Friday, May 11, 2012
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: May 11, 2012


Washington Post: Daniels: Indiana didn’t ‘sell’ its toll road
The factual errors in Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s recent attack on Indiana’s infrastructure program [“Indiana’s road racket,” op-ed, May 6] are rivaled only by their conceptual backwardness. First, the facts. The New Mexico senator writes that Indiana “sold” its toll road. False. The state still owns the road. We have simply converted it to a regulated utility, under a 432-page agreement that tightly controls everything from toll rates to how long the operator has to remove dead animals from the roadway.

The Economist: A question of trust
Private involvement should, in theory, improve the quality of projects that get undertaken. A politically-expedient but financially dubious project would be unlikely to generate enough money to interest private investors. Padding, short cuts or shoddy construction are less likely to be tolerated. And city leaders might in turn overcome their aversion to the efficient pricing of public resources such as parking and busy roads. At the moment, investor appetites are keen and the supply of potential projects looks ample.

Journal of Commerce: LaHood Says PTC Exemptions to Save Railroads $775 Million
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Thursday said the rail industry will save up to $775 million over 20 years through revisions made to a costly crash-avoidance technology mandate. Railroads won’t have to conduct risk analyses to be exempt from installing positive train control or other risk mitigation initiatives on roughly 10,000 miles of track that won’t carry passengers or poison inhalation hazard commodities after December 2015.

Delta Farm Press: USDA funding to improve rural electric infrastructure
The USDA has announced that rural electric cooperative utilities in 10 states will receive loans to install smart grid technologies and make improvements to generation and transmission facilities. Examples of funding include a $102.8 million guaranteed loan to the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation in Jefferson, Georgia, to build and improve over 850 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan also includes $7.2 million in smart grid projects.

Salon: Oops — wrong future!
The need for public investment in American infrastructure should not be a partisan issue.  But the capture of the Republican Party by free market fundamentalists and neo-Confederate localists has led to the identification of the infrastructure issue with the Democrats. The progressive case for infrastructure investment is compelling on many levels.  In the short term, it can put unemployed capital and labor to work, while enhancing the long-term productivity of the economy, by reducing the costs of transportation and telecommunication and energy.

Transportation for America: Kicking off “Transportation Vote 2012″
Local communities across the country are preparing to vote on the people, plans and projects that will set the tone for transportation progress in the months and years to come — with many communities already showing us how it’s done. Transportation Vote 2012 will help educate voters, advocates and candidates and keep abreast of transportation-related campaigns as they unfold.


Globe St: Skanska: Virginia Excels in PPP Policies
An increasing number of states are recognizing the viability of using public-private partnerships to finance and build necessary infrastructure—indeed, that is one of the key observations of the Urban Land Institute/Ernst & Young newly-released "Infrastructure 2012: Spotlight on Leadership” report.  However, the truth is that some states are further along than others in using this structure for maximum effect. Leaders in this area are arguably Virginia, Texas and Florida, with Virginia in particular serving as a role model for other states that are still grappling with political and logistical issues.

Sacramento Bee: VIDEO: Obama administration tells California it's time to vote on high-speed rail
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned the California Legislature today that the Obama administration will not wait until fall for a vote on high-speed rail, urging its approval in a budget vote next month. "We need to make sure that the commitment is there to obligate the money," LaHood told reporters at the Capitol, where he was meeting with lawmakers and with Gov. Jerry Brown.

Voice of OC: Costa Mesa Grapples With How to Budget for Infrastructure
Costa Mesa city leaders have ambitious plans to sharply increase spending on road maintenance and other projects as soon as July. But as budget discussions begin this month, it remains to be seen how they’ll pay for all of it. During a presentation Tuesday starting discussions on the new budget, a leading member of the council majority criticized city staff, saying an early draft is missing much of the additional spending he’d like to see on infrastructure or “capital improvement” projects.

The Record (NJ): Northvale Borough Council approves $1M funding for infrastructure projects
The Borough Council this week approved a pair of bond ordinances, providing more than $1 million in funding for five oft-delayed infrastructure projects. The money will be used to pay for the installation of sidewalks along Livingston Street from White Avenue north to the New York State line; the widening of Paris Avenue and Livingston Street, to improve traffic flow; various much-needed curb repairs; address debilitating field drainage issues at Hogan’s Park; and fund an upgrade of the athletic fields at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.

Star-Telegram: Group aims to raise $10 billion for high-speed rail in Texas
They are bullet trains, a form of transportation many Texans thought they'd never see -- unless they were on vacation in Asia or Europe. But rail advocates say a proposal to build a high-speed line connecting Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston may happen a lot sooner than many residents think -- possibly by 2020.

Powell Tribune (WY): Voters to decide 1-cent tax for infrastructure
The 1-cent tax is to be used exclusively for local infrastructure construction and maintenance. Mayor Scott Mangold noted the decision is up to voters and not government leaders. “We’re not going to decide. We’re not kings. We can’t impose a 1-cent sales tax, but we want the voters, finally — this will be the first time it’s ever tried — to come up with a decision. Do you want to continue with the nice streets, do you want to continue with the projects that we have, or do you want to stay with the 4 percent?” Mangold said.



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