defines what CSX can do (not that it gets X feet of ROW). They have the right to a two-track right of way, and their right to maintain that surely includes a new tunnel (as any bit of infrastructure will have a definite lifespan). It would seem that the DDOT occupancy permit a) clairified that definition of the ROW status, in exchange for b) the completion of a NEPA document for the project.

by Alex B. on Aug 27, 2014 2:16 pm • linkreport

I understand the economic reasons why CSX wants to replace it. That alone, however, doesn't give them the automatic right do expand the tunnel

The ROW they have is for double track, although they currently only use 1 track. The ROW they have is their property and they have property rights to build on it as they see fit. If they want a taller tunnel it's their right.

by Richard on Aug 27, 2014 2:33 pm • linkreport

About King St - Personally, I avoid driving on King St. as much as possible. I stick to Prince/Duke or Cameron to get from the Waterfront to the Metro Station. I think that making it pedestrian-only or a restricted street (bike/bus-only) would greatly improve the atmosphere and would allow for additional improvements to be made, such as wider sidewalks and better street furniture, that would make it an even better place to be.

About casinos in MD - I don't see the MGM at National Harbor in the same light as the others in MD. With its location at National Harbor and the mix of offerings and retail in the proposal, it will offer much more than even the new Baltimore Casino offers. I am not a gambler, but depending on the restaurants or shops I might venture over (or send the wife to the spa).

by Thad on Aug 27, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

I live in Navy Yard, but not directly adjacent to the tunnel. At first, I was opposed to this project, but I've come around to join the "it's going to happen, let's get as many concessions as we can out of CSX" camp. I wish the rest of the local opposition would come to the same conclusion so we can start focusing on things we can actually get (i.e., parks?) as opposed to things that we can't (i.e., a no-build scenario).

by JES on Aug 27, 2014 3:34 pm • linkreport

Re: Casinos, I totally agree with Thad. Vegas-style casinos are full-scale resorts; you can amuse yourself for hours without gambling away a single cent. The first time I went to Vegas, I didn't gamble at all, and I was there for 3 days. Those kind of resorts appeal to and attract a completely different clientele than suburban shopping mall casinos like Arundal Mills.

by JES on Aug 27, 2014 3:41 pm • linkreport

To be fair, Maryland Live (i.e. the casino at Arundel Mills) does have some other attractions besides gambling -- there are a few different dining options, and live entertainment at something called "Rams Head Center Stage" -- but it's true that it's not really on the level of a Vegas resort.

by iaom on Aug 27, 2014 4:50 pm • linkreport

JG wrote,

without a clearly communicated plan for emergency vehicle access

Let me assure you -- based on experience, since a fire in my neighborhood showed that emergency vehicles cannot access some of my neighbors' townhouses -- that it makes no difference at all. If a fire starts, the place burns down. Same as if the fire truck pulled right up to your door.

by Turnip on Aug 28, 2014 6:15 am • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or