Wednesday, February 10, 2010
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: February 10, 2010

According to DC Streetsblog a new report foresees a high-speed rail link for every major city in the U.S. and wrote about what's missing in the Senate jobs bill. Read more in this Infrastructure in the News.


National News

Wired: Transportation Scores Big In Obama’s Budget
...Second, the budget sets aside $4 billion to begin the National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund, the so-called infrastructure bank. Frankly, our eyes glaze over at the mention of federal financing mechanisms, so correct us if we’re wrong, but the bank will make direct loans to transit authorities and guarantee payment of bonds issued to finance construction or maintenance of transit projects. The bank will provide a dedicated, dependable source of funding for infrastructure projects that traditionally have relied upon government grants that are easy to withdraw. Although the name of the program makes it clear it is dedicated to all infrastructure, the fact it falls under the DoT budget request suggests transportation will be a major focus. A summary of the bank starts about halfway down this Economic Policy Institute paper (.pdf), but what we’d like to see is The Idiot’s Guide to The Infrastructure Bank. Senate jobs bill: What's missing
...Also missing is extra money for infrastructure projects. The House bill would pump more than $35 billion in TARP funds into highways and mass transit, as well as $2 billion for clean water projects and another $2 billion for the building and repair of affordable rental homes and public housing. The rest of the infrastructure funds would be spent on school construction and repair.  Republicans, however, have said they oppose shifting TARP money to job creation. They also have said they don't think infrastructure spending creates jobs, in direct contrast to congressional Democrats and the White House.

Water World: Congress Considers Additional Funding for Water
The Senate was expected to consider a bill early in 2010 that would add $1 billion each for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs). The House of Representatives narrowly passed the $39 billion bill "Jobs for Main Street Act" (H.R. 2847), in December. The vote was 217-212.  The SRF provisions would waive the requirement that states provide matching funds for eligible water infrastructure projects. The bill directs states to use at least half of their funding share for loan forgiveness and 20% for "green infrastructure" projects.

State News

DC Streetsblog: New Report Maps a High-Speed Rail Link For Every Major U.S. City
Now that the Obama administration has awarded $8 billion in high-speed rail grants to more than two dozen states, with $2.5 billion more coming soon, why not keep thinking big when it comes to bullet-train expansion?  That's the ethos of a new report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) calling for a New Deal-like public works juggernaut that would eventually connect all major cities located within 100 and 500 miles of each other. For a look at how such a system would remake the American rail map, check out the image above.

Seattle Post Intelligencer: Vehicle license fee for transit moving through Legislature
A bill to help local transit financing with up to $50-a-year vehicle fees for four years was approved Monday by a state House committee. The measure may be headed to a vote in the House before the end of the current legislative session.  The amended version of House Bill 2855 would permit governing bodies of local transit agencies, like the King County Council for Metro, to increase vehicle fees in their service area by $20 annually without a vote.  And a change added at King County's request would let the agencies add another $30 annually if voters approved.

Jersey City Independent: Advocates Want Bike/Ped Path as Part of Portal Bridge Project
Last month, the Obama administration announced a whopping $8 billion in federal stimulus money that is going to 31 states to build and plan for high speed rail. As part of that, New Jersey has been tapped to receive $38.5 million for the reconstruction the Portal Bridge, a century-old structure that takes Amtrak and NJ Transit trains over the Hackensack River in Hudson County...  As part of the plan, Hudson County has filed a request with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Green Acres Program, proposing to cede 2.56 acres of land in Laurel Hill Park to the project. Bicycle advocates see this as an opportunity to get a new bicycle and pedestrian path over the Hackensack. They point to a state law that says NJ Transit has to give land back to the county, by either doubling the total acreage taken, doubling the dollar value of the land taken, or a combination of the two. And they are calling on their supporters to put pressure on the county to push for a path.

Post and Courier: Time to consider light rail
While transit systems across the country lost riders and even bus routes during 2009, CARTA's ridership grew. That affirms the need for area public transportation, and it also suggests that the Lowcountry is ready to expand mass transit into rail.  Buses move people where they need to go and reduce the number of vehicles necessary to do that. But buses still must contend with traffic and congestion on streets and highways. So city planners, businesses, environmentalists and ordinary citizens are pointing out that rail is the next appropriate step for healthy communities.  Charleston is no exception. CARTA executive director Howard Chapman tells us he hopes that the state Infrastructure Bank, when it has money to dole out, will help pay for commuter rail for the Lowcountry.

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