Thursday, March 3, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: March 03, 2011

The Wall Street Journal reports that Americans increased their driving in the year 2010 and Transportation Nation writes about the highest levels of highway traffic since 2007. Read more in this Infrastructure in the News.

National News

Wall Street Journal: Americans Increased Driving in 2010
Americans drove three trillion miles in 2010, the third-highest total on record and an increase of 0.7% from the previous year, the U.S. Transportation Department reported Wednesday. The data marked the second straight year of increased driving and confirmed a reversal from 2008, when gasoline peaked above $4 a gallon and driving plunged 3.6% after two decades of increases.

Infrastructurist: New Reports: Americans Drove 3 Trillion Miles in 2010; Fix-It-First Means Smart Road Spending
America’s roadways may be getting older, but they’re still as active as ever. Last year drivers in the United States racked up nearly 3 trillion vehicle-miles traveled. That’s 20.5 billion miles more than were driven the previous year. It’s also the third-highest figure ever recorded by the Department of Transportation (pdf) — trailing only 2006 and 2007, when the country topped the 3 trillion mark in consecutive years.

Transportation Nation: Highway Traffic Reaches Highest Level Since 2007
“More driving means more wear and tear on our nation’s roads and bridges,” said Secretary LaHood.  “This new data further demonstrates why we need to repair the roads and bridges that are the lifeblood of our economy.”

Wall Street Journal: Poll Shows Budget-Cuts Dilemma; Many Deem Big Cuts to Entitlements 'Unacceptable,' but Retirement and Means Testing Draw Support
A new WSJ/NBC poll shows Americans do not approve of the government slashing Social Security and Medicaid to reduce the nation's deficit. They also have a bleak economic outlook for 2011, but feel President Obama is handling the economy well.

The Hill: Highway spending bill easily approved in House, heads to Senate
Members of both parties said they would prefer a full reauthorization of transportation spending, but also said yet another extension is needed to ensure transportation construction can go forward over the summer.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: House Passes Seventh Extension of Transportation Bill
Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) and other committee leaders on both sides of the aisle introduced the extension, which will keep the transportation system funded at current levels until the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Mica says constant short-term extensions have created too many headaches for the industry, which can’t plan amidst such uncertainty.

Forbes: Will Tea Party Republicans Derail High-Speed Trains in the U.S.?
Does high-speed rail — including “bullet-trains” such as France’s 173-mph TGV and Japan’s mag-lev version which has carried more than seven billion passengers — have a future in the United States? Not, apparently, if Tea-Party Republicans have their way. Two weeks ago, Florida Governor Rick Scott gave a “thumbs-down” to an Obama Administration plan to build a high-speed rail (HSR) system in the Sunshine State, citing cost as the primary factor.

New York Times: Trains, Planes, Automobiles
I think about the trains/planes comparison something like this: planes go much faster, and will continue to go faster even if we get high-speed rail; but there are some costs associated with a plane trip that can be avoided or minimized on a rail trip, and those costs are the same whether it’s a transcontinental flight or a hop halfway up or down the Northeast Corridor.

Politico: Transportation's road to recovery
We have neglected our infrastructure at our peril. Choosing not to maintain infrastructure dooms the country to economic decline. But the House leadership makes a good point: How can you tell infrastructure “investments” from “spending” — the beef from the pork?

The Washington Examiner: Obama seeks billions more for LaHood's war against cars
Remember President Obama's $787 billion stimulus program? Obama defended that unprecedented spending spree, which included legions of allegedly "shovel-ready" transportation projects, by promising the explosion of government outlays would jump-start the economy.

Dallas Morning News: Transportation Secretary LaHood: "We believe in tolling," says US open to tolling existing interstates
To toll an existing interstate -- or to build a new one with tolls -- a state has to get permission from Uncle Sam, and Texas has never asked to toll Interstate 35E headed to Austin. And it's only fair to add that even the toll-road loving Texas Department of Transportation has set down in its own rules a prohibition of tolling existing highways.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Mica, LaHood Stump at AASHTO Meeting
Rep. John Mica promised state DOT leaders this morning that he would deliver a six-year reauthorization bill. He said he had previously thought of advancing a shorter-term bill but transportation officials convinced him of the need for greater certainty. With the full zeal of the converted, he announced, “Anyone who talks about anything less than a six-year bill, I’ll take you outside and beat the crap out of you.”

Transportation Nation: Waiting For High-Speed Rail? In the Meantime, Take a Bus
Buses are on the rise. In fact, high-tech buses are the fastest growing form of intercity transportation. New companies like Megabus, and Bolt Bus, a subsidiary of Greyhound, are snagging new passengers away from air and rail competitors each year with low fares and streetside pick ups. So much so that some cities are considering regulating the fast growing industry.

DOT Blog: State DOTs a crucial partners in winning America's transportation future
In order to do that, we must have a world-class transportation system.  We must repair our existing roads, bridges, and transit systems.  And we must build new projects--including high-speed intercity passenger rail lines--that will safely and efficiently move people and goods.

Transportation for America: Compromise on two-week spending bill temporarily spares crucial transportation programs from deep cuts
Although some in the press have characterized the development as a victory for Republicans, the $4 billion in reductions is decidedly modest and overlaps with programs already targeted in President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget. Only two budget items — $650 million from a one-time Federal Highway Administration program and a handful of legislative earmarks – are transportation related.

Procurement Leaders: US Department of Transportation gears up for 'intelligent' road network
The US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is stepping up efforts to produce intelligent transportation systems, such as those that allow vehicles, infrastructure, and passengers' personal communications devices to communicate.

Governing: Obama to Governors: Abandoning Infrastructure "Makes No Sense"
President Obama addressed the nations' governors at the White House this morning, urging them to continue to invest in infrastructure despite several high-profile instances of newly-elected governors abandoning federal plans for high-speed rail.

State News

San Francisco Chronicle: Back of the bus: The courts weight in on transportation equity
Transit advocates alleged that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the regional planning organization for roads and transit in the Bay Area, discriminates against low-income and minority bus riders when making its funding decisions. The court didn't just decide against the plaintiffs; they suggested that these kinds of equity claims aren't even relevant in a region as diverse as the Bay Area.

San Jose Mercury News: Peninsula cities face uphill battle in trying to join forces over high-speed rail
San Mateo, Burlingame, Millbrae, Redwood City and South San Francisco have already banded together to form the San Mateo County Rail Corridor Partnership. Officials in Belmont and the county supervisors have also expressed interest, while other cities are set to discuss joining the effort.

AltTransport: Los Angeles to Build 1,680 Miles Of Interconnected Bikeways
Now, the Los Angeles City Council approved a new plan that will give the city a network of 1,680 miles of interconnected bikeways. This would include more than 200 miles of new bicycle routes every five years.

Streetsblog Los Angeles: CA High Speed Rail Authority Meets in Los Angeles, Tomorrow
As Damien has noted the California High Speed Rail Autjority is coming to LA this week, specifically to the Metro Board Room (3rd floor of the Taj Mahal, as some of us like to call the Metro Headquarters Building). Wednesday afternoon its Executive/Administrative Committee is meeting at 1 p.m., followed by the Finance Committee at 2 p.m. and the Operations Committee at 3:30 p.m.

Washington Examiner: The lunacy of California's high-speed rail
Philip Klein has an excellent piece in the American Spectator on California's proposed high-speed rail line. He shows how astonishingly fast and loose the estimates of costs and potential ridership are. The problem is that San Francisco and Los Angeles are highly dispersed metro areas, and high-speed rail passengers who arrive at a central station will be annoyingly far from their final destinations. San Francisco, according to from Demographia, has a central business district work force of 305,600--pretty large, indeed the fourth largest in the United States, behind only New York, Chicago and Washington. these figures

Cape Gazette: Clean water council announces $16 million for infrastructure projects
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara and the Clean Water Advisory Council announced the next $16 million in water infrastructure projects through the Delaware Clean Water State Revolving Fund, bringing the number of ongoing projects to 41, totaling nearly $100 million.

WFTV Orlando: High Speed Rail Fight Goes To State Supreme Court 
The fight to build a high speed rail in Florida will make its way to the state Supreme Court Thursday, just a day before the deadline for accepting the stimulus money.

St. Petersburg Times: Rail proponent says high-speed rail creates 60,000 jobs
Critics of Florida Gov. Rick Scott's refusal of $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail often knock his decision for its apparent hypocrisy: Shutting down the project will cost tens of thousands of jobs, they say, a move that goes against the governor's oft-referenced No. 1 priority.

WESH Orlando: Fla. Sen. On High-Speed Rail: 'Protect This Investment'
Sen. Thad Altman, one of the two senators who sued Scott, said the governor can't just undo the work of the legislature by telling the federal Department of Transportation to keep their train and the money allotted to build it.

Water World: Senate Passes Water Supply Act
Today the Senate overwhelmingly passed Sen. Ross Tolleson's (R-Perry) bill to allow local governments to utilize public/private partnerships to finance water infrastructure projects. The Georgia Public/Private Water Supply Act of 2011 (Senate Bill 122) will allow state and local governments to voluntarily partner with private investors on the construction of reservoirs and other water infrastructure projects.

Herald News: IDOT open house in Joliet exhibits train route
If an open house for Illinois’ high-speed rail plans this week was any indication, the trains of the future will attract people to Joliet. But how many?

The Business Journal: Walker budget proposes transit cuts
The Milwaukee County bus system would receive $128.6 million over the next two years under the proposed budget, compared with $132.7 million over the past two years.

Politicker NJ: Christie to Dems: "Stop the chicken games"
Gov. Chris Christie said the state is “tired of the old-time politics” and is calling on Democrats in the state Legislature to end their quest to roll back the toll hikes, which they said were intended for the ARC project.

Transportation Nation: Long Island Bus May Lose More Than Half Its Lines
Long Island Bus, one of the largest suburban bus lines in the country serving the New York City suburbs, may put the brakes on 27 of their 48 lines this summer.

Mount Vernon Patch: Governor Proposes BRAC-Related, Other Local Transportation Improvements
These projects would be funded under the multi-faceted approach that creates a Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, accelerates the sale of $3 billion in pre-approved state bonds, and issues $1 billion in federal Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles (GARVEE) Bonds to finance federal projects. The program also encourages private entities to enter into agreements to construct, improve, maintain, and operate transportation facilities.

Stateline: Bob McDonnell breaks Virginia's transportation gridlock
Republican Bob McDonnell is only the latest of Virginia’s governors to make a top priority of alleviating congestion, especially in Hampton Roads and in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. The sticking point has always been finding new revenue to pay for transportation improvements. Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine made tax increases a key part of their transportation proposals. Warner was thwarted in a regional vote; Kaine could not get his plan past Republicans in the legislature and saw a subsequent compromise on how to raise transportation revenue get thrown out by the state Supreme Court.

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