Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Axis of Weasels

The slick tricks and sleights of hand that are being employed to push a "dedicated transit corridor" in our neighborhood are mounting, and some might suggest they are accumulating faster than a four-car pile-up on the Beltway at morning rush hour.

The Ad Hoc Transportation Task Force briefed the Mayor and Council at a work session last night, bringing them up to speed on proposed changes to the transportation section of the City's master plan.

When Councilman Rob Krupicka asked about the feasibility of diverting bus rapid transit (BRT) away from the more residential segment of Route 1 south of the Monroe Street Bridge to N. Washington Street, T&ES Director Rich Baier assured him the plans for this stretch of Route 1 were (and Growler quotes) "not down on paper yet."

So what does Mr. Baier call Chapter 12 of the draft Braddock Road Metro plan, which includes maps of our neighborhood -- not just Potomac Yard -- complete with dotted lines representing the proposed routes? What about the identification and discussion of the "issues," which the report claims are only aesthetics and pedestrian safety. (Funny that the question of whether homeowners on Patrick and Henry want BRT nine feet from their windows doesn't even surface.)

The Growler recalls that last September's administrative draft of the Braddock Road Metro Plan supplied us with diagrams showing BRT with and without on-street parking. Doesn't that constitute a blueprint for what the City wants to do in Parker-Gray? Did the transit fairy, unbeknownst to Mr. Baier, drop those pages into the Braddock Road report?

Then there's the language in the latest draft about the mysterious tax to be levied on Parker-Gray and the Braddock Road area to fund BRT.

The City expects funding for a portion of the cost to develop and operate this transit corridor to come not only from federal and state transportation sources, but also a special tax district wherein properties located in the service area, including properties within the Braddock Plan area, will be required "as they redevelop" to participate.

Sounds like the tax fairy bumped elbows with the transit fairy one night.

But where, the Growler wants to know, are the tax districts for Duke Street and Van Dorn/Beauregard residents and businesses? We heard not word about their financial obligations at yesterday's meeting. Could it be that they won't have any?

Then there was Poul Hertel, who came sidling up to the Growler before the briefing, professing to be shocked that the Braddock Road Small Area plan included a tax provision to fund BRT on Route 1. Oh?

Combine all of this hokey-pokey with the revelation that although chunks of the Task Force report won't be written until late April but it is scheduled to go immediately to Planning Commission and City Council in May, and you have a big ole steamroller coming down the asphalt at homeowners on Patrick and Henry.

To her credit, Council Member Del Pepper firmly recommended that there be three further public explanatory meetings after the transportation task force report is finished. She apparently suggested three because residents of each proposed corridor ideally should be informed. Mayor William D. Euille assented, suggesting that Council approval might have to be pushed back to accommodate the public meetings.

So why was Mr. Baier telling people afterward that there weren't going to be any more public meetings?