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.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

The National Park Service shouldn't be on the hook for basic roadway infrastructure in the Washington Metropolitan Area

Because Washington, DC is the National Capital, and because of various federal government initiatives over the past hundred years concerned with augmenting the aesthetic elements of the National Capital Region, the National Park Service, operator of such national parks as Yosemite National Park in California or Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming/Montana, is also responsible for a number of roadways that act as fundamental elements of the area's transportation system including:

- the George Washington Parkway and Mount Vernon Parkway in Virginia
- Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Maryland
- Clara Barton Parkway and Suitland Parkway in Maryland and the District of Columbia
- Rock Creek Parkway in the District of Columbia; and
- the Arlington Memorial Bridge which crosses the Potomac River and connects the National Mall in DC to Arlington National Cemetery.

For a few years it's been known that the Arlington Memorial Bridge needs significant repairs.

The bridge is in the news today (WTOP radio,"DC's Arlington Memorial Bridge could close in 5 years") because NPS announced that if the bridge isn't repaired within 5 years, it will have to be closed to vehicular traffic.  It's estimated that the repairs will cost $250 million.

It happens that this year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and the system has been underfunded for decades, with estimates of a repair backlog totalling $11 billion or more ("National Park Service delayed $11 billion in maintenance," Post).

It'd be best for NPS money to be spent on parks, and transportation monies separate from NPS funding should be spent on local roads.

I would argue that NPS should not be financially responsible for maintaining what are for the most part, locally-serving roads, and instead, operational and financial responsibility should be devolved to the local jurisdictions in which these roadways are located.

Note that already the State of Maryland handles maintenance for most of the B-W Parkway.

Added note: one of the problems of the borders of DC--that is to the west bank of the Potomac River--creates for DC and the transportation system is that the cost of the bridges are fully DC's financial responsibility, even though they serve Virginia equally.

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At 10:55 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Off topic (for homeless):

I believe NPS also controls some streets around the Mall which make zero sense.

For whatever reason they have been cutting down on maintainance. GW Parkway used to be best paved road in area,and it is nightmare now. And no trucks!

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

thanks for the cite.

and yes, about other streets. E.g., the two streets on the National Mall--where they don't have parking meters, Jefferson Drive and Madison Drive, I believe are NPS streets.

From a TDM standpoint, they should have parking meters.

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

I believe NPS also has Constitution Ave.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt the article about NYCHA... the problem is that this gets down to the issue again of acting like asset managers.

There's a book, Strategic Marketing for Not For Profit Organizations, that is out of print (I no longer have a copy). He starts out recounting a lecture he was giving at Berkeley, talking about PPBS and other project management and evaluative tools. Students criticized the tools as products of the Vietnam War.

He went to his car, got a hammer a piece of wood, a nail, and a vase.

he went back, broke the vase with the hammer, and nailed the nail into the wood, making the point that tools are tools, how you use them is up to you.

The Manhattan Institute dude's ideas are flawed, because he doesn't see the fact that the people living there still need to live somewhere, although there is no question that NYCHA needs to be managed as an asset best in class, and opportunities to realize new development need to be acted upon, so that new revenues can be harvested to maintain the portfolio. Some of it could be market rate, some still subsidized.

The problem is managing the properties as assets would be seen as politically fraught I think, that "management" "asset management" would be the equivalent of expletives.

But take a firm like Brookfield or Hines or Bozzuto--they know what they're doing and they have very detailed and specific protocols for maintaining and increasing the value of the assets they own or manage.

We need to do the same with public assets.

And get control of them, cf. the stuff about the Community Safety Partnership, civic assets/civic engagement elements, and say Regent Park in Toronto, just written up in the NYT, although the Toronto Star did a series on it too:

I also figure I need to read the book, _The Public Wealth of Nations_ reviewed in this article:

The issue is that managing for yield can mean more than just $, also quality (what in transportation we call LOQ vs. LOS, Levels of Service) and outcomes concerning quality of life.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

yes, I think you're right about Constitution Ave. I think they problem have some MOU with DC about maintenance about that street.

In any case, these roads are part of the city and/or metropolitan road system and should be the financial responsibility of the jurisdictions, not NPS.

The Mall could go either way. But if the city were to do my "heritage streetcar" transportation-integrated visitor management system on the National Mall, the city could take financial responsiblity for those roads too, even though normally they are wholly within federal jurisdiction.

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

don't want to start off topic blog fight on public housing! disagree, think time limiting on public housing a good idea.

Yes, TDM on those streets a good idea. Not enough parking near the mall (garages). although I am always glad to get on e of those spots when drive down to the mall for an early morning run.

Interesting, there is also an agreement in place to enforce state laws on the various federal roads. there is no federal crime of speeding. They go to the federal courthouse though, not the local courts.

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Umm, I think you were the one who brought up Singapore...

And there are the UK, Austria, and German examples.

I'm not saying we're doing things the right way in the US. Mostly we aren't.

But the reality is that the issue of housing is one of supply, and high priced markets aren't set up to provide housing to people unable to compete in those markets. The market isn't really set up to deal with low income segments either.

I'm not a fan of throwing people out on their a**.

At 8:48 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Again, don't want to get into a fight on an off topic issue that you haven't fully put out in a blog post -- otherwise it is just signaling on various preferences we have.

More off topic:

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

am gonna write a post recounting these arguments. the big thing is taking an asset management approach.

The other is a civic engagement/social contribution-cooperative type element.

At 1:32 AM, Blogger ardecila said...

The limited-access parkway is really an endangered species in America. There weren't that many of them to begin with, but they are important developments in transportation generally and historic works of landscape design.

Commuters on the GW Parkway may not appreciate the finer points of the road, but to this Midwesterner accustomed to a roadside landscape of billboards and golden arches, DC's parkways are a remarkable and civilized way to build a high-speed road through the city.

I hate to think what would happen if the DC-area parkways were turned over to DOTs... probably the same that happened to the parkways around NYC, where all the most beautiful aspects of the designs were slowly eliminated by engineers and bean counters who made the Bronx River Parkway look like a bypass around Buffalo.

At 4:57 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Minneapolis issue. Bridges over the Midtown Greenway, a former rail corridor, are deteriorating. The bridges are controlled by the County. The access at grade benefits the city. The County doesn't want to pay to repair/replace most of the bridges.


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