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High-speed rail

The Capitol Hill Streetsies, Continued: The Best and Worst of 2010

4:12 PM EST on January 4, 2011

Check out our first installment of the Streetsie winners for who will be missed, who will be a hero, and the best  ideas and legislation that didn't come to pass.

We continue our look back at 2010 with some state- and local-level highs and lows for the year. Starting with:

Gov. Chris Christie's short-sightedness in killing the ARC tunnel made him the runaway winner of this dubious Streetsie honor. Photo:

Most short-sighted governor: When it comes to transportation policy, there’s quite a crop of new (and not-so-new) residents of governors’ mansions around the country who seem to have a hard time taking the long view. But Chris Christie of New Jersey really distinguished himself as a special kind of obstructionist when he killed the ARC tunnel, a project set to receive the largest federal transit funding commitment in U.S. history. Yes, even though the tunnel, which would have doubled capacity for New Jersey Transit into Manhattan, was being paid for with federal dollars, Christie’s panic over cost overruns (or was it raising the gas tax?) won the day. Meanwhile, he’s been more than happy to borrow $2 billion for highway widening.

Of course, Christie had some fierce competition. After all, Scott Walker and John Kasich are killing federally-funded high speed rail projects left and right in the Midwest. And Ray LaHood has found himself forced to single out Florida’s new governor, Rick Scott, for some stern lectures about how rail is the key to America’s future.

You didn’t win the Streetsie this time, fellas, but you sure do get honorable mention for your efforts to deny transportation options to the people of your states.

The Next Portland: As I was reminded when I visited Portland last fall for the Rail~volution conference, the city is a bike-commuting mecca with model streetcar lines and light rail facilities. I’ll admit to my inferiority complex upon returning to my own city of Washington, DC, but then I realized DC has cred to spare on the livable streets front. We launched the country’s biggest bike share! And we’ve got the second-busiest commuter rail system! And check out our new bi-directional cycle tracks!

And DC wasn’t the only city proving its mettle in 2010. Los Angeles is shedding its image as an autotopia and getting serious about transit, with the first phase of the Expo Line slated to open this year and lots more coming in 2012 and 2014. And CicLAvia captured the whole country’s imagination with its exuberant reclamation of public streets.

Supporters of Fort Worth's new bike plan packed city council chambers and cheered it to passage in February. Photo: Kevin Buchanan
Supporters of Fort Worth's new bike plan packed city council chambers and cheered it to passage in February. Photo: Kevin Buchanan

But we give our 2010 Streetsie for The Next Portland to Dallas/Fort Worth. In February, the Fort Worth City Council committed to a radical new bike plan [PDF], increasing the local bicycle transportation network from the existing 102.6 miles to 924.7 miles. Dallas/Fort Worth got three major TIGER grants, too – one for building freight rail capacity, one for intelligent transportation measures on Dallas’s second beltway, and a particularly notable one (Streetsblog overheard a DOT official gushing that it was the most innovative project they were funding) for a streetcar line in downtown Dallas. (In a strike against Fort Worth, however, the city pulled the plug on its own streetcar dreams just last month.)

Finally, Dallas’s growing commitment to transit grabbed headlines when its most recent rail line extension made it the longest light rail system in the country. Yonah Freemark at The Transport Politic made the point that Dallas is still struggling to boost ridership, but we applaud the city for working to bring transit where we never would have expected to find it.

Best TIGER Grant: Hmm, all that TIGER talk left me wanting more. We gave you the chance to award the Streetsie to the freight corridor project in Fort Worth, but you didn’t bite. No nominee ran away with this category, but Streetsblog readers were inspired by the St. Paul Union Depot Multi-Modal Transportation Hub to bring Amtrak, intercity and local buses, light rail, taxis, and bicycle accommodations together under one roof in the heart of downtown St. Paul. Almost as many of you were psyched about the Philadelphia Area Pedestrian and Bicycle Network to complete a 128-mile network of bike/ped facilities, including primary commuter routes.

Really, there are too many to choose from. Everybody’s got their own favorites, and in the end, the news to cheer is that so many solid transportation programs got a serious boost from the feds this year.

Stay tuned for even more Streetsies! We’ll finish our list tomorrow with real reasons for optimism – and some that don’t fool us.

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