Thursday, March 1, 2012
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: March 1, 2012


Wall Street Journal: US Regulators Seen Nearing Decision In Rail, Shippers Standoff
U.S. regulators appear set to intervene in a simmering feud between freight railroads and shippers, a year after launching a review of competition in the sector following long-running complaints over pricing and service levels. The so-called rail renaissance that started in 2004 has seen the industry's financial fortunes rebound, with rising shipping rates and freight volume driving record earnings among the Class 1 operators that dominate the industry.

Reuters: U.S. water utilities should consider rate hikes-S&P
U.S. local drinking water and sewer systems may need to raise rates and take other steps in order to maintain their credit quality, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said in a report on Wednesday. While credit ratings have remained stable for municipal water and sewer utility revenue bonds, those systems are facing a number of hurdles in coming years, including billions of dollars in infrastructure costs, a shrinking pool of federal funds and competition for water use from other sectors, according to the rating agency .            

Politico: Highway bill causes more GOP road rage
Transportation committee Republicans are backing their chairman against his own party’s leadership as the finger-pointing over the failed highway bill reaches a fever pitch. Members feel Boehner and other leaders put John Mica in an unenviable position steering the massive transportation spending bill and then threw the chairman under the bus when it was clear leadership didn’t have the votes.

Transportation Nation: BREAKING: House GOP Floats 18-Month Transpo Bill
House Republican leaders have arrived at an 18-month highway bill they hope can replace a much broader five-year bill that faltered earlier this month, according to lawmakers and aides. The bill reauthorizes the Highway Trust Fund into mid-2013, and also reconnects federal transit funding to the trust fund. Disconnecting the two proved contentious in the 5-year bill and caused several Republicans in transit-heavy districts to revolt.

Fast Lane: High-speed rail is essential for economic growth and opportunity
As I’ve said many times before, high-speed rail will transform American transportation for generations to come. And I'm excited to see this program take shape.  Right now, we've got eight projects underway and Amtrak's Chicago-Kalamazoo route recently added the first 110-miles-per-hour service outside the Northeast Corridor. This morning, I had the opportunity to thank an organization whose members have been great advocates for this essential passenger rail network, the U.S. High Speed Rail Association.  Thanks in no small part to the USHSR Association, high-speed rail is coming to America.

DC Streetsblog: Mounting Transportation and Housing Costs Devour Household Budgets
Only 28 percent of American communities meet CNT’s definition of “affordable,” which accounts for both housing and transportation costs. Today American families are paying more for housing and transportation than they did in 2000, according to CNT’s analysis: Median housing costs, as reported by the US Census, have increased by nearly 37 percent nationwide, while the national median income has increased by approximately 22 percent. Average transportation costs in the geographies covered by both Indexes increased by more than 39 percent or $318 per month.


Fresno Bee: High-speed rail project likely delayed until 2013
Construction of a high-speed train line in the central San Joaquin Valley was supposed to start late this year. Now, officials say, it's not likely to start until early 2013, even if state legislators approve billions in bond money this spring. At its meeting Thursday in Sacramento, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will learn about an updated schedule for the $6 billion construction project. The slowdown in the schedule is the result of revisions to environmental reports for the 120-mile Fresno-to-Bakersfield section of the rail line -- part of the backbone of a proposed 520-mile system of electric trains connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Transport Politic: In the Atlanta Region, Disagreements about Investment Priorities Spur Discord Over a Planned Transit Tax
Getting the residents of the 10-county Atlanta region to agree on anything was always going to be a difficult effort. The newest controversy about which projects to fund with a new sales tax there raises questions about what to do when a lot of money is available for transit — but there isn’t enough for every proposed project. Forty years and 2.6 million more people later, these same areas account for just 40% of the region’s population. Yet MARTA’s rail network and its related buses have expanded only minimally since, and they haven’t left the core counties. MARTA can barely cover its operations costs. Meanwhile, traffic is as bad as anywhere in the country.

Chicago Tribune: Chicago-area gas tax hike proposed to fund mass transit investment
Mass transit supporters proposed state legislation Wednesday that would increase the gas tax in the Chicago area to raise a projected $168 million over five years for the CTA, Metra and Pace. The legislation seeks to index the state motor fuel tax to inflation, with annual adjustments, to ensure a dedicated transit funding source, officials said. The state gas tax, 19 cents per gallon, was last increased in 1990.

Associated Press: NH seeks to offer infrastructure support to Amtrak trains to Maine and Vt.
A new plan for New Hampshire's railroad system calls for improving passenger rail service without helping pay direct subsidies for two trains serving the state. Kit Morgan, of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, speaking in Portsmouth, says a priority is to continue Amtrak's Downeaster service that runs up the coast to Maine and the Vermonter, which runs up the Connecticut River valley.

Pocono Record: PennDOT needs $3.5 billion for repairs
Pennsylvania has been gambling with its more than 5,000 structurally deficient bridges and 7,000 miles of highways in need of repairs — but the house always wins. State Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch said Wednesday that drivers should expect to pay more on the state's transportation network, but the question is: Will drivers see their money rebuild the state's infrastructure or lost as a result of sitting in traffic or detouring around closed bridges?

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