Are we going to spend too much to build dangerous roads?


Welcome to “The Mobile City”, our weekly roundup of remarkable transportation developments.

Infrastructure bill will not make roads safer

The bipartisan infrastructure bill that Congress finally passed last week has drawn mixed reviews from advocates of active transportation and urban transportation. While Streetsblog USA reports While advocates of urban transit generally lament the bill’s steep tilt toward roads and automotive infrastructure, they are pleased with its increased funding for public transit and Amtrak. They also mention the financing of alternative transport and programs to facilitate and secure the journeys of vulnerable road users as concrete progresses.

But a road safety advocate known as Smart Cities Dive that spending on roads would not do enough to make roads safer. Amy Cohen, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets (New York), said: “While this legislation is making incremental improvements, it has not gone far enough. We desperately need a commitment and a roadmap to achieve the goal of zero road fatalities. “

However, in an essay in The Urbanist, urban planner Scott Brody argues that the real obstacle to securing roads is found in the federal government’s recipe book for road design: the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD), whose 11th edition will soon be published.

Brody notes in his essay that the number of road fatalities has increased since the 10th edition of the MUTCD was released in 2009 and accelerated further after 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on driving. The death toll is expected to rise further this year.

When the Federal Highway Administration opened its proposed revisions to the MUTCD for comment earlier this year, it received some 26,000 comments, many dismayed at the lack of concern for walkers and bicycle riders in the standards. Congress itself even weighed in on the subject in 2015, when that year’s infrastructure bill required the Secretary of Transportation to “review … the publication titled”Urban street design guide‘of the National Association of Urban Transport Managers (NACTO) ”by drafting the design rules for urban roads.

But not only did the FHWA fail to do so, Brody says, but it still displays hostility towards other road users in its guidelines. He goes on to list a number of road designs included in the Urban Street Guide that remain completely absent from the MUTCD, such as “shared spaces” or woonerfs, elevated cycle paths and crosswalks, and wheelchair ramps placed away from corners. The manual also ignores the NACTO recommendation that “at larger intersections, crosswalks should be the norm.”

“We have known for years that the MUTCD enshrines dangerous design practices into law,” said Sara Bronin, professor of law and town planning and planning at Cornell University, cited in the essay. “The [FHWA’s] The latest update offered perpetuates many of the discredited features of the current version.

Which, according to Brody, raises the possibility that the MUTCD will be struck down by a court for violating the 2015 law. However, the course of action recommended by Bronin was: “The only sensible solution is to follow the science behind modern transport research to completely overhaul the MUTCD. “

Massachusetts Legislature Throws Cold Water on Boston Mayor’s Free Transportation Proposal

Michelle Wu, who will take office in January as Boston’s first non-white, non-male mayor, ran on a campaign platform that included a pledge to make public transportation free in the city.

Corn a report on the proposal in the Boston Herald notes that this would require an agreement from the state, which would have to agree to fill any funding gap left by the tariff removal. And state officials are lukewarm at best and hostile to the proposal at worst.

On the hostile end: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who said bluntly in a WCVB-TV news program: “There is no free TV. There is no free lunch. “

Baker then clarified that he might be willing to consider a proposal that would allow Bostonians to fill the void, but saw no reason for taxpayers in the rest of the state to do so.

But even Wu’s fellow Democrats were far from enthusiastic about the idea. State Senate Speaker Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano have said they would like to talk to Wu before considering a free tariff proposal.

Base fares are $ 1.70 for the bus lines and $ 2.40 for the metro. Baker said the rates are “affordable and competitive” and were necessary to support continued investment in the system.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) board of directors voted in June to order the agency to draft a program that would offer free fares to low-income passengers system-wide, but that board has since been replaced. by a new one. The MBTA, a unit of the state’s Department of Transportation, serves 178 towns and cities in the Greater Boston Area.

New contractor chosen for Maryland Purple Line

Work on the stranded purple LRT line in the Maryland suburb of Washington will resume soon now that the state of Maryland and the consortium that will operate the line have selected a new contractor for the project.

Bethesda Magazine reports that the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) and Purple Line Transit Partners selected Maryland Transit Solutions to complete the significantly delayed project.

Maryland Transit Solutions is a partnership between Dragados USA Inc. and OHL USA Inc. Purple Line Transit Partners called the joint venture “the best value” and praised Dragados’ work on a passenger transportation system at the International Airport of Los Angeles and three light rail projects in Canada as recommending the company.

No work has taken place on the line since 2020, when the original construction partnership applied to be laid off in the spring. This led to lawsuits and counter-lawsuits which ended in an out-of-court settlement that cost Maryland $ 250 million in December. But a new partnership announced at the time of settlement was never given the green light to resume work.

For now, the Purple Line, which was due to open next March, is at least two and a half years late. Even with the selection of a new contractor, no new completion date has been announced. Delegate Marc Korman (D-Bethesda), who chairs a transportation subcommittee at Maryland House, said: the timing, and these are pretty important issues.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia cream magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Investigator and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities dates back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations dates back this far.

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