Join The
Coalition
Get The
Facts

Infrastructure in the News 8.30.16

NATIONAL NEWS

Fortune: U.S. Traffic Deaths Make the Biggest Leap in 50 Years

http://fortune.com/2016/08/29/us-traffic-deaths-tech/

Over the years, the U.S. government has relied on laws and safety outreach programs to help reduce the number of traffic deaths. And it’s been successful. Ten years ago, 25% more people died in traffic accidents than in 2015. Now, with traffic deaths rising by the largest percentage in 50 years, the government is turning to tech and data scientists.

Associated Press: Traffic deaths rose a whopping 7.2 percent in 2015

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/traffic-deaths-rose-a-whopping-72-percent-in-2015/2016/08/29/52dd4a94-6e1d-11e6-993f-73c693a89820_story.html

Government officials say traffic fatalities rose 7.2 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year. That’s the largest single-year increase in a half century.

Associated Press: FAA Forecast: 600,000 Commercial Drones Within the Year

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/08/29/us/politics/ap-us-drone-rules.html?_r=0

There will be 600,000 commercial drone aircraft operating in the U.S. within the year as the result of new safety rules that opened the skies to them on Monday, according to a Federal Aviation Administration estimate.

Wall Street Journal: At Ports, a Sign of Altered Supply Chains (full article at conclusion of clips)

http://www.wsj.com/articles/at-ports-a-sign-of-altered-supply-chains-1472501576

This summer, dockworkers, truckers and railroads geared up for a surge of retail goods passing through U.S. ports that hasn’t occurred.

Wall Street Journal: Mitsubishi Motors Halts Sales of Some Models as Fuel-Economy Scandal Spreads (full article at conclusion of clips)

http://www.wsj.com/articles/mitsubishi-motors-halts-sales-of-some-models-as-fuel-economy-scandal-spreads-1472559171

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. on Tuesday suspended sales of eight car models in Japan after the country’s Transport Ministry said the company overstated fuel-economy figures.

Washington Business Journal: Amtrak to make high-speed service from D.C. speedier

http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2016/08/29/amtrak-to-make-high-speed-service-from-d-c.html

Attention Acela riders: Plans are in motion to get you up and down the East Coast even faster.

USA Today: Amtrak unveils new Acela trains

http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/roadwarriorvoices/2016/08/30/amtrak-unveils-new-acela-trains/89572404/

Amtrak’s new fleet of Acela Express trains will make its debut in 2021.

BuzzFeed News: Transportation Secretary Foxx Says We’ll Ride In Self-Driving Cars In 5 Years

https://www.buzzfeed.com/priya/transportation-secretary-foxx-says-well-ride-in-self-driving?utm_term=.npy0d1zmJ#.kdyEWmlvg

Automakers and ride-hail companies are racing to put self-driving cars on the road. In a few weeks, Uber passengers in Pittsburgh will be able to hail self-driving Volvos. Last month, Tesla announced its hopes to build an autonomous ride-hailing fleet.

Architecture & Design: The plug and play city: how shipping containers are changing infrastructure

http://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/features/comment/the-plug-and-play-city-how-shipping-containers-are

We often take for granted our access to vast quantities of inexpensive goods manufactured overseas. And we often overlook the unassuming innovation that has made this global industrial revolution possible: the shipping container.

STATE NEWS

Los Angeles Business Journal: Poor Transportation System Costs Motorists $53.6 Billion Annually

http://labusinessjournal.com/news/2016/aug/29/poor-transportation-system-costs-motorists-536-bil/

California’s inadequate transportation system costs motorists a total of $53.6 billion per year in the form of congestion-related delays, crashes, and extra costs of operating a vehicle, according to a report released Monday.

Tampa Bay Times (Florida): Latest Hillsborough transportation plan leaves cities empty handed

http://www.tampabay.com/news/transportation/latest-hillsborough-transportation-plan-leaves-cities-empty-handed/2291385

City leaders who were invited to the table to discuss how Hillsborough County should fix its gridlock are likely to walk away from the conversation empty handed.

WAND17 (Illinois): First Segment in Springfield Rail Project Complete

http://www.wandtv.com/story/32864166/first-segment-in-springfield-rail-project-complete

The Springfield Rail Project is one step closer to completion. A groundbreaking today marked the first segment of the improvements complete.

KXXV25 (Texas): Waco District to receive $1.2 billion in funding for transportation projects

http://www.kxxv.com/story/32870366/waco-district-to-receive-12b-in-funding-for-transportation-projects

The Texas Department of Transportation recently approved $70 billion in funding for transportation projects for the next ten years.

CBS Miami (Florida): FIU Professor On Turnpike Holes: Miami-Dade’s Infrastructure Gets D+

http://miami.cbslocal.com/2016/08/29/fiu-professor-on-turnpike-holes-miami-dades-infrastructure-gets-d/

The two big holes that opened up on the Florida Turnpike Saturday weren’t caused by nature, but rather a corroded pipe.

Washington Post: SafeTrack is transforming the way D.C. area commuters use Uber and Lyft

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/08/30/safetrack-is-transforming-the-way-d-c-area-commuters-use-uber-and-lyft/

SafeTrack, and the associated marketing pushes from Uber and Lyft, are changing the landscape of ride-hailing in the D.C. region.

Wall Street Journal: NYC Subway Service Resumes After Water Woes at Columbus Circle (full article at conclusion of clips)

http://www.wsj.com/articles/nyc-subway-service-resumes-after-water-woes-at-columbus-circle-1472483069

It was a tough Monday morning for subway commuters. Incidents at the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station in Manhattan and 149 St-Grand Concourse in the Bronx snarled the early-morning rush, but subway activity returned to normal by mid-morning.

Washington Post: Metro trying out free public Wi-Fi at 6 DC stations

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/metro-trying-out-free-public-wi-fi-at-6-dc-stations/2016/08/30/778a9c40-6ea2-11e6-993f-73c693a89820_story.html

Commuters waiting for their trains at a handful of Metro stations have a new way to help pass the time — free public Wi-Fi.

At Ports, a Sign of Altered Supply Chains

This summer, dockworkers, truckers and railroads geared up for a surge of retail goods passing through U.S. ports that hasn’t occurred.

Imports are flat at major seaports on both coasts heading into peak shipping season, the stretch in late summer and early fall when retailers usually load up on imported toys, clothing and other merchandise to sell to holiday shoppers. If the trend holds, it will be the second year in a row without a traditional peak.

Economists say subdued activity on the docks is a sign of how retailers are slimming down their supply chains as more of their customers shop online. Companies such as Target Corp., Lowe’s Cos. and J.C. Penney Inc. are pivoting away from maintaining stores brimming with merchandise. Instead, they are housing more goods in warehouses where they can quickly ship to stores or fulfill online orders.

It is a shift that has caught the transportation sector off guard. Ports from New York to Georgia to California have spent billions of dollars to upgrade equipment and deepen harbors to handle an expected flood of imports that has yet to materialize. Shipping lines are scrapping vessels and cutting back service on unprofitable routes. Trucking companies bought tens of thousands of new big rigs as recently as 2015, many of which sit idle today.

“My drivers say, ‘Boy, we’ve never seen it so slow,’ ” said Fred Otterbein, who heads the Savannah, Ga., office of port trucking company First Coast Logistics Inc. “It may be the new normal.”

Get the latest logistics and supply-chain news and analysis via an email newsletter. Sign up here.

U.S. ports are on pace to handle 2.2% more imports this year, the slowest rate of growth since 2011, according to Hackett Associates LLC, a consulting firm. In July, when shipping volumes typically start their peak-season ramp-up, imports fell at the nation’s two busiest port complexes, in Southern California and New York. The National Retail Federation estimates that August and September will continue the trend, with import volumes down slightly for both months from the same period last year.

The slowdown extends to the nation’s highways and railroads. Freight carried by road and rail fell 2.6% in July compared with the same month in 2015, the 17th consecutive month of year-over-year declines, according to data company Cass Information Systems Inc.

“The running joke going around is that flat is the new growth,” said Jett McCandless, chief executive of transportation-technology startup project44.

Freight volumes are stagnating despite strong consumer spending, which rose for a fourth-straight month in July. The problem for traditional retailers: More of those dollars are being spent online, or on entertainment and services such as health care.

Many retailers are stuck with large amounts of unsold goods as a result, reducing their need to import more merchandise. Even after a year of attempting to slim down inventories, retailers’ ratio of inventories to sales, a measure of excess stocks, touched 1.5 in June, close to a seven-year high, according to the Census Bureau. In their most recent earnings reports, Target and Lowe’s reported inventories up more than 4% over the same period last year.

J.C. Penney is placing “slightly smaller orders…or holding back quite a bit” to reduce inventories, Mike Robbins, J.C. Penney’s executive vice president for supply chain, told investors in June. The company has reduced the size of some orders at the beginning of major shopping seasons by as much as 70%.

The focus on reducing inventories is proving to be a drag on growth because it signals that businesses are spending less, and might be pessimistic about future demand. Inventory drawdowns cut second-quarter growth by 1.26 percentage points, to just 1.1%.

Shipping lines are struggling to plan their routes as order volumes become more difficult to predict, said Niels Erich, spokesman for a group of 15 major shipping lines known as the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement. In the past, carriers could count on the peak summer months to make up for slower winter trade.

“Now that doesn’t exist in the same way, it’s all kind of flat,” he said.

Some analysts expect retailers to place last-minute orders closer to the holidays, which could make up for some of the softness in imports that ports are experiencing now. J.C. Penney, for one, expects to place smaller orders for certain products that typically sell strongly throughout the holiday shopping season, Mr. Robbins said.

If those orders materialize, they could come in via air, usually the fastest mode of freight transportation, analysts say.

Long term, retailers will need to step up imports as they run through inventories, particularly if consumer demand stays strong. But a return to double-digit percentage growth at the ports appears unlikely, said Jock O’Connell, an international trade economist.

“What’s really going to drive import trade is simply the domestic demand for goods,” he said.

Mitsubishi Motors Halts Sales of Some Models as Fuel-Economy Scandal Spreads

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. on Tuesday suspended sales of eight car models in Japan after the country’s Transport Ministry said the company overstated fuel-economy figures.

The Transport Ministry has ordered Mitsubishi to correct the numbers, which were off by as much as 8.8%. The company said it would suspend sales of the eight models for two weeks.

In April, Mitsubishi said that it had falsified fuel-economy data for four car models sold in Japan, two of which it had manufactured for Nissan Motor Co. The latest announcement brings the total number of vehicle models withdrawn from the market over misstated fuel-economy figures to 12.

Chief Executive Osamu Masuko blamed lax management oversight for the falsified data. Most car makers have stiffened their regulatory-compliance standards in recent years, but Mitsubishi hasn’t, Mr. Masuko said.

Japanese law requires car makers to conduct road tests to gather fuel-economy data, however, in some cases Mitsubishi said it used desktop calculations to arrive at fuel-economy figures in an effort to keep costs down.

Mr. Masuko’s statements echoed findings by a third-party panel hired by Mitsubishi to root out the cause of the scandal. The report, released earlier this month, found that lax management oversight created a corporate culture where employees fudged data to hit unrealistic business targets. The report found that while employees raised concerns about potential data falsification in 2011, they were ignored by management.

Mitsubishi said Tuesday it would set aside ¥7 billion ($68.4 million) in addition to the ¥150 billion it already earmarked to compensate owners of the affected models and its partner, Nissan.

Mitsubishi forecast in June its first annual loss in eight years, predicting it would lose $1.38 billion for the financial year ending in March.

Japan’s sixth-biggest car maker by sales has gone through some soul-searching after the latest in a string of scandals involving issues related to vehicle quality and recalls. In 2000, the company admitted to hiding information about vehicle defects for decades.

Mitsubishi said that it has been using improper fuel-economy test methods since 1991. In June, the company said it had manipulated fuel-economy data on 20 vehicle models sold in Japan in the past 10 years. That number included the eight models announced on Tuesday.

The company has reached out to Nissan for assistance. In May, Nissan said it would take a controlling 34% stake in Mitsubishi. The deal is contingent on regulatory approval for the merger, and Nissan’s own due diligence.

Nissan also sent one of its executives, Mitsuhiko Yamashita, to head Mitsubishi’s vehicle-development department.

Nissan declined to comment on Tuesday’s announcement, citing its continuing due diligence.

NYC Subway Service Resumes After Water Woes at Columbus Circle

It was a tough Monday morning for subway commuters.

Incidents at the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station in Manhattan and 149 St-Grand Concourse in the Bronx snarled the early-morning rush, but subway activity returned to normal by mid-morning.

Water from a building above the Columbus Circle station poured down into the station at 7:15 a.m., leading to delays on eight train lines including the A, C and E and B, D, F and M, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The MTA said the problem was fixed, and by 10 a.m., service on all affected lines had resumed with residual delays.

In addition to the water trouble, a sick passenger at 149 St-Grand Concourse in the Bronx disrupted train service around 9:30 a.m., leading to delays on the 1, 2, 4, and 5 trains, the MTA said.

Normal service on the 1, 2 and 5 trains resumed by 10:30 a.m., with the 4 train running with some delays.