A NEW NEW DEAL
Travel Projects Get a Tax-Funded Boost
Federal cash will change how we travel, a bit like the way FDR's plans reshaped cities and parks during the Great Depression. Here's a look forward and back.
Trains, High-Speed and Otherwise
Rail advocates are hoping stimulus money brings the country up to speed with the super-fast, high-tech train systems used overseas. (For a by-the-numbers comparison, read The Fastest Trains on the Track.) Federal funds may be used for rail improvements and expansions in the Chicago area, for a new subway line along 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, and for a Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor from Charlotte to Washington, D.C., among other projects. The plan to build California's ambitious 800-mile-long high-speed line is already in motion: It will connect San Diego to Sacramento, via Los Angeles and San Francisco, with trains traveling up to 220 miles per hour. By 2030, the line is expected to carry 117 million passengers annually—and to carry them more quickly and cheaply than cars or planes.
NextGen Air Traffic Control
Gridlock in the sky and at airports is only expected to worsen if the Federal Aviation Administration's outmoded air traffic control system isn't improved. The good news is that the FAA has a planned fix—NextGen, a system enhancement that incorporates satellite-based technology and innovations in communications and weather forecasting. The improvements should not only help increase efficiency, but also prevent accidents and reduce planes' fuel consumption, emissions, and noise. Initial steps are being taken this year (faa.gov/about/initiatives/nextgen).
Nationwide, airports are feeling the stimulus bill's impact, with runways being built or repaired and new roads being built around airports in Baltimore, Tampa, Pittsburgh, and Manchester, N.H., to name a few. At Dulles, D.C.'s biggest airport, a new 23-mile rail line is being built with the help of federal money. When completed (in 2013, if it's on schedule), it'll connect Northern Virginia and the airport to downtown D.C. via a Metro line.
Hudson World Bridge
It's not remotely "shovel-ready," but here's hoping. More than a means of crossing the Hudson River, the proposed bridge would be a destination—the marquee attraction on a revamped waterfront, and a symbol of New York City regaining its edge. In architect Eytan Kaufman's vision, the bridge would extend roughly above the Lincoln Tunnel, connecting New Jersey to midtown Manhattan. Above the roadway, the mile-long, 250-foot-wide bridge would have two dramatic features: the 500,000-square-foot Green Park, and, hanging above it, the capsule-shaped Cloud, a 1-million-square-foot exhibition space that would host galleries, trade shows, and events. Who wouldn't want to attend a party in a cloud (hudsonworldbridge.com).
Roswell Museum and Art Center, New Mexico
An adobe museum built by the Works Progress Administration is now known as Founders' Gallery, just one branch of an expanded arts center with works by Georgia O'Keeffe and other Southwestern artists. This is the famed "UFO Capital of the World," and much of the interest focuses on visitors of another kind—the third kind. Festivities peak around the Fourth of July in Roswell, where extraterrestrials are as American as apple pie. The UFO Festival takes over that weekend, and the series of events in the museum's adjoining planetarium includes laser shows and talks with titles like "The ETs: Where Are They?" Kids, adults, and even pets face off in the annual Alien Costume Contest, held July 3 this year (575/624-6744, roswellmuseum.org, free).
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
In 1935, President Roosevelt visited the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) crew building Skyline Drive, the scenic road that runs through Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. Roosevelt was so pleased he authorized the construction of another mountain-topping road: the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, which connects Shenandoah to North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are more than 200 scenic overlooks and parking areas, and 100 hiking trails spur off of the road, including the Appalachian Trail. Building the Blue Ridge was slow going, especially because crews worked carefully to blend the roadway into its natural surroundings. By design, there are no white lines on the sides of the road, which helps to retain the rural feel (nps.gov/blri/).