Friday, April 29, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: April 29, 2011

Streetsblog Capitol Hill wrote about the expected release of proposed transportation bill by President Obama, and Alaska Journal of Commerce reported that new trucking regulations might raise prices in Alaska. Read more in this Infrastructure in the News.


BAF in the News:

PR Newswire: LIUNA General President Terry O'Sullivan Joins Business, Government, Policy Leaders at National Infrastructure Summit
The summit – "Changing the Conversation: Advancing a National Infrastructure Improvement Agenda" – is sponsored by LIUNA, as well the American Planning Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Building America's Future Educational Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


National News:

The Economist: America's transport infrastructure: Life in the slow lane
Trains creep out of Washington’s Union Station and pause at intervals, inexplicably, as they travel through the northern Virginia suburbs. In the summer, high temperatures threaten to kink the steel tracks, forcing trains to slow down even more. Riders may find themselves inching along behind a lumbering freight train for miles at a time, until the route reaches a side track on which the Amtrak train can pass. The trip takes six hours, well over twice as long as the London-Paris journey, if there are no delays. And there often are. 

CNN: Streetline's silver bullet for urban traffic problems
For managers of urban resources, this turf is a blind spot. There's no real-time data about how it gets used, and you can't manage what you can't measure. Experts believe that some 30% of urban traffic comes from cars hunting for parking spaces.

Infrastructurist: New Tech Helps You Avoid Traffic and Find Parking
A pair of pilot programs — say that three times fast — will soon make life a bit easier for drivers in San Francisco, and hopefully, in time, beyond. The first, called Smarter Traveler, gives users a personalized traffic report before they leave the house. The program learns your typical travel routes from GPS signals in your phone, then uses data collected in road sensors to predict traffic patterns along the way. The forecasts are sent to your mobile device 10 or 15 minutes before your usual departure time, alerting you of possible congestion and allowing you to alter your route as needed.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: President Obama Expected to Release Proposed Transportation Bill
The news agency BNA is reporting that the president appears likely to release his proposed draft of a transportation bill soon. The administration is circulating a partial draft of its proposed bill, signaling that a release could be imminent.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Chasing the Elusive New Transit Rider, Missing the Bus?
New ridership is the holy grail of many a transit planner. It’s a demographic with strong allure — catch a newbie and you potentially remove a car from congested streets, give the environment a boost and, of course, increase revenue.

Associated Press: Survivors picking up pieces from deadly twisters
As many as a million homes and businesses there were without power, and Bentley said 2,000 National Guard troops had been activated to help. The governors of Mississippi and Georgia also issued emergency declarations for parts of their states. "We can't control when or where a terrible storm may strike, but we can control how we respond to it," Obama said. "And I want every American who has been affected by this disaster to know that the federal government will do everything we can to help you recover and we will stand with you as you rebuild."

New York Times: Town’s Survivors Emerge to Face the Worst
There had been warnings that a tornado might be touching down, Ms. Wood said, but as with any tornado, determining its exact path — whether one location was safer than another — was no more than a guess. “We knew it was coming,” she said. “We knew what tornadoes could do. We just couldn’t all get out of the way. The people who died, they’re going to be found under a bunch of rubble. These people took cover as much as they could.”

FastLane: Six ports honored with Pacesetter Awards
As I’ve blogged before, America’s marine transportation system is a crucial part of our transportation network.  One key part, the St. Lawrence Seaway, is an essential gateway that moves cargo between North American ports and international markets. 

FastLane: FTA grant for Wayne Junction station will connect commuters, restore historic intermodal transit facility
With gas prices reaching above four dollars per gallon in some areas, President Obama is committed to providing transit opportunities that help people avoid pain at the pump.  And yesterday, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff traveled to Philadelphia to award the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) $4 million to transform the dilapidated Wayne Junction transit station into a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient, accessible facility for area commuters.

National Resource Defense Council: Pay Now or Pay Later: report finds all states lose from inaction on climate change
The report draws upon various state-level studies and economic statistics, a sort of hodgepodge of what we know, and might reasonably speculate upon. It details past and current climate events likely caused by our greenhouse gas emissions, others expected to occur with or without mitigation, and most of all, how much worse things might get if we continue doing nothing. No state is spared.

Investment U: High Diesel Prices Mean Rail Stocks are Ready to Run
Most truckers have been enjoying higher freight volumes and higher profits, as the U.S. manufacturing sector has charged upward for 20 consecutive months, according to The New York Times. That could all quickly come to a crashing halt, says Donald A. Normal, an economist for Manufacturers Alliance.


State News:

Alaska Journal of Commerce: New trucking regs could raise prices in Alaska
New federal regulations to reign in the number of hours truckers can drive would raise transportation costs in Alaska, despite the fact that the state is exempt from these rules, said a top trucking company official.

East Valley Tribune: Arizona needs a 21st century public transportation system
For the first time, Arizona's State Transportation Board approved a state rail plan which includes connecting the major metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Tucson by passenger rail. In a state known for its reliance on single-occupant vehicles and its lack of good public transportation, this is a crucial step forward for providing Arizonans with better transportation options.

Fresno Bee: Valley to get double-deck trains
Amtrak California will add double-deck coach cars on two of its passenger train lines, including the San Joaquin line that runs through the Valley, with a $100 million federal grant announced Wednesday.

Transportation Nation: BART Board to Study Late-Night Service - And How it Affects Early Morning Riders
Would you want the local train to run an extra hour on Friday nights, if it meant it’d also have to start later on Saturday morning? That’s what BART staff will be asking both current and would-be riders over the next few weeks as they evaluate whether to try out running the later trains in a six-month pilot this fall.

San Jose Mercury News: San Jose City Council approves preliminary plan for 'Grand Central Station' of the West
Calling the opportunity to develop the area around Diridon Station a game-changer that could transform the downtown site into "the Grand Central Station" of the West Coast, the San Jose City Council on Thursday approved a preliminary plan for the area.

Burlingame, CA Patch: Burlingame Residents Work To Save Caltrain
About a dozen community members, including three city council members, gathered to learn more about Caltrain’s financial plight and discuss possible funding solutions during a Save Caltrain meeting in Burlingame Wednesday night.

Huffington Post: Florida Struggles With Tech Success
Florida received a few blows to the proverbial gut recently as two technology companies announced their stunning growth... followed by a rapid departure. I spoke to one Silicon Valley expatriate to try to shed some light on why tech is struggling in the Sunshine State.

PR Newswire: Cleaner Cars Are the Solution to Illinois' High Gas Prices
As gasoline prices in the U.S. reach record highs, The Environmental Law & Policy Center has released a new analysis showing that promoting high-performing fuel efficient cars is the best way to keep fuel costs from draining the state's economy. With gas prices at $5 per gallon, Illinois consumers would save $6.7 billion at the pump each year by driving vehicles with an average fuel efficiency of 30 MPG.  Billions in savings would go back into the local economy and create over 72,000 new jobs in the state, according to modeling from the University of Illinois' Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL).

Maryland Community News: Struggling to get from Point A to Point B
On any given day, the 160-plus employees of Frederick builder Morgan-Keller Construction might drive as far as Garrett County in western Maryland or to the Eastern Shore to get to a job site.

YouTube: Michigan DOT's Channel
This is the second in a series of videos intended to help people explore alternate modes of transportation. The video talks about the benefits and savings of public transit. For more info, go to 

Pulaski County Daily: Hillman takes aim at high-speed rail, defends Essential Air Service
Obama has pushed for large amounts of money to help states build high-speed rail links, but the “essential air service” funding which subsidizes small airports such as those at Fort Leonard Wood which have less than 10,000 annual passengers has come under scrutiny. Under the federal program, private carriers receive contracts with local airports to provide passenger air service which they otherwise might not be financially able to justify.

Concord Monitor: House passes cut to gas tax

The full House passed a 5-cent cut to the state's gasoline tax yesterday, but the governor said he's not worried about the fast-tracked Republican proposal, because its prospects of clearing the Senate appear dim.

Mobilizing the Region: NJ Transportation Funding Plan Would Shortchange Bus Riders
The Port Authority Bus Terminal accomodates about 6,000 buses that travel underneath the Hudson River every day. Those buses account for 225,000 passenger trips each day — mostly New Jersey residents commuting to and from Manhattan. In the mornings, NY-bound buses wait in the Lincoln Tunnel, on its approaches, and on ramps leading into the terminal until gates open up. During the day, the buses go back to New Jersey (empty) because there are no available gates to park. 

Transportation Nation: NY's East Side may get Bike Lanes to 57th Street
Now comes a plan from NYC with protected bike lanes for another 15 blocks on First Avenue, and then so-called “shared bike lanes” — not segregated from traffic, up to the East 50s.  The diminished plan comes amidst protest by a loud but significant and influential minority of New Yorkers (polls show about a third don’t like the miles of  lanes installed by the city) including editorializing against the lanes in the city’s boisterous tabloids, The New York Post and The New York Daily News, and a lawsuit backed by the the former city transportation director, now a private citizen living along one of the lanes (and her husband, the U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer.)

Star News: N.C. ports 'missing the boat' on agriculture exports
North Carolina's ports are “missing the boat” on agriculture exports, primarily because the state's port and transportation infrastructure is ill-equipped to handle them, state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said Thursday.

The Lincoln Tribune: Misleading Counting Method Inflates Rail Jobs
Backers of a $545-million, federally funded high-speed rail project in North Carolina got a valuable public-relations assist from the Obama administration in the form of a misleading counting technique that inflates potential job numbers by more than 300 percent.

Toledo Blade: Port authority closer to buying city meters, 3 parking garages
The board's bond inducement resolution formally declares that the agency is considering issuing $6 million in bonds and borrowing $12 million from the Ohio Infrastructure Bank to buy the city's three parking garages and take over management of on-street parking operations.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Philadelphia's Battle Against Impervious Asphalt
In Philadelphia, your water bill used to be based only on your water consumption, as in most cities. Now, under the city’s Green City, Clean Waters initiative, your bill is a more accurate reflection of your water footprint, including the amount it costs the city to manage stormwater runoff from your property. This has been a hard pill to swallow for owners of parking lots and other entities that spread a large swath of asphalt on the city.

The Tennessean: RTA claims increase in use of public transportation
The Regional Transportation Authority reports increases in the use of public transportation in March for both bus and commuter rail service in Middle Tennessee.

Lexology: Supporting mass appeal for mass transit
Dallas already has the largest light rail line in the United States. Recently we procured funds to expand the McKinney Avenue Trolley and add a streetcar running from downtown Dallas to Oak Cliff. And next year, DART will open to Irving and connect to the Denton County commuter train in Carrollton.   

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Third Houston Outerbelt Would Turn Prairies Into Texas Toast
Development of this pristine land isn’t just collateral damage — it’s the point of the project. Project sponsors make no bones about it: The 15.2-mile Grand Parkway segment through Katy Prairie is a $462 million development project as much as it is a transportation project. Known as “Segment E,” it would be the third phase in a 180-mile “scenic bypass” for Houston. Each of the 11 segments is considered a separate and “independent justifiable project.”

Seattle Times Newspaper: Urban buildings unplug from water grid
In one of Seattle's most urban neighborhoods, a small elementary school is trying to wean itself off the city's water grid.

Salt Lake Tribune: Herbert decries sales-tax earmark to transportation
Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that legislation earmarking a portion of sales-tax revenue for transportation is “bad policy” and could deprive other state programs, particularly education.

Wisconsin Radio Network: Rail advocates cite new study
Months after Governor Scott Walker rejected $810 million in federal money for a high speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, advocates point to a new study as reason to keep pushing for it. The study claims expanding passenger rail service in Wisconsin and the Midwest would create 103, thousand jobs and spur nearly 14 billion dollars in economic activity. Madison Democrat, Representative Brett Hulsey, said it’s a question of competitiveness. 


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