Tuesday, April 19, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: April 19, 2011

According to Streetsblog Capitol Hill the increasing gas prices lead to lower car sales and Wyoming Business Report wrote that the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a pipeline safety website. Read more in this Infrastructure in the News.

 

National News

 For Construction Pros: What Washington's Budget Wars Mean For You
The $1.049 trillion continuing resolution (CR) brokered earlier this month and approved by the House and Senate on April 14 funds the federal government for the rest of fiscal year 2011 (through September 30). It will result in an overall reduction in government spending of close to $40 billion from last year. While AED generally applauds the House GOP leadership and Obama administration for reaching a deal that trims the budget deficit and puts the nation on more responsible fiscal footing, it's important for distributors to understand what the CR means for construction markets in the near term.
 
Canadian Business: Amtrak taps into rail fan community to help keep nation's passenger railroad safe
Through a new program dubbed Partners for Amtrak Safety and Security being launched Tuesday, Amtrak will recruit people who are already watching and riding trains to keep an eye out for suspicious activity on trains and around stations and tracks.
 
Wyoming Business Report: DOT launches pipeline safety website
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today launched a new gas and hazardous liquids pipeline safety awareness website.
 
St. Louis Today: An energy-secure system must be a priority
Every time gas prices rise, families and businesses feel the pinch. Outraged politicians habitually respond with a lot of talk, but little action. When nothing gets done, the people they serve still are stuck with the bill. During my three decades in Washington — as a staffer, as a Congressman, as part of President Obama's cabinet — I have watched it happen over and over again.
 
The Hill: AIG to get out of the railcar leasing business
AIG, which received a more than $180 billion bailout from the federal government during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, is selling its rail division to Perella Weinberg Partners, according to a report by Bloomberg.
 
FastLane: Pipeline safety forum seeks to assure Americans of the safety they deserve
That’s why I’m so concerned about the rising number of deaths in pipeline explosions across America – which have multiplied from nine in 2008, to 13 in 2009, to 22 in 2010, even as the overall numbers of pipeline accidents have declined.  And that’s why, today, the DOT hosted more than 200 people, representing a wide range of pipeline stakeholders, for a National Pipeline Safety Forum.
 
National Resource Defense Council: A dog's-eye view of what makes a walkable neighborhood
Block length, sidewalk dimensions and details, and adjacent building frontages are several of the many components of the built environment that affect both pedestrian and canine comfort.  These details tell visitors (whether on foot or in cars) what kind of place they are in and how they should behave.   This principle works on the neighborhood level, but also affects behavioral patterns on specific blocks and streets.
 
National Resource Defense Council: The Sky Will Not Fall: Why the Supreme Court Should Let States Sue the Country's Biggest Carbon Polluters
Today the Supreme Court hears oral argument in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut – a case in which six States and other plaintiffs are trying to put emissions limits on America’s five largest greenhouse gas polluters.  The States are invoking their right, recognized by the Supreme Court more than a century ago, to seek relief in federal court when polluters in other jurisdictions send dangerous air or water pollution across state lines.
 
Infrastructurist: 2011 High-Speed Rail Funding Eliminated
Early last week we told you that the new Congressional budget deal cut high-speed rail funding in 2011 down to just $1 billion from its initial level of $2.5 billion. Correction: the budget deal did not cut high-speed rail funding for 2011. It eliminated it. And then some. A document providing the latest details on the budget agreement, released by the House Appropriations Committee, makes that perfectly clear
 
The Transport Politic: The Failure of Regionalism
The construction of new commuter rail lines in the United States has been a peculiar trend in an age of job sprawl and changing work habits. Though the largest American transit capital investments in terms of money spent have been in light and metro rail projects, commuter rail corridors — defined loosely as diesel trains running largely at peak hours between cities and their suburbs — continue to attract local interest. Over the past few years, Austin, Minneapolis, Nashville, and Salt Lake City, among other regions, have contributed millions of dollars to their construction.
 
Streetsblog Capitol Hill: The Rising Price of Gas Is The Talk of the Nation
Gas prices. You may have heard they're on an upward trajectory. In today’s Streetsblog Network Roundup, we look at the wide-ranging implications of fuel pump pain from Rhode Island to Hawaii:
 
Transportation Nation: Gas Hikes Spur Efficient Car Sales, with Two Year Lag
The study in the Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research finds that a 10 percent increase in gas price, decreases the demand for SUVs by 13.7 percent and increases the demand for Hybrid cars by 9.1 percent. The price of a gallon of unleaded has increased more than 30 percent in the past year, according to AAA.
 
New York Magazine: The Receding Dream of High-Speed-Rail in America
Transportation networks help nations forge their identities. Before the Civil War, railroads bound the corners of the North American continent into a whole just as the Union was coming apart. In recent decades, high-speed-rail lines have probably done more than the euro to make Europe feel unified, and they’ve been knitting China together just as that nation embraces its new role as an economic superpower. But the transportation project that shaped the consciousness of contemporary America was the top-down, hugely expensive, neo–New Dealish project called the Interstate Highway System, promoted and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1956.
 
Salon: Does anyone actually know how to fix the economy?
Four major positions are represented in the debate: supply-side conservatives, fiscal conservatives, neoliberals and progressives. The last three -- fiscal conservatives, neoliberals and progressives -- make valid and important points. But none has a persuasive vision of how to promote long-term American growth and equity.

  
State News

Contra Costa Times: Peninsula lawmakers calls for 'blended' approach to high-speed rail
A trio of powerful Bay Area lawmakers called Monday on the California High-Speed Rail Authority to rethink its plans for running bullet trains up the Peninsula and presented their own ideas for the local section of the $43 billion project.
 
Palo Alto Online: High-speed rail should merge with improved Caltrain system in San Jose
Saying that government funding for California's High-Speed Rail program will be "severely limited ... for the foreseeable future," local federal and state representatives are calling upon the California High-Speed Rail Authority to essentially link the high-speed rail route from Los Angeles with an improved and electrified Caltrain system running from San Jose to San Francisco.
 
The Bakersfield Californian: Private sector lines up to invest in high-speed rail
Hundreds if not more than 1,000 business people showed up to the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Industry Forum to find out how they might participate in the $43 billion project proposed to link Los Angeles and San Francisco by 2020.
 
Orlando Sentinel: Chamber turns to tough talk on Scott, SunRail
The Orlando Chamber of Commerce is turning up the heat on Gov. Rick Scott, who is holding SunRail hostage as he reviews its “return on investment.”
 
Gulf Coast Business Review: Scott names FDOT secretary
Prasad will manage the $7 billion agency, which oversees highway and other infrastructure projects that are part of Scott’s 7-7-7 Jobs Plan, including port dredging, highway expansion and maintenance projects.
 
Infrastructurist: Governor's Lawyer Misled Florida Supreme Court in High-Speed Rail Case
After Florida Governor Rick Scott refused $2.4 billion in funding for the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail line, state lawmakers challenged his authority to make such a decision. The state Supreme Court ruled in Scott’s favor, but it now appears that ruling was based on inaccurate information supplied to the court by Scott’s lawyer. The error had a big impact on the court’s decision, writes the Palm Beach Post politics blog:
 
Indy Star: Revelopment panel bill hits a kink
Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sought the measure to keep redevelopment commissions from spending large amounts of money without city council approval. Carmel's commission in particular has been criticized for bypassing the council on big-ticket projects such as the Palladium concert hall.
 
The Republic: Mo. Department of Transportation says rumble strips help cut traffic deaths from leaving road
Transportation officials say rumble strips on the side of Missouri highways have helped reduce the number of fatal accidents that result from people driving off the road.
 
Quincy Herald Whig: Director: MoDOT will lack match for federal funds by 2017
Missouri Department of Transportation Director Kevin Keith said his agency already is in maintenance mode, and the state eventually may have to turn down more than $450 million in federal funds due to the lack of matching dollars.
 
Southeast Missourian: Louisiana company chosen to consult for Jackson metering infrastructure project
A committee made up of Jackson city staff members chose to offer the consulting service of Utility Works in Baton Rouge, La., a master agreement to conduct the advanced metering infrastructure project, City Administrator Jim Roach said Monday in a study session at the Jackson Board of Aldermen meeting.
 
National Resource Defense Council: Montana judge halts highway construction of "Megaload" Exxon shipments
On Monday, April 18, a Montana state judge issued a temporary restraining order that indefinitely suspends efforts by Exxon and the State of Montana from improving turnouts and other additional infrastructural modifications to the state’s highway system that would be needed to facilitate over 200 planned “megaload” shipments.  As discussed in a previous post, Exxon is proposing to ship over 200 oversized shipments of mining equipment to Exxon’s Kearl tar sands operations in Alberta by establishing a ‘shortcut’ route through the Lolo Pass high in the Rocky Mountains that connects Idaho and Montana.
 
Streetsblog Capitol Hill: $100 Million for HUD Sustainability Program Survives in This Year's Budget
With multiple versions of two years’ worth of federal budgets flying around, some details are still emerging about what’s in and what’s out. At the end of last week we heard that the FY2011 budget, which has been sent to the president for his signature, includes $100 million for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. According to HUD Sustainable Communities Director Shelley Poticha, the partnership was allocated $70 million for regional planning grants ($17.5 million is slated for regions with populations of less than 500,000) and $30 million for Community Challenge planning grants.
 
New York Times: New York's Green Grid
Manhattan's street grid, which turned 200 years old last month, has long been an easy target for urban romantics. They love to point out how its relentless logic — most blocks are a precise 200 feet by 600 feet — imposed a soulless Cartesian order on a once-lush coastal island, trampling nature and leading to two centuries of real-estate mania
 
KJRH: Oklahoma transportation funding boosted for road, bridge improvements
A new report finds that additional transportation funding provided by the Oklahoma legislature in recent years has allowed the state to accelerate bridge repair and replacement, pavement improvements and safety upgrades; however, significant deficiencies remain on Oklahoma’s surface transportation system and recent gains could be lost without continued support for transportation maintenance, improvement and expansion.
 
New York Times: Choctaw, Chickasaw Indians Fight for Sardis Lake
Oklahoma City and fast-growing suburbs like Edmond want to see the water flowing through their shower heads someday. So do the water masters of Tarrant County, Tex., 200 miles to the south, who are looking to supply new subdivisions around Fort Worth and are suing for access.
 
Bike Portland: Green bikeways get interim federal approval
Living and biking in Portland, you might take the green pavement marking you see on bikeways throughout town for granted. But, like the blue color that came before it, this is an innovative treatment that was done without official approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
 
Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Paradigm Shift in Charleston: County Leaders Reject Highway Expansion
In an 8-0 decision late last week, Charleston County officials voted against an eight-mile bypass plan that was sure to induce sprawl and promote car-dependence. (Streetsblog covered the proposed Mark Clark Expressway, a plan to extend I-526, in a series of stories this February.)
 
Washington Examiner: It's official: McDonnell inks $4B roads plan
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell – on the site of a construction project under way, no less – officially signed into law on Monday a plan to infuse Virginia’s ailing transportation infrastructure with $4 billion over the next three years.
 
New Urban Network: Wow! Study says DC Streetcar could add $10-15 billion in value
The Charter-Award-winning DC Streetcar Land-Use Study, which looks at the economic and development impacts of the city's coming streetcar system, is New Urban Network's April Plan of the Month.

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