Wednesday, February 16, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: February 16, 2011

The National Journal discusses the Obama administration's proposed National Infrastructure Bank (NIB), and a new Rasumussen poll shows that Democrats favor high-speed rail and Republicans are against it. Find out more in this Infrastructure in the News.

National News

Time Magazine: Labor, Chamber Team Up for Infrastructure
This is where the administration has the kind of cross-cutting leverage that they lack on a lot of their economic agenda now. When Trumka and Donohue put their shoulders to the same grindstone, it makes it harder for a certain kind of Republican member of Congress to vote reflexively (in committee especially) against the White House proposals.

Wall Street Journal: Business Groups Fault Obama Infrastructure Plan's Lack of Funding Details
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies called President Barack Obama's proposal for a six-year, $556 billion highway bill unrealistic Tuesday, saying no one's explained how to pay for it.

USA Today: FAA predicts steady growth for airline industry
The embattled airline industry will see solid long-term growth over the next 20 years with yearly passenger totals climbing from 713 million to nearly 1.3 billion, the government predicted today.

National Journal: Is There Hope for an Infrastructure Bank?
The White House's release of its fiscal 2012 budget proposal this week kicks off the discussion about the administration's priorities, and infrastructure is at the top of the list. The administration has been honing the idea of an infrastructure "bank" or "fund" since President Obama took office. The fund would be designed to vet and provide cash for large projects that use multiple modes of transportation and take several years to complete. It's a safe bet that we'll hear more about this idea in the weeks to come as Transportation Department officials trot up to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on their ideas.

Sunshine News: New Poll Finds Americans Against Obama's High-Speed Rail Plan Than For It
A poll from Rasmussen Reports found that likely voters are not buying President Barack Obama’s plan to dramatically increase high-speed rail in the United States. The poll found 41 percent of those surveyed backed the plan with 46 percent against it. There is a partisan divide on the issue with 59 percent of Democrats behind it, 62 percent of Republicans against it and 55 percent of independents opposing it.

The Hill: Transportation groups fear plans for infrastructure might dead-end
Transportation groups have much to like in President Obama’s budget request for infrastructure improvements but fear the spending plan might not get off the ground in Congress. 

The Washington Post: The death of the gas tax -- and of infrastructure investment?
Perhaps my favorite part of the budget is the Department of Transportation's section. Readers know that I think infrastructure investment is, at this moment, the biggest no brainer in the economy. The need is great, the workers are plentiful, the money is cheap, and the material costs are low. And the administration is proposing quite a lot of it: $556 billion over six years.

Fox News: Kucinich: America Needs to Invest In Infrastructure
President Obama's new budget includes more than a half-trillion bucks over six years for transportation products, including high-speed rail, got it, $148 billion for research and development, and, among the other goodies, $100 million more to expand the Smithsonian Museum. The president saying it is essential for investment in our future.

Infrastructurist: Upgrading America's Digital Infrastructure
This week, as part of his Congressional budget proposal, President Obama requested $354 million for the Federal Communications Commission, as a first step toward establishing this nationwide invisible infrastructure. In addition, he wants to establish a $10 billion digital public safety network, spend $5 billion to upgrade the F.C.C.’s Universal Service Fund, and use another $3 billion for related research and development.

Wall Street Journal: Chinese Firms Get Their Day in Sun
On Monday, Baha Mar Resorts Ltd. is set to break ground on the $3.4 billion hotel, casino and resort project. Its unlikely partners: China State Construction Engineering Corp., the country's largest construction company by revenue, and the Export-Import Bank of China, a state-owned bank with the mission to help Chinese companies expand overseas.

New York Times: Japan Plans World’s Fastest Train
For decades, Japan has been at the forefront of high-speed rail technology. Now, the Central Japan Railway Company has announced that it plans to build the fastest train in the world, between Tokyo and Nagoya, to be completed by 2027.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Are Environmental Reviews to Blame for Infrastructure Project Delays
Highway projects can take 10 to 15 years from planning through construction. The length of the process leads to cost overruns, some due to inflation, some from having to pay engineers and contractors for years on end. No matter how you feel about the worthiness of road capacity expansion, if a project gets built it doesn’t do anybody any good to have that project cost twice what it ought to because of delays. Plus, reducing delays is going to be a key element in upcoming debates over cost-effectiveness in the transportation sector.

Transportation For America: House transportation leaders kick-off nationwide tour in West Virginia
West Virginia’s Beckley (right) and Charleston were the first two stops on a multi-state tour that House transportation leaders hope will result in a bipartisan bill to fund the nation’s infrastructure.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Montana Dem Max Baucus to Chair Senate Transpo Subcommittee
We at Streetsblog have been saying that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will be a key player in the transportation debate this session, counterbalancing the conservative House as they, together with the administration and the Senate Banking Committee, craft a six-year reauthorization. The EPW could play a key role in tempering House attempts to cut infrastructure spending to the bone and prioritize traditional highway projects over urban transit, intercity rail, or metropolitan planning. We’ve already seen debates within EWP on the role of bike facilities in an infrastructure bill.

Transportation Nation: Sessions: High-Speed Rail Will Never Be Profitable
Senator Sessions: (laughs) I’m just kind of kidding, but urban transportation problems are real, for millions of Americans, and a good policy would figure out how to improve that. But I don’t think high-speed rail in areas that are never going to be profitable are the answer.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Barbara Boxer Commends Obama's Long-term Transpo Plan
As Chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, Barbara Boxer may be the single most important voice on the future of Obama administration’s six-year transportation proposal. And yesterday, the California Democrat gave her qualified endorsement to the President's transformative plan.

DOT Blog: High-speed rail -- the future we can't afford to leave behind
That’s because transportation is the lifeblood of today’s global economy.  And if we can’t move goods and people faster and more efficiently than our competition, there’s no way we can remain the most prosperous and productive country in the world.  The undeniable fact is that our existing systems are not up to tomorrow's load.

Dow Jones Newswire: White House Plan For Highway Projects Called Unrealistic
Construction-industry lobbyists called U.S. President Barack Obama's proposal for a six-year, $556 billion highway bill unrealistic Tuesday, saying no one has explained how to pay for the bill. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Transportation Reformers Applaud Obama's Six-Year Transpo Plan
A fix-it-first policy for roads. More support for livability programs. Additional transit investment. Competitive infrastructure grants. In his new six-year $556 billion surface transportation proposal, President Obama is hitting all the right notes with transportation reform advocates.

Progressive Railroading: Administration proposes $129 billion for transportation, Amtrak proposes $2.2 billion
President Barack Obama’s proposed $3.7 trillion budget for fiscal-year 2012 — which was unveiled yesterday — includes $129 billion for the US Department of Transportation (USDOT), and calls for a $556 billion, six-year surface transportation reauthorization plan to modernize the country’s infrastructure.

For Construction Pros: Obama FY 2012 Budget Proposal Reveals Administration's Surface Transportation Program Reauthorization Plan
The Obama Administration yesterday placed its markers on the table for a multi-year reauthorization of the federal surface transportation programs. As part of its FY 2012 budget submission, the Administration outlined a six-year, $556 billion surface transportation program - one that would radically change the program's scope and structure. Unfortunately, the budget did not address the key question - how the proposed six-year program would be funded. 

For Construction Pros: President's Transportation Proposal Has Potential to Boost Economic Activity, Help Businesses and Protect Taxpayers
"It is encouraging to see that the President appreciates the difference between wasteful spending and essential transportation investments needed to boost overall economic growth and protect Americans from later, larger fiscal liabilities. After all, businesses rely on an efficient transportation system to successfully compete in the global economy. Meanwhile, investing in needed capacity and maintenance projects now protects taxpayers from having to pay much more to repair broken roads and bridges in a few years. 

The Trucker: Rockefeller Foundation Survey: Voters want infrastructure fixed
Two in three voters say that making improvements in infrastructure is very important, and most voters say that in its current state the nation’s transportation system is barely adequate, according to a Rockefeller Foundation Infrastructure Survey. 

Thomas Net News: Obama's 2012 Budget: AASHTO Ready to Work with Administration and Congress on Long-Term Transportation Program
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials today expressed appreciation to President Obama for recognizing the need for significant investment levels for surface transportation in his FY 2012 budget proposal.

American Rivers: Congress to slash clean water protections?
The House of Representatives is considering legislation now to fund the government through the remainder of Federal Fiscal Year 2011.  This bill, H.R. 1, contains deep cuts to programs that protect clean water, public health and public safety.

Regional Plan Association: What Kind of Transit Works Where
It's great that businesses and residents in Connecticut and elsewhere in the tri-state region are clamoring for more transit options, but we should recognize that each type of transit has its place. A service designed for high-density cities is different from one for low-density suburbs. One hears a lot about high-speed rail, trolleys, commuter rail, light rail, and busways these days. What's the difference?

New American: Proposed California High-Speed Train Faces Criticism
Despite the plight of the federal deficit and the American economy, President Obama has proposed spending $8 billion for a bullet train program, which will serve as only a down payment for the $53 billion over the next six years. Obama has touted the high-speed train program as a symbol of American innovation, but others contend that it is financially irresponsible.

Better Roads: Road Science Tutorial
New technologies – both active and passive, mechanical and electronic, as-built or retrofitted – are revolutionizing how bridge superstructures are designed, built, protected and maintained.

The Bellingham Herald: Feds' transportation dollars will be tight
If states had any doubt about how much transportation money they might be getting from Washington this year, recent events offered a good clue. First came positive news for states that want federal money. Las week, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the Obama administration would seek another $53 billion over the next six years to build high-speed rail projects.

State News

Associated Press: In Alaska, reluctance to accept end of earmarks
For Alaskans, the recent ban on federal earmarks brings to an end a decades-long era in which the young and still-developing state has routinely, and heavily, relied upon those funds for basics like roads or sewer systems.

San Jose Mercury News: Republicans push for cutting funds for new Bay Area rail lines
One day after the Federal Transit Administration announced it would give the BART extension to San Jose $130 million as a down payment on $900 million in aid from Washington, political reality set i

Southern California Public Radio: It's a bird! It's a plane! Nope - it's high-speed rail plan, and a lot of Republicans don't like it
Vice President Biden announced last week the Obama Administration’s plan to put $53 billion toward upgrading and building a national, high-speed rail network. The administration has already allocated $10.5 billion to passenger rail programs, with the majority of funding going to projects in the planning stage in California and Florida.

Business Wire: Southern California Transportation and Business Leaders Fight for Mobility and Jobs in Washington D.C.
During an advocacy trip to Washington, D.C. this week, Southern California’s leading transportation stakeholders from public and private sectors will join together to fight for transportation funding amidst the latest round of budget cuts.

Stockton Record: Businesses urged to get involved with planning on high speed rail
State officials have put the call out to companies and other organizations - including small businesses - to get involved in the building of California's plans for a multibillion-dollar high-speed rail system.

Modesto Bee: High speed rail cities to get development aid
Cities that expect to have passenger stations for California's proposed high-speed train system will get help from the state to plan for development around the stations. 

News Works: DNREC announces new water projects
During today's 1 PM announcement in Dover, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Colin O'Mara will be joined by EPA Regional Director Shawn Garvin to announce the projects. The money comes out of the Delaware Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Projects will be announced for Wilmington, New Castle, Middletown, Dover, Magnolia, Lebanon, Frederica, Milford, Millville, Dewey Beach, Seaford, and Rehoboth Beach. The work includes efforts to reduce flooding, along with improvements to wastewater treatment and sewer systems.

Tampa Bay Business Journal: Small businesses support fast train in letter to governor
Nearly three-dozen small businesses, many of them from the Tampa, have signed a letter urging Gov. Rick Scott to support the proposed high-speed rail project between Tampa and Orlando.

Tampa Bay Business Journal: Scott turns down high-speed rail funding
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is rejecting more than $2 billion in federal money to build a high-speed rail system between Orlando and Tampa.

Star Advertiser: City readies plan on rail transit finances
The Federal Transit Administration is awaiting an updated financial plan from the city as Honolulu's $5.5 billion rail transit project moves forward. The last financial plan, prepared in 2009 by Parsons Brinckerhoff, presented "very little capacity to absorb cost increases or funding shortfalls and has potentially significant revenues risks," according to the FTA's fiscal 2011 transit project financial assessment.

Peoria Journal-Star: LaHood touts transportation bill as needed economic boost
Speaking on Tuesday to disadvantaged contractors who want a small piece of federal and state highway spending that is upcoming, LaHood, the U.S. secretary of transportation, said the transportation plan contained within Obama's proposed budget would be a much needed boost for the economy.

The Financial: AASHTO's Deb Miller Offers Suggestions to Cut Project Costs and Speed Delivery
A major highway project can take 15 or more years to complete, resulting in additional construction costs -- not just from inflation but also from lost productivity caused by prolonged congestion and traffic accidents, Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Deb Miller told a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee today.

The Boston Globe: Mass. transportation officials vow to fight delays
The most immediate goal, they said, is improving communication with passengers to alert them when there is a delay. During the recent bad weather, announcements about service delays were themselves delayed, leaving passengers uncertain about when or if their trains would show up.

Transportation Nation: Montana Lawmakers Grapple With Megaloads On State Highways
A so-called megaload of refinery equipment bound for a ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings is just east of the Idaho-Montana border, poised to make a circuitous 500-odd mile trip from the Lolo National Forest, and winding up to Roy, before making its way back down to a refinery near Billings.

Reuters: DOE finalizes loan aid for Nevada power line
The U.S. Department of Energy finalized on Tuesday a $343 million loan guarantee for a Nevada power line expected to carry 600 megawatts of electricity including from clean sources such as solar power. The ON Line project, jointly owned by Great Basin Transmission South LLC and NV Energy, is the first transmission line to receive loan aid from the DOE, the department said.

Grist: How buses and ferries and light rail have made it cool to live in New Jersey
The area has attracted some $5 billion in residential development since light rail came in. "That's a testament to transit-rich development," says Robert Cotter, director of city planning for Jersey City. "The communities that have access to fixed rail are going to be the richest in the coming century, I'm thoroughly convinced of it."

Mobilizing the Region: This Week, Transportation Hot Topic in Upstate New York
On February 17, the New York Transportation Equity Alliance (NYSTEA) will hold a transportation equity town hall in Rochester, in advance of House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica and Rep. Tom Reed’s transportation bill “field hearing” the following day. Since details surrounding Chairman Mica’s "field hearings" have been opaque and not readily available, NYSTEA will give New Yorkers an opportunity to voice their transportation concerns, which will be collected at the town hall and delivered to Mica and Reed’s offices.

Transportation Nation: Obama Puts Money on Houston's METRO
There could be more money on the way for Houston’s light rail system. President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 sets aside a hefty $128 billion dollars for transportation projects across America – a 66% increase from 2010. It’s part of a new six-year transportation bill, pegged at $556 billion dollars. “We view this as a big win for public transit,” said Peter Rogoff, the Federal Transit Administrator. Obama’s budget includes a record $3.2 billion dollars for 21 capital transit rail and bus projects.

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