Saturday, August 8, 2009

DC Doesn't Vote on Passenger Rail Transportation

Now they're stuck with a boondoggle.

Washington, DC's former transportation director went to Portland and drank the streetcar kool-aid. It impaired his judgement tremendously. He returned and immediately set about designing the Anacostia line.

On November 13, 2004, Metro broke ground in Anacostia on a light rail line that would explore the usefulness of streetcars in ferrying people to the main Metro line. The line consists of 2.7 miles (4 kilometers) of dedicated right-of-way and six stations. Service was expected to begin in 2006.

District transportation officials had negotiated a $16 million payment to CSX Transportation for use of the right-of-way. But they later discovered that CSX was not the sole owner of the right-of-way; the city, for one, owned part of it. In April 2005, they put the project on hold and began to plan an alternate 2.2-mile route on city streets.

The new plan received neighborhood opposition and remains on hold. But none of this stopped officials from purchasing three brand-new trolleys just like Portland's. For over three years now, they've been gathering dust over in the Czech Republic at the Skoda-Indecon factory where they were made.

It seems the historic area this streetcar line was supposed to serve has a ban on overhead wires like those needed to power the trolley. Details like that tend to get noticed under the intense public scrutiny of a vote.

Now they're stuck with a $10 million white elephant which they are desperately trying not to waste. Sound familiar? Hey DC, we have some unused subway tubes and an empty riverfront transit center you can store your trolleys in! Might as well let the boondoggles keep each other company.

Don't let this happen (again) to us. Enact the anti-boondoggle charter amendment.


  1. COAST, just looking for clarification here, at the end of your post you say:

    "Don't let this happen (again) to us..."

    When did it happen here the first time? The only comparable project Cincinnati has ever had to the construction of the DC Metro, is the construction of our Rapid Transit Loop subway line, which voters approved a 6 million dollar bond issue for, unlike in DC.

    Unfortunately, the broad language of the charter amendment would significantly prevent assets like our subway and transit center from ever being used to their full potential and purpose.

    Even the Enquirer is questioning the broad language of your charter amendment:

  2. All dressed up and nowhere to go - just like the Cincinnati subway and Cincinnati Transit Center.

  3. To advocate for a vote just because another city didn't do its due diligence seems silly.

    Should we assume that our city won't do its research just because another city didn't?

    Perhaps we can learn from DC's experience and make sure we look closely at the issues they failed to. Just like we can learn from other cities how their streetcar experiences resulted in booming economic development.

  4. "Should we assume that our city won't do its research just because another city didn't?"

    - No. But we should look at the recent past and realize that the elected officials and bureaucrats in City government have made some extremely bad decisions regarding large capital projects. Instead of just accepting that they know what is right in this situation we should hold them accountable to the the will of those they say they serve - the citizens.


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