Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mo-Fo Excessway

And speaking of poor policy and planning decisions, I noticed a series of articles in both the Trib and the P-G on that engineering monstrosity called the Mon-Fayette Expressway. First, the Trib:

The head of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on Tuesday urged lawmakers to decide whether to build the Mon-Fayette Expressway through Allegheny County or scrap the project.

"What has to occur from today on, if people believe the project should be finished, is the political leadership in the state has to have the courage to fund it," commission CEO Joe Brimmeier said during a forum hosted by the Urban Land Institute at the Rivers Club, Downtown...

That section through Allegheny County is projected to cost $2.4 billion...

Possible sources of additional money includes gasoline taxes, drivers' fees and leasing the highway to a private company.

There is no indication that lawmakers intend to raise taxes or fees. The commission is talking with an Australian company, Macquarie Group, about possibly forming a public-private partnership that could generate the money needed to complete the highway.
And from the P-G:
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman said officials of towns in the path of the Mon-Fayette Expressway need to know whether the project will be built.

"You've created a ribbon that's a dead zone through the middle of Braddock," Mr. Fetterman said. "Otherwise, you're causing more hardship than we already have [and] we have to develop alternate plans. You need to establish a jumping-off point."
As you can guess from my above, snarky comments, I have some ideas on this matter, primary of which is to scrap the whole damned plan. I'm not interested in creating a "Cranberry South" that will detract much needed revenue and resources from communities that need them more. I do not believe that the State and Local Governments should be active participants in facilitating sprawl or unsustainable development.

But hey, that's me.

Still, being a Bureaucrat (or at least that's the claim in the title of this 'blog), I can understand a simple principle here, namely Rule #18: "Money is not created equal": PennDOT, the Locals, the State, all of them are going to lose this money if they don't spend it, and they can't just spend it on anything. A $2.4 Billion investment in Beanie-Babies is right out, as is doubling down on Red 18. No, PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission need to spend this money on the Mon-Fayette, else they get $0, nothing, nada.

That, however, is not the best reason to build this thing. Just because it's an expressway doesn't mean that you have to build an expressway... even if the plans were on display (in a disused lavatory in a locked filing cabinet, in the basement, where the lights had gone out and a big sign had been posted saying "Beware of the Leopard".) PennDOT may have to give this project up, but here are some suggestions/alternative, none of which are very original:

(1) OK, the primary reason, or so I've been told, that the Mon-Fayette has to be built is that so many of the old, disused mill sites could be more readily used if they had better access to transportation, i.e., tractor trailers are necessary to access any light industrial sites that could be developed. That's a fair assessment, and it could have been much more useful in, say, 1970... however, that does not preclude an expansion or reengineering of existing roads and highways to better accommodate these transportation and shipping needs. I don't quite understand why highways are the only solution to this problem. Something tells me that a four land "West Braddock Grand Boulevard" would go over much better than a four lane expressway.

(2) Alright, you'll lose the tolls. Fine. Take the hit, but you won't have to do so much massive engineering. There, I've slashed your costs.

(3) Seriously guys, shit or get off the pot.

(4) If your big concern is the flow of commuters from the Steel Valley to Downtown Pittsburgh, you could always regulate the flow by installing some sort of Light Rail or mass transportation system along the existing CSX lines... although, I suppose that that would pose problems of its own... but it beats the hell out of the North Shore Connector!

(5) Dicking around doesn't help anyone, least of all the rust belt towns along the Mon.

So, at this late hour, those are my thoughts. If you are up this late to read them, shame on you.

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