Monday, March 21, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: March 21, 2011

The Washington Post retported that President Obama has criticized the Florida governor for rejecting federal transportation money for high-speed rail and Center for American Progress reported on the importance of good infrastructure. More in this Infrastructure in the News.


National News

New York Times: Editorial: A Chance to Build Again
The bank would lend money to build big-ticket transportation, water and energy projects that have a clear public benefit. The loans, or loan guarantees, would be designed to attract private capital as well. In fact, at least half a project’s financing would have to come from the private sector. As much as $640 billion could be leveraged this way over the next decade, proponents say.

Washington Post: Obama criticizes Fla. governor for rejecting federal transportation money for high-speed rail
President Barack Obama says Florida Gov. Rick Scott was wrong to reject $2.4 billion in federal money to build a high-speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa.

National Journal: Northeast Rail, Amtrak Enthusiasists Unite
The Florida dilemma over high-speed rail is resolved. Sunshine State Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has finally rejected $2.4 billion in federal dollars for high-speed rail, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood immediately made that money available to other states on a competitive basis. LaHood also upped the ante on the contest by designating the Northeast Corridor as an official high-speed rail corridor, making it eligible for significantly more federal funds for high-speed and intercity passenger-rail programs. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Can Transit Expansion Produce Sprawl Like Highways Do?
Here in the Washington, D.C. area, our Metro system is expanding. A new Silver Line will go all the way to Dulles airport and beyond, into exurban Loudon County. The projected station stops are named for highways, not neighborhoods or landmarks: Reston Parkway, Route 28, Route 606, Route 772. Ten of the 11 new stations will be outside the Capital Beltway, almost doubling the number of metro stations outside the unofficial boundary of D.C.’s urban territory.

DOT Blog: Bridge safety program, strong and getting stronger
From roads to rails to runways, the Department of Transportation is laser-focused on one priority: safety. And that focus is paying dividends.  One area where we're pleased to report progress is the safety of America's bridges. 

American City and County: Mayors, what are your infrastructure needs?
Mayors around the country are being asked what their transportation infrastructure needs are in a survey sponsored by the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM). The survey results will be submitted to Congress and President Obama to suggest how to prioritize investments in the pending authorization of the federal surface transportation law (SAFETEA-LU).

Progressive Railroading: PTC, hours-of-service concerns voiced at House 'Rail Safety Act' hearing
The U.S. rail industry’s record safety achievements are due in large part to the resources freight railroads have committed to improving safety during the past 30 years, and safety will not be bolstered if resources are directed to positive train control (PTC) that would have had a more pronounced impact if spent elsewhere, Association of American Railroads (AAR) officials told House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members during a hearing yesterday on the status of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

Mobilizing the Region: GOP's Mica: Transit Funding To "Stay About the Same" in Next Federal Bill
On Tuesday, House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica told transit officials at the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) annual legislative conference that while he understood the needs of transit riders, he will not support increased transit funding in the next federal transportation bill.  As the Wall Street Journal reports, Mica told members of APTA that "funding for transit will stay about the same” and that transit agencies across the country will “have to be much more creative and look at consolidation of some of their operations.”

Next American City: Designing the High-Speed Future
Much of the controversy over high-speed rail in the United States has been centering on where to put it and who will accept it. Most recently, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida spurned over $3 billion in federal funds for the development of high-speed rail. Closer to home, opposition to California’s high-speed rail system from a number of cities on the San Francisco peninsula contributed to the decision to lay the first tracks in the Central Valley. 

Center For American Progress: Infrastructure Matters
This contrast between Japan and Haiti serves as a poignant backdrop for a national debate on the merits of Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s (R-TX) BUILD Act. This bill, introduced yesterday, establishes a national infrastructure bank to independently evaluate and issue federal loans and loan guarantees for the most essential large-scale infrastructure projects across the nation.

AFP: After Japan quake, US confronts fears -- and costs
Many policymakers agree the US Pacific Northwest is nowhere near prepared for a major earthquake and a resulting tsunami. But in a country with a deep aversion to taxes, there is a lively debate on how much money is worth paying.

Io9: What is the worst kind of power plant disaster? Hint: It’s not nuclear.
As you can see, when accidents happen, the deadliest and costliest source of energy is water - especially when it's held back by poorly-designed dams. The Chernobyl disaster doesn't come close to the damage done when a dam at a hydroelectric plant bursts.

Daily Caller: Amtrak CEO ditches broken train to travel by car to ribbon cutting of Wilmington’s Joe Biden station
“Amtrak CEO abandoned his own train to make ribbon cutting ceremony for Joe Biden station in Wilmington,” Falcone reported. “When I told Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman it was a bad sign he was ditching the stranded Acela, he chuckled.”


State News

Public News Service: State Board is All Aboard for AZ Trains Plan
Long-distance passenger trains would return to Phoenix under a 20-year plan adopted by the Arizona State Transportation Board. Serena Unrein of Arizona PIRG (Public Interest Research Group)

Modesto Bee: Politics snag high-speed rail
California's high-speed rail plan is fast turning into a partisan affair on Capitol Hill, further complicating its prospects.

Los Angeles Times: $700-million Interstate 5 widening project to result in major traffic disruptions
Burbank officials this week signed off on a massive $700-million state construction project for Interstate 5 that will bring major traffic disruptions.

Hartford Courant: Approve busway project: Approve the busway project from New Britain to Hartford
In fact, it is unknown if the commuter rail is even a feasible option for central Connecticut. Nixing the busway — a project that will create more than 4,700 jobs in the long run, relieve commuters from sitting in hours of traffic and make the state a national model for bus rapid transit — would be unwise and detrimental to the state, politically and economically.

Business Week: US Sen. Nelson: Florida high-speed rail plan dead
says the state's rail system would be upgraded for both passenger and freight trains. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says what little hope Florida had to use $2.4 billion in federal money to build a high-speed rail is now gone.

Hawaii Star Advertiser: $104M sought for rail
The city wants to issue $104 million in general obligation bonds to get some working capital on hand as it prepares to begin construction for the $5.5 billion rail transit project.

Yahoo News: Mayor Daley Pushes for High-Speed Train Between O'Hare and Downtown
Unlike Midway International Airport, O'Hare doesn't lie in the heart of Chicago and instead sits on the far northwest side of the city. For those traveling from downtown to O'Hare or vice versa, options are often limited to driving, a taxi, or the "L," all of which run the risk of being stuck in dense Chicago traffic or running into other delays.

Des Moines Register: Wisconsin rail money rejection may help Iowa's plan
Minnesota had been planning a high-speed rail link between the Twin Cities and Chicago that would pass through Madison and Milwaukee, but Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's refusal to accept federal money has, for the time being, taken that option off the table.

American Banking News: LiUNA! Mid-Atlantic Region Applauds Maryland's Bid for High-Speed Rail Money
The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA!) Mid-Atlantic Region fully supports the Maryland Department of Transportation in its bid to secure $450 million in federal high-speed rail money that Florida turned down.

North Jersey: North Jersey's aging water pipes pose costly dilemma
When a 51-inch water main ruptured last August in Clifton, 40 million gallons of water flooded into a parking lot off Broad Street, temporarily closing nearby businesses, damaging property and leaving Clifton residents with limited water or water pressure for days. The main break sparked 30 other ruptures in the ensuing weeks, costing the water company more than $250,000 in repairs and manpower, officials estimate.

The Bond Buyer: New York Readies $830M of GOs
New York State will sell $830 million of new-money and refunding general obligation bonds via competitive bid on Tuesday to help finance transportation and environmental infrastructure needs and generate debt service savings.

Transportation Nation: Queens Tunneling Starts on East Side Access Project
Alva French, WNYC) The MTA christened two new tunnel boring machines to kick off the Queens tunneling phase of the East Side Access Project. The East Side Access Project will provide a nonstop link to Grand Central Station on the LIRR and create a new transportation hub in Sunnyside, Queens.

Cleveland Business News: Group urges Gov. John Kasich to get high-speed rail on track in Ohio
The 12-member group, which includes U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan and Betty Sutton — both Democrats — and Cleveland real estate developer Ari Maron, wrote a March 17 letter to the governor asking him to support “an emerging public-private partnership which seeks to pursue the planning and development of rail freight and high-speed rail connecting the Cleveland-Akron-Youngstown-Pittsburgh region.”

Business Week: RI in race for part of $2.4B in federal rail money
Rhode Island officials are working to beat an April 4 deadline to apply for a portion of $2.4 billion in federal money for rail projects.

The Hill: Rhode Island to apply for rejected Florida rail money
Current Rhode Island Sens. Jack Reed (D) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D) have already written to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressing interest in the money. The DoT recently reversed a previous decision and designated the north a "federal rail corridor," making it easier for transportation funds to be directed there.

The Source: America Fast Forward and FrontLines: Could 30/10 work for Salt Lake City?
The side effect of that growth — representing an additional 320,000 residents — is more people traveling around the region and more air pollution. Los Angeles and Salt Lake City are geographically kindred spirits. Both are surrounded by majestic, but smog-trapping mountains, and it usually takes a good storm to clean the air.

Transportation Nation: Virginia County May Withdraw Funding From Dulles Metrorail
Cost estimates continue to rise for the second phase of the Dulles Metrorail project — from Herndon to Dulles Airport and beyond. And now Loudoun County may withdraw its share of the funding for the project.


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