Wednesday, November 05, 2014
WHAT THE ELECTION RESULTS MEAN FOR TRANSPORTATION IN BETHESDA
Should Hogan deliver on his promise, Bethesda could be a major beneficiary of state funding and support. Assuming Hogan would support the long-delayed new Potomac River crossing to the Dulles area, there would actually be someone on our side of the river to pick up the phone that's been ringing from Virginia's Department of Transportation for years. A seeming victory by incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) leaves another high-profile bridge supporter in place, as well.
Given that 25% of traffic on the American Legion Bridge is traveling to, or from, the Dulles area, and the albatross that lack of direct access to Dulles Airport has been for economic development here, the compelling case for a new bridge could finally have a high-profile advocate in Hogan (should he choose to act on it).
The other big winner locally last night? The Town of Chevy Chase. Just 24 hours ago, the planned Purple Line light rail was considered by most as a done deal. State and county leaders vowed in recent weeks to hold a groundbreaking on the project next year. Yet, when the sun rose this morning, the Purple Line's future is in doubt. Hogan does not support it, and it's hard to imagine his administration getting on board. Chevy Chase residents and Capital Crescent Trail supporters who have been fighting the transit project have to feel a transfusion of confidence. This thing really might not happen at this point, an unimaginable outcome until now. At a minimum, it's going to be a much heavier lift for the County Council and General Assembly, both of which overwhelmingly support the Purple Line.
Money intended for light rail, and the severely-watered-down Corridor Cities Transitway bus project upcounty, could now be available for the Montrose Parkway extension, grade-separation of failing intersections, and other road projects, widening, and improvements. Greater capacity on roads would also translate into faster Metrobus and Ride On service.
Hopefully 8-car trains for the Metro Red Line will still be a priority, as that is essential to handle existing and planned development in downtown Bethesda and beyond. It would also help if Hogan would take a tougher approach than the previous administration to forcing leadership and operational changes at Metro. How Richard Sarles lasted so long - and got a raise, to boot - presiding over a system that (in practical terms) shuts down every weekend remains one of the great puzzles of humankind.
Speaking of money, Maryland voters delivered a clear message to politicians in Annapolis last night - hands-off our transportation tax dollars. Abuse of Maryland's Transportation Trust Fund is a lot harder this morning, as (at current count) 81.6% of statewide voters said elected officials should not be able to divert those funds to non-transportation uses, or budget-"balancing" chicanery.
A governor supporting projects that move the vast majority of commuters - and a new legal restraint on misuse of the dollars needed for those projects - mean Bethesda residents could be mildly optimistic about finally getting something done about our failing transportation system.