Saturday, January 12, 2008

Onorato Takes Lead for MFX; Slams Fork into Eye for Encore

There are few things in Western Pennsylvania public policy that I get as angry about as the Mon-Fayette Expressway: a heaping, hulking stretch of highway that is supposed to stretch from Downtown Pittsburgh to the the grand metropolis of Morgantown WV, thereby spawning economic development, freeing up transportation opportunities for the Mon Valley, and otherwise launching a wave of unsubstantiatable goals and accomplishments.

Oh, and it'll probably cost a zillion dollars, rip through a whole slew of communities, contribute to the destruction of undeveloped greenfields to the south, aid in urban flight, and bring on the thousand year reign of the Antichrist.

Well, maybe not the last one, but you get my drift.

Of course, Gubernatorial Candidate (né Allegheny County Executive) Danny Onorato is now throwing his weight behind this Public Policy equivalent of a fruitcake: something no one really wants, but everyone, for some inexplicable reason, decides that they have to give away.

On Friday, Chief Executive Dan Onorato convened a meeting of 60 state, local and county political and business leaders to develop a plan to finance the $3.6 billion section of the project that would run through Allegheny County...

"The expressway and Squirrel Hill bypass are critically important regional transportation and economic development projects," Onorato said.

"The Mon-Fayette will provide linkages and open up old industrial sites to jobs and commerce in the south, and its Squirrel Hill bypass will provide important traffic congestion relief to Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs."
Maybe back in the 1970s, right as the United States steel industry was on the verge of collapse and as a preemptive measure for the reuse of old brownfield sites, this policy may have made some sense. Now, it's like closing the barn door after the horse has left, run down the street, gotten on a plane, flown to Hollywood, and married Matthew Broderick. Today, with oil prices rising, the home construction industry collapsing, and the economy on the brink of full on recession, the MFX makes as much sense as the entire female population of Nome, Alaska screaming Thursday's lottery numbers at composer Philip Glass.

And just how bad is this idea, you ask? Well, Luke Ravenstahl seems to be supporting it, if that gives you any indication.

Of course, should he want to make a go at running for Governor, Danny O is going to need some generous contributions from people with disposable cash on hand... let's say, perhaps, people in the construction and building trades. So, you can see how important this policy is to the regional economy and has absolutely, in no way, has anything even remotely to do with anything relating to campaign contributions.

The sad part about this whole thing, however, is that the longer this bad idea stays alive in people's minds, the less people are going to invest in these communities, in anticipation that the Turnpike commission is just going to buy them out anyway. No one wants to buy a house (or even fix up a house) that may just be taken by eminent domain in the near future. Steel Valley municipalities and neighborhoods will keep going down the toilet and the tax payers will, once again, be subsidizing new construction in previously undeveloped areas...

That is, until those areas need a bypass too, and we start all over again.

So, you know, well done Danny, Luke, and everyone. Well done.

No comments: