Monday, April 25, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: April 25, 2011

Fav Stocks reported that tax breaks for electric cars might soon be over and according to High Plains Midwest Agriculture Journal better planning is needed for the transportation system in rural America. Find out more in this Infrastructure in the News.


National News

Washington Post: Shaping the City: Seeking a new template for truly smart growth
Shifting demographics, along with increasing consumer interest in a more-urban existence, are redefining the real estate market. This requires rethinking how we plan, regulate, design and build — or rebuild — parts of suburbs and the cities they encircle. To respond to evolving market forces, new templates for truly smart growth are needed.

Infrastructurist: Shining a Light on 'City Vs. Suburb'
Christopher Leinberger has responded to the semantically flawed conclusion of Joel Kotkin that suburbs, not cities, are where people have flocked en masse over the past ten years. Kotkin used 2010 Census data to show that the vast majority of population growth during this time has occurred in suburbs; in doing so, he follows a technical definition of “suburb” that includes places like Jersey City. 

Associated Press: No break this spring at the gas pump
With gas prices above $4 in some states, Americans are canceling spring break plans and rethinking summer vacation, and some tourist destinations are offering gas vouchers of as much as $50 to talk people out of giving up and staying home.

The Economist: More on express buses: Trains, buses, and innovation
The truth is that governments frequently make decisions about which forms of transportation to subsidise—and in America, that has historically meant ground and air transport. The United States has invested literally trillions of dollars over the past few decades in building andmaintaining airports and highways—investments that dwarf those made in high-speed rail.

The Hill: NTSB to discuss impact of fatigue on transportation
The National Transportation Safety Board said Friday it would hold a roundtable next week in Washington to examine recent reports of fatigue affecting transportation employees.

New York Times: Fast Train to Nowhere
In his State of the Union address, President Obama compared high-speed rail to the 19th-century transcontinental railroads as parallel examples of American innovation. I fear he may be right. 

National Journal: Serving Customers, by Land or by Air
The government can look awfully cool when it does what the Department of Transportation did last week in finalizing new rules that require airlines to disclose hidden fees and refund bag fees if they lose travelers' luggage. Whether it be gas prices, road traffic, or air-travel headaches, policymakers always look good when they're trying to take care of customers. 

Seattle Times: From Space Age to debt age, a hard fall
A few celebrity architects ply their craft but leave nothing for the ages. President Obama's plan to build a few modest higher-speed rail segments is dying, even as true high-speed rail is being expanded in western Europe and China. America's once-towering lead in science is rapidly eroding. The nation that landed men on the moon in 1969 has essentially given up on manned spaceflight, sending the shuttles to museums.

FastLane: Second National Port Summit keeps maritime freight conversation moving forward
A key part of President Obama's economic strategy for winning the future is his initiative to double American exports within five years. That means we need to expand shipping capacity in order to support larger demand for American goods abroad.

National Resource Defense Council: NRDC agrees with the oil and gas industry on something
These incidents, and many other spills, leaks, and explosions, reveal that accidents are not being prevented. There were already reports of widespread drinking water contamination related to natural gas operations in Bradford County, which should have given both regulators and companies pause for thought about the risks present and the need to adjust practices to better protect health and safety before any new intensive operations were undertaken. 

Fav Stocks: Tax Breaks for Electric Cars May Soon Be Over: Electric Car Taxes Coming

Until now, Americans have been given benefits to purchase them thanks to Obama. Now that’s about to change. Taxes are getting ready to hit the electric car.

Streetfilms: MBA: The Right Price for Parking
You might be shocked at how much traffic consists of drivers who have already arrived at their destination but find themselves cruising the streets, searching for an open parking spot. In some city neighborhoods, cruising makes up as much as 40 percent of all traffic. All this unnecessary traffic slows down buses, endangers cyclists and pedestrians, delays other motorists, and produces harmful emissions. The key to eliminating it is to get the price of parking right.

TED: Gary Lauder's new traffic sign: Take Turns
Fifty percent of traffic accidents happen at intersections. Gary Lauder shares a brilliant and cheap idea for helping drivers move along smoothly: a new traffic sign that combines the properties of "Stop" and "Yield" -- and asks drivers to be polite.

High Country News: Water Sharing in the Over-shared West
If you were to trace the dips and rises in water sales across the American West onto a graph, the line would fall in synch with basic economics.  In a recession, when dollars are scarce, water transactions are few and far between. But when a region booms, freeing up cash for all kinds of development, water becomes the limiting resource; individuals, companies and governments, scrambling to secure access to water, will pay big money to own someone else's right.

High Plains Midwest Agriculture Journal: Better planning needed for rural America's transportation system
Most of the roads I've been on this spring could use some improvement. Tight state and federal budgets are making it tougher to maintain roads and protect public safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rural areas accounted for 56 percent of fatal road crashes and 57 percent of fatalities nationwide. Part of the problem is that people tend to drive faster in the "wide open spaces" and accident response times to receive medical treatment can be lengthy.

State News

Los Angeles Times: Transit: We can't afford high-speed rail
Congress' eleventh-hour compromise on the federal budget this month rescinds $400 million in funding for high-speed rail in fiscal year 2010, and eliminates federal funding for high-speed rail in fiscal year 2011. Yet California High-Speed Rail Authority officials remain committed to their vision of a high-speed rail link between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The agency is beginning to tilt at windmills.

KCET: Proposed Highway in the High Desert Could Include High Speed Rail
Public meetings were held last week for the High Desert Corridor, a 63-mile freeway that will connect Palmdale and Victorville, replacing long dark stretches of routes 138 and 18. For decades, an alternative has been sought to replace the two lane roads nicknamed "blood alley" for its high fatalities.

San Jose Mercury News: Making sense of high-speed rail
They want the California High-Speed Rail Authority to abandon plans for raised tracks along the Peninsula and commit to keeping the new bullet-train system within the existing Caltrain right of way.

KGTV San Diego: SANDAG Approves $196B Transportation Plan
A $196 billion plan for developing San Diego County's transportation infrastructure through 2050 was unanimously approved Friday by the San Diego Association of Governments Board of Directors.

The Denver Post: Denver light-rail stations to border large multiuse development
Over the next few decades, a high-density development that includes residences, retail and office space will sprout up between two of the region's most prominent light-rail stations.

Brattleboro Reformer: Conn. mayor wants to upgrade train rail to Brattleboro
Despite some concerns from the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, Mayor Martin Olsen of New London is advocating for improvements to 110 miles of the Central Corridor Rail Line to use existing freight tracks for passenger trains into Brattleboro. 

Florida Today: Makings of a budget battle brews between Scott, legislators
If Gov. Rick Scott makes good on a threat to veto the entire state budget, he will be following in the footsteps of Gov. Claude Kirk, the last executive to go nuclear with his line-item veto power.

The News-Press: Public transit would give Florida answer to sprawl, congestion
In the early 20th century, the railroads of Flagler and Plant helped spur the development of Florida. It is ironic that in the 21st century, public transit has not expanded sufficiently to meet transportation needs of that development. Instead of moving forward with fuel-efficient transportation choices, such as improved public transit, Florida has taken a step backward by promoting more oil drilling to fuel more cars on more highways.

Bryan County News: Chamber creates transportation affiliate
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce announced this week the creation of a new transportation-focused affiliate, the Georgia Transportation Alliance.

New Orleans Net: Higher fees for license tags proposed to raise money for highway and bridge work
Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, wants to pay for a $3 billion, 42-item list of overdue highway and bridge projects by tripling the license fees of commercial truckers and making everyone pay $20 more for a license tag. The dollars generated by the increases would flow into the Transportation and Infrastructure Growth of Economy through Roads, or TIGER, Fund. 

Ann Arbor: Train ridership on the rise: Ann Arbor remains busiest Amtrak stop between Detroit and Chicago
"It's cheaper in terms of the gas right now and also flying is a pain," Bolenbaugh said. "I used to fly two or three years ago until they changed the policies and now it's like you have to get basically groped to fly. It takes more time to actually get to the airport, fly and get out of the airport than it does just to drive there or take the train."

Detroit Free Press: After years of planning, Birmingham pulls out of transit plan with Troy
Without Birmingham's participation in the $10-million federally funded project, Troy city officials said they are investigating either having the station solely on Troy property, or accessing the railroad right-of-way by the tracks on the Birmingham side. The current Amtrak station is a repurposed bus shelter with little parking. However, the infrastructure surrounding it in Birmingham is mixed-use residential and business, nearly all of which is new development.

Wall Street Journal: Transportation authority to sell NYC headquarters
The nation's largest transit agency, which has downsized under financial strain, is now planning to sell its headquarters and two adjoining buildings, located near its signature Grand Central Terminal, in the hope of collecting $150 million for the property.

NY1: Turkish Automaker Pledges to Build New City Taxis In Brooklyn
As the Taxi and Limousine Commission prepares to make its decision on the city's next official cab, the Turkish manufacturer Karsan is dangling a big economic development carrot.

The Oklahoman: Bird safety law hampers bridge work, official says
Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley thinks a century-old law passed in part to keep birds from ending up on women’s hats is to blame for delaying a state bridge project. 

The Pottstown Mercury: Water main line breaks raise concerns across the state
A water-main break at the state Capitol is just a trickle compared to the tsunami that could wash across the state if Pennsylvania's infrastructure needs are not addressed.

The Pottstown Mercury: Gov. Corbett names Pa. transportation funding advisers
Pennsylvania's vast transportation needs — and particularly how to find billions of dollars to pay for them — are about to get a fresh look by an advisory panel announced Friday by Gov. Tom Corbett.

The Commercial Appeal: Sen. Alexander suggests gas tax increase to fill transit fund gap
"State and local governments will have to decide whether to have an increase in the gasoline tax," Alexander said after meeting with Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and several suburban mayors and city managers at Germantown Municipal Center. By doing so, he added, tourists and truckers would "pay for a big share of it."

The Transport Politic: Austin Contemplates Urban Rail, but Skepticism is in the Air
In 2000, Austin came within 2,000 votes of approving a $2 billion, 52-mile light rail system that would have run through the city and its suburbs along east-west and north-south corridors. The first stage, estimates suggested, would attract more than 30,000 daily riders and serve the city’s most prominent destinations, including downtown and the University of Texas.

Austin 360: Austin fosters growing cycling community with infrastructure, events
And it's no wonder. Austin has nearly year-round cycling weather, terrain that ranges from pancake flat to steep enough to make a mountain goat smile, weekly social rides and bike races, and a growing array of infrastructure designed to make it easier to travel by bicycle. 

Texas Star-Telegram: Texas likely to expand authority to lease highways to developers
Lawmakers expect to expand the state's authority to lease out highways to developers -- often foreign companies -- for up to 52 years, despite lingering opposition from some Texans.

Washington Post: McDonnell's transportation plan: A page from the subprime playbook?
You can hear echoes of the subprime housing boom and bust in the transportation plan passed by the General Assembly this year. Virginia is about to take on debt beyond its transportation income stream, under inflated terms, to buy new big-ticket items, while ignoring a crumbling foundation. 

Greater Greater Washington: Montgomery councilmembers: Get moving on bus priority
Four members of the Montgomery County Council asked county officials to stop dragging their feet on bus priority, and implement or at least evaluate some fixes as soon as possible. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Scott Walker's "Broke" Wisconsin Breaking the Banks for Highways
Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget has more than enough pain to go around. Schools get hit with more than $800 million in cuts over the next two years. Recycling programs are not funded. Health care for seniors and the poor is slashed. Local road aids are cut. Some transit systems may not survive the proposed reductions. State revenue sharing is going down, putting more pressure at the local level to cover the costs of cuts to state aids – and without raising property taxes.

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