I imagine that dedicated Northern Virginians must live in a near constant state of exasperation. There they sit, on some of the most well-off, talent-rich, fast growing, and generally pleasant land in the country, let alone the state of Virginia, and yet their political leadership seems bound and determined to turn the whole area into a spawling, traffic jammed mess of crumbling roads. More so, at any rate, than it already is, because all that good stuff has attracted sufficient people to make the place damn near unlivable.
In order to get key Metro arteries built through the tangled Nova mess, they’ve had to resort to placing the tracks in some pretty unfriendly places, down the center of I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road, and above ground through the suburban mess of Tyson’s Corner, where developers hoped to salvage some density from the sprawl, only to be hamstrung by the excruciating shortsightedness of transportation planners. In a region that enjoys one of the highest rates of transport usage in the country, the VRE suburban rail system has lost riders due to problems associated with poor infrastructure and investment. In Arlington, dealing with the (very healthy) infill development that’s blossomed over the past few years has required planners to go it alone, which is just how Arlington will be laying the tracks for its Columbia Pike streetcar line. And of course, there has been Governor Kaine’s epic struggle with Richmond over his long-term transportation plan. Rather than suffer the indignity of an increase in taxes, Republican delegates are set on a plan to borrow enough money to tread water for five years, at which point, it is to be assumed, there will no longer be a transportation problem, because everyone will have gotten sick of perpetual gridlock and moved to D.C.
Richard Layman wrote, after the Tyson’s tunnel fiasco, that as a devotee of center cities, it’s kind of nice that Virginia’s bollocksing everything up so much, because everyday the District looks like a better and better option for businesses, workers, and families. But as a fan of quality urban planning, he went on, it’s depressing.
Ultimately, the well-being of the entire Metro area is dependant upon being able to take advantage of its resources (chief among which is the high concentration of very skilled people). When growth in the suburbs sprawls uncontrollably, and when poor planning reduces the mobility of residents, and when the overall capacity of the Metro area is reduced because planners are unable to do density well, then that hurts the entire region. Not only does it make growth ugly and inefficient, but it reduces the ability of the area to grow and diversify its economy, to extend the benefits of that growth to a wider range of people with a wider range of skills, and to do all of that in a sustainable manner. By reducing its own market potential, Virginia harms those that liveÂ and work in non-Virginia parts of the metro area.
All of which makes me wonder, as I often idly do, what it might take to get a serious separatist movement going in the NoVa counties. Hell, they could merge with D.C., and then we’d finally get our voting Congressional representation.
In Other News: Martin was a great guy to work with at DCist, and I’m glad I got the chance to do that, but I have to tell you, we never came close to seeing eye to eye on the whole baseball stadium thing. And while I understand his opposition, I’ve never really understood his reluctance to accept some of the important facts about the financing of the project and about what it’s going to mean for that corner of D.C. Despite my parking hysterics, I think that part of the city will develop in a way that’s generally dense and which features a nice collection of mixed-use buildings. Not that it will be free of “urban development crimes,” as some in the business like to say, but there’s no arguing that it’s jump-started development in what was, truthfully, a very barren part of the city.
So it was that I enjoyed this post very much, partially because the commenters hash out, in good DCist commenter style, the truth and falsity of the matters at hand, but also because it led me to two great links: here and especially here. The second one, particularly, kind of shocked me a little. In our last few months in Washington, as we daily passed the parade of cranes that stretches from the New York Avenue stop down to the Hill, up Mass Ave through Shaw and into Columbia Heights, I often remarked to Lisa how different the city would look when we got back. And man, it will. There’s going to be a brand spanking new baseball stadium three Metro stops and a short walk from our condo. Wow.