Monday, March 10, 2008

Hot Flashes

Walk This Way

On Wednesday, March 12 the Inner City Civic Association will be conducting a neighborhood walk with Mayor William D. Euille. The walk begins at 6:30 PM sharp at the Braddock Road Metro station entrance and concludes at 8:00 PM at Queen and Fayette Streets. Flyers with a route map were distributed over the weekend to residents of the Inner City. Stops along the way will focus on issues raised in the Braddock Road Metro small area plan, including traffic flow at the Metro station, the future park at the Post Office site, the James Bland housing project redevelopment, the proposed bus rapid transit on Patrick and Henry Streets, and the Queen Street business corridor.

Thumbs Up

Last Tuesday night, as expected, the Planning Commission endorsed approval of the Braddock Metro Small Area Plan. Some 23 citizens testified about deficiencies in the plan and recommended deferral, while only 12 testified in support of immediate approval.

The cynics among us can conclude that neighborhood opinion matters little to a free-spending Council desperate to replenish its tax coffers with more big development.

The irony is that with the housing industry in crisis, credit markets in disarray, and the U.S. economy tanking the City will probably see very little revenue from our area in the near future. As with the last plan in 1992, much will be expected but little will probably happen.

The Council will consider approval of the Plan on Saturday, March 15 at its monthly public hearing.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

And speaking of lush budgets, the docket for tomorrow night's City Council meeting is chock-a-block with transportation-related items.

First, the Council is considering the proposed revision of the Master Transportation Plan, which includes the notorious provisions about BRT on Route 1. But how will the City pay for the super-ambitious plan, which may require initial capital investment as high as $687.7 million to $978.7 million and require the City to assume annual operating costs totaling some $81.9 million to $95.9 million?

Before the Master Plan is considered, there will be discussion of a staff memo on the impact of the recent Virginia Supreme Court decision which ruled the newly-created Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) unconstitutional, thereby squashing its ability to collect new taxes earmarked for transportation.

The Council will also review a report from the "Ad Hoc Commercial Real Estate Tax Option Study Committee," which was tasked to recommend whether or not Council should formally consider the controversial commercial real estate add-on tax which was proposed to fund transportation projects. Presumably this will shape the Council's decisions later in the evening when they will set the residential and commercial tax rates for the year.

Finally, the Council will consider setting up a new standing Transportation Committee.

So readers, given the grim financial and tax outlook for transportation, does anyone believe that the visionary proposals in Master Transportation Plan will ever see the light of day?