Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Making room for transit projects

Inevitably, large transit projects that move people in and out of the city require land. Some of that land is occupied, and that makes things difficult; forcing people out of their homes, even if you give them appropriate market value, is a difficult task. A current rail project in Hampton Roads, Virginia is undertaking just such a venture, and it's not easy for anyone involved. From the Virginian-Pilot:

Transit officials will tear down the Hall home and 16 other privately owned homes and businesses for the 7.4-mile, $232.1 million rail line. It's a small number for such a large public transit project, said Michael Townes, Hampton Roads Transit president and CEO who also serves as chairman of the American Public Transit Association.

But it's not small to Barbara Hall, who was married in the front yard of her in-laws' former house, where she now lives; who buried three beloved pets in the yard; and who imprinted her grandchildren's hands in the cement driveway.

"It's very heartbreaking," Hall said.

Hall pointed out two stately pecan trees that flank the front walk. They were saplings when she got married beside them.

"It's not just about money," she said. "I'm talking about emotional ties. There's quite a history here."

As Ottawa moves towards more complex transit plans, including (hopefully) the eventual rail service connecting Kanata, Orleans, and Barrhaven, these problems will come about. Maybe some time after 2031 (that seems so long away... ). It's unfortunate, but Ottawa has been through it before, with construction of the Transitway and of the 417 in its day. In the long run, it will serve the city better, but that doesn't make it any more pleasant for the people who are forced to sell their homes.

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