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Triangle's 'squabbling tribes' play chicken

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Tom Murphy is the former mayor of Pittsburgh. His home town formerly had more people and worse traffic than Raleigh has. He seems to know his way around the Triangle's muggy streets.

"The whole concept of the Research Triangle is based on two things: cheap gas and infrastructure that gets the car there easily," Murphy said Thursday at an Urban Land Institute forum on infrastructure needs and how to pay for them, where he was the keynote speaker. "If you don'thave the cheap gas, and you don't have the infrastructure -- because you're not paying for it -- where do you go?

"We're not going to have cheap gas any more. There's this game of chicken going on, that the technology is going to get to a 100 miles-per-gallon car before gas gets to $10 a gallon. But what if it doesn't?" Murphy said.

Murphy noted that Triangle legislators and local elected officials have been unable to agree ("a squabbling group of tribes") on a regional transit plan.

Other communities and countries have worked out bigger differences, he said.  Take Europe.

"How do 27 countries that speak 27 different languages that have been at war with each other repeatedly over the last 100 years figure out how to build a high-speed rail system from London to Moscow -- when you can't figure out how to build a mass transit system from Durham to Raleigh?" Murphy asked.

"How does that happen? It's not about technology. It's not about money. It’s about community will," Murphy said.

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About the blogger

Bruce Siceloff reports on traffic and transportation. A News & Observer reporter, editor and blogger since 1976, he took over the Road Worrier column in 2003. Lately he drives I-40 with the cruise control set at 68 mph. You can e-mail Bruce, call him at 919-829-4527, check out his Crosstown Traffic blog or follow him (@Road_Worrier) on Twitter.