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Around the Corner

December 11, 2012
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It’s been a while since we’ve looked around our area to see what’s going on. Today Around the Corner;

Jenifer Joy Madden makes the case on why Tysons as the city from scratch is a great starting point to begin planning infrastructure around the idea of driverless cars. (WaPo)

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Intelsat goes into more detail about why tax breaks were simply not a large deciding factor in selecting Tysons as their new home. It came down to the benefits of metro, car access, premiere shopping and food, and versatile space coupled with low lease rates. (Washington Business Journal)

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Bob McDonnell shows up when its convenient to tout his business prowess (even though the 1 million dollar tax break to Intelsat wasn’t really a deciding factor in their selection of Virginia as a home… see above) but his treatment of Northern Virginia out of political spite over the past 2 years has been about as anti-business as one could conceive. By removing the responsibility of the state to provide a working infrastructure he has caused our local government to take on significant risk moving forward as well as putting much of the responsibility on businesses which are already struggling with a sluggish economy and fiscal cliff fears.

Don’t worry though Virginia, it took him long enough but he now has an idea. Let’s create innovative tax revenue! Interesting… since people have been screaming about the gas tax for nearly a decade but had it all but blockaded by Republicans against raising it. I guess our near catastrophic collapse of infrastructure funding in the state has woken up the “let’s invest later” GOP. If Bobby is serious, he’ll start considering ideas like local parking revenue, full local share of gas taxes, and air rights.

Smart growth advocates say the Governor’s plans are nothing if the money continues to get wasted on projects like the Coalfields Expressway. (Wapo)

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The Connection must be getting the spillover on transit bashing when the Washington Examiner is too busy. One thing is for sure their commentaries are about as shallow and unestablished as the Examiner’s. Within the first sentence the paper accuses WMATA’s redline accident of killing 29… only about 20 more people than actually died. Then it goes on to say a bunch of “daunting” things about the Silver line… like how it will require planning and thought. My GOD! You are right, that sounds so tough we should never do it!

The sad thing is how many people eat this up as if it is some sort of expert analysis on the problems with thinking outside of the box of let’s build more roads. The story has almost nothing to do with the silver line and is really more of a complaint against WMATA as a whole and beyond that it takes the worst case scenario, not the likely and probable case with Tysons and the silver line, in order to create the air of some impending doom when the silver line opens. (Connection)

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Urban Concept of the Day

All lanes are not alike. Many times when transportation planners and engineers talk about road projects they simply equate the number of lanes to the capacity of the road. They don’t question how the alignment, speed, and configuration of those lanes may prohibit other forms of use, create unwanted barriers to retail, and uglier frontage for residents. Let’s say your city has it in their head that it simply must add two more lanes to reduce congestion. Many times us urbanists argue that the road widening will damage the fabric of the core of the city, the very thing the transportation planner is trying to access and improve, so we stand in its way. Time after time we have seen that this obstruction is not a valid form of argument as it doesn’t provide enough counter point to the commuter design aspects of state DOTs.

Let’s be free of this road or no road dichotomy by looking at roads that are 6, 8, or 10 lanes wide and still maintain urbanity and access to all forms of transportation. The key isn’t how many lanes, but how they are laid out. A 6-lane or 8-lane road becomes only a 3 or 4 lane obstruction when it is separated by a median park (many examples smaller than 25′ in width) or even better a thinner block of development (40 to 50′ wide). When you are dealing with urban corridors the right of ways available are often in the range of 110 to 150′. The lanes only make up 72′-96′ of that space. How you arrange the rest of that space doesn’t have to be as cookie cutter as the Virginia Road Design Manual dictates. To be serious about urban design you can’t just take the stance of being against something, you have to adapt designs to provide the most benefit to all sides of the argument.

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