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Get There: January 14, 2007 - January 20, 2007

Breakthrough in Virginia

For the first time in two decades, Virginia is on the verge of making a strong commitment to improving its transportation system. The state's next big hurdle will be to spend the money wisely. Maybe that's thinking too far ahead. After all, what happened on Thursday did not create a new transportation plan for the state. It didn't guarantee more rail cars for Metro or traffic relief on Interstate 66. But it was easily the most significant day in many years for the drivers and transit riders who are vexed by the problems of getting around the Washington suburbs. As of Jan. 18, 2007, the leaders of Virginia's two main political parties agree that the transportation system is very important and very broken, and that it requires a big fix. Now, it becomes a question of working out the details. That can be done, as long as outriders on either...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 19, 2007; 7:20 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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What's Ahead For Projects

Look at the Maryland Department of Transportation Web site today and you'll see the brand new line up of state leaders across the top and a new welcome message from John Porcari, Gov. Martin O'Malley's choice to lead the transportation department. What else is different? Porcari told me that he saw no reason to stop the intercounty connector, the suburban Washington highway that former governor Bob Ehrlich put on the fast track. But Porcari also is likely to show a greater interest in improving transit than was evident during the previous administration. He's hoping to make some relatively quick improvements in MARC train and commuter bus services, for example. His predecessor, Bob Flanagan, was enthralled with the possibility of creating bus rapid transit systems. He had the department looking at them for the proposed Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway. Last week, Porcari accompanied O'Malley to a town hall meeting...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 18, 2007; 7:41 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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When Commutes Go Bad

Neil Pedersen, the Maryland state highway adminstrator, told me a while ago that it isn't so much the length of a commute that bothers travelers as the lack of reliability in a commute. I've been thinking about that during the six months I've been reading letters from travelers. Sure, people do complain about the length of the trips, both in time and distance. They might say so in the context of writing that we need to create more affordable housing near work centers, like the District or Tysons. But for many people, the length of the trip is a given. It's not the thing that really vexes them. It's the thing that goes wrong that they complain about. It might be something that goes wrong and directly affects them or it might be something going on around them that they think is unfair. I've heard from a commuter whose trip...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 17, 2007; 8:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Commuting  
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Maryland's Transportation Plans

John Porcari, who returns to the job of Maryland transportation secretary on Wednesday, isn't looking for wiggle room on the state's commitment to build the intercounty connector highway. "It will be under construction" during the upcoming term of Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley, Porcari told me. When I noted that he wasn't leaving himself an escape hatch, despite the continuing controversy over the connector and an environmental lawsuit, he said: "No, I'm really not. Anything could happen, but I do think it's been studied enough, it's been scrutinized enough and it has been debated enough that all the significant issues have been vetted one way or another." Porcari already has served a term as transportation secretary, under the previous Democratic governor, Parris Glendening. During those years, he helped launch two of the region's biggest and, so far, most successful projects: the Wilson Bridge reconstruction and the redevelopment of BWI-Marshall Airport. But Porcari...

By Robert Thomson  |  January 16, 2007; 8:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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