Infrastructure in the News: August 10, 2011
"The time has come for the U.S. to commit to a long-term infrastructure revitalization plan that invests at least $200 billion a year. This plan can produce millions of good-paying American jobs over a sustained period of time, " said BAF co-chairman Ed Rendell. Read more about this story in today's Infrastructure in the News.
BAF IN THE NEWS
Congress should develop a long-term infrastructure strategy -- and should even consider transportation and energy investment as part of the deficit reduction talks -- to prevent falling further behind economic competitors, according to a new report out today… "There are always excuses to delay tough decisions, but the time has come for the U.S. to commit to a long-term infrastructure revitalization plan that invests at least $200 billion a year," said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), co-chairman of BAF. "At a time when our nation is crying out for job creation, this plan can produce millions of good-paying American jobs over a sustained period of time."
NYC Major Mike Bloomberg and former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier this week to promote their new report which lays out a plan to fix America’s infrastructure deficit.
We’ve fallen behind the world on investing in transportation and our physical infrastructure, but Building America’s Future lays out a clear path forward to help restore America’s prominence and lay a strong foundation for our economic future.
Even before congressional bumbling helped to stall it, the recovery after the Great Recession had been slow and uneven. Its principal feature had been stubbornly high unemployment, which will be exacerbated by the ill-timed cuts that will be mandated by the debt ceiling agreement.
Yesterday, Building America’s Future Educational Fund, a bipartisan and national infrastructure coalition, released a report that examines the economic challenges posed by the United States’ ailing transportation infrastructure.
That the group, Building America's Future (BAF), thinks the U.S. should be investing more money in infrastructure is about as shocking as 90 degree temps in August, but in a conference call announcing the release of its new report: "Falling Apart and Falling Behind," former PA Governor Ed Rendell, one of BAF's chairs, gave a particularly urgent call to arms on an infrastructure bank, which would leverage federal funds to funnel private investment into roads, bridges, transit, and rail.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on Tuesday unveiled legislation he's backing that tackles the issue of job creation by investing in infrastructure improvements around the nation, the Associated Press reports. Brown wants to create a so-called infrastructure bank that would help finance projects by providing loans or guarantees and leveraging private investment. The cost and other details of the bank are negotiable, Brown told the AP.
President Obama has set his sights on extending a temporary payroll tax holiday and extending unemployment insurance in order to get more money into the hands of consumers and stimulate demand. He is also backing a proposal to set up a national infrastructure bank to fund more projects as a means of adding construction jobs.
Mr. President, it’s time to go big on the economic solutions. It’s time to propose a massive second stimulus, offset by some serious tax hikes and budget cuts once the economy regains a semblance of good health. Republicans won’t go for it, but they don’t go for small economic solutions either, be they extensions of unemployment insurance or a miniaturized infrastructure bank. (The current level of GOP commitment to infrastructure would about cover the purchase of a Lego set.)
After watching a two-week shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, transportation advocates and congressional staffers are concerned that the federal gas tax could become the next confrontational issue that Democrats and Republicans push to the brink.
The White House on Tuesday announced the first-ever fuel-efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks, standards the Obama administration says will save billions in fuel costs, slash oil consumption and reduce harmful air pollution.
But another $68 million will go toward what the department calls “next-generation American-made trains”; in this case, that means four locomotives and 15 bi-level rail cars. The equipment money is part of a larger, $336 million award announced last week. California will share the pot with four Midwestern states (Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri) that will use the remaining $268 million to purchase seven locomotives and 48 bi-levels.
Now cities around the country, including Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis, are working up plans to renovate their aging railroad trestles, tracks and railways for parkland. Cities with little public space are realizing they badly need more parks, and the High Line has taught that renovating an old railway can be the spark that helps improve a neighborhood and attract development.
One of the many ways in which the United States disadvantages rail vis-a-vis automobile transportation is that rail operators in the United States are typically subject to onerous “Buy America” rules that do much more to constrain the purchase of European or Japanese rolling stock than is the case for automobiles.
Funny that, because around 4 pm on Friday is when the Port Authority announced a proposal to raise toll rates to as much as $15 during peak times (from $8) for drivers paying cash – somewhat less for EZ Pass users – and to raise the PATH commuter train fare from $1.75 to $2.75. It was a decision the bi-state authority has found itself inching inevitably towards.
German researchers have developed a system that uses infrared, optical 2D and 3D cameras and networked radar sensors to continuously scan runways for debris that can damage or even bring down aircraft.
Ron Bloom, the White House adviser who helped craft new vehicle mileage standards and the restructuring of the U.S. auto industry, is leaving the Obama administration at the end of August.
Faced with the expiration in September of federal transportation taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, highway advocates say they are increasingly worried that the anti-tax, anti-government rancor that characterized the debt ceiling battle could endanger the nation’s transportation system.
As the House of Representatives discussed funding the nation’s energy and water development projects last month, Niles Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan waded into the debate to tout the need for investment in high-speed rail, highways, bridges, dams, ports and sewers, as a way to preserve the nation’s global competitiveness.
The first two stretches of California's proposed high-speed train system in the San Joaquin Valley would close dozens of roads, displace hundreds of homes and businesses, affect thousands of acres of farmland, and cost billions more to build than originally anticipated.
A big milestone was reached today when the California High Speed Rail Authority released the Draft Environmental Impact Reports for the Merced to Fresno and Fresno to Bakersfield sections of the project, the first ones that will be built with the combined state and federal funding.
When the economy is in the tank, road builders are looking for work, too. That means the bidding environment for projects to widen or build new highways is especially competitive – not to mention cheaper. And that's where Florida – the state that turned its back on high-speed rail – has jumped on accelerating some $1.2 billion in road projects.
The Central Corridor lightrail’s construction phase has had its problems. It has been painful for many businesses, and there is still room for improvement on traffic flow and signage on University and Washington avenues. But the Metropolitan Council has so far put forth a worthy effort in mitigating some of the worst effects of this major infrastructure investment.
Crossing the Hudson River will get much more expensive under a proposed Port Authority plan to sharply increase tolls and fares on its four bridges, two tunnels and the PATH train. The increases are a result of the poor economy, the costs of rebuilding after the attacks of September 11, and the expensive repairs needed on the agency’s aging infrastructure, said the Port Authority.
In today's blog post, Mayor Mike McGinn challenged the Seattle City Council to "be bold" and finance rail projects. Looking at Portland's rail systems as an example, McGinn calls on the Seattle City Council to acknowledge rail opportunities in Seattle as the Council deliberates on a new transportation measure. SDOT released the Transit Master Plan last month, recognizing that connecting neighborhoods to each other is Seattle's greatest weakness.
"There is no reason why the world's best infrastructure should lie beyond our borders. This is America. We've always had the best infrastructure. This is work that needs to be done."