Cities

As Corps series ends, big questions remain about the future of the Mississippi

There are 8 million stories in the Mississippi Basin, and this week we’ve told only a few. As lead editor of this Army Corps series, I’ve been immersed for the last few months in all things Mississippi River. Coming out the other side, I have a few answers, yes, but even more questions to explore. Below is my personal working list of issues that — while perhaps less acknowledged nationally than the spectacular disaster that is New Orleans and the Louisiana coast — rank high in determining a bright or dim future for the Mississippi Basin’s communities, both human and …

A post-Katrina homebuilding project gives hope for weathering severe storms

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Mississippi on August 29, 2005, the storm’s 125-mile-an-hour winds and 25-foot wall of seawater ground homes, boats, and businesses into matchsticks across the state’s three coastal counties: Jackson, Hancock, and Harrison. The cities of Waveland and Bay St. Louis, roughly 20 miles east of the Mississippi-Louisiana state line, were practically flattened; whole neighborhoods were destroyed in larger cities like Biloxi and Gulfport. In the end, Katrina damaged over 94,000 homes across the three counties, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with those in moderate- and low-income communities the hardest hit. …

Highwaymen take over the Transportation Department

The WaPo reveals why mass transit gets the shaft on the national level

I have a couple of things to add about the Washington Post article pointed to by Ryan Avent in his smart recent post about mass transit. The article, by Lyndsey Layton and Spencer S. Hsu, is a superb and important piece of work, but it’s maddeningly written; it buries key and even shocking information. The theme is the takeover of the Department of Transportation by neocon ideologues with ties to the highway industry. Evidently, they’re using the department as a tool to gut mass transit projects and hand the proceeds over to their friends in the highway-building industry. This is …

Army Corps climate efforts in New Orleans may not be enough

No one wants to see this again — but can post-Katrina protection efforts keep the Big Easy safe? Photo: NOAA Here’s the good news: The Army Corps of Engineers is “racing” to complete a comprehensive levee system for metropolitan New Orleans by 2011 that actually takes into account global warming, at least in terms of sea-level rise. Here’s the bad news: the levee system under development is wildly insufficient to the growing climate problem, according to many informed critics. That’s because the vast and flat Louisiana coastal area — sometimes called the “Bangladesh of America” because it could disappear due …

Fifteen years after the Great Flood of 1993, floodplain development is booming

Once it was a cornfield; now it’s a Wal-Mart, a Taco Bell, a Target. Here along a stretch of Missouri’s Highway 40, in the Chesterfield Valley area just west of downtown St. Louis, what’s said to be the largest strip mall in the country sits on about 46 acres of Mississippi River bottomlands. Less than 20 years ago, the land was open space. Press Play to watch with narration, or use the arrow keys on the right to advance through without sound. Photos: Mark Hirsch It’s been fifteen years since the Great Flood of 1993 put this land under 10 …

Priced to move

A comprehensive solution to end congestion

On Monday, the Washington Post took a look at the ideas of a key Department of Transportation policymaker named Tyler Duvall, a man of bold plans who hopes to bring congestion pricing to highways across the nation. Congestion pricing is an idea with roots in the field of economics, widely supported by a broad spectrum of transportation officials. Unfortunately, Duvall has decided to use a very limited pool of federal transportation dollars to push this plan on cities at the expense of desperately needed transportation projects nationwide. Transit in particular, for which the Bush administration has no patience at all, …

Electric cars could impact water supplies, says analysis

Converting most U.S. vehicles to run on electricity could have an impact on water supplies, according to an analysis to be published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Generating the needed electricity would require more water than producing gasoline, the report found — that is, if the nation’s electricity grid continues to be powered by coal and other fuels that require a lot of H2O for processing and cooling. “If we use only wind or solar energy, water use would be essentially zero,” says coauthor Carey King. The report emphasized that we definitely shouldn’t abandon a quest for largely …

'But Americans won't ride trains'

Defying conventional wisdom, NC residents express desire for public transport

Photo: Roadsidepictures You know that old saw about how greens should shut up about public transportation because Americans hate trains and insist on getting around in their own private chunks of resource-sucking steel and plastic? Well, that may be going the way of $2/gallon gas. Get this, from a recent poll of North Carolina residents: Potential new railway options were embraced positively by those surveyed. Commuter rails in urban areas and high-speed train travel between larger cities were supported or strongly supported at 72 and 70 percent of respondents respectively. Respondents also embraced the possibility of a regional rail system …

Journalist Michael Grunwald on the hubris of the Army Corps

Dam, that’s a pretty lock: the sun sets behind the Corps navigation structure at Alton, Ill. Photo: Mark Hirsch Imagine the Pentagon had been caught red-handed concocting its justification before launching the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Imagine that after the scandal died down, the Pentagon admitted Saddam didn’t really have WMDs — but proposed an even larger invasion, because there was a remote possibility things might change someday. Then imagine Congress had rewarded this logic with overwhelming bipartisan support. It’s a silly thought experiment, because Congress — for all its flaws — takes war at least somewhat seriously. But …

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