Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
Report Recommends Major Transportation Improvements for U.S. Capital Region
Never mind Amazon HQ2/2. Everything else in the extended Greater Washington, D.C. region — a territory stretching from Baltimore to Richmond — will put a severe strain on the regional transportation system in the years ahead.
According to an article on Smart Cities Dive, the Greater Washington Partnership’s “Capital Region Report for Regional Mobility” states that the region’s transportation network is already “too often failing to meet our needs.” And it’s only going to get worse: if the region simply makes the transportation investments it’s currently planning to make between now and 2040, congestion will rise to 150 percent over 2015 levels. In the words of the report’s executive summary, “as the population continues to grow, the system is on the path to become a liability that undermines our competitiveness and impedes our quality of life.”
The remedy, the report argues, involves increased coordination of planning and projects by the multiple agencies involved in building and running transportation facilities and services. Its four primary goals: “connecting the super-region,” “improving consumer experience,” “ensuring equitable access” and “integrating innovation.”
Some of the projects and ideas promoted in the report have been urgently needed for years, such as replacement of the 145-year-old B&P tunnels that carry Amtrak and MARC trains under West Baltimore; some are new, such as congestion pricing in the core business districts and an expanded network of express toll roads. Others, such as offline mobile fare payment, would make the experience of riding transit more convenient and faster for commuters.
The report did not go so far as to put a price tag on the actions it recommends. Instead, it stated that it should serve as “a springboard for discussion and action.” Those discussions presumably would cover timeframes, costs, and sources of funding for the various projects as well as what specific projects should be pursued and when.
The Greater Washington Partnership is a new organization formed by CEOs from the region’s largest private-sector businesses.
London Assembly Also Recommends Regional Rail Transport Improvements
Meanwhile, London is on track to complete one of those major transportation improvements: the Elizabeth Line, aka Crossrail, a new express subway line through the heart of London now set to open in the fall of 2019. Plans for a second Crossrail tunnel are also moving forward.
But the London Assembly, the 25-member body charged with holding the Mayor of London accountable for promises made and policies implemented by the Greater London Authority, sees other issues that need to be addressed in order for London’s regional rail network to adequately serve residents of the United Kingdom’s capital region.
Metro Report International reports that its report “Broken Rails: A Rail Service Fit for Passengers,” released on Nov. 26, identifies six areas in need of attention and improvement in the near term. These include: Signal upgrades and new turnback sidings that would enable Transport for London (TfL) to operate more frequent and longer trains; improved station access for pedestrians, bicyclists and riders with disabilities; the creation of station user groups for every rail station; the development of a comprehensive rail strategy for the London region by operating agency TfL and infrastructure manager Network Rail; increased funding to enable the completion of high-priority accessibility upgrades in the next five years; and an increase in overall funding for rail network improvement projects in the region aimed at increasing the frequency and amount of passenger service that can run.
The Assembly also stated that it would support the transfer of responsibility for awarding operating contracts for London regional rail services downward from the national Department for Transport to TfL, but stressed that “it is critical that improvements to London’s suburban rail services are prioritized now and regardless of which operators are running the services.”
Another Delay for BRT Project in Pakistan
The English-language Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports that the center-right Pakistan Tareek-i-Inshaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) party government will likely miss a March 23 deadline it has set for completion of a signature transportation project, a bus rapid transit line in Peshawar.
This new deadline is itself 11 months past the originally scheduled date for the line’s completion. The article blames the delays on procedural technicalities and frequent design changes. These frequent changes have also caused the BRT line’s cost to soar from 49 billion Pakistani rupees (US$365.3 million) to 69 billion rupees (US$514.4 million).
Officials of the Peshawar Development Authority, which is building the line with financing from the Asian Development Bank, told Dawn that whether or not the March deadline is met will depend on the work of two agencies responsible for moving electrical cables in the vicinity of an elevated section of the BRT guideway along Sonehri Masjid Road and clear the way for the placement of heavy girders to allow the guideway to pass over a local railway station. The PDA needs a “no objection certificate” from Pakistan Railways to lay the girders, but Pakistan Railways will not issue it until utility provider Wapda finishes installing the relocated cables.
The article goes on to chronicle a series of other procedural missteps and construction delays that have added to the project’s cost and stretched out the timeline for its completion.
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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.