Monday, March 28, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: March 28, 2011

The National League of Cities reported that the House Committee has outlined plans for new transportation legislation and The Hill reported that transportation projects are a 'defining characteristic of declining cities'. More in this Infrastructure in the News.


BAF in the News

Asian Journal: 'America Fast Forward' promoted in LA
LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hosted Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, co-chair of Building America’s Future, to promote innovative transportation finance tools and discuss “America Fast Forward” at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College Los Angeles, Friday, March 25. America Fast Forward is a jobs and transportation plan that would create nearly one million jobs, produce $158 billion in economic output, and generate $51 billion in worker income nationwide.


National News

MSNBC: Trains versus planes: Survey shows pull toward tracks
In a survey of more than 300 North American and European travelers conducted between mid-January and mid-February by SilverRail Technologies, a rail booking technology company, 90 percent of respondents said they would like to see rail options displayed alongside flights when searching for travel; 79 percent would choose trains over planes if high-speed rail options existed; and 61 percent would choose rail over air if the cost was the same or better.

National League of Cities: House Committee Outlines Plans for Transportation Legislation
Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee offered some hints on how it plans to frame a new federal transportation program. In an outline submitted to the House Budget Committee, the committee indicates it will reject the President’s proposal to increase funding and intends to cut costs, streamline programs and consolidate facilities.

The Hill: On the heels of 'ObamaCare' conservatives target 'ObamaRail'
Conservative activists are deriding the high-speed rail proposals set out by President Obama in his State of the Union address and 2012 budget as wasteful spending that imposes new mandates on cash-strapped state governments.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Congress Fights About Budget Cuts and Talks Transpo
Congress isn’t any closer to consensus on the FY2011 budget than when they adjourned March 18 with a three-week budget extension to avoid a government shutdown while they duke it out over spending cuts. Each of the two extensions they’ve passed have cut $2 billion a week of spending. But those were non-controversial cuts, and there are very few of those left. Now’s the time they need to fight it out for real over the big ones.

The Hill: Transportation projects are a 'defining characteristic of declining cities'
Transportation projects like the ones being proposed by President Obama are a central characteristic of struggling urban cities, a Harvard economic professor said Friday in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. 

Washington Post: 10 Golden Rules for happier drivers
What if a transportation agency tried to understand you, the traveler? Not for the sake of flattery, so that you would accept some second-rate solution to a traffic or transit problem, but rather so that the transportation network could evolve in favor of the people who use it.

DOT Blog: Building big goes hand-in-hand with building safely
At DOT, we’re all about building big--while building safely.  And today, I met with representatives from the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) in Las Vegas to discuss how to make America’s transportation projects safer before even breaking ground.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Highways Are Handouts for Developers, Too
In the annals of anti-transit nonsense, there’s a particularly ill-considered line that goes like this: No public investment should go toward this streetcar/light rail line, because it’s going to pay off for private developers.

The Journal News: High-speed rail benefits have hollow ring
An astute journalist in the 20th century once defined public relations as "organized lying." Keep that in mind as a barrage of news features and commentaries extolling the benefits of President Obama's high-speed rail initiatives appear in coming days.

The Post and Courier: Fuel mass transit's growth
Rising gas prices raise mass transit's appeal. But while the extra customers using public transportation provide extra fare revenue, they also create extra expenses for systems that require public funding to survive. 


State News

The Birmingham News: Alabama won't apply for high-speed rail money, but advocates still interested
Alabama will not be among the applicants. The Alabama Department of Transportation and Gov. Robert Bentley's office say they're not interested. Alabama doesn't have a fully-developed high speed rail project on the books, and the state focuses its public policy and tax money on roads rather than transit.

Arizona Central: Funding sources absent in Arizona's rail-network plan
A state transportation panel has approved Arizona's first comprehensive rail plan, which is necessary to build a passenger rail network but doesn't address the question of how to pay for improvements.

Merced Sun-Star: First phase could run to Merced after all
High-speed rail may come to Merced sooner than expected, as the California High Speed Rail Authority will announce today it's asking for $1.2 billion in funding that was rejected by Florida.

California High Speed Rail Blog: CHSRA Considers At-Grade Tracks in Fresno
 Some potentially major news out of Fresno this weekend, as Tim Sheehan of the Fresno Bee that the California High Speed Rail Authority is considering abandoning the 60-foot high, 6 to 8 miles long viaduct for the HSR tracks and instead building at-grade:

San Francisco Examiner: Area transit agencies are going the wrong way on a one-way track
Even as San Francisco adopted a “transit-first” policy and Bay Area cities embraced plans to develop housing around depots, fare increases conspired to make public transportation less and less attractive, said Robert Boden, a spokesman for the San Francisco Transit Riders Union.

Fresno Bee: Ground-level tracks considered for high-speed rail
For the better part of a year, plans for a high-speed rail line through Fresno have included miles of elevated tracks soaring 60 feet above the central city streetscape.

Tallahassee Democrat: Don't base transportation decisions on politics
But the most disturbing loss was in the confidence of Floridians who now believe, more than ever, that cruel political whims will outmuscle sober policy considerations as we face Florida's most critical challenges on issues such as the environment, immigration and transportation.

Transportation Nation: Rail Supporters Holding Their Breath in Florida
The dream of improving rail transit in Florida isn’t dead… completely.  High speed rail desires dissipated after weeks of dancing back and forth between HSR supporters – including US Senator Bill Nelson and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  The two fell short of convincing chief opponent, Governor Rick Scott, that cost concerns over the $2.6 billion project would be resolved.

Chicago Reader: How To Fix the El
The Chicago Transit Authority has begun an effort to address some of these problems. It's launched the Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) project to rebuild the deteriorating elevated north of Belmont, most of which was built before 1922.

Keokuk Daily Gate City: Infrastructure wearing out, IDOT chief tells SE Iowans
The state’s aging infrastructure concerns Iowa Department of Transportation Director Nancy Richardson.

Fox 19: Major road rehabilitation projects beginning in NKY
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is launching "Revive to Drive" in Northern Kentucky, meaning pavement rehabilitation projects are beginning on the region's major interstates.

WFPL: Yarmuth Says Infrastructure Bank Could Appeal to House GOP, Fund ORBP
Depending on if and when it’s approved, the proposed federal infrastructure bank could be used to pay for the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Boston Globe: Mass. vies for Fla.’s spurned rail funds
When the Obama administration awarded $10.4 billion for high-speed rail projects last year, Florida was a big winner, scooping up 20 times as much money as Massachusetts. But now that Florida’s new governor has rejected his state’s $2.4 billion for political reasons, Massachusetts officials are racing to make another pitch to Washington.

Crookston Times: Share your transportation vision for the next 50 years
Minnesotans will help determine the state’s transportation system vision for the next 50 years when the Minnesota Department of Transportation rolls out a process for the public to provide input to that vision.

Grist: Minn. state Rep. Mike Beard prepares to devastate Twin Cities transit, economy, residents
Beard recently introduced an omnibus transportation finance bill (HF1140) that would radically slash funding for transit services. And I mean radical -- on the order of $120 million. The Metropolitan Council (which runs the Twin Cities' bus system) wrote Beard a letter explaining what the cuts would mean for bus service.

Springfield News-Leader: Transportation plan is needed for the state's future
As a former Missouri Highways and Transportation Commissioner, I understand firsthand the importance of maintaining our transportation infrastructure. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has worked very hard over the past few years to improve the state's infrastructure. However, the financial picture has changed, and the resources simply aren't there for MoDOT to continue to maintain and repair our roads and bridges, much less grow our system.

Nebraska Journal-Star: Debate on how to fund roads centers on future budget concerns
The bill, introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine, would earmark for road construction a half-cent of the state's 5 1/2-cent sales tax, beginning in 2013. It could generate as much as $140 million a year for those needs, including expressways -- $2.8 billion over 20 years.

KTNV ABC: High-speed rail rolls jobs Nevada's way
More than 30-thousand new jobs could be rolling Nevada's way, now that a high-speed rail project has crossed a big track.

The Hill: Sen. Reid, Ray LaHood: One stop left for DesertXpress
The environmental impact of a proposed Nevada-to-California high-speed rail has been approved, clearing the way for the railway to built, Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Friday afternoon.

Hornell Evening Tribune: Officials at odds on high speed rail investment in upstate NY
With fiscal scrutiny on the front burner, local officials have varying opinions on whether or not millions of dollars should be invested in high speed rail in upstate New York.

New York Times: Riders to Lose Buses as Nassau and M.T.A. Battle
Nassau County blames the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Long Island Bus, and accuses it of waste and inefficiency. The county says the authority is asking for an additional $17 million contribution from the county at precisely the time it is least able to afford it. The M.T.A. blames the county, saying that Nassau receives a subsidy from the authority that other suburban counties, like Suffolk and Westchester, do not get, and now belatedly needs to pay its fair share. 

Rail Co: Ray LaHood: high speed rail agreement in North Carolina
“Today, we have made significant progress towards that goal with the signing of a cooperative agreement between USDOT and North Carolina DOT that makes $461 million available for the State of North Carolina to begin work on projects that will reduce travel times and increase reliability for rail passengers, create jobs, and spur economic growth.”

Charlotte Business Journal: Charlotte Area Transit System: Less is more
For Charlotte Area Transit System, spending less means spending more. At least for the planned light-rail extension to UNC Charlotte.

Scranton Times Leader: Highway bill needs innovation funding
The last transportation authorization law expired in September 2009, and committee members including Chairman U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., and U.S. Reps. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania and Lou Barletta R-Hazleton, have traveled the country since February to seek input.

Houston Chronicle: Transportation council commits remaining funds to roads, rail
The regional Transportation Policy Council voted Friday to allocate its remaining discretionary funds for the next three years to roads and freight rail, giving no additional money to bicycle- or pedestrian-friendly projects.

The Olympian: State must find new formula to fund transportation projects
Washington state is at a transition point when it comes to paying for our aging transportation infrastructure and getting new projects in place to accommodate growth and address increased congestion along the Interstate 5 corridor. 

The Transport Politic: Washington Celebrates Metro's 35th Anniversary. Its it Defining the Region's Growth?
For a brief period in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it looked like U.S. cities were back in the subway-building business. The federal government approved billions of dollars in aid for the construction of new networks in San Francisco, Atlanta, and — most significantly — Washington. In the nation’s capital, a world-class system was constructed, radically redefining the city’s landscape and offering its residents a fundamentally new and modern way to get around.

NWI Times: Milwaukee airport director talks trains
The director of General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee spoke about the rail station at his facility during Friday's lunch meeting for the Indiana High Speed Rail Association in Munster.

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