Tuesday, March 15, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: March 15, 2011

The Hill reported that Senator Kerry will introduce a bipartisan infrastructure bank bill and the National Journal discusses the impact of rising gas prices. More in this Infrastructure in the News.


National News

The Hill: Kerry to introduce bipartisan infrastructure bank bill
Democratic Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) will introduce bipartisan legislation later this week to create a federal infrastructure bank to fund projects around the nation, an aide told The Hill. 

The Hill: GOP Sen. Hutchison to co-sponsor infrastructure bank bill with Kerry
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) will co-sponsor Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) bill to create a federal infrastructure bank to fund projects around the nation.

The Hill: Lawmakers to launch passenger rail caucus
Seeking to defend President Obama’s high-speed rail initiative from conservative criticisms, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and several House members plan to announce the creation of a bicameral rail caucus.

The Hill: Reps. Mica and Shuster: Private rail is the way to go
“Amtrak’s plan doesn’t cut it," House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said in a statement. "Amtrak operates a Soviet-style passenger rail service, with a high rate of subsidization by the taxpayers. Last year, every single Amtrak ticket was underwritten by $54.48."

Bloomberg: Fatter Passengers May Lead to Bus Design Changes in U.S.
The Federal Transit Administration, based in Washington, proposed raising the assumed average weight per passenger to 175 pounds (79 kilograms) from 150 pounds, and calculating an additional quarter of a square foot per passenger, for its testing procedures. The proposal was published in today’s Federal Register. 

The Journal of Commerce: DOT Obligated $44.7 Billion in Stimulus Money
The Department of Transportation's last big rail grant agreement helped push its total of obligated funds from the 2009 economic stimulus package over $44.7 billion, leaving about $3.4 billion yet to lock down.

National Journal: The Impact of High Gas Prices
Gas prices are going up, and fast. In the last several weeks, they have averaged $3.50 per gallon and are approaching $4 per gallon in some parts of the country. They haven't reached this level since September 2008, according to the Energy Department. 

Grist: Tearing down urban freeways to make room for a new bicycle economy
Cities are also starting to realize that removing freeways makes more economic sense than maintaining or expanding them. In the last year, with the help of federal and state funding, cities like Baltimore and New Haven have been demolishing the "highways to nowhere" that have divided their neighborhoods, drained their populations, and damaged their economies and their children's health since the 1970s. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Will Senate Republicans Send Back Their Own States' TIGER Money?
TIGER grants, announced last year, hang in the balance as the Senate debates the package of House-passed spending cuts. Congress is about to vote on another extension of the current budget, cutting another $2 billion per week. (Up until now, those “cuts” have mostly been budget items from 2010 that the Democrats weren't going to in 2011.)

The Hill: Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.): Making high-speed rail a national priority
“High speed rail.” The image I associate with those words is a comfortable and smooth ride. The view out the window is a pleasant blur and passengers vary from families to business travelers. The journey concludes sooner than expected, but the destination happens to be somewhere in Europe or Asia. It should be a journey that takes place here in the United States.

The Hill: Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.): Investing in essential infrastructure
In this era of newfound austerity, it is imperative Washington spends each dollar wisely. Now is the time to tighten our belts and focus on investing in projects that will grow the economy, create jobs, and give substantial help to the American people no matter where they live. 

The Hill: Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex): Our nation's diverse transportation infrastructure
Congress has a very serious responsibility as it considers several transportation bills ranging from surface transportation, aviation, and water infrastructure that should be of highest priority for all members of Congress because of its vital importance to job creation and our national economy.

The Hill: Rep. Jerry F. Costello (D-Ill.): Infrastructure investment is key to economic recovery
Our nation is coming out of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, and as a result, we are going to have to make serious and often painful cuts in federal spending to get our country back on track.  

Right Side News: Smart Growth - Is it Really Smart?
"Smart Growth" is an urban planning movement that encourages high-density development in urban areas near transportation hubs in the hopes that suburban sprawl will be discouraged and folks will use their cars less. The terms "sustainable development," "new urbanism," and "transit village" are also used to describe this process that hopes to achieve continuing growth that is pedestrian and community friendly, while being environmentally "smart."

State News

Mountain View, CA Patch: Caltrain's Electrifying Future
While the  current budget situation is dire, Caltrain’s  stable, long-term future is rooted in electrification. You may have heard about Caltrain’s electrification project if you attended a High-Speed rail meeting, ride Caltrain or read a press release. But chances are, you haven’t heard about the project because Caltrain has released limited information on the project outside of these mediums.  

California High Speed Rail Blog: Gilroy Plans Launch of HSR Study
The City of Gilroy is about to launch its HSR study, which will examine vertical alignment options as well as where a station should go. If you’ve been following along, you’d know that there are two proposals on the table: a downtown station along the existing tracks, at or very near the Caltrain station; and a greenfield station in east Gilroy. 

Denver Post: Denver bike-share program rolls into its second season
All of the program's 500 bikes were cleaned and updated with sturdier kickstands and new handlebar grips. The bikes are available at 50 stations across the city. The kiosks were updated with new technology and friendlier color LCD screens.

WKMG Orlando: Transportation Summit Held in Central Fla.
The man who championed the cause to get federal funding for Florida's high-speed rail was in Central Florida Monday to hear from Floridians about how they want to proceed after Gov. Rick Scott turned down more than $2 billion in federal money for the project.

The Hill: Airlines agree to O'Hare expansion
Two of the largest airlines serving Chicago's O'Hare International Airport agreed Monday to drop their opposition to an airport expansion plan.

The Hill: LaHood: O'Hare deal is a 'big deal' not just for Chicago
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hailed an agreement between two major carrier airlines and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as a big deal, not just for the city of Chicago, but for the entire country.

Sioux City Journal: Iowa House passs on adding rail funds to infrastructure bill
Supporters of developing passenger rail in Iowa were not surprised funds to match federal dollars for an Iowa City to Chicago link were not included in an infrastructure bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee March 14.

Planetizen: More Vehicles Than People
Historic Bay State towns now have more motor vehicles in residence than actual residents. The Commonwealth's Department of Revenue which tracks these statistics, and has them online, shows vehicles dominate over people in Concord, home of Emerson and Thoreau, and many surrounding towns that provided Minutemen for the earliest skirmishes in the Revolutionary War including Acton, Bedford, Boxborough, Stow and Carlisle.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: In Detroit, Competing Interests Offer Competing Visions in Rail
But the project has sparked an internal debate about what form the rail should take. On one hand, the real estate interests bankrolling the project are pushing for a streetcar, which would intermingle with traffic, have lots of stops and would ostensibly stimulate development in the Midtown area. On the other hand, the city, which can’t afford to finance the project, has stated its preference for center-running rapid rail transit.

Washington Post: Mississippi Gov. Barbour assails Obama on economy, previewing presidential campaign pitch
Sounding every bit the presidential candidate, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour used President Barack Obama’s hometown as a backdrop Monday to blame the Democrat for enacting policies that “created economic uncertainty or directly hurt the economy” — and argue that he could do better.

Wall Street Journal: Why North Dakota Is Booming
The biggest impetus for the good times lies with energy development. Around 650 wells were drilled last year in North Dakota, and the state Department of Mineral Resources envisions another 5,500 new wells over the next two decades. Between 2005 and 2009, oil industry revenues have tripled to $12.7 billion from $4.2 billion, creating more than 13,000 jobs. 

Tulsa World: Rail studies are key first steps in getting more funds
Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation said the federally funded bridge and studies would put the state in position to take advantage of high-speed rail service if the federal government continues to push the policy and make funds available. 

CultureMap Houston: Is Texas finally ready to jump aboard a high-speed rail? Going faster takes a long time
After missing out on the last round of funding, Texas is finally in a position to spend some of the $53 billion the Obama administration recently proposed for a high-speed rail. Boasting five of the country’s 20 largest cities, separated only by an abundance of wide-open space, Texas practically goads engineers to conquer it.

The Daily Reporter: Walker announces $25 million in freight rail upgrades
Gov. Scott Walker has announced 11 state awards totaling $25,515,123 that will be used to build freight rail-related facilities, and preserve and upgrade rail infrastructure.


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