Friday, May 6, 2011
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: May 6, 2011

Politico reported that a GOP bill would lead to the merge of Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency and Triple Pundit wrote about the future of the U.S. rail system. Read more in this Infrastructure in the News.


National News

The Hill: White House disowns plan to tax car mileage
The proposal was included in a draft of the administration's Transportation Opportunities Act, but a White House spokesman said it "was not an administration proposal." 

Politico: GOP bill would merge EPA, DOE
Consolidating the agencies could result in more than $3 billion in savings in 2012 alone, according to a statement from Burr’s office. The super-agency would retain the core functions of the DOE and the EPA but would cut ineffective or redundant programs, the statement said. 

The Hill: LaHood: Americans won't return to guzzlers when gas prices fall
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday that he’s not concerned that consumers’ interest in efficient vehicles will tail off when gasoline prices fall. 

United Press International: U.S. investigates pipelines safety
A bill targeting oil and natural gas pipeline safety in the United States adds a layer of protection from serious accidents, a lawmaker said. 

The Hill: LaHood and Babbitt: Pass long-term FAA bill
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt said Thursday that Congress should bridge its differences and pass a reauthorization bill for the beleaguered FAA. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Reps. Matsui, LaTourette Introduces Complete Streets Bill
The bill mandates the consideration of the “safety and convenience” of all users in “all phases of project planning and development. State DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations would have to take “pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit users, children, older individuals, individuals with disabilities, motorists, and freight vehicles” into account when developing transportation projects. 

Wall Street Journal: Al Qaeda Sought to Target U.S. Train Network
A set of handwritten notes picked up by the Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden prompted the government to warn of potential al Qaeda threats to the U.S. train network, the first known use of intelligence gleaned from the raid. 

The Hill: Illinois granted $186M of rail money once offered to Florida
Sen. Bill Nelson's (D-Fla.) office on Thursday circulated a newspaper article describing the Department of Transportation's action. This week, the DOT made available $400 million of the $2.4 billion Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) forcefully rejected and gave a chunk of it to Illinois. "Oh the pain," was subject line of Nelson’s email. "And the train and the jobs," it continued. 

Wall Street Journal: Gas-Saving Cars Help Boost GM Profit
The results mark a significant swing in the company’s strategy. The last time the car maker posted similarly strong earnings was during the SUV and truck boom of five to 10 years ago. For consumers, the company’s results could soon lead to a wider range of fuel-efficient cars and trucks on the market.

PR Newswire: Fueling Americans' Transportation Choices
In a sign of the times, a new America THINKS survey from HNTB Corporation shows 3 in 5 (63 percent) American drivers think that gas will get so pricey that they won't be able to drive their car as often as they do now. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 (22 percent) are extremely confident this will happen. 

Grist: Watch Amtrak's coverage shrink over time
Amtrak just had its 40th birthday, and like many 40-year-olds, it is a diminished version of what it once was. It's still hanging on, and some lines have even been restored over time, in part thanks to the efforts of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (who made these maps). But is it any wonder more people don't take rail, when coverage has shrunk like a scrotum in a cold pool? 

Huffington Post: A Green Transportation Dialog Should Start During National Train Day and Transportation Week
Transportation will stay in the limelight as the country celebrates National Transportation Week 2011, May 16th through the 22nd. In the meantime, Congress struggles to hammer out a six-year Surface Transportation Authorization bill. 

Triple Pundit: The Future of the US Rail System
One of the first forms of transportation that served the masses of people traveling throughout the United States was the railroad system. Presently this country uses many means of transportation that are innovative but create high carbon emissions such as airplanes. Though trains in the United States are an experience of their own and create less CO2, rail travel in the U.S. lacks advancement in technology and efficiency compared to other rail systems in the world. As fuel prices steadily increase we need to rely less on airplanes and automobiles and focus our attention on improving our train systems for mass transportation.

FastLane: Today's bus safety actions just the latest DOT steps to protect American travelers
At the Department of Transportation, it is our solemn obligation to not let those bus passengers down. As warm weather arrives and gas prices soar, President Obama wants to make sure that Americans have good, safe options for summer travel.  

Transportation For America: U.S. mayors say no to new revenue for transportation without reform
Ninety-eight percent of mayors identified affordable, reliable transit as crucial to their city’s recovery and growth, according to a survey of 176 mayors unveiled this week by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (right) on behalf of the Conference.

AltTransport: Transit Ridership Up Due to Rising Gas Prices
With the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded now at $3.98, motorists across the nation are switching to public transportation. We saw it in 2008, when the national average reached $4, and we’re seeing it all over again.  

AltTransport: NACTO Guide A Simple Menu For Bike-Friendliness
Municipal engineers design the roads in your city. Those local engineers draw influence from two federal guides: AASHTO and MUTCD. To make a long story short, those two guides are behind the curve on bikeway designs, and that’s why cities like Portland and NYC have gone out of their way to implement “experimental” designs, the same type that have been accepted in Europe for decades.

AlterNet: Start Slow on the Path to Making America Bullet Train-Friendly
The prospect of building new rail corridors in the U.S. must seem expensive and daunting, as it did to Europeans 20 or 30 years ago. Old American track, in many cases, is too rickety or crowded for modern electric trains to vault between major cities at speeds that compete with short-haul passenger flights. To upgrade the U.S. rail system in any significant way, there will have to be at least a few dedicated high-speed lines, on whole new rights-of-way. The cost will be staggering. 

Mother Jones: The Gas Wars Are Back On
If you drive, you don't need me to tell you that gas prices are going up. And with that recurrent phenomenon, the congressional debate about what to do is revived. In 2008, the Democratically-controlled Congress let the moratorium on drilling in the outer-continental shelf expire amid hysteria about $4 gasoline. 

Medical News Today: More Older Americas Use Public Transportation And More Drivers Are 65+, Says AARP Report
An AARP Public Policy Institute report released today reveals that America's seniors make up a growing number and proportion of American drivers and public transportation users. The report presents the first detailed look at travel patterns of older Americans documented in the 2009 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) and reflects a growing population age 65 and older. 

The Big City: 2025: the Future of Mobility and our Cities
When it comes to addressing the fearsome challenge of accelerating climate change, we are still in something of a phony war: we know the changes are coming, and we know they are going to have a big impact on all of us, but we keep hoping we can put things off for just a little bit longer!


State News

AL Live: Orange Beach council supports Wolf Bay bridge; still no timeline for the project
In what could be considered a mostly symbolic gesture, the Orange Beach City Council this week showed its renewed support of a bridge over Wolf Bay -- an idea under discussion for nearly 20 years.

New York Times: San Francisco Experiments With Congestion Pricing
Mr. Primus is part of the vanguard of public officials around the Bay Area who are pushing sophisticated traffic and parking solutions built on the theory of congestion pricing. Though Mr. Primus and other traffic specialists sprinkle their conversations with jargon like “availability targets” and “gradual periodic price change,” the basic idea behind congestion pricing is a simple one: charge more to use streets and highways at the busiest times, and discourage those who don’t want to pay a premium at peak hours.  

Los Angeles Times: High-speed rail: Bullet train planners revive option that follows 1-5 over Grapevine
In a surprising and controversial move, California bullet train planners on Thursday revived a long-discarded route option following Interstate 5 over the Grapevine that could save billions of dollars and eliminate a sweeping dogleg through Los Angeles County's high desert towns.

San Francisco Times: High-speed rail panel rejects Caltrain route plan
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has put the brakes on a plan that could stop high-speed trains short of San Francisco's new Transbay Terminal.

The Daily Breeze: Torrance wins $18.1M grant to build new transit center
The city of Torrance was awarded $18.1 million in grant funding Thursday to build a new transit center on Crenshaw Boulevard, Mayor Frank Scotto said.

San Jose Mercury News: Concord asks: "Where's the money?" in regional planning for local development
That makes sense, Concord leaders say. The Concord Naval Weapons Station is labeled as priority development area, Concord's downtown is set as an area where growth is appropriate and the commercial area north of Highway 4 is labeled as an employment center.

San Jose Mercury News: Elevated tracks nixed for Calif high-speed rail
The agency planning the route for California's proposed high-speed train system has voted to nix a proposal for elevated tracks over Fresno and other parts of the Central Valley.

San Diego Union-Tribune: The job of getting you from here to there
California’s huge and complex highway system requires constant maintenance to remain functioning and constant improvement to remain efficient. All that work takes a close partnership between Caltrans for the state and local agencies such as the San Diego Association of Governments.

Fontana Herald News: Transportation officials say federal funding is needed fot San Bernardino County projects
Every day, Fontana resident Sandra Calderon travels to La Puente, where she works as an elementary school teacher. After a long and hard day at work, Calderon faces what hundreds of thousands of drivers endure every day in the Inland Empire: traffic congestion.

OC Metro: Santa Ana-based Iteris signs $1.3 million transportation contract
Under the terms of a $1.3 million agreement, Iteris officials will be part of a consulting team that will conduct a feasibility analysis and project study for the 91, 605 and 405 corridors. The company will provide transportation planning and traffic engineering services for Metro, in partnership with the Gateway Cities Council of Governments.

McClatchy: California I-5: A faster, cheaper high speed rail route?
The Grapevine, once considered a prospective high-speed rail route between the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles Basin over the Tehachapi Mountains but disregarded several years ago, could be destined for a comeback

National Resource Defense Council: Delaware River Basin Commission Must Say No to Water Withdrawal for Gas Drilling
Another threat out of the Delaware River Basin. XTO Energy (a wholly-owned subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp.) is asking for permission to take a quarter of a million gallons of water per day from Oquaga Creek, a trout stream that flows to the West Branch of the Delaware River in New York’s Broome and Delaware Counties, to develop gas wells they plan to drill there.  The withdrawal site is on land owned by the Town of Sanford, which has already given them access. 

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: Scott Walker, Posterboy for Government Waste
It’s no secret that Scott Walker is basically running for president of the Tea Party from the governor’s seat in Wisconsin. But the fact is when you examine his policies, they’re not conservative at all. In fact, they’re wasteful. On transportation in particular, Walker is a consummate borrow-and-spender (particularly if that spending benefits his buddies in the highway construction industry).

WESH Orlando: Group To Gov. Scott: Shut Down SunRail
Opponents of SunRail claim the travel demand in Central Florida does not support a need for commuter rail. They said they worry about the effect the project would have on Florida taxpayers.

FastLane: Family Driving Challenge in Orlando teaches valuable safety lessons
It’s no secret that distracted driving is an epidemic in this country.  Whether it's texting or talking on a cell phone, Americans are dangerously accustomed to having our eyes and attention on our devices instead of on the road.  And we know from our Faces of Distracted Driving video series that the tragic cost of this behavior is simply too high.

Tampa Bay Business Journal: Saturday event to celebrate rail travel
Saturday is National Train Day a promotional event sponsored by Amtrak as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. The event is also tied to the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad, the driving of the “Golden Spike” at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869. 

Transportation Nation: Montgomery County, Maryland, Gets Closer to Having a True BRT System
Council members in Montgomery County, Md., received an update on plans to build Bus Rapid Transit lines in the county this week. The price tag for the plan is high, but at least one County Council member says it must be built because Montgomery County is losing the transit battle with its neighbors. 

Associated Press: Mississippi Delta sees flooding from mighty river
Parts of the Mississippi Delta are beginning to flood, sending white-tail deer and wild pigs swimming to dry land, submerging yacht clubs and closing floating casinos, and compelling residents to flee from their homes. 

Public Works: Missouri Department of Natural Resources Seeks Comments on Drinking Water Fund Project List
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is seeking comments on the its draft plan outlining how it intends to use federal and state funds designated for improving drinking water infrastructure.  

KFVS12: MoDot: New state transportation program cut in half
According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, for the past five years, Missouri's state highway construction program has averaged $1.2 billion a year. MoDot's director said they have presented a new, five-year construction program to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission that's only half that amount, or about $600 million a year.

Columbia Missourian: Amtrak's Missouri River Runner attracting more riders
The conductor adjusts his navy blazer as he walks down the aisle, the horn of the locomotive humming in the background. Bound for Kansas City, the Missouri River Runner gently rocks and sways.

Mobilizing the Region: NJ Starting Second Phase of Parkway Widening
Last month, the Christie Administration announced that it was able to “prioritize enough money” to accelerate its project to widen the Garden State Parkway. In a release, the NJ Turnpike Authority said that in June it would bid out contracts to “add a third lane in each direction between milepost 48 in Port Republic and milepost 63 and provide grading and drainage improvements between mileposts 30 and 48.”  This is the second part of a multi-phase widening of the Parkway between mileposts 30 and 80; the widening of the Parkway between miles 30 and 48 remains unfunded. 

Transportation Nation: In Wake of Bronx Crash, New Fed Rules For Long Distance Buses
Almost two months after fifteen people were killed in a bus crash in the Bronx, federal regulators have announced new safety rules for long distance buses. The rules increase oversight mainly on drivers and new bus companies. 

Transportation Nation: NYC Advocacy Group: Subways Are Dirtier: MTA Disagrees
The latest Shmutz Survey conducted by the Straphangers Campaign found only 47 percent of subway cars were clean when researchers rode the trains over two months last fall compared with 51 percent the year before. (Schmutz is a Yiddish word for icky dirt and is part of the lingua franca in New York City.) 

Rivertowns, NY Patch: Commuter Rail Will Likely Come 10 Years After New Tappan Zee Bridge
For many, the idea of a new Tappan Zee Bridge is a distant one. And for those anticipating mass transit across the Hudson, the wait will be even longer. 

Business Wire: Flatiron Expands "Build-A-Bridge" Program to Utah, Awards $10,000 in Scholarships to Local High School Students
Flatiron, one of the nation's largest transportation and infrastructure contractors, is providing the opportunity for local high school students interested in engineering to gain hands-on, real life engineering experience with the rollout of its Build-A-Bridge scholarship program in Utah.

Beaumont Enterprise: Utah lawmakers vote on veto override
Lawmakers are meeting in a special session of the Utah Legislature to consider overturning the veto of a bill that would have dedicated a portion of state sales taxes to road funding.

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