Thursday, October 31st, 2013

This Is What a Boondoggle Looks Like

The nearly empty Intercounty Connector in Maryland. Coming soon to a bridge near you in Louisville or Portland? Source: Bethesda Magazine

I’ve recently reported on a couple of mega-bridge mega-boondoggles in progress in Louisville and Portland. But if you want to see a preview of how this might play out in real life when and if they are built, an example of this is in progress in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC with the Intercounty Connector.

Betheseda Magazine has the gory details in their September-October issue. And while this is a highway, not a bridge, there are an eerie number of similarities between this and the bridge projects in Louisville and Portland. The fate of the Intercounty Connector should be giving DOT officials in Oregon, Indiana, and Kentucky nightmares. Here’s what Bethesda Magazine had to say:

Driven on the Intercounty Connector lately? No? You’re not alone. Many haven’t. The 18.8-mile highway—the first stretch of which opened two and a half years ago after great hype and amid great controversy—is the road less traveled. Traffic counts are well below early projections, and revenue from tolls—needed to pay off the bonds that were sold to build the road—is far less than originally anticipated….The story of the ICC is a bit like the invasion of Iraq, a march to war in which the highway hawks—developers, development lawyers and contractors—held sway while critics were ridiculed as knee-jerk tree huggers and opponents of economic growth….The ICC is the Pac-Man of roads, critics charge, eating up all the transportation dollars in sight, now and for years to come.

Some troubling elements of this project that are similar to aspects of the Louisville and Portland examples:

  • Been desired for decades? Check. “first conceived 50 years ago”
  • Stunning cost increases? Check. “The initial estimated cost of $1 billion has ballooned to $2.4 billion—or as much as $4 billion if you include interest payments.”
  • Tolls as an afterthought? Check. “Tolls were barely discussed. And hypothetical figures buried in a 2004 state consultant’s report marked ‘confidential’ are lower than tolls currently being charged.”
  • Use of GARVEE bonds (a way to spend tomorrow’s federal transportation grants today) for financing (I’m looking at you, Kentucky)? Check. “The largest chunk, $750 million, comes from so-called GARVEE bonds.”
  • Amazingly declining traffic projections? Check. “The Maryland Transportation Authority issued a press release asserting that ICC usage was ‘consistent with our projections,’ with 35,000 vehicles daily using the westernmost segment and 26,000 the eastern segment. Unmentioned was that the numbers were consistent with 2009 projections, which were significantly lower than earlier forecasts.”
  • Two sets of books, er, traffic projections? Check. “The state developed two sets of projections, both higher than actual usage so far. The higher numbers were in official documents presented to the public, bolstering the case for the highway and implying greater environmental impact with higher volumes. More conservative numbers were used for the bond rating agencies.”
  • Massive funds diverted from more worthy projects? Check. “To pay for other road improvements the state cannot afford—thanks largely, critics say, to the ICC—the Maryland General Assembly this year pumped $880 million more into the depleted Transportation Trust Fund by increasing the gasoline tax for the first time in 21 years.”

What happened? Traffic is far short of projections. Tolls are falling massively short of projections: “The total revenue in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012: $19.73 million—a third of the low-end projection of a decade ago.” Yikes! That’s a little bit more than an “Oops” to say the least. The state is being forced to bail out the bonds with regular transport funds: “$180 million is coming out of the state’s Transportation Trust Fund to pay bondholders.” Holy Financial Disaster, Batman!

Adding to these woes, people who drive the road without a transponder (likely many of them from out of state), aren’t paying up: “34.2 percent of drivers using the ICC without an E-ZPass transponder weren’t paying the bills they later received in the mail.” Presumably the rental car companies and such included in this will eventually fork over what they owe, but it looks like this thing is going to generate significant bad debt expense.

And let me put this one in a separate paragraph so you don’t miss it: building the Intercounty Connector caused the state to have to raise the gas tax. I repeat from the article: “increasing the gasoline tax.”

The Washington area is famous for extreme traffic congestion. It’s growing rapidly in population. It’s also the most affluent major metro area in the United States. Yet amazingly, people still aren’t willing to pay to use this thing. Admittedly, the tolls will be lower (though still not cheap), but I wonder how many people in much lower congestion and lower income Portland and Louisville will be similarly unwilling to pay?

Adding to the financial disaster is some fallout that I wasn’t necessarily thinking about, but is obvious in retrospect. Namely, recriminations and finger pointing about who is to blame for this fiasco. What’s that song by Shaggy again? It’s not just about the cost either. The highway has not spawned the type of development that was projected when it opened. Whose fault is that, you might ask? Well according to Doug Duncan, one of the politicians who pushed this debacle, it’s the local government. He claims that they have created an “anti-business climate.”

So head’s up to local leaders everywhere. If the DOT and its allies cram a mega-boondoggle road or bridge down your throats, it’s your fault if it doesn’t produce the economic benefits they projected. Better buckle up. Because apparently being a boondoggler means you never have to say you’re sorry.

I’m sure traffic levels will eventually improve and that there will be more development in the future. But this thing is clearly no where near what was promised by its backers. Sadly, Maryland motorists and taxpayers will be paying the price for years to come. Let that be a warning to would-be boondogglers everywhere. The hangover from overspending can be long and painful indeed.

Update: A commenter requested a map of the highway, so here it is via Wikipedia:

Also nice to see Business Insider pick up the story. The public needs to know how much risk their wallets are exposed to on these things.

Topics: Public Policy, Transportation
Cities: Washington

41 Responses to “This Is What a Boondoggle Looks Like”

  1. Gene says:

    Great post. At first I thought the picture of the interchange was satirical, or something from a Sim City game.

    Much is made in the US of China’s ghost cities, but we’re doing the same thing by building highways and bridges that wind up under-utilized. NFL stadiums get used less than one percent of the time. The Plainfield (Indiana) High School baseball field complex is huge *and* fancy, yet is (a) seldom used and (b) not open to the public. The Indy library and IUPUI have meeting space that exceeds need by a factor of 10. The new Indy airport is nice, but usage is static and landing fees are among the highest in the US.

    I don’t know if Boston’s “Big Dig” project has lived up to its goals, but it’s illustrative of the motivations behind such projects. The Big Dig lasted a decade and cost $12 billion, both figures wayyy beyond projections. The reason it lasted so long and cost so much was that labor unions and construction companies wanted it that way. If there’s one thing the left and right agree on, it’s massive public works projects.

  2. Michael Breach says:

    One suggrestion I would like to see would be to put a location map or a link to Google Earth so we can take a look at the highway in context to local geography.


  3. Michael, here’s a link to a map:

    I’ll add a graphic inline.

  4. Chris Barnett says:

    It’s a “bypass bypass” which could one day form a key part of a second DC suburban ring-road.

    Next up, the section between the present western terminus at I-270 and Virginia 28 near Dulles. Because the Maryland suburbs NEED a good direct route to Dulles. Because the Potomac NEEDS another bridge to relieve the Beltway madness. (And it IS bad.) It’s only logical, right?

    Then Virginia will have to do the same for its far-south exurbs, from Quantico northward toward Manassas.

    Voila…an outer beltway from I-95 to I-95. I-95 congestion reliever. Beltway congestion reliever.

  5. Paul Angelone says:

    Here’s a great link to a Greater Greater Washington post on the ICC ( In particular, this article talks about the removal of bus routes to try & increase traffic to meet original ICC projections.

  6. David Nilson says:

    Lots in common with Obamacare.

  7. Froggie says:

    Oddly enough, it was announced in an article a week or so ago that the ICC is up to a 40K average daily traffic level. I also think the photo in that Bethesda Magazine article (that Aaron included in this post) was taken on a Sunday because Route 29 is *NEVER* that empty during the week (or Saturday).

  8. Froggie, As I said in the piece, traffic and development will eventually flow, but the financial damage is already done. The gas tax has already been jacked up, for example.

    I saw an article in Bond Buyer from a day or so ago bragging about increasing traffic. As the Bethesda Magazine article has been out for a month or two by now, of course the DOT has a full court marketing press on seeking positive publicity for any aspect of the road they can get.

  9. squaredeal says:

    @Chris Barnett – Google “Bi-County Parkway”. It’s on the VA side of the Potomac and their version of the first part of 2nd Beltway. Been planning for it for years..and major landowners have started another big push to get it built. It’s another dinosaur project.

  10. dan reed! says:

    I grew up near the bottom right corner of that photo, and the ICC was probably the biggest political issue in Montgomery County when I was in high school (10 years ago). I knew a lot of friends and their parents who vowed never to use it, and many others who moved to this area because of it, or looked forward to the amenities it would bring.

    Though Montgomery County is very affluent, the east side (where this photo is) looks more and more like its neighbor Prince George’s County – higher poverty rates, growing immigrant community, and less investment. A lot of people hoped that the ICC would draw investment from the west side of the county when, in fact, it just makes it really easy to get to the west side of the county.

    While I never agreed with the ICC, and I don’t think that auto-oriented suburban development is still the way to go in Montgomery County as it matures, the county’s traffic tests required the ICC to be built before more development could happen in East County. Ironically, it’s because of the county’s requirement to accommodate more cars that we can start to discuss doing walkable, transit-oriented development near the ICC.

  11. Jonah says:

    I know you love promoting your “DC is the new second city” idea – but it’s definitely not the wealthiest metro in the area:

  12. Reminds me of the Earhart Expressway in suburban New Orleans. It sort of connects western New Orleans to a midway point in Metairie/Harahan, but it completely parallels Airline Highway (US 61) only a half mile to the north…sometimes less. It also doesn’t connect to the most important north-south arterial in the area, the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway (though plans have long existed to add an interchange). It has no tolls. You could often do cartwheels down the middle of it.

  13. Froggie says:

    Aaron, just got back from 6 months at sea, so was unaware of the Bethesda artivle beforehand (guess I should’ve read the date you cited). Also, from what I recall of the politics involved this spring, I don’t see the Maryland gas tax increase as being tied to the ICC costs. But what *CAN* be tied to the ICC is the toll increases on Maryland toll facilities (i.e. Bay Bridge, Nice Bridge, the Baltimore tunnels, etc etc).

  14. C P Zilliacus says:

    In the article linked below are some hard numbers of weekday traffic, up to the end of August 2013.

  15. C P Zilliacus says:

    Aaron, Maryland’s increased motor fuel tax revenue is not going to fund the ICC (it was mostly raised to fund rail transit projects like the Purple Line in the Washington suburbs and the Red Line in Baltimore City and Baltimore County). The non-recourse revenue bonds (over 50% of the construction cost) were sold by the Maryland Transportation Authority long before the Maryland General Assembly decided to raise the tax rates on motor fuels.

    To follow up on Dan Reed’s comments, the planning process of Montgomery County, Maryland has been assuming a constructed InterCounty Connector (Md. 200) in the future as it approved thousands of new dwelling units across the entire county, especially in the Colesville and Fairland (along U.S. 29) and Aspen Hill (along Md. 182 and Md. 97) Master Plan Areas. Even the catastrophic 1981 Eastern Montgomery County Master Plan (which included all of Colesville and Fairland) and was based on very unrealistic and overly optimistic assumptions about transit patronage) assumed that Md. 200 would be built. In Aspen Hill, the large Longmeade Crossing development was approved by the county’s planning process on the condition that the developer deed-over to the state of Maryland the entire right-of-way through the property so the ICC could be built (something that at least a few residents of Longmeade Crossing seemed to be unaware of as they protested against the highway).

    To the east in Prince George’s County is the mostly unbuilt Konterra development of residential and commercial uses (to be built around the I-95/ICC, Virginia Manor Road/ICC, U.S. 1 (Baltimore Avenue)/ICC and I-95/Contee Road interchanges. The Prince George’s County planners have long been very clear – they would not approve Konterra without Md. 200 being there. Konterra looks like a big greenfield site to some passers-by, but it’s not. It is mostly mined-out sand and gravel pits that have been smoothed and covered-over by vegetation. Many opponents of Md. 200 (especially those in Montgomery County) cited Konterra as a major reason to not build the highway, at the same time as other opponents were claiming that the ICC would “drain away” employment from Prince George’s County.

  16. Jon says:

    The comments on the article are hilarious. They basically boil down to, “The ICC is great because I have chosen to live far away from work in the exurbs and I justify the enormous cost of this project because it saves me 10 minutes in my long commute.”

  17. C P Zilliacus says:

    Froggie, the claim that tolls around Maryland have gone up because of the ICC has been being cranked-out by anti-ICC activists and groups, mostly in Montgomery County, D.C. and Virginia for many years.

    However, the recent toll increases on Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) toll roads and toll crossings were as much to pay for long-needed and very expensive repair, rehabilitation and replacement work elsewhere on the state’s system of toll bridges, toll tunnels and toll roads as it was for the ICC.

    And I concede that most MdTA bonds are secured by a “basket” of revenues collected at all of the toll facilities (including ICC/Md. 200), not on an individual basis) – this lowers the interest rate that MdTA has to pay on those bonds.

    Over the next six years, the MdTA is planning to spend well over $2 billion on repair and rehabitlitation of the existing system – and to add capacity with express toll lanes (ETLs) on I-95 (JFK Highway) north and east of Baltimore. The ETLs have a price tag of over $1 billion all by themselves.

    Other MdTA projects from the 2013 Consolidated Transportation Program:

    – Rehabilitate the pier foundations of the Millard Tydings Bridge (I-95 over the Susquehanna River) $43 million

    – Underwater repairs of the Hatem Bridge (U.S. 40 over the Susquehanna River) $49 million

    – Rehabilitate tunnel deck of the Fort McHenry Tunnel (I-95 under Baltimore Harbor) $25 million

    – Replace Curtis Creek draw span deck (I-695 over Curtis Creek) $14 million

    – Replace Canton Viaduct (I-895 just north of the north portal to the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel) $179 million

    – Replace bridge decks south of Baltimore Harbor Tunnel $13 million

    – Clean and paint structural steel on U.S. 50/U.S. 301 William Preston Lane, Jr. [Chesapeake Bay] Bridge westbound span $85 million

    – Re-wrap and dehumidify suspension cables on both spans of the WPL Bridge $54 million

    – Rehabilitate the eastbound roadway deck of the WPL Bridge (not sure how much this will cost, though it will not be cheap)

    – Clean and spot paint structural steel on the Harry Nice Bridge (U.S. 301 over the Potomac River) $15 millon

    – Ultimately replace the Harry Nice Bridge (currently a narrow (2 lane) and outdated [1940] bridge) with a new and modern four-lane span with bike/pedestrian trail – though I have heard informal estimates between $1 billion and $2 billion

  18. Rod Stevens says:

    Pretty funny when saying “traffic levels will improve” means more not fewer cars on the highway. But in this case “improve” means more toll revenue.

  19. Roland Solinski says:

    The problem is that this only makes sense as part of an Outer Beltway, but it has very little independent utility. It likely will not see significant traffic unless/until it is extended westward across the Potomac, where cross-river travel demand vastly exceeds capacity.

    I know it sounds like I’m arguing for more boondoggle spending, but I actually think Maryland messed up in building the “easy” section of the highway first. The western section must traverse several miles through elite wealthy suburbs before it can reach the Potomac, and there are no good alignments available, so it’s more difficult, but it actually has independent utility.

  20. Rod Stevens says:

    One of the most curious things in this story are the so-called GARVEE bonds. What are these anyway? They sound like a promise not to go back to Congress in the future for other projects. But how do you make sure of this?

    One of the interesting things in Vancouver is that essentially most transportation projects are locally or provincially and not nationally funded. (The exception was the highway and Skytrain projects built for the Olympics. A new cost benefit study out on the Olympics said the event would probably have been a wash or negative if it wasn’t for the federal funding brought in.) At any rate, the “localization” of funding means that the metro area there must make very specific and hard trade-offs between rail, bus and car transit, and sometimes there are very specific complaints from the populace that one service has been starved to feed another. Things go back in forth in terms of too much rail service or needing to build another. It’s never in balance, but at least its not profoundly out of balance.

  21. Jon Seisa says:

    It does seem wasteful, no doubt. Moderation is best, of course. But on the other hand, consider how other countries have mud roads to commute on to travel a mere 12 miles in 20 hours. Try driving in that on a torrential raining day, and then you will finally appreciate what we have in America that everyone here, daily, complains about for one reason or another. Americans are funny people.

  22. C P Zilliacus says:

    Jon, I purchased a modest home in the northwest quadrant of that interchange not because I liked “exurban” sprawl (Silver Spring, Maryland is not an exurb of Washington, D.C. or Baltimore), but because that was where I found a modest townhome that I could afford.

  23. Steven says:

    This article merely promotes the anti-roads agenda pushed by the rich people in lower Montgomery County, who think that because they are so privileged to live where they do, no one else can move in and those who do oughta live in a high rise by the Metro (but only if it is not too close to their own house). The anti-ICC crowd is NIMBY in full color illustration. Truth is that the ICC is EXCEEDING projected revenue and providing not just a relief on time wasted getting cross county, but safety as well. Any of you driven the two lane, “rural” roads like Muncaster Mill? And seen some of the wrecks due to the attitude that this fully developed suburban area is “rural”? I’m happy to spend a few dollars to not just save time and gas and wear on my vehicle, but lower my family’s risk of encountering some idiot driver.

    The land where the ICC is has already been mostly fully developed – the one that is planned is in PG County at the eastern terminus. The idea is that PG will finally be able to pull workers from Montgomery County, rather than PG staying focused fully on just building houses but not encouraging businesses to locate there. This idea that if the ICC wasn’t built, there would be no more development is ludicrous. Most of the development has been planned for decades – just like the ICC – and has been mostly fully realized – and that doesn’t count the development in neighboring (and further) counties and jurisdictions (such as WVA and PA).

    The article being quoted is arrogant and ignorant. Please look up the real facts on usage and the projections before trumpeting fake facts. The ICC is DESIGNED to be free flowing – would you be complaining if the road had a constant traffic jam?

  24. foolstruth says:

    I live in Silver Spring and was concerned about the environmental impact of the ICC. Since its opening it has become a huge time saver. I have appointments that take me upcounty a few times a week. The outer loop of the beltway between NH and I-270 is a parking lot at rush hour but I can zip up NH Ave or Colesville Rd and hop on the ICC to Olney, Rockville or Gaithersburg is 30 minutes. Weekend mornings traffic is light but during rush hour I have plenty of company.

    The state may not be making much in toll revenue but the police are making up for it by pulling over speeders.

  25. Thanks for the comments.

    I don’t see anything that actually contradicts the Bethesda Magazine piece. For example, the article itself says that the road is meeting projections. The problem is that those are new, lower projections made well after it was sold to the public, the feds, and bond market. (This is extremely common, and plagues transit as well as highway projects).

    I’m not buying the case that somehow the tax increases and such aren’t related to this project. That would only be the case if the ICC was self-funded, which is clearly was not. As money is largely fungible in this case, clearly the road drained present and future revenues available for other projects, such as through $700M in GARVEE bonds.

    Speaking of which, to answer Rod’s question, GARVEE bonds are bonds that are backed by anticipated future federal transportation grants. (I’d say they are roughly equivalent to Tax Anticipation Notes, though longer duration). Thus they are a way to bond out your future transport revenue stream to spend now. (This can actually make sense in some cases, and if these were issued back when construction cost inflation was running in the double digits, it might actually have made sense).

    The Toll Road News article looks like a re-written press release from the DOT. Unlike the Bethesda Magazine article, which actually included highway supporters, it’s sole source appeared to be the DOT (no critics).

  26. Ben Ross says:

    The Toll Road News article gives Tuesday-Thursday average traffic, while the Wilbur Smith Associates predictions are for the 5-day average. Thus it’s very difficult to compare.

    The only thing that’s really clear about the predictions (I’m looking at the older 2006 report) is that the performance is much worse at the east end (lower incomes) than at the west end (higher incomes). This, along with my previous look at the very good but unfortunately dated SR-91 study, leads me to believe that the income elasticity of demand for toll roads is underestimated in the models.

    Income elasticity is very important because the models assume constant spatial distribution of socioeconomic characteristics. In reality, the outer suburbs that are the main traffic generators for roads like the ICC are moving down in income relative to inner cities and inner suburbs.

  27. Rod Stevens says:

    Ben Ross,

    Excellent points. It appears that the people writing the various studies know very little about how the consumer will behave. With all the emphasis on new toll roads and “demand management”, this seems an area rife for study.

    One question that interests me is why we don’t toll first and build second? That would give us the data on the elasticity of demand, indicating just how much more capacity we truly need to build. Joe Cortright, the Portland economist who has looked closely at the Columbia River Crossing project there, thinks that tolls would entirely eliminate the need for more capacity. What you’re talking about is correlating toll station revenues with surrounding demographics, a comparatively easy manner. For that matter, you could probably use vehicle recognition software to correlate vehicle value with toll-paying, a potentially controversial but interesting study.

  28. Alex B. says:

    “…the county’s traffic tests required the ICC to be built before more development could happen in East County.”

    So, we’ve got biased traffic standards demanding that we build more roads that don’t relieve congestion or get the same level of usage as originally anticipated; but then will eventually induce demand and thereby perpetuate the cycle.

    This kind of pseudoscience is troublesome. I hope that the rise of tolling and states seeking private financing will at least involve financiers seeking additional scrutiny for this kind of pseudoscientific projection.

  29. Mihir says:

    I’ve been loosely following the Bi-County Parkway story on the Virginia side of the metro – there’s been talk about using it for economic development related to it, specifically trying to build a cargo hub on the west side of Dulles Airport. The Airport is suffering from the loss of federal government and contractor-driven traffic, especially defense-related, and traffic is concentrating and increasing at more convenient Reagan National instead.

    I’ve been skeptical of the concept and the economic benefits of the Bi-County Parkway. New cargo development often seems like the “pedestrian malls” of airport planning right now – St. Louis tried and failed to chase Chinese cargo development for their overbuilt post-TWA airport. So I hope this story about the ICC give Bi-County Parkway boosters pause about the reality of how “economic development” can really be launched with a new highway. As others have mentioned, there needs to be a lot more thought into land use and economic development than pouring lanes of concrete.

  30. Rod Stevens says:


    You should check the historical air cargo figures at several airports before you buy into these arguments, partly because the value-added from air cargo locally may not be that great.

    I had cause to look at these statistics recently in Oakland, where the air cargo figures have dropped big time over the last ten years. Worse, when I looked around for examples of value-added activity, I couldn’t find many, the closest being a warehouse where they basically do break-bulk and put clothes on hangers. DC not being a manufacturing area, where is that air cargo going to come from or go to? Maybe at DFW, which is the O’Hare of the Southwest, but around Dulles?

  31. Matt says:

    Reminds me of the new US 31 bypass (around the old US 31 bypass) currently being constructed in Kokomo, IN. Also Ronald Reagan Parkway west of Indianapolis. The temporary construction jobs are sure to be replaced by fast food and retail jobs, until another bypass is added to steer past the blight.

  32. Rod Stevens says:

    What I can’t figure out is how a region like this would want to encourage sprawl. It is so retrograde.

    I’m sure part of the problem is divided jurisdictions and local governments and businesses trying to cash in on freeway proximity, but a lot places are trying to avoid exactly this kind of development, which, in the long run, costs far more to service than whatever short term development fees they get out of it. I was surprised, being in Minneapolis two years ago, just how much sprawl and concrete there is there, and the cost of maintaining it, or not, shows in the cracks in the concrete. At a time when money and talent are trying to go urban, when young Millennial workers are trying to reduce the time and distance between their professional and personal activities, how could a region decide to waste money on what amounts to connecting farm parcels? Where’s the sense of putting the money on what really matters, schools that prepare kids for work, public places that bring people together, policing and safety improvements that make it possible to leave warehouse doors open? The small-but-absolutely-needed improvements like these are a much safer bet on economic development.

  33. DowntownIndy/Evan says:

    Arenn I agree however Louisville is in a different situation than this boondoggle. Louisville NEEDS another bridge across the Ohio River. When the Sherman Minton bridge was closed boy was it hell to travel across the river in that metro.
    The main issue with Louisville is unnecessary government regulations that require a tunnel and extra money sunk into this project to protect a historical site and I believe rare species of animals too………

  34. C P Zilliacus says:

    Don’t like the Toll Roads News article? Here’s a discussion of ICC traffic from a slightly different source:

  35. @DowntownIndy/Evan, everyone agrees that a new East End Bridge is needed in Louisville. What makes it a boondoggle is the new downtown span that’s not needed plus the insane gold plating like tunnels as you note.

    As for the Sherman Minton closure, you don’t build $2.6 billion worth of redundant bridges just to have full capacity backups in the event one bridge goes out of service. Plus it seems to me that the emergency multi-month closure happened at a very suspicious time such that it provided extra impetus behind building the two-bridge monstrosity.

  36. @C P Zilliacus, looks like a re-write of the same press release. Sadly, that’s all too typical of transportation reporting today. I don’t doubt it’s factually accurate as far as it goes. But, 1) nothing in it contradicts the magazine piece and 2) what are we not being told? For example, which set of projections are they beating?

  37. Allen says:

    If you think the ICC is a bit of a turd, and it is, just wait until the Silver Line gets rollin’. 😉

  38. Allen says:

    Mr. Stevens, please show me the muni and school district and met council budgets where the Twin Cities is failing in funding schools and fighting crime? Where are the rising crime numbers to back this?

    The Minneapolis-St. Paul MSA is among the very wealthiest in the country. In fact, when adjusted for cost of living it has the highest median household income in the nation. The core cities of MPLS and STPL aren’t murder capitals. They both have their problems but fair better than most major cities. That’s probably because the core cities have more skilled residents that most others in the nation.

    The metro area of the Twin Cities is larger in size than 4 states. It’s I would argue that if anything, the Twin Cities proves that life is more nuanced than sprawl = bad.

  39. Rod Stevens says:


    That’s quite a jump from my my statement that “I was surprised, being in Minneapolis two years ago, just how much sprawl and concrete there is there, and the cost of maintaining it, or not, shows in the cracks in the concrete” and then jump to your request, “Please show me the muni and school district and met council budgets where the Twin Cities is failing in funding schools and fighting crime.”

    I was staying near Minnetonka, one of the areas that former Minnesota legislator Myron Orfield described as the “favored quarter” for public and private investment as well as business activity, and was struck by the number of cracks in the local arterials. Every place has deferred maintenance, but there I was struck by the width of the roads and right-of-ways (compared to the Pacific Northwest) and, it still being winter, how much harsher the climate there is for maintaining. Intellectually, it was only a hop, skip and a jump to think about how much it costs to keep those road systems going.

  40. EB says:

    Just a technical note. Can you consider changing the font on your website? I find it hard read. I’m using Chrome by the way. Thanks, love the site.

  41. @EB, there are a lot of upgrades I’d like to make (e.g., mobile friendly template). I know some people aren’t fans of the font. We’ll see if I am able to pull any of it off, but I will keep your feedback in mind. Thx

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