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Are D.C.'s Big Sustainability Plans Too Big?

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D.C. Council member Tommy Wells took aim at city officials for failing to follow through on two transportation programs this week.
Mallory Noe-Payne
D.C. Council member Tommy Wells took aim at city officials for failing to follow through on two transportation programs this week.

This week, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray rolled out a 20-year sustainability plan for the city: an ambitious vision of green jobs, clean rivers, and lots of bike lanes, buses and streetcars.

But the biggest challenge to Gray's plan might be the city government's ability to follow along. Council member Tommy Wells provides an example of the District's failure to follow through: a bike theft prevention plan with a budget of $50,000.

For a city with an $11 billion budget, $50,000 is less a drop in the bucket than, say, a drop in the Tidal Basin. Yet city officials admit one of D.C.'s signature bike theft prevention efforts has been held up because of bureaucratic wrangling over the bike bait program's $50,000 price tag. 

"The executive branch has been unable to give $50,000 from DDOT to MPD, so there is no bait bike program starting this spring because they can't do it," Wells says. "So there is not a lot of confidence, that if something this small can't get done, that we can do the big stuff." 

One example of that 'big stuff?' Streetcars. D.C.'s trolley program continues to face serious questions about its rollout on H Street NE next year. The latest issue is that despite receiving bids from companies to build the street cars seven months ago, the city still hasn't issued the contract, according to transportation officials.


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