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Transportation Projects Chosen For Federal Fast-Tracking Lean Multi-Modal

12:41 PM PDT on October 11, 2011

Last month Streetsblog asked whether President Obama would select transportation projects that reduce congestion, improve air quality, and create jobs when he picked several infrastructure investments, among those recommended by agency officials, to fast-track. The selection of these projects, intended to help spur short-term job creation, could avoid the mistakes of the 2009 stimulus program, which funneled billions to “shovel-ready” projects that will also promote sprawl. Leading up to the announcement, the president’s rhetoric seemed to indicate that the administration would opt for road maintenance and transit projects rather than newer, wider highways.

Today the administration announced its list of 14 projects, and at first glance, it seems like most of the transportation-related projects take transit, bicycling, and walking into consideration. Some of them will induce sprawl nonetheless, because they expand traffic capacity.

These projects won’t get more federal funds, but they will get federal help in expediting the process. The president promised that this fast-tracking won’t shortchange environmental reviews. The projects were highlighted by officials in several agencies and final selection was done by the White House.

Here’s the list of surface transportation-related projects, most of them recommended by the Department of Transportation:

Tappan Zee Bridge, New York: The bridge is rated structurally deficient as well as functionally obsolete, meaning that in addition to carrying more traffic than it was designed for, the structure is unsafe to carry vehicles. Constant repairs have made the bridge into a money pit, and a significant overhaul could produce long-term savings on maintenance. Notably, this project is not close to “shovel-ready” status, so its selection seems to indicate that the administration had long-term goals in mind, in addition to short-term job creation. There are plans to include a Bus Rapid Transit lane and a commuter rail line on the bridge, as well, but some advocates worry that all that widening could happen without the transit components coming through in the end.

Crenshaw/LAX, California: LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has become a champion for federal loan programs because of his zeal to expand transit in his city. The Crenshaw/LAX project is a cornerstone of his efforts and will provide a critical transit connection to the airport. The city has done a good job attracting federal interest and assistance, and the FTA is already helping them shorten the approval time for the project.

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