Wednesday, May 18, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: May 18, 2011

New York Times reported that the Senate blocked a Democratic proposal to eliminate tax breaks for oil companies and according to Streetsblog Capitol Hill cutting the train budget could derail transamerican routes. Read more about those and other stories in Infrastructure in the News.


BAF News 

Morning Call: Rendell star witness at Senate hearing
Rendell, a national mouthpiece for transportation advocacy, spoke before the Senate Finance Committee about the need for transportation financing and how to find that money in a political climate that doesn't support increased spending. No one dared mention increasing gasoline taxes, which is political suicide, but there was heavy emphasis on increased investment, a prettier word for spending. 


National News

New York Times: Senate Blocks Bill to Eliminate Tax Breaks for Oil Companies
The Senate on Tuesday blocked a Democratic proposal to strip the five leading oil companies of tax breaks that backers of the measure said were unfairly padding industry profits while consumers were struggling with high gas prices.

CNN: The technology behind bike sharing systems
Bike sharing, in which members pay a modest annual fee for rental access to carbon-free rides parked all over town, began in Copenhagen, made its way to Paris in 2005, and is about to achieve critical mass in the U.S. Denver, Minneapolis and DC all launched big new programs in 2010; Boston -- like D.C., an Alta project -- will roll out Hubway this summer, starting with 600 bicycles and 61 stations. 

The Hill: Proposal to remove Amtrak from direct congressional funding gets hearing
Obama administration officials on Tuesday defended the president's proposal to place Amtrak under an executive agency budget instead of being reliant on direct appropriations from Congress.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Cutting Train Budgets Could De-Rail Transamerican Routes
The idyllic cross-country train trips that many Americans still take could get derailed by today’s “slash and burn” federal budget policies. Meanwhile, fears for the safety of rail passengers in the post-bin Laden era are drumming up political support for costly security measures and raising, once again, questions about why the federal government funds rail routes without any promise of profitability.

The Hill: CBO says taxing cars by the mile could raise money for highways
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Tuesday said the imposition of a new tax on cars and trucks based on how many miles they drive would be one way of generating revenues for the federal Highway Trust Fund.

Infrastructurist: Why Aren't We Building 'Emotionally Connected' Cities?
We think of city infrastructure in a particular way – sort of like bones and connective tissue in a body; the major structural components that support our existence. Beyond the bones, we need to include key pieces that nourish our higher selves- our minds and spirits. If cities are merely paved surfaces and police and fire service, there is nothing that distinguishes one place from another. But this isn’t the case: The Gallup Soul of the Community survey from 2008 to 2010 found strong correlations between peoples’ emotional attachment to the communities they lived in, and higher levels of local GDP. They also found a link between passion for and loyalty to places, and the health of the local economy. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Sen. Kerry on Transportation Funding: "We're in a Crazy Place Right Now"
As the House and Senate get closer to unveiling their respective transportation proposals, it’s crunch time for figuring out how to pay for infrastructure investment moving forward. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), who has let slip that he’s in favor of a two-year reauthorization because of current funding constraints, chaired a hearing in the Finance Committee today to examine options for financing. No one panacea emerged, and conservatives on the committee and among the witnesses quickly countered most of the suggestions raised.

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: This Is Your Brain on Cars - Oh, and Your Lungs and Heart and Gut, Too
Gerontologists in a laboratory at the University of Southern California exposed a group of mice to the same atmospheric conditions that humans encounter when driving along the freeway. Horrifyingly, they discovered that the mice’s brains showed the kind of swelling and inflammation associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The researchers didn’t super-dose to get these results: the mice were exposed to freeway air for the equivalent of 15 hours a week — less than the 18.5 hours average Americans spend in their cars. Jokes aside about getting those darn mice off the road, the study suggests that driving less can reduce our risk of brain damage. 

FastLane: Champions of Change roundtables ushers in National Transportation Week
To kick off National Transportation Week yesterday, Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari joined a White House "Champions of Change" conversation about the pressing need to develop tomorrow's transportation professionals. 

AFL-CIO Now Blog: U.S. Infrastructure Crumbling, Nation Falling Behind Developing Countries
When it comes to maintaining and improving its roads, bridges and other transportation facilities, the United States is falling behind even developing nations and Congress is showing no will to address the crisis, according to a report released this week by the Urban Land Institute. Further: 

National Resource Defense Council: Fact Checking Auto Industry Claims of Job Losses
The auto industry has a decades-long history of spreading mis-information about the costs of meeting stronger pollution and fuel efficiency standards.  So it should come as no surprise that the auto industry is now claiming a 62 mpg standard by 2025 will lead to a loss of almost a quarter of a million auto jobs. To support their assertion, they cite the results of a recent U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) forecast. But a closer examination of the DOE forecast reveals the exact opposite conclusion: under 62 mpg standard, jobs in the vehicles manufacturing sector will increase –not decrease-- by 280,000 from 2010 to 2025. 

RailwayAge Magazine: U.S. to jost 8th World Congress on HSR
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the International Union of Railways (UIC) on Tuesday formally announced that the 8th World Congress on High Speed Rail will take place in Philadelphia July 11-13, 2012. The World Congress is expected to attract more than 2,000 attendees worldwide to exchange views on the development and achievements of high speed rail. 

AltTransport: National Bike Month Rolling Along
National Bike Month is halfway over, and festivities are in full swing across the country. Cyclists are getting especially geared up this week, which is Bike to Work Week. Can’t commit to biking to the office every day this week? That’s okay. Just make sure your chain is greased up for Friday’s Bike to Work Day. 

AltTransport: Trains + Bike = Magic
I’m convinced that this combination of trains + bikes is magical. Magic that disappears with the tether of an automobile. Cars take you where everyone goes, and you see what everyone sees. Trains, bikes, and walking can take you into landscapes you can’t see from a highway.

AltTransport: Are Hybrids Cost Effective?
According to the study, which was conducted by Santa Monica, California-headquartered TrueCar Inc., an “automotive solutions provider focused on changing how cars are sold,” at 15,000 miles per year and $3.52 per gallon (the national average when the study was published), it would take 14 years to make up for the Toyota Prius’ higher sticker price compared to the (non-hybrid, manual transmission, sans-AC) Hyundai Elantra. Even at $5 per gallon, it would still take a decade for the fuel savings to make up for the up-front cost difference. 

Political News: New Upgraded Transportation System is the Backbone of a Sound Economy
Our nation’s transportation infrastructure is the backbone of our economic success and global competitiveness. American businesses rely on world-class railways, highways, airways, and waterways to efficiently move goods to market and get them safely to their destinations. 

Press and Guide: High-speed rail can augment interstate system
More than a half-century ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the face of America by putting the pedal to the metal on the interstate highway system. The nation was transformed from states and towns connected by shoddy little roads to contiguous regions interlaced with modern highways. A new nation was born. 

WGRZ: Amtrak Seeks Money for Track-Tampering Detection
Amtrak has increased police and K-9 patrols and track inspections since documents seized from Osama Bin Laden's compound revealed al-Qaida planned to derail trains in the U.S., the railroad's top official said Tuesday. Amtrak also is working more closely with Homeland Security officials and local and state law enforcement agencies, Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

Wall Street Pit: Welcome to America. The Land of Potholes
Joseph Kile from the CBO testified before congress today. This was a discussion of the Federal role in maintaining/building the nation’s highway system. Central to the presentation was the status of the Highway Trust Fund. Like all the other government Trust Funds (Social Security, Medicare) The Highway Fund (“HF”) is, well, running out of gas. This chart shows the problem. 

The Dirt: How to Design a Bicycle City
Washington, D.C. has moved from the bottom of the rankings to being a top 10 bicycle-friendly city in just ten years. A group of experts, including Jim Sebastian, Washington, D.C. Department of Transportation, Jennifer Toole, ASLA, Toole Design Group, and Shane Farthing, Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) explained how the city did it at an event at the National Building Museum.


State News

Merced Sun-Star: Henry Perea: Response to report on high-speed rail
Large projects require optimistic cooperation, not pessimistic bureaucracy. With the passage of Proposition 1A in 2008, California's voters asked for high-speed rail. Recently, our Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) released a report that jeopardizes our democratic will.

San Francisco Chronicle: Cost of riding taxis to go up, and likely up again
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency revised its plan to boost the cost of catching a cab Tuesday, but it still approved a rate hike, with another increase likely coming in June.

San Diego Union-Tribune: San Diego region raising money locally to fund infrastructure
Budget woes and lack of political will at the national, state and local level are leaving the U.S. in the dust of other nations, from China to Brazil to Europe when it comes to maintaining and improving roads, utilities and other infrastructure, a new report from the Urban Land Institute says.

Curbed LA: High-Speed Rail Should Follow I-5, Start in LA or SF
Damn, the California high-speed rail project just can't catch a break (a little funding windfall care of California aside). The state Legislative Analyst's Office recently released a report casting doubts on the $43 billion project and declaring that Caltrans should take control of the project from the California High-Speed Rail Authority. In an editorial today, the Los Angeles Times seconded that latter suggestion, saying the CHSRA are simply buddies of bureaucrats who have no idea what they're doing—and that one of their biggest mistakes is directing the route through Palmdale and Lancaster instead of following I-5 through the Grapevine (though the Authoirty is currently still studying the feasibility of the Grapevine route).

Visalia Times-Delta: Legislative analyst jumps the track
The Legislative Analyst's Office, which doesn't miss too often, struck out mightily in its report the other day on the state's high-speed rail project.

Hartford Courant: Connecticut seeks to support electric car usage
The bill, up for a vote on Wednesday in the General Assembly's Transportation Committee, would require updating the state building code to address the need to electrically charge the vehicles. 

Idaho Mountain Express: High-speed rail would do it better
There are other benefits of the high-speed rail project that the airport project does not provide. These benefits relate to the degraded safety of driving to the more distant airport compared to a safer train ride in the same time to Twin Falls. They relate to getting those cars off the road and getting many commuters between Twin Falls and this valley off the road. They relate to connecting the commerce and residents of the Twin Falls area, Shoshone, Richfield and perhaps other towns to this valley. I put that value very conservatively at about $50 million per year. With inflation, that's $2 billion over 30 years. The airport relocation offers none of these benefits.  

Des Moines Register: Passenger rail backers need better calculator
The real project would be an Amtrak train with a top speed of 80 mph. That's only about 150 mph less than real high speed rail. He claims the project would "create" 588 jobs and $25 million in activity per year through four years of construction, but he doesn't explain what those people would do after the four years.

KSN: I-235 debate causes commissioner to walk out of meeting
County and city leaders agree that something needs to be done about the dangerous and outdated cloverleaf interchange at Kellogg and I-235.  What they don’t agree on is who should pay for it.  Now the project has commissioners at a crossroads of their own. 

The McPherson Sentinel: Brownback to make transportation announcement in McPherson
Brownback is tying the visits to the Kansas Department of Transportation's T-WORKS program. McPherson governments and industries have campaigned for a new interchange on Interstate 135 north of Highway 56. Industries specifically want one to relieve congestion and make access to industrial properties easier.

KATC: Louisiana Engineers to Grade State's Infrastructure As the State Prepares for Flood
The Louisiana Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)announced on Monday that the group is developing a Report Card on Louisiana's Infrastructure to create a fact-based assessment of the state's infrastructure in an easy-to-understand format.

NOLA: Mississippi River flooding moving south slower than expected, Jindal says
Mississippi River water flowing through the Morganza floodway into the Atchafalaya River basin was moving south more slowly than expected on Monday, but Gov. Bobby Jindal continued to warn those living and working in potentially flooded areas to heed calls of local officials to evacuate.

Transportation Nation: High Fuel Prices Squeeze Montana State Agencies
State agencies in Montana that depend on vehicles are feeling the pinch of higher fuel prices. But agency officials say, for now, they are able to cover the higher costs even with their austere budgets. 

New York Times: Google Lobbies Nevada to Allow Self-Driving Cars
Google, a pioneer of self-driving cars, is quietly lobbying for legislation that would make Nevada the first state where they could be legally operated on public roads.

Legislative Gazette: Choo choo cha-ching
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced May 9 the state is slated to receive the money from the U.S. Department of Transportation for three projects to advance the state's high-speed rail initiatives. The funding is a part of $2 billion in awards being distributed to 14 other states and Amtrak. 

FastLane: Montano Intermodal Center will help connect Albuquerque residents, communities
The Department of Transportation understands that need, and yesterday, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff was in Albuquerque to award the Rio Metro Regional Transit District $6.7 million to help construct the Montano Intermodal Center. By providing new transit connections in a safe facility with real-time rider information and wi-fi access, the new center will soon become a centerpiece of the region's transportation network. 

Rapid City Journal: Bicyclists say attitude changes needed to share the road
The 54-year-old west side resident rides between 120 miles and 150 miles in an average week when the weather cooperates, including a 16-mile round-trip commute to his job at the Black Hills Regional Eye Institute off Fifth Street. 

CBS: Transportation bond issue fails in Okla. Senate
A handful of Republicans opposed to borrowing money to help balance the state budget aligned with Democrats in the Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday to derail a key component of the $6.5 billion budget deal to fund state government for the upcoming fiscal year. 

The Hill: Transportation chief tours Tennessee Nissan Plant
The Obama administration has gone to great lengths recently to tout the successes of the American auto companies in Detroit, but Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Tennessee Tuesday talking up Nissan.

Dallas News: Dallas' infrastructure dreams about to be dashed?
Crumbling infrastructure is one of those things you don't necessarily notice. It's like aging. When you look at yourself in the mirror everyday, you don't see much change. Then suddenly you wake up looking like your grandparents and wonder how that happened. Aside from the occasional collapsing bridge, infrastructure projects can be easy to ignore. And that's exactly what we've done.

Transportation Nation: D.C. To Impose New Fees On Booming Intercity Bus Industry
The intercity bus industry is red-hot here in the Northeast Corridor. Almost a dozen companies have sprung up seemingly overnight to meet the demand for inexpensive, scheduled service between Washington D.C. and New York City. 

Washington Post: Loudon weighs withdrawal of Dulles rail funding
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday directed county staff to determine how Dulles Airport’s operations and the rail extension would be affected.

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