Thursday, April 28, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: April 28, 2011

According to Chicago Tribune a Midwest bullet train network would cost $83.6 billion and The Hill reported that Department of Transportation will give Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.,$474 million for a ligh-rail system between the two cities. More in this Infrastructure in the News.


BAF in the news: 

Politico: Rendell and Gorton: Building the America we yearn for
You may not hear the electricity whizzing through power lines – but it’s there and we count on it every time we flick on the light switch. It’s the 300 ports, the 600,000 bridges and the 117,000 miles of rail that enable goods to move throughout the country. It’s the 79,000 dams that protect our communities and provide much of our power, and the 55,000 community drinking water systems that provide us with safe water.


National News:

Wall Street Journal: In Defense of Robust Cities
For decades, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association has helped shape the Bay Area's development. The nonprofit think tank pushed for the creation of San Francisco's planning department in the 1940s, helped plan for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District in the 1950s and '60s, and successfully proposed establishing a "rainy day" fund in the San Francisco budget, among other moves.

New York Times: The Limits of Fed Policy
So long as fiscal policy is off the table, the economy is likely to limp along for years. The White House has some good ideas, including proposals to boost educational achievement and, importantly, to raise taxes for needed spending. A bipartisan group of senators have recently proposed creating an infrastructure bank to lend out seed money — and attract private capital — for major public works projects.

Associated Press: Dozens of tornadoes kill 201 in 6 Southern states
In Alabama, where as many as a million people were without power, Gov. Robert Bentley said 2,000 national guard troops had been activated and were helping to search devastated areas for people still missing. He said the National Weather Service and forecasters did a good job of alerting people, but there is only so much that can be done to deal with powerful tornadoes a mile wide.

Chicago Tribune: Midwest bullet train network to cost $83.6 billion
A Midwest network of bullet trains that could travel at 220 mph and higher would cost $83.6 billion, but the benefits would be far greater than those from a less expensive system of trains topping out at 150 mph, according to a study to be released on Thursday.

Press Release: Midwest High Speed Rail Network Could Bring 43 Million annual Riders, 104,000 New Jobs and Nearly $300 Billion in New Business Sales Over 30 Years
A high speed rail system serving all major metropolitan areas within 350-450 miles of Chicago could result in significant ridership, economic development and job creation. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association today released a study titled "The Economic Impacts of High Speed Rail: Transforming the Midwest," with Siemens (NYSE: SI), who sponsored the study and research partners AECOM and the Economic Development Research Group (EDRG)

The Hill: DoT giving Minneapolis $474 million for light rail
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., will get $474 million from the federal government for a proposed light-rail system connecting the two cities, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday.

The Transport Politic: A Step Ahead for Light Rail in the Twin Cities
The Twin Cities pioneered a model for regional decision-making with the formation of the Metropolitan Council in 1967, creating one of the country’s only truly empowered regional bodies. Though the group invested in transportation improvements throughout the area, focusing specifically on connecting a network of express buses into downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, it was only in 2004 that the area opened its first light rail corridor, the Hiawatha Line.

Wall Street Journal: Amtrak Seeking Florida's Rail Funds
Amtrak, previously blocked from receiving federal money for high-speed rail, is now in the running for a big chunk of the $2 billion in funds freed up by Florida's decision to cancel a fast-train project earlier this year.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Research Bolsters Case for Cycle Tracks While AASHTO Updates Guide
For decades, dueling camps of cycling advocates have feuded about how to best accommodate riders. Some have pushed for the construction of Dutch-style cycle tracks, arguing that separated lanes make bicycling safer and less intimidating, while others have insisted such infrastructure isolates riders and makes cycling more dangerous than simply remaining within the flow of traffic.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Which Places Have the Best Complete Streets Policies
Of course, all policies aren’t created equal, and the coalition separates the strongest — those that can serve as models for upcoming states and municipalities — from the less ambitious. Its top ten, representing cities, counties and states of varying sizes and geographic regions, appears after the jump.

The New Republic: All Good in LaHood
“He’s been doing a great job,” Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance told me. “We’ve been happy with LaHood across the board,” says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. Seems I am in good company. So thank you, Secretary LaHood, for your common sense and practical reforms. The next time I’m seething in my airplane seat for some minor annoyance inflated to major proportions, I’ll think of you, take a deep breath, sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.

Washington City Paper: Congress to Feds: Drive to Work
A year and a half ago, the Obama administration issued Executive Order 13514. It seemed like the text sprang fully formed from an environmentalist’s dreams, laying out all the ways the federal government ought to green its operations. The ensuing guidelines didn’t just address energy efficiency in buildings, which cities like D.C. have come to expect. They also tackled the harder and more important issue: How to put buildings in places served by transit, rather than on open land between interstates.

FastLane: Walk friendly communities offer residents a gas-saving, healthy alternative
In this time of high gas prices, it’s important that we give Americans options for getting where they need to go. One way to do that is by fostering livable communities where people can choose to leave their cars behind and safely walk where they need to go.

National Resource Defense Council: Shifting Our Taxpayer $$$ from Oil to Efficient Transportation and Technology
This policy change would be welcome, with a large majority of Americans supportive of removing the tax breaks, a former major oil company CEO agreeing, and oil company profit reports coming in at astronomical levels this week. Groups, such as Taxpayers for Common Sense, interested in eliminating wasteful government spending agree as well.

National Resource Defense Council: A Shout-Out to Bureaucrats: Protecting Your Water
But what if I told you instead that, thanks to the work of government scientists and lawyers, critical wetlands and streams will soon be covered under the Clean Water Act’s pollution control programs, after having been inadequately protected or denied protection altogether for much of the last decade?  Now we’re talking good government! 

Epoch Times: An Inexpensive Fix for US Water Woes
Our nation’s water infrastructure is aging badly: U.S. cities currently lose one-fifth of their water to leaks and suffer 1.2 trillion gallons of sewage spills annually, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office.

RailwayAge Magazine: RSI white paper urges "Buy America" changes
In a white paper published Tuesday entitled “Rail Supply Innovation and Buy America Requirements,” the Railway Supply Institute recommended three sweeping changes to current U.S. Buy-America provisions and funding for transit, high speed rail, and intercity passenger rail that will ensure increased domestic content for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded projects.

Cato @ Liberty: Dodging the High-Speed Bullet Train
President Obama’s dream of connecting 80 percent of Americans to a high-speed rail line appears to be dead. Congress appropriated $8 billion for high-speed rail in the 2009 stimulus bill and $2 billion more in the 2010 appropriations bill. But, after newly elected governors of Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin rejected high-speed rail projects in those states, Congress declined to include any more funds in 2011 and it is unlikely to spend any more on this boondoggle as long as Republicans have a hold on the House.


State News:

Wall Street Journal: Fast Train Hits Snags in Silicon Valley
California's high-speed rail project is moving ahead despite waning enthusiasm in Congress, but opposition by several Silicon Valley cities threatens to slow the network's construction.

San Jose Mercury News: With Caltrain back on track, long-term funding puzzle still plagues commuter line
This was billed as the year Caltrain would finally run out of steam, when the financially crippled commuter rail line would lose up to half its trains and stations. Except the great Caltrain bust of 2011 was a big no-show -- after all the huffing and puffing, not a single train was blown off the schedule, not one station boarded up.

California High Speed Rail Blog: Peninsula NIMBY's Admit They Just Want to Kill HSR
That’s a perfect, succinct statement of what the “debate” on the Peninsula is really all about. Wealthy people with homes the envy of the rest of the state telling Californians suffering from $4 gas prices that the project voters approved in 2008 should just die in order to protect their high-value asset. It’s a stunningly elitist statement that says the rich are more important than everyone else. Simple as that.

Progressive Railroading: VTA's proposed two-year budget calls for infrastructure spending, no fare increases
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has proposed a two-year budget plan that would maintain a 15 percent operating reserve, invest in infrastructure and enhance service without raising fares.

North County Times: Water agencies would be taxed under state bill
Retail water districts would pay a new tax under proposed state legislation to fund water-related supply, environmental and recreation projects. The size of the tax has yet to be calculated, but it would be significant.

National Defense Resource Council: Coming soon to LA, Electric Vehicles that charge up at "$1 per gallon"
At the press conference, Mayor Villaraigosa announced that the city will make it even easier for residents to own and charge all-electric vehicles through a pilot project – Charge Up LA – for customers of the Department of Water and Power (LADWP). The project will enable the first 1,000 electric car owners to receive a rebate of up to $2,000 to install chargers for electric vehicles at their homes. The goal is to provide rebates for up to 5,000 chargers by the end of program.

RailwayAge Magazine: California gets grant for U.S. - made rail cars
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will receive a $100 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to purchase domestically manufactured rail passenger cars and locomotives for the Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquin routes, used by state-assisted Amtrak trains, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday.

Hanford Sentinel: Flowing it all away
Infrastructure proposals, however, bring reality home to roost. For three decades or more, calls for new dams have died, killed off by a combination of environmental opposition, calls for more conservation, Sacramento gridlock and - more recently - an economic downturn that has California $28 billion in the red. A water bond that was supposed to go on the ballot last year was pulled because supporters didn't think voters would approve a big new spending project in the middle of a financial crisis. 

The Denver Post: Denver-area voters won't see FasTracks sales-tax vote in November
The FasTracks project, which includes six new train lines in metro Denver along with other transit elements, is at least $2 billion short of what is needed to complete the project by the end of this decade.

Tampa Bay Online: Partnership launches transportation website
"During our recent advocacy efforts, we have identified a need for a comprehensive resource providing high quality, reliable, and fact-based information about transit and transit-related issues," Gary Sasso, President & CEO of Carlton Fields and Transportation Task Force Chair for the Partnership, said in a release. "Our new website will meet this need."

Pantagraph News: B-N transit may get rid of bus route
One bus route and plans for a new logo are among the proposed cuts to the Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System's draft of a $8.6 million budget for the coming year.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Signal Timing and Pedestrian Safety: A Case Study From Baltimore
It may not be a perfect measure, but there certainly seems to be a correlation in Baltimore. The signal timing at several intersections in the southeast part of the city is prompting outrage by citizens who say a deference to motorists makes pedestrians second-class street users and threatens their safety. Rebecca Smith, founder of the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance, summarized the issue recently in a letter to the Baltimore Sun.

Alt Transport: Boston's Hubway Is A Promising Sign For Bike Sharing In The U.S.
One of America’s most walkable and least drivable cities is quickly becoming bike friendly as well. Last Thursday, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino signed a contract with Alta Bicycle Share to set up and maintain the city’s first bicycle sharing program. The program, which will be called Hubway, will operate like bike sharing schemes in Montreal or Paris.

Construction Digital: Federal Government Partially Funding High Speed Rail in Minnesota
The state of Minnesota’s plan to build a high-speed rail corridor from Minneapolis to St. Paul received a significant boost this Tuesday. Peter Rogoff, the chief administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, met with Minnesota’s leaders to sign a bill that ensures that the US government will pay for nearly half of the proposed $957 million Central Corridor Project.

Clarksdale Press Register: Infrastructure contracts approved
Tom Henderson, senior project manager for Neel-Schaffer, Inc., told the board April 20 that $439,923 in funding was available for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). Henderson said $417,937 would come from the Federal Aviation Administration, $10,998 from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and $10,998 locally shared equally by Coahoma County and the city of Clarksdale.

Henderson Press: Interstate 11, High-Speed Rail Encouraged
Southern Nevada's economic recovery and long-term prosperity will largely rest on its ability to cooperatively improve the transportation infrastructure throughout the Western United States, a noted transportation advisor told the Henderson City Council on April 19.

The Asbury Park Press: Bond rating lowered on eve of N.J. sale
Moody's Investors Service downgraded $600 million in bonds to be sold for New Jersey's transportation infrastructure program next week.

North Jersey: Lyndhurst signs $6.8 million contract for water overhaul
The project will be funded by way of a total $18.35 million the township authorized in bond anticipation last August and was approved by the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (NJEIT) for loan guarantees because the project was shovel ready. The loans carry a 2.95-percent interest rate, according to DiLascio. The $18.35 million was tapped as a figure to complete two phases of water main replacements and a separate project to rehab pump stations and stormwater sewer outfalls. Township officials said based on the first phase bid response, the entire $18 million may not be needed because the bid proved to be lower than projected costs.

Transportation Nation: NY's MTA Votes to Cut Ties With Long Island Bus
The agency said it made the move because it has had to cover an increasingly large share of the costs, and it will cease responsibility for the bus service by the end of the calendar year.

Wall Street Journal: Council Moving to Ease Parking
The New York City Council plans Thursday to pass legislation that could significantly alter the landscape of parking in New York City, reducing the number of days that motorists must deal with alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations.

New York Press: Take It To the Streets
A new mode of transportation is muscling its way onto city streets. Politicians, editorial boards, cops and business groups consider it a nuisance and a threat. The public is angry and confused. Suddenly, this popular new urban transportation option is challenging New Yorkers’ longstanding traditions and ideas about what a street is for, who gets to use it and how. Used by a relatively small number of New Yorkers, this new mode of transport makes its presence felt in a big way. Local politicians insist that something needs to be done. 

Oregon Live: Important decision moves the Columbia River Crossing forward
The deck truss bridge model is the most affordable and the least risky; it maintains the current project schedule and minimizes environmental impacts while balancing cost, design and function. This multimodal design, which includes light rail, bike and pedestrian facilities and tolling, moves our transportation infrastructure out of the 20th century and into the 21st century and beyond. 

Bike Portland: New research explores cost bikes/transit integration
A new report funded by the US Department of Transportation and conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute, Bicycling Access and Egress to Transit: Informing the Possibilities (PDF), takes an in-depth look at a topic that is very relevant for the Portland region: How to integrate bikes and transit. The study sought to answer the question, "What are the most cost effective strategies likely to generate the largest number of cyclists accessing transit?"

The Philly Post: Rebuilding Philadelphia, One Bridge at A Time
The problem is not just money, but money is key. There are environmental issues impeding rebuilding and replacement. NIMBY often works its poisonous magic. Design and procurement take forever, and delay expands costs. Regulation adds frills. Political will breaks down. And the best-laid plans seem to crumble at the same pace as the “stuff.” Add into that mix the infamous “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska when the value of infrastructure investment caught a massive public-relations black eye.

American Banking News: Pennsylvania American Water President Offers Public-Private Solutions to Repair Decaying Water Infrastructure
In the keynote address to the 2011 Pennsylvania Infrastructure Summit, Pennsylvania American Water President Kathy L. Pape said today that expecting government bailouts is not a realistic, long-term solution to fix aging water and wastewater systems, which require tens of billions of dollars of capital investment. Instead, she proposed a number of public-private solutions to help tackle the costly infrastructure challenges facing many communities in the commonwealth and across the country. 

The Providence Journal: Providence streetcar plans start rolling
Planners working on a design for a streetcar system here are feeling their way through knotty problems, such as how to serve Kennedy Plaza and the train station without disrupting other parts of the tentative two-mile route. 

Transportation For America: South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson stresses rural transit needs as gas prices continue to escalate
Gas prices in the U.S. continue to escalate and could hit $4.25 by Memorial Day, according to some projections. These spikes tend to hit smaller communities and rural areas particularly hard, as residents and businesses must travel farther and use more energy during daily activities. 

Memphis Flyer: Steel Train
Dubbed the Steel Interstate, the pilot project features a system of electrified, high-capacity rail lines designed to move freight and passengers on the same tracks at speeds competitive with interstate highways. The 1,000-mile line would stretch from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to Memphis, passing through Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Huntsville, Alabama.

San Antonio Express-News: The public must demand better solutions to traffic
If the Texas transportation system were a medical patient, the diagnosis would be failing health on the verge of critical condition. Our urban and suburban roadways are like clogged arteries, many of our rural roads and bridges are like brittle bones, and our funding sources are like lungs with little oxygen. Without leadership, neglect of our transportation system will put our economy on life support.


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