It’s Alive… It’s Dead… It’s Alive…

The Tysons underground-railroad option arose from the dead yesterday when Frederal Transit Authority officials said that Virginia has until spring 2008 to submit its plans for the Rail-to-Dulles extension of the Metro system. Reports Alec MacGillis with the Washington Post:

Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) warned last summer that the delays involved in switching to a tunnel could throw the $4 billion project out of the current federal funding cycle, greatly jeopardizing the $900 million that Virginia hopes to receive. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) cited such warnings last fall in his decision not to support a tunnel.

But top federal transit officials, who have made few public comments on the project and its deadline, offered a different picture yesterday. They said the state would have until May 2008 — 15 months from now — to submit its final plans and pricing for the project and still qualify for the current funding cycle, assuming the submission is acceptable.

Running the tunnel underground is critical for plans to re-develop Tysons along the lines of a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly community. But it’s premature for anyone to celebrate. Matthew O. Tucker, director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, said that concerns remain, including potentially higher costs of a tunnel and the delay of waiting another year to begin construction.

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12 responses to “It’s Alive… It’s Dead… It’s Alive…”

  1. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    I found this at Raising Kaine:
    Dragados has presented a fixed-bid and is $200 million less and 12 months faster than the elevated rail by Bechtel.;jsessionid=412CDD5B861CB848E6EE40C38629D1EF?diaryId=7005

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    There is a blog thats been all over this


  3. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    We should also keep in mind that the FTA’s administrator reminded everyone that there is no assurance that the proposal, with or without a tunnel, would pass the mandatory cost-benefit test for federal funding.

    There are also issues with the need to add another Potomac River tunnel, rebuild or reinforce a number of the bridges on the DTR to handle heavy rail and supplement power plants. None of those costs are included in the plan before the FTA, but someone needs to pay them. In October 2001, the Washington Post carried a story that the new tunnel under the Potomac River would cost $6.3 B. IMO, those costs are likely higher now.

    That’s the bad news. The good news is that the FTA now estimates there might be more than 19,000 new passengers on the Silver Line by 2030. Up from 16,000 or so.

    Cynics might suggest that this plan is still too expensive even for a walkable Tysons Corner that is projected to generate an additional 600,000 vehicle trips daily after rezoning occurs.

    What a place to live — Fairfax County, Virginia!

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “mandatory cost-benefit test for federal funding. “

    wait… wait.. this can’t be… Ray’s been telling me that there is all cost and no benefit..


    Seriously…. why don’t roads have a cost/benefit threshold that the Feds would use to turn them down if they failed?

  5. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    There is plenty of space in the Metro Rosslyn Tunnel. You can fit twice as many trains through a tunnel as you can handle at the station platforms. Building new stations and bypass tracks is cheaper then tunneling. This is how the New York subway supports local and express service with single tracks in each direction between stations.

  6. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Thank you Jim W. That is a good comment and accurate as far as it goes. But, building new stations and bypass tracks is still an enormously expensive operation.

    It would have been nice if we had designed that possibility in from the start, especially since the stations represent such a large part of Metro costs. (That’s a little thing that does not factor in when people talk about the efficiency of carrying people by rail. They only look at the transport costs, not the total costs.)

    You will notice, that even though the promise was made not to expand 66 inside the beltway, that the powers that be were carefule enough to build the overpasses wide enough to accommodate extra lanes later.

    For the record, I think that Rail to Dulles is a good idea, though I’m not sure it needs to be Metro.

    For the record, since Tysons has become the new de facto center of the job world in NOVA, then Tyson’s should have Metro. I can envision a new Metro map that looks like a dog biscuit, with a bunch of stations around Tyson’s (where the contractors work) and a bunch of stations downtown (where the government ostensibly works), with the Orange line being the part in the middle.

    I never said there was no benefit, only that the benefit exists only for certain places. Those places are a small portion of the total area. And even for those places, Metro isn’t and never will be the total answer. Winston and Shirley and Anthony Downs have each said as much, in different ways.

    There is no point in bashing cars and parking, and equally there is no point in over-promoting rail and “alternative” transit as if it was really an alternative. These things are not alternatives, but they are additional options. We should consider them,and apply them when they make sense.

    What we shouldn’t do is pretend they make sense when they don’t, or promote a particular option because it suits our ideology.

    I suspect that TMT is pretty close to right. Even if we pull off a workable design, and even if we can afford to build Metro there, we will still generate more, not less, traffic congestion.

    The real cost benefit question we need to be asking is whether all this expense and additional traffic congestion, angst, and pollution is worth the riches it will generate. If it is, then we need to make sure that some of the riches go to those who pay the expenses and endure the congestion, pollution, and angst.

    Rather than charging us congestion taxes to get there, such places should be paying us to endure them. That way, they would be paying their full locational costs!

  7. Ray Hyde Avatar

    The mandatory federal cost benefit test really is a sanity check.

    We as Virginians are highly invested in Tysons, and we may be tempted to propose things that don’t make sense.

    The Feds, on the other hand, have many projects to choose from. They can afford to choos e those that have the LEAST amount of hype and the most real benefit for the buck. That is one reason I say we shoot ourselves in the foot when we make arguments than sound more or less like Fantasia.

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “These things are not alternatives, but they are additional options.We should consider them,and apply them when they make sense.”

    Are you talking about ALL transportation options including roads and rail?

    Why should we have DIFFERENT criteria for whether one option or the other “makes sense”?

    Why not one criteria for cost/benefit?

    You say METRO is enormously expensive when backfitting in developed areas.

    Is that not true with roads also?

    How much right of way does METRO require verses right of way for urban interstates?

    You say that total cost should be the criteria.

    Parts of METRO’s cost is dealing with it’s own network congestion… which adds to it’s costs.

    Why do we not do that with roads?

    When you built a new road – you cause congestion and backups on the connecting roads.

    Why do we not consider the cost to upgrade the connecting roads as a legitimate part of the cost of the new road?

  9. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    JW – You make a very good point. The heavy use of stations between Foggy Bottom and Stadium-Armory during rush hours is a significant limitation on Metro’s capacity. As you correctly suggest, building additional tracks and station capacity would be a fix. But since all of the goodies from the Silver Line flow to Tysons Corner landowners, what incentive does always-cash-strapped Washington have to pay for those added facilitities?

    Another solution proffered by West Group’s minions would be to run eight-car trains all of the time. But I’ve been informed that this would require rebuilding a majority of the power stations and adding rail yard and repair capacity. Of course, none of those costs are included in any of the cost estimates.

    I wonder how much Bus Rapid Transit capacity we could add for the same amount of money? Or build secure telework centers in outlying counties?

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    One of the significant issues with regard to dedicated lanes for carpool, vans and buses is how they are separated.

    There are two primary methods.

    One is a painted line and the other is a physical separation.

    The physical separation is hugely more expensive even though it offers signficantly more functionality.

    For instance, bus rapid transit on dedicated HOV lanes would “work” much, much better and could then become a truly multi-modal complement to METRO.

    THEN you COULD offer FARE tolls to drivers and many would probably make the change…

    The KEY to having this work is funding.

    Congestion Pricing would be how to build such a fund.

    that is if we can keep greedy hands from taking the money for inappropriate purposes.

    Again.. I do NOT UNDERSTAND why your own elected GA guys do NOT come back to you with plans like I am suggesting that citizens probably would support if the law was done to protect the framework offered to citizens…

    OH.. I forgot.. they tried that with I-66 .. but just had to break that promise – right?

    That sure gives everyone up there incentive to trust government doesn’t it?

  11. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “Why do we not consider the cost to upgrade the connecting roads as a legitimate part of the cost of the new road?”

    Why didn’t I think of that? when they ran 66 across the frm I coulod have had them pave my driveway.

    Course, then I would have had to pay for maintenance. I can drive on ruts more or less for free.

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    New roads don’t relieve congestion – they merely “speed” it to the next road that has not been improved.

    This is the equivalent of METRO building new tracks that connect to old tracks that cannot handle the increased load.

    IF Proposed Road projects were actually judged on whether or not they reduced REGIONAL congestion as a factor in approved funding, the kinds and types of roads being proposed would be radically different.

    We keep hitting on Transit as not reducing congestion.

    Show me a road that reduces congestion on the same basis that Metro is being claimed to not reduce it.

    Do you think the ICC is going to reduce congestion?

    Not even the folks who are bulding it cite that as a benefit.

    Why are we not all over the ICC for not reducing congestion?

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