Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Friday's Streetcar groundbreaking really means

City Manager Milton Dohoney and Mayor Mark Mallory are Friday convening a media event with Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, to break ground for the long-delayed Streetcar.

What does this mean for the Streetcar, what does this mean for the taxpayers, and what does this mean for the City?

For starters, it means nothing.  The Streetcar media event is just that -- a media event.  No problems have been solved, no issues addressed.  It's a press conference.

But it really is more than that, isn't it?  It's the Mayor and Manager planting a flag, saying from this point we are going forward.  There is no more planning; it's all implementation from here.  We are forming contractual obligations, issuing bonds, and turning dirt.  Yes, it probably means that as well.

But it is also funny to watch the City fathers and Streetcar proponents' glee at this step, as the plan as no budget, inadequate financing, and unanswered legal, safety and operational questions.

Most notably, the City does not have the money budgeted to properly move lines for MSD and Duke Energy (gas, electric and chilled water), and does not have a legal and engineering plan to not move them. 

So, what that means is that the City will either move forward with an illegal and improperly engineered Streetcar plan, or one that it has not budgeted for, and which budget is "off" already by about $15 million.  Does either of these options sound prudent to you?

That's a heck of a way to run a railroad, as COASTers see it.

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