Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Trouble at the Port Authority: Chris Christie's Bludgeon/Cash Cow in Jeopardy?

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a major player in the evolving scandal surrounding Chris Christie, but unsurprisingly, the specifics of its officials' involvement remain obscure.  Recent events might well change how we view authorities, the notorious quasi-public "shadow governments" of urban America.

Recent investigations of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Delaware River Authority, and the Maine Turnpike Authority have added to the mountains of dirt on these agencies that has piled up in the historic record since they became popular in the mid-twentieth century.

While traditionally, scholars and investigators have pointed to financiers as the main source of undue influence on these agencies, Christie's record could indicate the power of political pressure on the sensitive levers of secretive bureaucratic decision-making.

My book on the Golden Gate Bridge documented petty corruption and mismanagement of one California authority.  Many readers commented that a single case is inadequate to draw conclusions about an entire sector of government. The story, unfortunately, continues to unfold.

The George Washington Bridge: Has Christie lost his claim on this cash cow?
For more on the (rather shocking) record of the Pennsylvania Turpike, see my recent Planning History article, "Tolls and Control," or email me for a copy.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Big Day for the Bay Bridge!

A little over a year since my last post, and a lot has changed in the world of transportation and infrastructure.   A lot has changed in my life, as well—I am now a student at Berkeley Law.   It's wonderful to be back in California.

Please take a look at the fantastic article in ACCESS by my UC Berkeley colleague Karen Trapenberg Frick, released ahead of print for the big occasion.
Pursuing the Technological Sublime: How the Eastern Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Became a Megaproject


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Question of Regional Government

I can see many sides of many issues, and as a historian it's nice to have the freedom to take a stance or to avoid one.  But on the question of regionalism, I am a passionate advocate for authoritative and democratic government.  And I do mean government--public, accountable, and transparent--not some mish-mash of public/private "governance."  This week, some of my research was published in ACCESS magazine, which reaches large numbers of people who face this question on a regular basis.  Hopefully, it will contribute to the larger discussion. 


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Urban Infrastructure Podcast: Penna Turnpike and the Chicago Skyway

GCOI have been a fan of the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois Chicago since my days at the Keston Institute at USC. This week, I had the chance to share some of my recent work in a GCI seminar.  And, for the first time, I am now featured in a podcast!  You can download my talk at the GCI podcast Web Site.

I discuss some of the issues related to toll financing and highways, looking back at the experience of the Penn Turnpike and the Chicago Skyway.  It includes some of the material in my most recent article, "Tolls and Control" in the Journal of Planning History.  There are a lot of other fascinating lectures available from the GCI.  I know what I will be listening to on my next drive south!

Rachel Weber organized the seminar--she does some amazing work related to urban development and finance. I highly recommend her article "Selling City Futures" in Economic Geography, as well as her various other articles related to tax increment financing.  I am also looking forward to some of her new research on the Skyway specifically, with Marc Doussard and Phil Ashton, which should be forthcoming soon.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chicago Skyway: Past, Present, Future?

I just returned from my first Transportation Research Board meeting, which was an amazing experience.  Thousands of academics and professionals--engineers, planners, mostly, but at least three historians--met in Washington to discuss transportation.  Apparently, this meeting has been growing quickly over the last decade, and it is now one of the largest subject-specific conferences there is.  I think it testifies to the need for vibrant interdisciplinary forums, and I am sure it could be a model for many areas of inquiry.

I produced my first poster for the event.  It is a preview of one of my current projects: a book on the Chicago Skyway.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Article on Toll Road Privatization!

My new article comparing recent efforts to privatize major toll roads was just release online by the Journal of Planning History!

Tolls and Control: The Chicago Skyway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike

And, expect much more in the future.  I am developing a book on the history of the Skyway, which provides an exciting glimpse into Chicago infrastructure politics over the last fifty years, a subject not for the meek, believe me. I'll be presenting some of the new research in Washington at the meeting of the Transportation Research Board (the 800 lb gorilla of transportation conferences) in January. Be sure to look for me!