DC Skyscrapers Would Be A Great Way To Pay For New Metro Tunnels

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 24 2013 12:08 PM

DC Skyscrapers Would Be A Great Way To Pay For New Metro Tunnels

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Washington's Metro Transit Authority is out with its latest ambitious wish list of projects, including a pair of new tunnels under the main portions of Washington DC (see cool Washington Post map reproduced in shrunken form above). Such projects would be very useful on their own terms and also increase the value of the existing rail infrastructure by creating a broader, more useful overall network. But they'd also be expensive to build. WMATA says the north-south leg would cost $2.7 billion while the east-west leg would cost $3.3 billion. And, naturally, WMATA has no particular idea where they might find $6 billion.

But I do!

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Restrictions on the height of buildings in the DC central business district cost the city billions per year in lost economic activity. Rescind the Height of Buildings Act—not just in a tweak around the edges way, but in an honest-to-god skyscrapers way—but charge a fee to get permission to build high. That direct revenue can pay for the new infrastructure, infrastructure that will conveniently support more density. The much increased levels of employment and retail activity that would be associated with a denser central business district, meanwhile, will replenish the District's general coffers for years to come.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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