Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, June 27, 2011

They told you so: transportation edition

Chris Carney protests the Inter-County Connector
Chris Carney, a member of the Sierra Club, protests the proposed route for the Inter-County Connector. (Baltimore Sun photo by Elizabeth Malby). Jul 11, 2005

In blog entries in 2005 and 2006, I wrote about the campaign against the Inter County Connector toll road in Montgomery County. See "What's Driving the Intercounty Connector?" from 2006 or "Maryland Matters" from 2005.

Advocates made the point that the cost of the road would require a disproportionate amount of Maryland's total funding for transportation infrastructure.

And the Baltimore Sun, more focused to be true on Baltimore but also the entire state of Maryland, had a negative position on the freeway, as opposed to the Washington Post, which was very much in favor. See "Interesting difference of opinion between the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post on the Inter County Connector."

Now, Maryland is on the brink of raising toll fees across the various state facilities where they are charged, and Michael Dresser, in today's Baltimore Sun writes that the environmentalists were right, although he faults their approach. See "Getting There: Myths abound when officials talk toll increases; Democrats, Republicans both put us in this position."

From the article:

The opposition was underwhelming. The public, accustomed to thinking of tolls as relatively painless trifles, hardly raised a fuss. Business leaders were thrilled. Journalists, including myself, were distracted by the sexy issue of slots and barely paid attention when tolls were raised on the Harbor and Susquehanna River crossings in 2003.

Yes, the environmentalists tried to warn us that the ICC tolls would be high. And they were proved right. But I don't recall them ever talking about the tolls on the Fort McHenry Tunnel and Key Bridge. Had they successfully tapped into concerns about regional equity, they might have been more effective.

When the Ehrlich administration came up with its debt-heavy financing package for the ICC and the I-95 Express Toll Lanes, legislators forced some tweaks but basically gave it their blessing. A few far-out liberals raised a fuss, but the Democratic leadership and Republican minority were all for it.

More than eight years later, we're getting the bill for those decisions. The Maryland Transportation Authority has proposed a sweeping set of toll increases, the most in the state's history. And unhappy motorists are looking for someone to blame.

... We put Maryland in this position collectively. We wanted to avoid higher gas taxes, but we wanted new highways, too. Our elected officials, with few exceptions, signed on the dotted line. As a state, we pawned the revenue from all our toll facilities — not just the new ones. And we got some great interest rates in the process.

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