Monday, April 11, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: April 11, 2011

The Hill published cuts made in the budget deal on Friday and Tacoma Daily Index reported that Washington state will get $145 million in high-speed-rail funding. Read more in this Infrastructure in the News.


National News

The Hill: White House lists cuts made in budget deal
The White House on Saturday released some details of the budget deal that congressional leaders agreed to late Friday. 

The Hill: Amtrak won't shut down if government does
The national passenger rail service would continue running trains even if the federal government shuts down Friday, officials from Amtrak said. 

The Transport Politic: The New Congress Makes Its Claim on the Budget
The agreement between Republicans and Democrats last Friday kept the federal government from shutting down for a short period, but it did not provide for longer-term fiscal stability in Washington nor did it do anything to tone down the increasingly shrill complaints from conservatives over the size of the national budget. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Government Shutdown Would Be a Punch in the Gut to Transit Agencies
A powwow between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, President Obama, and House Speaker John Boehner last night failed to yield a compromise that would put a budget in place before the government shuts down at midnight tonight. The failure of yet another attempt to negotiate makes a government shutdown all but inevitable. 

The Hill: FTA: Transit grants would be held up by shutdown
If the federal government shuts down at midnight Friday, transit grants — including those that have already been awarded — would be held up, the Federal Transit Administration said. 

Transportation For America: Government shutdown averted in last-minute budget deal, with some cuts to transportation
Down-to-the-wire negotiations late last night between President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid resulted in a budget deal containing about $38 billion in reductions from current spending levels and the prevention of a government shutdown. 

National Journal: Infrastructure: What's It Going to Take?
(Answers in the Comments Section) What's it going to take to move beyond a simple pay-for question among lawmakers? Who needs to make the first move, Congress or the White House? Is it possible to have a conversation about the details of highway, rail, or transit plans when the top-level debate is dominated by spending concerns? What can industry groups do to convince policymakers that they need to do more than just talk?

Forbes: The Unholy Marriage of GE and President Obama At The Altar of Industrial Policy
The angry Left has been calling for President Obama to fire Jeffrey Immelt from his position as head of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. I think that would be a good idea, but for different reasons. 

CNN: Gas prices at $3.76 a gallon, just 35 cents below peak
Gas prices have jumped nearly 20 cents over the past two weeks, approaching the all-time high, according to a survey published Sunday. 

New York Times: Air Traffic System Update Encountered Turbulence
Imagine an air traffic system where planes would no longer have to wait in long rush-hour lines before taking off, or have to circle the skies before landing. In this world, planes would be able to fly more direct routes and land along smoother glide paths.  

National Journal: Food Fight, Anyone?
Lobbyists for various modes of transportation -- roads, rail, aviation, even bike enthusiasts -- have done a good job of hanging together this year in advocating for infrastructure investment. Everyone from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO is saying the same thing to policymakers: You can't afford not to invest in infrastructure, which, by the way, also will create jobs and grow the economy. At this stage of the game, when lawmakers and lobbyists alike haven't delved beyond the talking points, infrastructure investment is win-win for all. 

National League of Cities: New Publication Provides Transportation Systems Guidance to City Leaders
Because transportation helps shape an area’s economy and quality of life, an efficient transportation system must provide for the mobility of people and goods while it influences patterns of growth and economic activity by providing access to land. To address challenges local elected officials face when tackling urban transportation problems, NLC has published "Understanding Urban Transportation Systems: An Action Guide for City Leaders." 

American Progress: Rep. Ryan's Proposed Infrastructure Savings Don't Add Up
Chairman of the House Budget Committee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) claims in his budget proposal for fiscal year 2012 that the Department of Transportation can generate savings through consolidation of duplicative programs to fund our highway repair efforts at their current level. He cites a recent report from the Government Accountability Office to back up his contention but this is sloppy work on the congressman’s part since the GAO never said anything of the sort. 

San Diego Union-Tribune: Rising gas prices again filling seats on public transit
So, not surprisingly, as in 2008, local buses, trolleys and trains are beginning to see rises in ridership -- some in the double digits. 

Cato Unbound: Free Parking or Free Markets
In his book Great Planning Disasters, Sir Peter Hall defined a great planning disaster as a planning process that costs a lot of money and has gone seriously wrong. Urban renewal and high-rise public housing are classic examples. Many things in life cost a lot of money and go seriously wrong, however, so how does a great planning disaster differ from a great moviemaking disaster or a great catering disaster? One major difference is that individual investors, producers, or caterers bear the cost of their disasters. With a great planning disaster, almost everyone loses something.  

eWire Informer: APTA Report Released Supporting High-Speed Rail in US
A new report released by the American Public Transportation Association is advertised as a “business case” for high-speed rail. The release is a compilation of the most recent study conclusions and statistics which highlight the long-term potential of US passenger rail.

NRDC Staff Blog: Unconventional Energy and Transportation Wisdom
Lisa Margonelli of the New America Foundation asked me to speak on a panel yesterday -- the entire thing was recorded and available here -- along with Jed Kolko of the Public Policy Institute of California and Shin-Pei Tsay of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

NRDC Staff Blog: Don't like air pollution? Can I interest you in some water pollution?
According to several reports, the recent negotiations over the spending bill to keep the federal government operating past midnight tonight have focused on whether the bill will contain a handful of "riders," which are special interest policy directives. In the last several hours, we've been hearing that Republican leaders sought to improve riders to prevent the government from carefully scrutinizing proposed mountaintop removal coal mines and considering the latest science in that process. 

California High Speed Rail Blog: Obama Caves on HSR Funds
We’ve been tracking the ongoing budget battle in Congress for some time now, and been wondering which of Obama’s priorities would prevail: his support for high speed rail, or his desire to appease the Republicans no matter the cost.


State News

KOLD News 14: Phoenix reverse lanes face funding vote
Plans to transform central Phoenix's reverse lanes are moving ahead as the Phoenix City Council prepares to vote on two studies looking at left turns and flashing lights along the major Phoenix roadways.

ABC 15: Road-eo highlights Arizona transit drivers
Public transit workers received recognition for being good drivers during the ‘Rural Transit Roadeo’, part of the annual statewide transit conference.

National Resources Defense Council: Recent Study Finds Alarming Asthma Rates Near Southern California Ports
Almost 30% of households in West Long Beach, California are home to someone with asthma.  This heartbreaking statistic is among the findings of a recent study conducted by the Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization, St. Lucy’s Catholic Church, and California State University, Long Beach.  29% of households surveyed are home to at least one adult that has asthma, and 18.9% are home to at least one child with asthma. 

California High Speed Rail Blog: Will It Take a Freeway to Bring DesertXpress to LA?
It would be no small irony if DesertXpress’s path from Victorville to Palmdale – and thus to downtown LA – were to be blazed by a freeway. But that might just be the answer, as the long-discussed proposal for a freeway along the Highway 18/138 corridor in the Antelope Valley is revived again

Beverly Hills Courier: High Desert Freeway May Finally Get Built Between Palmdale and Victorville
The public will get to comment next week on a proposed 63-mile freeway that will connect Palmdale and Victorville, and provide a safe alternative to a two-lane road known as "blood alley."

The Coloradoan: Study to weigh creating regional transit system
Transit service in and around Fort Collins and Loveland could head in a new direction depending on the outcome of a new study that will look at the possibility of establishing a regional system.

NRDC: Another Episode of "The Real Buffalos of California Water"
The challenges facing California water policy are substantial.  Our fishing communities and Native American tribes struggle mightily as many of California’s salmon runs dwindle to a tiny fraction of what they once were.  The fortunes of our fishing industry now rise and fall with the fate of the one remaining stock that is viable enough (for the moment) to stay off the endangered species list.  The flood threats facing the Delta, including Sacramento, are as bad or worse as those produced by Hurricane Katrina.   

Chicago Tribune: Bus lanes, commuter rail and more lanes might be added to Addams
The Illinois tollway and other transportation agencies have high hopes for collaborating on future highway and mass transit projects. 

LJ World: Kansas application for federal funds would go toward renovating Santa Fe Depot
The Kansas application would be for $1.1 million and would go toward renovation and restoration of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe depot.

Norwalk Plus: Report shows economic benefits of investing in public transit
The Transit for Connecticut Coalition, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, released a new report recently showing the economic benefits of investing in Connecticut’s public transportation infrastructure. The report, “Economic Importance of Investment in Public Transportation,” was prepared by Wilbur Smith Associates.

Public News Service: New MI Coalition: Put the Pedal to the Metal for Transportation
A new statewide coalition of organizations that don't always see eye to eye has agreed nonetheless to try to find common ground, in order to increase the state's funding and focus on 21st century transportation. Theirs is not just another special interest group hoping to improve mass transit, according to members of the newly-formed coalition, Transportation4Michigan.

Hattiesburg American: Miss. planning for high-speed rail
President Barack Obama's proposed overhaul of the country's transportation infrastructure, particularly implementing a nationwide high-speed rail system, may seem decades away from becoming a reality.

The Asbury Park Press: Portal Bridge replacements gets $38.5M in stimulus money
U.S. Sens. Frank R. Lau­tenberg and Robert Menen­dez, both D-N.J., announced an award of $38.5 million in stimulus money to NJ Tran­sit toward the overdue re­placement of the bridge on the Northeast Corridor. 

New Jersey: Traffic update: Delays on NJ Transit Northeast Corridor, Interstate 280, Route 3
According to NJ Transit, eastbound Northeast Corridor trains from Trenton to New York are experiencing 60-minute delays due to wire damage in Trenton. Inbound service has, however, been restored at Hamilton and Princeton Junction stations. 

Hornell Evening Tribune: Gov. Cuomo right to advance state's high-speed rail
New York's request comes after some states rejected the money and the federal government made $2.4 billion in high-speed rail funding available after it was turned down by the State of Florida. 

News and Observer: Rail funds mean jobs
The conversation about high-speed rail funding has lately been derailed into a debate on how little time would be saved traveling from Raleigh to Charlotte. While this money would result in increased train speeds, the real conversation should be about the jobs that will result. The estimates range from 4,800 direct jobs to nearly 15,000 total. 

News and Observer: High-speed rail kill bill pulled from agenda
The high-speed rail kill bill championed by Rep. Ric Killian of Charlotte was pulled Friday from the agenda of the House Transportation Committee, which had been scheduled to vote on the measure next week. Killian's bill was attacked at this week's committee meeting by Democrats, mayors and business advocates. 

Philly: A Philadelphia conference ponders the future of water
From the safety of dry land in Philadelphia, tsunamis in Japan, floods in New Orleans, multiyear droughts in San Diego, and fracking mishaps in Western Pennsylvania might look like other people's problems. But the water issues confronting this region in the near future will be no less severe, or costly to remedy. 

The Intelligencer: Lower State Road Bridge to close
The Lower State Road Bridge will be closed to northbound traffic from April 18 through August 2012 while the state Department of Transportation replaces it. 

Fox 19: Steetcar in jeopardy if state funding is pulled
Cincinnati's streetcar project could take a huge hit this week if the state funding is pulled. 

Odessa American Online: High-speed rail
The Texas Department of Transportation submitted applications to the Federal Railroad Administration requesting almost $43 million in high-speed intercity passenger rail funds for two Texas projects. 

Transportation Nation: Texas Submits Bid For High-Speed Rail Money
TxDOT wants to spend the remaining $24.8 million on the final design and construction of a federally-mandated safety system (called Positive Train Control) for the Trinity Rail Express corridor, which operates between Dallas and Fort Worth. The safety technology monitors train movements to prevent rail collisions and derailments on tracks that carry both passenger and freight trains. 

The Hill: Texas bill to raise speed limit racing toward passage
One chamber of the Texas State Legislature has voted to increase speed limits on some highways in the state to 85 miles per hour, which would make them the highest speed limits in the nation, the Houston Chronicle reported this week.  

Transportation Nation: Old Plans, Current Debate: Would a Second Beltway Work Today?
The idea of a second Beltway — a circular highway in Virginia and Maryland,  is sort of mythical now, but back in the 1960s, it was a reality. An official map from back then shows the highways that regional planners thought would be finished by the year 2000. A bright, red line forms a concentric circle around the Beltway — the first Beltway, that is. This red line goes around or, in some cases, directly through the towns of Mount Vernon, Fairfax and Herndon in Virginia and then Rockville, Bowie and Upper Marlboro in Maryland. 

Tacoma Daily Index: Wash. to receive $145M in Ohio, Wis. high-speed rail funding
Federal and state officials signed documents Thursday that guarantee Washington state will get $145 million in high-speed-rail funding originally intended for Ohio and Wisconsin, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced Friday. Washington was initially awarded this portion of federal funding in late 2010 when the U.S. Department of Transportation redirected money returned by governors in Ohio and Wisconsin. 

New York Times: Seattle Ponders Replacing a Roadway
Here in the capital of the Pacific Northwest, where commercial jets were born but now the mayor brags about biking to work, questions over commerce, climate change and community are converging on a couple of fateful miles of asphalt.

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