Tuesday, April 12, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: April 12, 2011

Huffington Post reported that Obama's high-speed rail project was cut by $1.5 billion in the new budget deal and according to Streetsblog Capital Hill offshore drilling will not solve America's energy problems. Read more in this Infrastructure in the News.


National News

Bloomberg: Rail Cut of $1.5 Billion Won't Hurt Current State Projects
A $1.5 billion cut in high-speed rail funding, highlighted by Republican leaders in their budget deal with the White House, won’t affect existing projects, said Brie Sachse, a Federal Railroad Administration spokeswoman

Forbes: Obama prevents budget cuts to favorite programs
A close look at the government shutdown-dodging agreement to cut federal spending by $38 billion reveals that lawmakers significantly eased the fiscal pain by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Barack Obama had targeted anyway.

Huffington Post: Obama's High-Speed Rail Project Gets $1.5 Billion Slashed In Budget Deal
Multiple Hill sources from both parties confirm that the final continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through the end of September will include a $1.5 billion cut in funds for the planned national high-speed rail system. Jennifer Hing, communications director for the House Appropriations Committee, said that the reduction could actually grow larger as lawmakers negotiate the final language.

The Hill: GAO: Obama administration rail decisions not clear enough
A GAO report released Monday said the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) should have provided additional documentation showing how it selected some projects over others when it awarded $8 billion in high-speed rail money included in the 2009 economic stimulus package. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: You Can Open Your Eyes Now: Budget Deal Spares Transpo the Worst
They cut $38.5 billion from the 2010 budget; $78.5 billion from President Obama’s 2011 budget proposal. Some of the more controversial riders included by the GOP were stripped, including one to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. To give themselves time to work out the details, vote in both chambers, and get the budget measure signed by the president, they passed a one-week extension to the current budget. 

Transportation Nation: High-Speed Rail Gutted in Spending Deal
Details of the nearly six-month spending deal that kept the government from shutting down came out overnight. They contain a whopping $2.9 billion cut for high-speed rail projects. Keep in mind the one-week spending bill used to buy time for the bill-writers on Capitol Hill cut another $1.5 billion from the program immediately.

Infrastructurist: Rush Hour Read: Amtrak on Record Ridership Pace
Amtrak set records for ridership in fiscal 2010, but those marks may not stand for long. The Hill reports that America’s passenger rail provider had more riders than past March than during any March in its history.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: 'Drill Baby Drill' Won't Solve America's Energy Problems
House Republicans are calling for offshore drilling as an answer to foreign oil dependency and high gas prices — and they’re not the only ones. President Obama recently announced his intention to cut oil imports by one-third by 2025, partly by increasing domestic production was the answer to the country’s energy woes. In his speech announcing the plan, Obama barely mentioned transit and land use, even though more and more evidence points to these as real solutions for high gas prices.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Grabbing a Thin Reed, Republicans Attack DOT Over Stimulus Grant Process
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood likes to remind critics that there have been no reports of “boondoggles” or “sweetheart deals” related to transportation stimulus funds. He’s proud that the money has been put to the uses it was intended for. 

Journal of Commerce: DOT Obligates $300 Million in State Rail Grants
The Department of Transportation got a flurry of rail grants locked in just under the wire last week, obligating over $300 million to projects so states could start spending them even if the federal government shut down. 

Governing: What to Call the Gas Tax: Not Just Semantics
A gas tax might appear to be a user fee at first, because you need gas to drive. But this confuses the meaning of the term. To qualify as a user fee, you must have a choice as to whether or not you pay it. It also must relate directly to a particular service that you can accept or reject, and to the number of times you use that service. 

DOT Blog: From Alabama to Alaska, DOT delivers emergency relief to states
When a natural disaster strikes, the cost of repairing roads and bridges can be a tremendous burden to states.  But restoring vital transportation links is important so commerce can resume and residents can get back to work and school. 

DOT Blog: United Streetcar putting Americans to work, putting America in position to win future
When you watch our latest video, "Transporting America: United Streetcar," you'll see the next generation of transportation. You'll see transit investments from the Department of Transportation helping people get where they need to go without breaking the bank.  And you'll see a company out-innovating and out-building its foreign competition while creating jobs for American workers.

National Resource Defense Council: The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline Supplemental Environmental Impact Settlement must consider alternative routings
Last week, NRDC and Sierra Club sent a letter to the Department of State (DOS) asking that it conduct a rigorous review of alternative routes for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, including a route that follows the shortest possible path through the United States and one that would be an Oklahoma to the Gulf only segment.  Both would either limit exposure to or avoid the critical Ogallala Aquifer, which has been the source of great concern to landowners, ranchers and public officials in Nebraska and beyond. 

The Hill: Democrat wants to bring back aviation safety committee
The bill from Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) would bring back the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, a panel that was created after the 1988 bombing of a jetliner in Lockerbie, Scotland.

American City and County: Americans support infrastructure investment
More than three-quarters (77 percent) of Americans think the federal government should increase spending to repair the nation's crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems, according to a report from Kansas City, Mo.-based HNTB Corp. The report, released March 31, found that most respondents do not think the current national gas tax, which traditionally supports federal highway and transit programs, raises enough money to cover the expenses, and they are willing to support large-scale infrastructure projects through increased tolls or taxes as long as they can directly reap or be assured of the benefits. 

AltTransport: Nissan LEAF Drivers Face Start Problems
Nissan LEAF drivers, who received their cars in the past few months, are starting to report problems. The auto manufacturer is receiving complaints from LEAF owners that the electric car fails to start on occasion. The malfunction could pose to be a potential setback for the automaker’s goal of promoting all-electric vehicles. 

Miller-McCune: Building Cities With Sustainability in Mind to Cut Costs
Aside from some notable improvements in sanitation, and perhaps civility, our infrastructure still follows the Roman model; centralized water works, all-weather roadways with engineered drainage, and municipal sewers to whisk away our excesses. This comes at a steep, and recurring, cost.

St. Augustine News: Mica reports on rail grant transparency
Two independent government reports found that the Obama Administration failed to clearly justify its selections for so-called high-speed and passenger rail grants and TIGER transportation grants under the failed stimulus.


State News

Arkansas Business: Highway Department Sets Public Meetings on Road Conditions
The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department is scheduling public meetings to discuss deteriorating highways in parts of the state.

National Resource Defense Council: Important Facts for Today's Congressional Hearing on California Water Supply
This morning, members of the House Energy & Water Subcommittee are holding a hearing in Fresno regarding California's water supply.  While the committee will hear from one commercial salmon fisherman and one County Supervisor in the Delta, the majority of witnesses will represent the views of corporate agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley.

San Jose Mercury News: Highway 4 ranks among nation's most congested commute
Westbound Highway 4 from Hillcrest Avenue to Somersville Road on weekday mornings is the Bay Area's most congested commute corridor, according to a March study by traffic data tracking firm INRIX. Nationally, it ranks as the 27th worst.

California High Speed Rail Blog: Learning More About Obama's HSR Cuts
Following up from Saturday’s post, we’re learning more about the $1.5 billion in cuts to high speed rail funding that President Barack Obama agreed to with the Republicans in Congress. First, the good news: this should not hurt existing programs:

Sacramento Bee: Federal budget deal could slow California rail funds
California's ambitious high-speed rail project could slow down a little under the last-minute budget deal that's kept the federal government open. 

Miami Herald: Calif. water distribution spurs debate at congressional hearing
The overwhelming sentiment at a Monday morning congressional hearing in Fresno was that bureaucrats and federal regulations are depriving the San Joaquin Valley of water. 

San Francisco Chronicle: High-Speed Rail Cut of $1.5 Billion Won't Hurt Existing Program
A $1.5 billion cut in high-speed rail funding, highlighted by Republican leaders in their budget deal with the White House, won't affect existing projects.

Glendale News Press: Riverwalk construction finally set to start
Discussed for the past decade, the so-called Glendale Narrows Riverwalk project received concept design approval from the City Council in 2006, but in recent years has met a number of roadblocks.

San Diego Union-Tribune: High-Speed Rail Authority meeting with 2,000 business reps
About 2,000 representatives of private firms will be gathering Tuesday at the Los Angeles Convention Center to learn about how they can participate in the development and construction of the $42 billion bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

The State Column: Gov. Malloy announces federal funding for high-speed rail
Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that $40 million in previously allocated stimulus funding was released today to Connecticut. Governor Malloy spoke at length with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about this when they met last month. While the funding for high speed rail was previously allocated, if not actually released to Connecticut by April 8, the state would have lost the money altogether. 

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Buses, cargo, rail and commuter express lanes better transportation policy options
Gov. Scott rightly followed the advice of many transportation experts, including pro-rail America 2050, whose assessment of 100 possible high-speed rail corridors nationwide ranked both Tampa-to-Orlando and Orlando-to-Miami at the bottom of the list, judging them the country's least-viable corridors. 

The Republic: Honolulu rail losing bidder files protest, says city failed to taken into account overall cost
A company that failed to win a contract to build Honolulu's planned mass transit rail line has filed a formal protest regarding the city's selection of the winning bid. 

ABC7: Chicago exploring high-speed rail system from Loop to O'Hare
Chicago is moving a step closer to a high-speed rail line running from downtown to O'Hare International Airport.

Michigan Live: Detroit bridge foes step up attacks on Gov. Rick Snyder's bid for new span
The fight over Gov. Rick Snyder’s call to construct a new bridge linking Detroit and Windsor is being fought 200 miles west as opponents launch a direct mail campaign in the districts of three Republican senators likely to cast pivotal votes on the project. 

Business Week: Detroit council approves bond sale for light speed rail
The Detroit City Council voted Monday to approve the sale of $125 million in bonds for the first leg of a proposed light rail system that will take commuters from the New Center area to downtown. 

Fox4kc: Senate budget committee backs $37M of federal stimulus spending on Missouri rail projects
A Senate committee working on Missouri's budget has signed off on 11 railroad projects funded with $37 million of federal stimulus money. 

Progressive Railroading: USDOT signs off on Tiger II grant for Nebraska freight-project
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) recently reached an agreement with the city of Chadron, Neb., and Nebraska Northwest Railroad regarding a $4.9 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery II (TIGER II) grant for a freight-rail infrastructure project.

 Streetsblog New York City: The Efficient Past and Wasteful Present of the Brooklyn Bridge
In the headlines this morning, we linked to a great historical picture of the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge on Brownstoner, and it’s taking a closer look at the full implications of the shot. Not for nostalgia’s sake, but to make a cool, calculated appraisal of the efficiency of this piece of transportation infrastructure, as currently configured. 

New Jersey: Ex-Port Authority chairman stays in public arena as Obama appointee to create U.S. high-speed rail network
After serving eight years under four governors, Anthony Coscia has finally been sidelined as chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. But he is not leaving the public policy arena. In fact, he’s still very much in the game.  

Inforum: North Dakota Senate OKs DOT budget
The state Senate unanimously approved the state Department of Transportation budget on Monday. It includes $370.6 million in one-time funding for oil counties and $60 million in one-time funding for non-oil-producing counties. 

The State Column: Sen. Casey Urges Support for High Speed Rail
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urging him to approve approximately $248 million in funds sought by PennDOT to increase the maximum speed on the Keystone Corridor to 125 miles per hour. This will create jobs, spur economic growth and reduce travel time between Harrisburg and Philadelphia by 20 minutes. 

National Resource Defense Council: Oil and gas waste pits have contaminated drinking water in Texas
According to the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District in Texas, pits containing waste from oil and gas drilling have leaked, leading to the contamination of drinking water for four families. According to the news report, in Texas these pits are allowed to be less than ten feet from drinking water supplies! 

Infrastructurist: Debating Road Removal: Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct
What to do with the Alaskan Way Viaduct is a long-running matter of debate in Seattle. In 2001 an earthquake damaged the elevated highway, which runs along the downtown waterfront. Three replacement options emerged: rebuild the road, reduce it to grade level, or replace it with a tunnel. In late 2009 the tunnel concept won out, and the project appeared to be a done deal. 

The Hill: Budget deal spares DC metro
Washington MetroRail will receive $150 million in federal funding Republicans had sought to eliminate under the budget deal reached last week to avoid a government shutdown. 

Washington Post: Gray, council members arrested in protest of D.C. riders in spending bill
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and several members of the D.C. Council were arrested Monday at a protest on Capitol Hill, as city officials turned up the volume on their complaints about a federal spending deal that imposes controversial riders on the District.

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