Infrastructure in the News: December 14, 2012
BAF IN THE NEWS:
Bloomberg: NYC Teachers Fund Pledges $1 Billion for Post-Sandy Rebuilding
New York City’s teacher pension fund pledged to invest $1 billion to rebuild infrastructure and housing damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
TIME: Hey New Yorkers, Are You Ready to Hail a Taxi With Your iPhone?
New York City regulators have approved a pilot project to test the viability of smartphone-based taxi cab hailing. The decision comes after months of wrangling between city government and upstart transportation firms, most notably Uber.
New York Times: Storm Recovery Won’t Be ‘Business as Usual,’ Official Says
Visiting New York City, Shaun Donovan, the nation’s housing secretary and President Obama’s appointee to oversee the post-Hurricane Sandy federal recovery effort, said on Thursday that he expected most of the damaged areas along the East Coast to be rebuilt but not necessarily as they were before.
Razorback Reporter: News for the University of Arkansas and Beyond: Roundabout in Fayetteville a Sign of Growing Intersection Modernization in America
Traditional transportation infrastructure designs are less expensive and quicker to
complete than those based on engineering innovations, but the real cost ultimately gets
passed on to drivers in the form of wasted energy and time.
Wall Street Journal Metropolis Blog: Bloomberg Withholds Signature From Pedicab Legislation
By Michael Howard Saul
December 14, 2012
Mayor Michael Bloomberg waited until the last moment Wednesday to delay signing a bill aimed at cracking down on murky pricing practices in New York City’s pedicab industry.
A single opponent raised criticism of the legislation with the mayor, who decided to withhold his signature so he could seek more information. “I’m not going to sign the law today — I want to think about it a little bit,” Bloomberg said at a City Hall bill-signing ceremony on Wednesday.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Council Member Dan Garodnick of Manhattan, and two members of the pedicab industry spoke in favor of the legislation during the ceremony, but one pedicab driver in attendance urged a mayor veto.
The mayor said he was not “satisfied” after listening to the testimony. “I just don’t want to rush into anything,” he said, adding he planned to make a final decision by the end of the week.
Bloomberg said there had been a long history of discrimination against pedicab drivers in the city. “I’m not sure why. It’s one of these things that some of the newspapers have railed against,” he added. “The public wants them. And why shouldn’t they have them? I just don’t understand that.”
Under current law, the cost of a pedicab ride or the basis for calculating the fee must be disclosed on clearly posted signs. But many rate cards used in pedicabs are anything but clear, and some drivers use complex formulas that charge different amounts for avenues and blocks. Others reveal exorbitant fees — such as per-person rates or minimums — only in tiny type.
The new legislation would require rates based on time regardless of the number of passengers, with visible timers, clearly displayed per-minute prices and no add-ons for tax or mandatory tips. Drivers would also be required to hand out a uniform rate card at the beginning of each ride that includes consumer-protection information.
The lone opponent at the hearing, pedicap driver Ibrahim Donmez, said the legislation is part of the city’s continued “racism” against pedicabs. He expressed opposition to the bill’s per-minute pricing system. ”How can you stop me from charging for the distance?” he asked
“The bill does not standardize the fares,” Donmez added. “And you cannot standardize the fares with the pedicabs because they are human powered.”
The best solution, he said, is for the driver and passenger to agree on a price before the ride begins.
In a statement, Garodnick urged the mayor to sign the bill. “Deception cannot be a legitimate business practice in New York City,” he said.
Washington Post: Air-traffic controllers union warns of layoffs if ‘fiscal cliff’ isn’t avoided
More than 1 in 10 of the air-traffic controllers who direct 70,000 flights each day could be laid off, leading to flight delays and higher ticket prices, unless Congress resolves the current fiscal crisis, their union said Wednesday.
New York Times: As State Budgets Rebound, Federal Cuts Could Pose Danger
After years of budget cuts and sluggish recovery, states expect to see their revenues climb back to prerecession levels this year for the first time since the financial crisis hit. But even as some states hope to restore some of the deep spending cuts they have made, they face a new threat.
New York Times: No Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card on Sea Level
The future of Antarctica on a warming planet has long been one of the great uncertainties in climate science.
FastLane: Volpe Center Innovation Challenge generates transportation solutions
It’s no secret that Americans love competitions with judges. American Idol is in its 12th season, and there are television shows recognizing almost every talent you can think of—dancing, cooking, fashion design, and more. But what happens if your talent is transportation research?
Transportation Nation: How Sandy Might Tweak Today’s High-Speed Rail Privatization Hearing
On Capitol Hill today, high-speed rail in the Northeast will get dissected and debated. This time though, Amtrak head Joe Boardman will sit at the witness table with some support from record ridership numbers. And also Sandy.
Marketplace: Google Maps for iOS 6... finally
Coca Cola once fixed what wasn't broken and changed its formula. Lots of people hated it. Now, Apple's "New Coke" moment is coming to an end. People who don't like the Apple maps that came with the new iPhone--quite a few--can finally go back to Google Maps, which seem to do a better job getting you where you're going. The iPad version is also here soon. But the map battles are not over. In 2004, Steve Coast founded Open Street Map--an outfit that creates maps from information contributed by users and makes the results available for free.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Burgess Everett and Adam Snider, Featuring Kathryn A. Wolfe, Jessica Meyers and Caitlin Emma
THE EXPLAINER: First things first. Our senior writer Kathryn has put together a great guide on the next year of transportation. If you are new to transportation, confused by our acronyms or are a fresh-faced congressional staffer, this is where you should start. In short: The next session’s big three for transportation are laying the groundwork for a new surface transportation bill (due in 2014), working on passenger rail legislation (due in fall 2013) and writing an earmark-free WRDA bill. The players to watch: New EPW ranking member David Vitter, incoming AASHTO chief Bud Wright, EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer’s advisor David Napoliello, TTD AFL-CIO head Ed Wytkind and Steve Martinko, who will be deputy chief of staff to Bill Shuster’s T&I committee and a peruser of our old-school hip-hop references. Get up to date: http://politi.co/VFraqr
Taxing issue: Meanwhile, the simplest short-term fix to the country’s infrastructure woes, a raise in the gas tax, remains a third-rail issue. Without the political cover provided by inclusion in some massive financial deal such as the impending fiscal cliff, a hike may be such a heavy lift as to be impossible right now. More from Kathryn: http://politico.pro/VEHaJB
MICA’S LAST GO AS T&I MAESTRO: T&I Chairman John Mica got deep into the Amtrak weeds during his last hearing as chairman yesterday, pushing for acceptance among his colleagues that the private sector needs to be involved in developing the Northeast Corridor. Mica used his last day with the gavel to ask a Morgan Stanley official about how the private sector could contribute to the project and cast aside what he deemed Amtrak’s rosy ridership records and top speeds, which he portrayed as distracting from the average speeds. Morgan Stanley’s Peter Offutt said investors want to get in on U.S. infrastructure, but they would likely need some form of “comfort” that the government would assist if revenues weren’t up to snuff. The main takeaway is that nearly everyone at the hearing wants improvements on the crowded corridor, and though Mica will soon be out of his chairmanship, he plans to keep fighting. “My goal is to see it while I’m alive and not to have it happen while I’m pushing daisies,” Mica said of 200 mph trains in the East. Burgess for Pros: http://politico.pro/TdOQ6K
Lending a hand: Mica received a round of applause from everyone in the committee room (well, except for the press) for his chairmanship. Top railroads Dem Corrine Brown asked for the ovation, then lit into Republicans for being “no friends of rail” and Mica for not prioritizing a WRDA bill over more Amtrak hearings.
Leftovers: Amtrak will acquire 20 more high-speed train sets rather than add cars to its existing fleet, the railroad announced ahead of the hearing … Carolyn Maloney, an honorary witness and T&I member for the day, asked Mica if he would create a bipartisan NEC caucus, but Mica said he’d made a “pledge” not to join such groups, which likely explains why he isn’t a member of the Congressional Bike Caucus … MT readers know Mica is proud he passed the two biggies — FAA and surface transportation — but he still wants FEMA reform before Jan. 1. He said he’s working on “negotiating provisions.”
A TALE OF TWO RIDERS: Two “poison pill” amendments to the House’s stalled transportation funding bill are shaking out in vastly different ways. Those provisions, opposed by Democrats, would bar federal funding for California’s high-speed rail line and prevent DOT from studying or implementing a vehicle miles traveled fee. House Appropriations THUD Chairman Tom Latham told MT that Rep. Chip Cravaack’s VMT language is “not an issue” as negotiators craft an omnibus funding package to keep the government running past March. But the Golden State HSR language, pioneered by California Rep. Jeff Denham, is “still under negotiation,” Latham said. “Overall they have to come up with a plan or I’m going to continue to push leadership on our side and appropriations to exclude all of funds,” Denham told MT on Thursday, a week after he and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood went toe-to-toe over the issue at a T&I hearing. Team MT delivers for Pros: http://politico.pro/VDznvq
SHUSTER LIVE: Incoming House T&I Chairman Bill Shuster went on the Heritage Foundation’s Istook Live show yesterday morning to talk transportation. He again said that a gas tax increase needs to be on the table as Congress looks at ways of boosting infrastructure spending, defended the federal role in transportation and said he understands some of the logic behind using gas tax dollars to pay for transit. “Transportation affects everything on a daily basis,” he told Ernest Istook, a former Republican congressman. In talking about the federal role, Shuster cited Adam Smith and noted that “it’s enshrined in the Constitution that we have a role there.” On transit’s share of gas tax dollars, he said that “the logic you can apply to it is that people on transit are off the roads. ... I can understand some of that logic.”
Own the issue: Shuster also cited three major transportation projects — the transcontinental railroad, the Panama Canal and the Interstate Highway System — all pioneered under Republican presidents. “It’s been our issue and we need to make sure we get that issue back,” he said.
ROCKY TALKS NICE: Ever the gentleman, Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller offered kind words for both his former potential ranking member and his current one. Sen. John Thune, who is expected to take the spot, would be "very good,” he told Jessica. But he'd even worked out the kinks with fiery Sen. Jim DeMint, his likely co-leader before he ran off to Heritage. "I told him, we had conversations that we were going to make it work," Rockefeller said of the South Carolinian. "We were just going to do it. And it was positive."
TO BIGGER (IF NOT BETTER) STATES: Luke Miller, the press secretary for former House T&I Chairman Don Young, is leaving the Hill behind next week. But the Alaska native isn’t leaving the world of politics: He’s off to work for Gov. Sean Parnell as deputy press secretary, focusing on oil tax reform efforts. We wish Luke well. He actually got us on the phone once with his boss, which Hill reporters know is quite a feat.
BACK LIKE WE LEFT SOMETHING: We goofed last week and forgot our Metro track work update, but it shan't happen again. The lede this weekend is that the Yellow Line bridge is closed for track work (which might complicate MT’s journey to our holiday party, but we digress) and single tracking is ongoing on the Red, Orange and Green lines. More info: http://bit.ly/Vvd2ju
Fares go up, service goes down: GGW crunches some numbers and finds that “According to figures reported to the Federal Transit Administration National Transit Database, Metro's rail service hit a peak in 2009 and has decreased almost 6 percent since.” Please click through, if only to read up on the bungled collaboration between GGW and Unsuck DC Metro: http://bit.ly/W8POC8
Fare thee well: Second Avenues has the details on New York’s Subway hikes: a $2.50 base and a $112 30-day card. http://bit.ly/XiDQF2
Hmm: The MTA fired its lobbyists just six months before it asked Congress for $5 billion. Bloomberg: http://bloom.bg/UCYy2a
FUN WITH FEES: Courtesy of the Dutch government, the International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP) and Ecofys comes an interactive map of global emissions trading schemes, from which President Barack Obama just signed a bill exempting U.S. airlines. http://bit.ly/VDATO9
REPORT-BAG — National infrastructure bank: A new Brookings Institution report makes the case for a federal infrastructure bank, an idea that’s been floating around for years but hasn’t made it very far on the Hill. “Our inability to find better ways to invest in infrastructure represents a wasted opportunity … and a failure of imagination,” authors William A. Galston and Korin Davis write. They say that the private sector should have a stronger role in the face of limited federal funding. “Our argument is not that government should retreat from the infrastructure sector, but rather that it should use scarce public resources strategically,” the report says. Give it a read yourself: http://bit.ly/12bbstJ
CABOOSE — Amtrak’s beginnings: The Atlantic Cities brings us some great photos from Charles O’Rear, who as a National Geographic photographer in 1974 rode about 5,000 miles on the brand-new national passenger rail network. Check out the sweet shots: http://bit.ly/Te6Iyn
THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ)
- Ohio won’t lease out the Ohio Turnpike. http://bit.ly/12bc4Q5
- MOU signed between Ohio and Kentucky on bridge project. Tolls appear likely. CN2: http://bit.ly/TQAd8e
- MWAA gives LaHood oversight authority and “full access at any time.” Examiner: http://bit.ly/TdMl4i
- A4A issues new holiday travel forecast: 42 million passengers in the three-week holiday season. http://bit.ly/UnmN3A
- DOT ranks ninth out of 19 large agencies in new “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” survey. Partnership for Public Services: http://bit.ly/8Y3d0d
Politico Pro: Gas tax: A not-so-easy fix
By Kathryn A. Wolfe
Transportation stakeholders say infrastructure is on a downward spiral and point their fingers at an easy culprit: the gasoline tax, which has been stalled on the side of the road since 1993.
Revenues into the Highway Trust Fund, which is fueled mostly by an 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax that has remained stagnant for almost 20 years, aren’t keeping up with spending demands. The signs of wear are obvious from highways to ports.
But the simplest fix of raising the gas tax is politically fraught. Without the political cover provided by inclusion in some massive financial deal such as the impending fiscal cliff, a gas tax hike may be such a heavy lift as to be impossible right now.
Traditional road building lobby groups — as well as those representing transit, labor, contractors, construction materials and states — support an increase. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which on most other issues traditionally takes an anti-tax stance, endorses raising the gas tax for infrastructure spending.
Despite the clamoring for an increase during the administrations of both former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, suggestions about raising the gas tax have been summarily dismissed. In addition, both presidents actively worked against House Transportation and Infrastructure committee chairmen from their own parties who sought a tax hike to fund more infrastructure spending. Under the Bush administration, that was Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska); with Obama, former Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) held the post.
And anti-tax positions, especially among Republicans, continued to harden earlier this year, when fiscal conservatives in the House GOP demanded that infrastructure spending should not exceed what the Highway Trust Fund can sustain. They also opposed further transfers from the Treasury to make up the difference. Republicans were willing to consider some additional spending but only if that spending was derived from non-tax, deficit-neutral revenue raisers.
The result was a two-year, $109 billion just-barely-good-enough surface transportation bill that lawmakers still had to fight tooth and nail to push over the finish line.
According to a report produced in 2008 by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, a blue ribbon panel ordered up by the previous transportation law, the country needs to invest at least $225 billion each year from all sources just to bring the nation’s infrastructure to a state of good repair. The report goes on to note that at the time the report was produced the country was investing just 40 percent of that figure.
The silver lining on the devastation Hurricane Sandy wrought on the New York and New Jersey areas may be the way it highlighted just how dependent America's financial center is on transit. However, it remains to be seen how quickly pictures of flooded subways may fade from politicians' sights.
Mere days after Obama was reelected, Pete Ruane, the president and CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, injected the gas tax issue into the Beltway discourse, hoping to put the need for greater investment in the front of lawmakers’ minds as they begin negotiating a fiscal cliff deal.
Though he didn’t use the “t” word, he implied Congress needs to take a hard look at increasing the gas tax, saying the discussion “begins with the establishment of a dedicated and sustainable transportation-related revenue source” that doesn’t “add to the deficit or detract from other government programs.”
He suggested that Congress should use as a basis for discussion the conclusions reached by the Simpson-Bowles debt commission — which included a proposal to gradually raise the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon between 2013 and 2015.
The set of lawmakers that will be seated in January is the same group that will have to write a new surface transportation bill if they are to avoid the current law’s September 2014 expiration date. And despite Democratic gains in the Senate, the House’s GOP caucus is expected to be more fiscally conservative than ever.
There are some signs of hope for gas tax boosters, though. Republican Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma have said they are open to at least indexing the gas tax to inflation, a position taken in the past by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The best hope for either raising the gas tax or figuring out some other way to finance more robust infrastructure spending may be hitching a ride on whatever vehicle policymakers end up drafting to address the looming fiscal cliff. The two subjects would marry well together, considering that whatever package is produced will be intended to help get the nation’s fiscal house in order. Democrats are pressing for that to contain both new revenues and spending reductions. It also would have the benefit of providing significant political cover to politicians from both parties wary about how a vote to raise the gas tax might be perceived.
But if lawmakers don’t decide to include some kind of fix for the Highway Trust Fund in whatever big fiscal deal is reached, the chances for enacting some big new revenue stream for infrastructure spending drop off precipitously. Though the jockeying has already begun with hopes high of a deal during the lame duck, the likely outcome at this juncture is that a massive debt deal will be kicked into next year, when the 113th Congress reconvenes.
Politico Pro: Mica hypes high-speed rail
By Burgess Everett
House Transportation Chairman John Mica used his last hearing with the full panel’s gavel to emphasize that he is a friend to high-speed passenger rail — at least where he believes it makes sense.
Mica said the densely populated region of the country that extends from New England to the nation’s capital is where true high-speed rail should be prioritized. It’s a notion that nearly all of the committee’s members agree on, even if they can’t quite see eye to eye on the way to get there.
During the hearing, which served as a bookend to Mica’s first hearing as chairman on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor at Grand Central Station last year, Democrats continued to knock Mica (R-Fla.) for his failed attempt to privatize the nation’s busiest train corridor. In turn, Mica pushed back against Amtrak’s 30-year, $151 billion proposal to bring 220-mph service to the Washington, D.C.-to-Boston corridor. The arguments are familiar, but take on new urgency as the calendar marches on, considering that Congress will try to write a new passenger rail bill next year, work that undoubtedly begins now.
Mica said it’s in the “national interest” to build the first true example of high-speed rail and alleviate both air and road traffic in the congested NEC, on which Amtrak owns much of the tracks. This stands in contrast to many of its other lines, which are shared with freight. But he expressed disappointment with the pace on achieving higher speeds, and tossed aside the record ridership gains Amtrak regularly touts.
He also dismissed Amtrak’s recent 165-mph test run, saying such numbers are distracting and pointing to an average speed of about half that figure. It is an example, he said, of the federal government wasting another opportunity.
The corridor is “one of the most valuable transportation assets in the entire world,” Mica said. “And it’s an asset that we are sitting on.”
But the top rail Democrat in the House, Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida, said Republicans are being hypocritical and called them “no friend to rail.” She said the state of the corridor only reflects lack of federal investment made during George W. Bush’s administration and said GOP members “never put their money where their mouth is.”
Nearly every member of the panel agreed the country’s passenger rail is not up to snuff compared with what exists in other countries, but the sticky wicket remains how to pay for such a massive upgrade. Public-private partnerships remain a popular option, if unlikely to deliver the kind of coin Amtrak needs, said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
“It is simply unrealistic to think that the private sector” will pay for the entire overhaul, Cummings said.
He added that it’s impossible to imagine states being able to string together a package of funding. That leaves federal funding, some of which was applied to the corridor as part of the 2009 high-speed rail stimulus. But what the stimulus handed out was a drop in the bucket compared with what will be needed to achieve the vision of European-style trains zipping between Boston and D.C. at 220 mph.
Not that every bit doesn’t help. Rep. Carolyn Maloney said the $295 million that came to the Northeast Corridor from money rejected by Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott was a sign of progress, however small. Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman also emphasized Amtrak’s incremental success in the Northeast, noting the elimination of choke points and its quick recovery from Hurricane Sandy.
But Maloney also expressed frustrations with watching Asia and Europe pull away from America’s leadership on rail. “How did the most innovative, prosperous country fall behind the rest of the world?” asked Maloney, made an honorary member of T&I for the day and also a witness.
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Vice President John Tolman said comparing federal subsidies given to highways and aviation to passenger rail is “frankly embarrassing.” But fully government-supported development of 200-mph plus trains just isn’t going to happen, Mica said.
“You’re never going to get the Congress to give $151 billion, even over a period of 30 years,” Mica said.
The hope is that the private sector could step in instead while increased Amtrak spending remains a nonstarter in the Republican-controlled House.
Morgan Stanley’s head of infrastructure banking, Peter Offutt, said he believes “there are numerous companies interested in building high-speed rail in the U.S.” Offutt envisioned companies designing, building, operating and maintaining fast-train infrastructure in the Northeast, but emphasized that fully decoupling the NEC from the government would be impossible, at least in the short term. A baseline would have to be set for profitability — and if revenues dipped below that baseline, “private investors will expect some comfort from government.” Offutt also said the NEC is a more lucrative investment than in California, simply because of the proven ridership that already exists on the East Coast.
Mica is passionate about the issue, as evidenced by his recommending panelists read a history of New York rail titled “Conquering Gotham.” He even signed a copy for Boardman, who said he hadn’t read it.
Mica made it clear that his work on rail will continue after he gives up his gavel and that he hopes to deliver true high-speed rail to the Northeast much sooner than 20 years — a dig at Amtrak’s 30-year plan.
“My goal is to see it while I’m alive and not to have it happen while I’m pushing daisies,” Mica said.
Politico Pro: GOP dropping controversial VMT fee rider
By Burgess Everett and Adam Snider
House Republicans have dropped a controversial vehicle-miles-traveled provision from a spending bill, but will keep fighting for another rider hampering California rail funding as appropriators hammer out an omnibus measure to keep the government funded after March.
Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), chairman of the Appropriations Committee panel in charge of transportation spending, told POLITICO that a provision inserted into the House’s transportation appropriations bill that would ban the creation of any vehicle-miles-traveled fee has been dropped from the emerging omnibus draft. Latham said that item is “not an issue” in congressional negotiations.
The provision, originally added by Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), would prohibit any agency funded by the bill from researching or developing a fee based on VMT. Whatever omnibus spending package ends up moving would last only through September, so the VMT issue might be up for debate again soon.
A number of transportation think tanks and experts have said a VMT fee is the only viable long-term funding solution that would maintain the “user pays” concept that has been the foundation of highway funding for the past 50 years. This is due in large part to the fact that the value of a tax on the price of gasoline will continue to erode as people drive increasingly fuel-efficient cars, particularly electric and hybrid autos.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), set to take the House Transportation Committee gavel in January, has said VMT “seems to be the only way to stop the decline” in transportation revenues. But he also admits it’s a tough sell in the Republican-controlled House; that will be a battle for another day.
But another provision in the House’s transportation spending bill, reviled by many California Democrats, remains in play. Latham said language that would cut off federal funding for the Golden State’s high-speed rail project is “still under negotiation.” That provision was originally added by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.).
“Overall they have to come up with a plan or I’m going to continue to push leadership on our side and appropriations to exclude all of funds,” Denham said in an interview Thursday. Both Denham and GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) argue the country should not commit further spending to a project that will likely need billions more in federal funding in the future.
McCarthy, Denham and other Republicans have been pushing to have Denham’s language included in the omnibus spending package, drawing the ire of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The day after POLITICO broke the news of the private feud between Denham and LaHood, it erupted into the public arena. At a House Transportation hearing on high-speed rail, Denham used two rounds of questioning to hammer LaHood over the California high-speed rail project’s cost overruns and lack of private sector money.
LaHood renewed his offer to arrange a meeting with Denham and California High-Speed Rail Authority President Dan Richard, asking Denham if he’d withdraw his amendment if the two sat down to review California’s high-speed rail plan. LaHood even cut Denham off at one point, saying, “We’re not going to get it fully funded as long as there’s language in bills that says you can’t have any money.”
At last week’s hearing, Denham poked LaHood by asking if his agency has worked on waiving the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act that govern construction projects. When LaHood said that was the “first I’ve heard of it,” Denham replied by saying, “It should seem that this would be a very simple topic that should be at the top of both the state and federal government’s interest point if we’re going to get this project done.”
The debate is ongoing between the two, Denham said Thursday.
Denham is still looking for answers. “I’m still waiting for information to come back from Secretary LaHood about NEPA and CEQA and whether or not they’re going to streamline the project and make it less expensive,” Denham said of his efforts to tighten the belt on the project, which is expected to break ground next year.
New York Times: New Jersey’s Pension Plan Is Said to Be in Trouble Despite Overhaul by Christie
New Jersey’s financial problems are so severe that even Gov. Chris Christie’s signature pension overhaul, in which he cut back benefits as union members marched and booed, might not be enough to pull the state out of its hole, a panel of fiscal experts said on Thursday.
Washington Post (Associated Press Reprint): Md. panel urges cutting ongoing deficit in half; approves $150M debt increase
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A panel of Maryland lawmakers on Thursday recommended that Gov. Martin O’Malley cut the state’s projected budget deficit of $382 million by more than half in the next fiscal year.
FastLane: I-49 designation means opportunity in Missouri
Thanks to the work of previous generations, modernizing transportation in America doesn't always mean starting from scratch. Existing infrastructure often gives us a great springboard to leverage as we work to develop a true 21st century transportation network to support a thriving 21st century economy.
New York Daily News: You pay too little at the pump, It's time to raise the federal gas tax
How can we address our enormous federal deficit, persistent national security concerns and the threat of climate change at the same time?
Los Angeles Times: L.A. County transit officials OK more funds for Blue Line safety
Los Angeles County transit officials Thursday budgeted $6.78 million more for improvements on the Blue Line — one of the busiest light-rail lines in the nation, with 26 million riders annually and a history of accidents and fatalities.
Star-Ledger: Angry commuters say NJ Transit's communication derailed after Hurricane Sandy
At the end of a seven-day stretch in which he was questioned by lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and Trenton over the decision to keep locomotives and trains in rail yards that ended up flooding, NJ Transit's executive director faced commuters yesterday during the agency's first board meeting since Hurricane Sandy.
America's poorest households spend more than 40% of take-home pay on transportation.