Friday, May 13, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: May 13, 2011

According to The National Resource Defense Council a bipartisan energy savings act would lead to lower US energy bills, jobs creation and pollution decrease, and Twin Cities Star Tribune wrote that House and Senate GOP leaders slashed $109 million from Twin Cities bus and rail funding. Find out more in this Infrastructure in the News.


National News

Times Magazine: Redistributing High-Speed Rail Dollars: Still Useful
President Obama’s high-speed rail program has taken a lot of abuse because it isn’t just funding true high-speed rail; it’s also accelerating and improving service on moderate-speed trains. OK, guilty as charged. The program’s is “High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail.”  

The Hill: West Coast has best ratio of public transportation to jobs
Despite the conventional wisdom that transit is more readily available in the Northeast, cities in Hawaii, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah all rank higher than any city in the Northeast in the percentage of jobs located within a 90-minute commute on public transportation, the study found. The highest percentages belonged to Honolulu, Hawaii, and Salt Lake City, Utah, which had 59.8 and 58.9 percent, respectively. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Job Sprawl and the Importance of Transit to Suburban Employment Centers
Job sprawl has been a difficult nut to crack for many transit agencies. As employment centers in many American regions have spread out from the center city, connecting people to jobs with a traditional “hub and spoke” transit network has become increasingly difficult. The effects of job sprawl are also quite costly: The massive suburbanization of employment over the past 60 years has resulted in roughly $100 billion in lost time and fuel annually, according to a new report from the Center for Transit Oriented Development.

The Infrastructurist: The Ugly Truth About Infrastructure (and Taxes)
It’s been a year since the publication of On the Grid, my book about tracing and understanding everyday infrastructure systems, so I have now spent a year talking to people about their wires and pipes — and I have terrible news. Not about infrastructure itself, which is amazing and growing only more so. No — it’s about whether we get to have any more of it.

CNN: Gas prices cause spike in public transit use
Rising gas prices are helping drive big growth in ridership at several public transit systems across the country.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Sens. Rockefeller, Lautenberg Compete With Kerry's Infrastructure Bank
In February, President Obama released his transportation plan, which included the launch of a national infrastructure bank. The next month, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced a bill to create a similar bank, but with some key distinctions. And yesterday, Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), leaders on the Commerce Committee, announced that they're sponsoring legislation that would do nearly the same thing. So what’s the difference between all these different proposals? 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Senate Finalizing Transpo Bill - It's Up to Boxer to Preserve Bike/Ped Funding
According to Congressional insiders, members of the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works are meeting today and tomorrow to hash out the details of their proposal for a multi-year transportation reauthorization bill. Hanging in the balance of these negotiations may be the federal government’s only programs dedicated to funding infrastructure for biking and walking. 

Governing: LaHood Says Congress Should Figure Out Details of Transportation Bill
That process has frustrated state and local transportation leaders to no end, since the ad-hoc funding has made long-term difficult planning nearly impossible. As Congress crafts a new successor to that highway bill, the administration, key congressional leaders, and most transportation officials have made it clear: They want nothing short of a six-year bill this time.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Don't Hold Your Breath for a White House Transportation Bill
Not exactly. Committee staffers say they’ve received “technical assistance” from the White House but not a final bill. “Technical assistance” is Congressional jargon for getting a sneak peek at relevant sections of the president’s draft of the bill. But it looks like the White House is only releasing it like that – piece by piece, as needed, and only to Congressional staff. 

National Resource Defense Council: Bipartisan Energy Savings Act Would Cut US Energy Bills, Create Jobs, and Reduce Pollution
Today, Senators Portman and Shaheen introduced the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011, a comprehensive energy efficiency bill that if enacted will reduce the nation’s energy bills, while creating jobs and reducing dangerous pollution.  The bill shows that energy efficiency is a common sense solution that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on and we commend Senators Portman and Shaheen for their hard work on the bill.

Transportation For America: Obama administration draft transportation bill embraces performance measures, boosts options
The draft bill contains few surprises, as the White House hinted at many favored reforms in its 2012 budget blueprint in February. The proposal, titled the Transportation Opportunities Act, boosts resources for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s core highway program while making significant investments in transit. High-speed rail receives $8 billion upfront and $53 billion over six years, and $27.5 billion is directed toward a new Livability Program that folds many existing pedestrian, bicycling and transit elements under one umbrella. 

The Heritage Foundation: Obama's High-Speed Spending on Slow-Speed Rail
High-speed rail is one of the president’s pie-in-the-sky green energy dreams, which would do little to relieve Americans who are suffering the effects of high gasoline prices.

Bloomberg: LaHood Says Amtrak is 'Very, Very Safe' Amid Terror Threat
Riding Amtrak is “very, very safe” and the national passenger rail service is “doing everything they can” to ensure the security of its trains, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.  

The City Fix: Development-Oriented Transit: Minimizing Taxpayer Investments, Maximizing Community Value
There is a lot of talk throughout the United States about transit-oriented development (TOD). The term describes the planning of private development around station areas for new transit system investments, a process that often involves some form of public-private partnership to achieve the goal of adding density of housing, jobs and services around station nodes. In some U.S. cities, TOD is fraught with complications due to the often conflicting goals of the transit agency, the local governing jurisdictions and private developers.


State News

Infrastructurist: California Considers New (Old) Route for High-Speed Rail
California is going back to the future with its high-speed rail route. The board of directors of the state’s high-speed rail authority approved a study of a track alignment that would follow Interstate 5 — also known as the Grapevine route. The option was studied several years back and ultimately discarded in favor of the current course through the Antelope Valley, but enough has changed in that time to reconsider the decision, the authority reports.

San Diego Union Tribune: High-speed rail workshops set in county
The California High-Speed Rail Authority will hold five open houses in San Diego County during June to seek public comment on the proposed route.

Streetsblog San Francisco: Bike to Work Day Comes With Unprecedented Growth of Bike Infrastructure
Cycling San Franciscans have plenty to be happy about on the streets this Bike to Work Day, with new and greened bike lanes, new bike parking, sharrows, bike boxes, and traffic signals to make riding a little easier.

AltTransport: Southern California Adds A Seventh Hydrogen Refueling Station for Its 24 Hydrogen Cars
Right now, the only fuel-cell car available to consumers in Southern California is the Honda FCX Clarity. Honda began leasing the car on a limited basis to qualified customers a few years ago. How limited? Honda boasts that there are “more than two dozen currently on the road and in the hands of individual customers.” That works out to about three and a half cars for every station. The Torrance station is also the first one capable of refueling four cars at once, which is great because God forbid more than three of the 24 fuel-cell cars in the whole state show up at once and one of them has to wait.

California High Speed Rail Blog: Backlash Grows Against Unprecedented, Uninformed LAO Attack on HSR
The Legislative Analyst’s Office clearly hoped that their attack on the California high speed rail project would prove decisive and lead the legislature to follow the disreputable path taken by Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and New Jersey in rejecting federal passenger rail funds. 

Tampa Bay Online: Hillsborough cuts buses for 300 students
More than 300 students in six northern Hillsborough County schools are losing their bus rides in the latest round of a four-year transportation reorganization plan. 

Orlando Sentinel: U.S. Rep John Mica favors SunRail for Central Florida
As chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I evaluate numerous transportation projects. As a fiscal conservative, I believe all taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects must be wise investments. 

NBC 11: Macon-Atlanta gets rolling
Legislators, business people and public officials will meet on Monday to work out the details of using the state's excursion train to transport people from to the Speedway two days before the NASCAR race on Sept. 4.  

Chicago Tribune: Emanuel, Claypool should focus on improving the CTA's service, experts and riders say
Yet they might best serve commuters by avoiding the pitfall of overthinking the exorbitantly expensive long-term challenges confronting mass transit and instead focusing their efforts and limited resources on improving service immediately, experts and users of the system said. 

Associated Press: Cajun County braces for floodwaters from river
Cajun country residents threatened by Mississippi River flooding were packing their things Friday as they anxiously awaited word on when federal engineers could open a massive spillway that would inundate hundreds of thousands of rural acres and swamp thousands of homes.

The Michigan View: The Great Train Con 2
When the Michigan Department of Transportation first applied for federal high-speed rail funds, it justified its application using a 2006 economic analysis that claimed the benefits would be 1.8 times greater than the costs. A close scrutiny of that analysis, however, shows that Michigan cooked the books.  

Twin Cities Star Tribune: GOP leaders cut transit funding by $109M
Rejecting claims that transit cuts would cripple service, House and Senate leaders Thursday night slashed $109 million from Twin Cities bus and rail funding. 

Bloomberg: Christie Says Obama Too Focused on 'Political Strategy' and Needs to Lead
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said President Barack Obama is “too focused on political strategy” and “needs to lead.”  

CBS New York: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Wants Federal Money To Repair Portal Bridge Overpass Over Hackensack River In Newark
The New Jersey Governor said the Portal Bridge outside Newark is outdated and that the state needs federal money to improve the rail. 

Transportation Nation: Light Rail Could be Pushing West in New Jersey
New Jersey Transit wants to go west with its Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Line to connect with a major roadway and spur development on the Newark Bay waterfront. 

Wall Street Journal: Chris Christie Is Sorry N.J Senators Aren't 'More Successful'
“I feel badly about it,” the Republican governor said Thursday, reflecting on the lack of federal funding to replace the aging Portal Bridge, ”because I wish they would have been more powerful and more successful in being able to get more resources for New Jersey, but obviously they failed in that regard.” 

Transportation Nation: NYC Drivers Who Speed Will See Skeletons
Drivers who exceed the speed limit in two city neighborhoods will soon see the words “SLOW DOWN” and the image of a skeleton flashed on electronic signs by the side of the road. As long as a driver obeys the city’s 30 mph speed limit, no skeleton will appear. 

Mobilizing the Region: Transit Investment Creating Jobs in Upstate New York
Following Monday’s USDOT announcement of $2 billion for intercity rail projects across the country, officials at Alstom Transport joined the Apollo Alliance and others to detail how federal, state and local transit investments have helped the company expand its Rochester facility in support of 200 new jobs.  Alstom specializes in manufacturing freight and passenger rail signaling equipment and rail passenger rolling stock. 

Trucking Info: Intelligent Transportation System Coming to Northwest Pennsylvania Interstates
Interstate highways across Northwestern Pennsylvania will be fitted with a wireless network of traffic cameras, dynamic message signs and highway advisory radio systems. 

Associated Press: Infrastructure bank calls Charleston County note
The South Carolina Infrastructure Bank tells Charleston County it will pursue legal action if the county doesn't repay within 60 days the $11.6 million intended for the expansion of Interstate 526. 

Washington City Paper: D.C. Will Add More Bike Lanes, Other Infrastructure
To hear the District's biggest bike boosters tell it, cycling is on the right track—and four-wheeled road users are going to have to share a lot more of it soon. 

Greater Greater Washington: Streetcar benefits outweigh possible road obstructions
Running a streetcar on dedicated tracks can create new opportunities for economic development that buses typically do not. Installation and maintenance of a line require a significant long-term investment. Businesses may be more inclined to invest in neighborhoods the streetcar serves because it can bring a more permanent flow of patrons and residents.  

Politico: D.C. can slow rising gas prices
As gas prices across the United States approach four dollars a gallon, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that political agendas and the administration’s bureaucratic delays do not block efforts to lower energy costs and use our nation’s abundant natural resources. Increasing oil and gas production – both offshore and on –is essential to our energy future. 

The Washington Post: Metro, Google Transit reach data-sharing deal
Metro and Google have finalized a deal to integrate the transit system’s routes and schedule information with Google’s mapping service, providing the missing link in regionwide public transportation directions.

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