Friday, February 13, 2009

Look Ma, no wheels

In what may be the most symbolic event of late in the tortured history of Mon Fayette Expressway, the Turnpike Commission closed it's project office in Duquesne. Infer as you wish.

Yet even if MFX is really on the verge of a perpetual quiescence, could another massive transportation project be getting new life? This really is just a question, I just can't tell. But in the stimulus bill just passed is a massive new chunk of money for 'High Speed Rail'. Could Maglev be on the verge of.... levitating?


Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Friday, February 13, 2009 11:48:00 PM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...


I don't know if the Mon-Fayette Expressway will ever die a final death. It may not be possible. Is it true, by the way, that West Virginia's Corridor H project is its own leg of what we call the MFX?

Friday, February 13, 2009 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger smallstreams said...

It's time to revisit the Citizen's Plan for the MVX. Here's the URL from a P-G article of five years ago:

Saturday, February 14, 2009 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I'm not sure I would call it part of Corridor H really, but the MFX is supposed to connect Mogantown. So in an indirect way I suppose.

I remember some of those meetings, or I think some meetings that followed up that. The problem was as Ray gets at, folks were talking past each other. It was the wrong people to be talking to. The Turnpike staff came to talk about how to build a highway they were tasked to do. To talk to them about some alternative that is not a big toll highway wasn't terribly productive since it would then not be their project and they weren't the decisonmakers. I think folks got the idea that you have to focus up the food chain at the political forces that influence theTurnpike Commission itself.

But someone does need to write a dissertation on the history of the politics of the MFX. There was a time when the powers that be said clearly it was the priority for the region. How long was that in play. From a 1985 document called Strategy 21 which was coauthored by the city, the county, along as Pitt and CMU, look at the priority placed on some "Mon Valley Highways". I really would be curious if anyone knows the first known reference to a new highway through the area.

Before this big infrastructure push I would have agreed that the MFX was dead. Mostly becasue I had long since gotten calls from forces for or against on the topic. There was once a time it was a pretty regular occurance. Closing the project office would support that. But my take is MFX went quiet because support for the funding dried up. Hard to believe no parts of it will get some $$ from the stimulus bill... but we will see.

still strikes a nerve though.. I really was thinking about the Maglev possibility more than the MFX sentence.. which really wasnt news really... I was more surprised that office still had hours open to the public.

Saturday, February 14, 2009 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger smallstreams said...

Is Maglev appreciably better than conventional transit -- cars and light rail? My guess is that the region would benefit only if we became a Maglev manufacturing center. The MFX Citizen's Plan could work similarly in in that we could become a model for design and construction, exporting expertise in sensible regional planning.

I mean as long as we're dreaming . . .

Saturday, February 14, 2009 7:22:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

The Citizens Plan was crafted as a legal argument against the Turnpike Commission's farce of a NEPA process for the Mon-Fayette: they didn't actually fulfill their federally-mandated responsibility to consider alternatives to the MFX, since as you point out, Chris, they're not able to do anything but build limited-access expressways. So the CP was drafted as a placeholder for a legal challenge to that process -- but when it came down to it, there wasn't time or money enough to actually file the suit.

But whatever. The point to bear in mind is that the CP was put together in two months for very little money by a bunch of designers and urban planners who volunteered their time, with no time to conduct a comprehensive outreach and community-design process; and it was "competing" against the MFX juggernaut with (at the time) basically unlimited amounts of money to spend on papering the walls with expensive engineering drawings. And it still came out looking pretty damned good.

Here's the link to it, btw.

I've been musing writing that history of the MFX for a while now. Recently I tried to tell as much of the story as I could in a coherent fashion to a person who'd never heard of it before, and it took me more than 3 hours to get through it all. There's a lot I don't know, too.

Saturday, February 14, 2009 7:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little surprised that our rock-star-awesome super-guru Chris is not familiar with a designation like "Corridor H". In 1964, the President's Appalachian Region Commission (established under Kennedy, reporting to Johnson, obviously) reported to the President that the number one reason for the failure of Appalachia to develop was it's isolation from the rest of the country. One of the major initiatives coming from the Commission--which still exists today, see a focus on the design and construction of highways to connect the region with the greater US. The plan was approved and enacted by Congress as the Appalachian Development Highway System of 1965. The highways were designated "corridors" and given letter designations. For example, the improved highway we know as US 22 east of Allegheny County is Corridor M; I-99/US 220 is Corridor O; US 119 is Corridor N; I-86 (across southern New York) is Corridor T; and I-68 in West Virginia is Corridor E, to name a few.

An important tangential point here, I think, is that, while people like Bud Shuster and Robert Byrd did get significant highway appropriations over the years, the money did go to support Congressionally approved highway improvement plans. The original Act approved the highways, but did not approve any appropriations.

To my knowledge, the MFX was never part of the Appalachian Development Highway System.

Sunday, February 15, 2009 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

Andrea, does the Citizen's Plan become any more relevance or utility if we rebrand it as the Citizen's Blueprint?

Sunday, February 15, 2009 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Well.. so there.

You know the geographic definition of the Appalachian Regional Commission was actually decided at a meeting here in Pittsburgh long ago.. largest city in Appalachia of course.

won't read that on google though. :-)

Sunday, February 15, 2009 2:04:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Bram: no. The CP is a great overview of different ideas for improving the region's transportation infrastructure and accessibility, but it doesn't have what any real alternative plan really needs, and that's grassroots advocates in the Valley. PF will shortly be reporting on some outreach we did this past fall looking to gather input and ideas for transportation investments in the MV that would be tied to existing land use plans -- we used the CP as just another example among the dozens that have been put forward over the past 20 years. None of the alternatives have moved an inch because none of them have a funded and state-mandated institution pushing them -- and it's been hard to interest anyone in alternatives while the MFX has seemed like an inevitability. Now that it's pretty clear that it won't be built (pipe dreams about public-private partnerships notwithstanding), we have to do a lot of hard work from scratch.

Sunday, February 15, 2009 2:09:00 PM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

Scratch it is!

Sunday, February 15, 2009 5:45:00 PM  
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