Thursday, February 17, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: February 17, 2011

Labor and business both agree that infrastructure investment needs to happen. They have also both asked for a higher gas tax, and the Senate seems to agree with this. Read more in this Infrastructure in the News.

National News

Wall Street Journal: US Chamber CEO Calls For Boost In Infrastructure Spending
The U.S Chamber of Commerce president pressed Congress Wednesday to pass a multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan, as lawmakers struggled to find ways to pay for the bill.

The Hill: Labor, business find agreement on transportation issues
Labor and business joined forces Wednesday suggesting a variety of ways to pay for a much-needed boost in infrastructure investment, including a possible increase in the federal gas tax. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: AFL-CIO and Chamber Ask For a Gas Tax Increase, Senators Agree
Business and labor came together to make a rare show of unity today to push for a robust transportation reauthorization with adequate investment for infrastructure. And they spoke out loud and clear for a higher gas tax. Most surprising of all – it seemed that Senators were finally ready to have a mature discussion about it.

AFL-CIO Blog: AFL-CIO, Chamber Agree, Urge Infrastructure Investments
The AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce don’t agree on very much. But today, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Chamber President Thomas Donohue told a Senate committee that labor and business agree on the vital need to invest in the nation’s transportation infrastructure to create jobs and boost the economy.

New York Times: Florida's Governor Rejects Tampa-Orlando High-Speed Rail Line
In the most significant blow yet to the Obama administration’s vision of a national high-speed rail network, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida on Wednesday rejected plans for a high-speed link between Tampa and Orlando, in the process turning down more than $2 billion in federal money.

Wall Street Journal: Florida Governor Cancels High-Speed Rail Plan
Mr. Scott canceled the planned 84-mile line between Tampa to Orlando Wednesday, just as rail firms were preparing to make bids this month and potentially start construction later this year. Mr. Scott, a Republican elected in November, had said since taking office that he was concerned about the costs of the project. 

Associated Press: Fla. scraps high-speed rail plan pushed by Obama
Florida Gov. Rick Scott canceled plans for a high-speed train line between Orlando and Tampa promoted by President Barack Obama, saying Wednesday it would cost the state too much even with $2.4 billion in federal help.

Tampa Bay Business Journal: Castor, Mica to Scott: Reconsider rail stance
U.S. Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and U..S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, urged Florida Gov. Rick Scott to reconsider his decision to reject more than $2 billion in federal money to build a high-speed rail system and allow the private sector to assume the risk and any future costs for the project.

Business Journal: Other states have hands out for rail funding
The federal Department of Transportation in December rescinded the $810 million that had been awarded to Wisconsin and the $385 million awarded to Ohio. The money was redistributed to 14 other states, including Florida, which got an additional $342 million in federal funding on top of the $2.05 billion it previously was awarded.

Transportation Nation: LaHood to Meet with Florida Delegation to Salvage Florida High Speed Rail
A DOT official tells us “Secretary Ray LaHood has agreed to meet with the Florida delegation to discuss options for salvaging the [Florida high speed rail] project without the state’s involvement.”  The meeting comes a day after Florida Governor Rick Scott said he was returning $2.4 billion dollars to the federal government for the project. That move was met with widespread criticism, including from the Republican Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica.

The Hill: Christie dings Obama, GOP for not focusing on 'big things'
Chrtistie knocked both parties for shying away from drastic measures to solve the country's fiscal woes. The outspoken governor mocked President Obama's proposals for high-speed rail and broadband as "the candy of American politics" and also criticized Republicans in Congress for not putting forth a bold proposal on entitlement reform.

Transportation Nation: NJ to Feds: We May Not Have Agreed About ARC Tunnel, But We Agree We Shouldn't Have To Pay
Yesterday, Governor Christie’s office released a copy of a letter that the entire New Jersey congressional delegation –13 congressmen (yes, the entire delegation is male) plus the two senators — sent to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, expressing concern that “forcing New Jersey to pay these funds will undermine efforts for a new Trans-Hudson tunnel.”

Reuters: Bill in House reflects Obama's wish to revive BABS
President Barack Obama's proposal to revive the popular Build America Bonds (BABs) moved one step closer to legislative reality on Wednesday with introduction of a bill to continue the program for two years.

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. 

Fox News: Millions of Americans Lose Access to Travel Options
Just as scheduled air service to small communities becomes a focus of FAA reauthorization in the Senate, a new study reveals that nearly four million rural Americans lost access to intercity travel.

CNN: Where high speed rail money has been spent
The federal government already has more than $10 billion in stimulus and other money set aside for high speed rail projects. To date, it has made commitments to spend $4.5 billion of that.

Fox News: Taxpayer Calculator: High-Speed Rail
The Administration is pushing ahead with its plan to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, despite the rejection of federal funds from newly-elected Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and now Florida.

The Hill: America's crossroads
Yet, today, our transportation system has reached a crossroads. America’s highways will always be essential avenues for travel and transport. But we can no longer rely exclusively on a marvel of 20th century engineering and construction to guarantee 21st century economic growth, opportunity, and competitiveness.

The Washington Post: A lost cost: The high-speed rail race
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S fiscal 2012 budget includes $8 billion for high-speed rail next year and $53 billion over six years. In the president's view, the United States needs to spend big on high-speed rail so that we can catch up with Europe, Japan - and you-know-who. "China is building faster trains and newer airports," the president warned in his State of the Union address. But of all the reasons to build high-speed rail in the United States, keeping up with the international Joneses may be one of the worst. In fact, experience abroad has repeatedly raised questions about the cost-effectiveness of high-speed rail.

Reuters: Rural access to intercity transportation declining
About 71.7 million rural residents, or 89 percent of the total, had access to air, bus, ferry or rail transportation to cities in September 2010, down from 93.3 percent in 2005, a Bureau of Transportation Statistics analysis showed.


Transportation For America: House is currently debating 2011 budget containing deep cuts to transportation
The U.S House of Representatives is currently debating a bill to fund the government through September of this year. As we noted earlier this week, the budget under consideration contains deep cuts to transportation, including many of travel options Americans use and support.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: LaHood: Rail Is the Way Forward
Last week in Philadelphia, the Obama Administration unveiled its comprehensive plan to connect 80 percent of Americans by high-speed rail. And it wasn’t long before the proposal attracted critics, like Robert J. Samuelson of Washington Post. Much of the blowback centers around the argument that rail is too costly at a time when budgets are stretched thin.

Reuters: Rising seas threaten 180 US cities by 2100 – study
Rising seas spurred by climate change could threaten 180 U.S. coastal cities by 2100, a new study says, with Miami, New Orleans and Virginia Beach among those most severely affected.

Transportation Nation: Waiting for "Go" Dough
No word on how to pay for it all, though. The Obama budget doesn’t skimp in laying out a big-vision portrait of a strong nation ready to rebuild itself and grow. But what it lacks is infrastructure—of the financial sort. And as such, the House GOP has all the room in the world to answer Obama’s request for the moon with a dry and flinty, “It can’t be paid for,” and to propose a spending figure that’s roughly half of what Obama proposes, all while trumpeting fiscal responsibility.

Progressive Railroading: FTA touts transit funding in Administration's FY2012 budget proposal
President Barack Obama's fiscal-year 2012 budget proposal recommends a record $3.2 billion for 27 transit construction projects, including $569.3 million for 10 new rail and bus rapid transit infrastructure projects, and an additional $1.4 billion for 11 projects recommended but left out of previous budgets, according to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

AltTransport: Ray LaHood Says Rail Is The 'Future We Can't Afford To Leave Behind'
On the same day that Florida governor Rick Scott promised to return federal funds allocated for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, citing potential cost overruns, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took to the Department of Transportation’s Fast Lane blog defending President Obama’s goal to connect 80 percent of Americans by HSR by 2025.

Engineering News Record: Obama Budget Hikes Transportation But Cuts Other Construction Programs
Highways, transit and passenger rail are the big winners among construction programs in President Obama’s $3.7-trillion fiscal 2012 budget request, which calls for sharp increases in those sectors next year, kicking off a proposed $556-billion, six-year surface transportation bill. But many other major construction accounts would suffer cuts under Obama’s plan to help meet his goal of freezing overall non-security-related discretionary funding.

Thomas Net: AASHTOs Deb Miller Offers Suggestions to Cut Project Costs Speed Delivery, American
Miller, testifying on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, told the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit that "state and local governments are overburdened with the excessive paperwork and the process it takes to advance even the least-controversial projects with no environmental impacts. Any effort to expedite project delivery should focus on making the process more efficient, without compromising environmental protection or opportunities for public participation."

Environmental Expert: Diverse coalition urges congress to avoid drastic cuts to water infrastructure 
Specifically, we ask for your support of the President’s fiscal year 2011 $2.0 billion budget request for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), $1.287 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, $274 million for the Clean Water Act Section 106 program, and $200 million in funding for Clean Water Act Section 319 program. This funding is critical to protecting public health and the environment while stimulating jobs and economic growth in America’s cities and towns.

Green Building Pro: Employing Ecosystems as Infrastructure for Green Building
New onsite ecological wastewater treatment and reuse technologies now offer green builders the opportunity to go further in changing the face of communities by including beautiful, functional “ecosystems as infrastructure” directly in the design of the built environment.

Big Government: High-Speed Rail and the Poverty of Obamanomics
The president’s budget proposal is a bad idea for at least two reasons. First and foremost, the public sector has little or no incentive to spend the taxpayers’ money in ways that maximize the ratio of benefits to costs. What is more important, no public transit system in the country, with the possible exception of New York City’s subway, generates passenger revenues sufficient to cover operating costs, let alone capital costs. All others gush red ink year after year.

State News

Los Angeles Times: State bullet train angles for share of $2.4 billion in federal funds
More than $600 million was reallocated to California by the Obama administration after new Republican governors in Ohio and Wisconsin turned down high-speed rail money after the November elections.

Los Angeles Times: Villaraigosa’s transportation funding plan gets key backing from U.S. chamber chief
The head of the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce threw his support Wednesday behind Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposal to speed the building of local transportation projects.

Wall Street Journal: Marin-Sonoma Commuter Line Hits Snag
When a passenger rail line was proposed for the North Bay more than a decade ago, local leaders envisioned a link that would whisk the region's commuters from the northern fringes of Sonoma County to Marin's Larkspur ferry terminal 70 miles to the south. Today, the project's scope has been cut in half, and officials say there isn't enough money to fund even the truncated line.

San Francisco Chronicle: Obama to meet with tech leaders in Bay Area visit
President Obama, making his eighth official visit to California, is coming to the Bay Area Thursday for an intimate dinner with some of the Bay Area's star high-tech executives - a session aimed at focusing on innovation, job creation and education.

Contra Costa Times: Republicans push for cutting funds for new Bay Area rail lines
"Obviously, any of their cuts would set us backwards rather than going forward," FTA administrator Peter Rogoff said Tuesday from Washington, D.C. "We want to work with the House Republicans on deficit reduction, but we are heading in opposite directions on infrastructure and investment."

Hartford Courant: Malloy budget: transportation issues
He wants to raise $572.3 million in fiscal 2012 and $515.2 million the following year through special tax obligation bonds dedicated specifically for transportation infrastructure projects. He also wants another $25 million for transportation in both years to be raised through general obligation bonds.

LA Times: Can high speed rail backers bypass Gov. Rick Scott?
Florida's congressional delegation, state officials and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's decision Wednesday to reject $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money to build a high-speed train between Orlando and Tampa.

Sunshine State News: Dems Fire Away at Rick Scott Turning Down Federal High-Speed Rail Funds
Democrats weighed in on Wednesday morning, expressing opposition to Gov. Rick Scott rejecting federal monies targeted for high-speed rail in the Sunshine State.

St. Petersburg Times: Local leaders react strongly to Scott's decision to pull plug on high-speed rail
No one in Tampa Bay had personified efforts to introduce rail as much as Iorio. In her eight years in office, she made a forceful case that the area needed to diversify its transportation network to compete for jobs and improve quality of life. She spent much of Wednesday ripping Scott's decision to dismantle what would have been the nation's first major high-speed rail line.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: US House Republicans would pull streetcar grant
A recent spending proposal under consideration by the Republican-led U.S. House would revoke the Obama administration’s $47.6 million grant for an Atlanta streetcar, according to Georgia Department of Transportation officials.

Atlanta Creative Loafing: Dear Obama, please consider Georgia for that high-speed rail funding Florida apparently doesn't want
As my spirit animal Bobby Feingold noted earlier, Florida Gov. Rick Scott today became the third Republican governor to reject federal funding to build high-speed rail. In this case, it was $2.4 billion in stimulus cash that would've been used to link Tampa and Orlando.

Fox News: High Speed Rail Line Could Be Coming to St. Louis
A 110 mile an hour high speed rail between St. Louis and Chicago may be more likely thanks to what Florida GOP Governor Rick Scott announced Wednesday. "Today I am announcing my decision to reject the Obama administration's plan to partially fund the costly Tampa to Orlando high speed rail project," said Scott. Florida's Governor joins the fiscal conservatives who have rejected federal high speed rail money,including the newly elected Governor of Ohio.

Nashua Telegraph: Will NH Rail Transit Authority survive reps' effort at repeal
Except for one, the pieces are falling into place for establishing passenger rail service through Nashua and southern New Hampshire.

Real Clear Politics: Christie To GOP: "It's Put Up Or Shut Up Time"
"It's put up or shut up time," Christie said during his address at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "If people who I campaigned for [in 2010] don't stand up and do the right thing, the next time they'll see me in their district is with my arm around their primary opponent."

Wall Street Journal: NY senators seek rail money rejected by Florida
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wrote U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Wednesday asking him to redirect the money passed up by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to New York's Empire and Northeast Corridors.

WBNG: NYC And State Agree On Plan To Safeguard Watershed
The new 15-Year Water Supply Permit allows New York City to Continue buying sensitive land in the watershed to protect the largest unfiltered drinking water supply in the world; The State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection worked together on the new agreement.

The Daily Republic: Obama budget tough on SD projects
South Dakota’s U.S. senators agreed Wednesday that President Obama’s newly proposed budget could impede progress on two major projects in the state, but they disagreed on the role earmarks should play in funding the projects.

Vermont Public Radio: Vermont Looks To Restore Train Service To Montreal
The Shumlin administration is working with officials in Quebec to restore passenger train service to Montreal. The governor says the ultimate goal is to build high speed rail between the U-S and Canada.

Wisconsin State Journal: Republicans work to dissolve state regional transit authorities
A group of Republican state legislators wants to dissolve the state's four regional transit authorities, including the one in Dane County that was poised to ask voters to approve a sales tax that would pay for improved mass transit.

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