Thursday, March 15, 2012
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: March 15, 2012


New York Times: Editorial: Hope for a Good Transportation Bill
The Senate gave hope of a such an outcome when it approved on Wednesday a two-year reauthorization bill that would funnel $109 billion to states and communities for mass transit and bridge-and-road projects, many of which have been deferred for years. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, mustered enough votes to defeat several destructive amendments while approving a very good one.

New York Times: Friedman: Capitalism, Version 2012
Another grand bargain we need is on infrastructure. We have more than a $2 trillion deficit in bridges, roads, airports, ports and bandwidth, and the government doesn’t have the money to make it up. We need a bargain that enables the government to both enlist and partner with the private sector to unleash private investments in infrastructure that will serve the public and offer investors appropriate returns.

Bloomberg: Senate Passes Highway Bill, Leaving Next Move to House
One exception was an amendment by Senator Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, to discourage states from leasing roads to private operators. The amendment, which passed 50-47, added to language already in the bill that would limit tax breaks for companies such as Macquarie Infrastructure Co. (MIC) that operate highways for states.

Politico: Highway bill now over to John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner stands at a difficult crossroad. He has to do something about the transportation bill before the end of March, and the current menu of options laid out before him stink. Boehner has about five directions he could take, each with its own set of problems. He could stick with the original plan — a nearly five-year, $260 billion bill, which factions of his own party and pretty much the entire Democratic caucus dislike and have rejected. He could take up a truncated, 18-month version of the longer bill, which the GOP also has already rejected.

The Hill: Senate approves $109B highway bill, raising pressure on Boehner, House
The Senate on Wednesday approved a $109 billion transportation bill that would fund road and transit projects for the next two years. The bipartisan 74-22 vote puts pressure on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the House to either pass a transportation bill of their own or take up the Senate-approved version of the measure ahead of a March 31 deadline for the expiration of current highway funding.

DC Streetsblog: Accolades Pour In for Senate Transpo Bill From All Quarters
Praise for the Senate transportation bill and its bipartisan passage is pouring in to the inboxes of Congressional transportation reporters this afternoon. Here’s the statement from the traditionally pro-highway U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Passage of MAP-21 is a long-awaited victory for the business community and the American people… The Chamber commends the chairs and ranking members of the committees of jurisdiction for striving for a bipartisan bill.

DC Streetsblog: Senate Amendments Promote Local (Not State) Control, Bridge Repair
The Senate is voting right now on the final amendments to the transportation bill and will consider the full bill later today. Transportation for America has put out a handy amendment tracker, reproduced below, with descriptions of each one and the final outcomes of the votes that happened yesterday. Senate leaders had already tossed out many amendments that had been introduced and agreed to consider the 30 below.

NPR: Gas Prices Force More People To Take Rural Transit
As gas prices rise, more people who need to get around rural areas are boarding local transit buses and vans. Many of the low-income riders can't afford to drive. But the cost of transporting the riders is bursting town budgets.


California High Speed Rail Blog: New Business Plan Wins Fans at HSR Hearing
The revised 2012 Business Plan is not yet finished or published, but already it is getting positive reviews – including at last night’s hearing in Mountain View. Senator Joe Simitian tried to set up a show trial to make the high speed rail project look bad in front of a NIMBY crowd. But supporters turned out in big numbers to hear California High Speed Rail Authority board president Dan Richard turn in a strong, credible defense of the project that appeared to neutralize many of the criticisms.

Washington Examiner: O'Malley: Maryland roads need higher gas taxes now
Maryland can't afford to wait any longer to fix its crumbling roads and bridges, and raising the gasoline tax is the fix the state needs, Gov. Martin O'Malley told state lawmakers Wednesday. Joined by county leaders and several business owners, the governor defended his proposal to add the state's 6 percent sales tax to the cost of gasoline before House and Senate panels amid waning support from lawmakers and protests from residents who say prices at the pump are already too high.

New York Post: $1B NY transit on table
The Senate yesterday passed a $109 billion transportation bill that would prevent the slashing of $1 billion in New York City metro-transit money, and even result in a 13 percent increase. The state would receive $1.4 billion in mass-transit dollars under the legislation. Under the Senate bill, the state would also receive $1.7 billion in highway funding, a 1 percent increase over current spending levels. Commuters will get a break that allows the deduction of up to $240 a month tax-free for expenses incurred traveling to work.

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