Tuesday, March 6, 2012
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: March 7, 2012



Politico: Rendell: The right way to fund transportation
Word that the House Transportation bill is running off the rails might be the best news yet for transit. The original Republican bill, now being revised, was too small to have any real impact on our systems or employment, didn’t adequately address the need for transit investment, weakened Buy America requirements, prohibited using gas tax funds to pay for mass-transit projects and hardly dented the down payment we need to update our crumbling infrastructure systems. We must get this bill right for all the right reasons: because it will put Americans back to work when they need it most and make the investments we need in critical infrastructure.


Progressive Railroading: U.S. Conference of Mayors report: Nation's transportation infrastructure needs to keep pace with growing exports
A new report issued by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (UCSM) projects that exports will outpace imports by 2020, growing by an average of 8 percent annually. Titled, “U.S. Metro Economies: Exports in the Next Decade” and prepared by IHS Global Insight, the report calls for increased transportation infrastructure investments to help U.S. businesses move more of their products to global markets.

Politico: Gorton and Sabo: Finding transportation funds
Despite the great need for investment in the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, resources are constrained and, in some ways, dwindling. The Obama administration and Congress appear unwilling to increase transportation investment by either higher federal motor fuels taxes or new forms of federal surface transportation user fees. So Congress needs to give states and metropolitan regions greater flexibility to increase user-related revenue — and then use these new funding streams to leverage greater investment from both public and private resources.

Wall Street Journal: Senate Moves Slowly Toward Transport Bill
Senate Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to move forward with a bill financing transportation projects, but both parties said they expect a deal advancing the legislation by the end of the week. The bill would replace a temporary-funding measure, expiring at the end of March, on the federal government's share of road and bridge construction and repairs, as well as funding for other public-works projects like mass transit. The House and Senate are divided about the best way to extend the funding mechanism, which sets in place federal rates of compensation to state.

Washington Post: Senate highway bill fails test vote; deal could come later Tuesday
A bill providing funding for the nation’s highways, bridges and public transportation systems failed a test vote Tuesday, but Senate leaders signaled they still hoped to reach a deal to allow for a final vote. Senators voted down a motion, 52 to 44, to proceed to a final vote on the two-year, $109 billion bill packed with funding for road projects and reforms designed to bolster the safety of the nation’s trains, trucks and buses. The bill’s backers — including Democrats, some Republicans, labor unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — say it will help create or sustain more than 2 million jobs in the next two years.

The Hill: Senate blocks highway bill, but procedural deal could be forthcoming
The Senate on Tuesday rejected a motion to move forward with the highway bill, but a deal to proceed appears close. Leaders from both parties sent signals that they were close to reaching an agreement on the amendments that would be considered on the highway bill, the sticking point that has prevented a final vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged his members to oppose cloture prior to the vote, saying that doing so could clinch floor votes for amendments including one to speed construction and operation of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Governing: LaHood: Time's Run Out To Pass Long-Term Highway By Deadline
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Tuesday that he doesn't expect federal lawmakers to pass a long-term highway and transit bill before the current one expires, and an extension will be necessary. LaHood, speaking before a conference of county officials, highlighted the internal debate among House Republicans about their long-term highway and transit bill, which is undergoing revisions after it divided the party's ranks. The current extension to the highway and transit bill expires at the end of the month. The last long-term bill, known as SAFETEA-LU, ended in September 2009 and has been operating on extensions ever since.

 Atlantic Cities: Do Real-Time Updates Increase Transit Ridership?
Roush is right to use the word "theory" here. The current research literature doesn't address the question of whether real-time data increases ridership in any definitive way. Some recent studies do suggest that ridership has increased on routes with live status updates, but that work has failed to account for other factors that influence ridership, from gas prices to employment levels. A 2003 survey of systems with real-time information, conducted by the Transportation Research Board [PDF], concluded as much.

Fast Lane: America's counties do the heavy lifting
In January, President Obama urged us to forge an America built to last.  A surprising amount of the heavy lifting we need to make that happen takes place at the county level.  In 49 of our nation's 50 states, counties maintain the roads and bridges that connect us to each other, to our jobs and schools, and to the businesses and services we use each day.  Many U.S. counties operate public transit systems.  And when Americans need better transportation services--whether that involves roads that are safe and smooth or improved bus frequency--the counties hear about it first.


Atlantic Cities: Los Angeles Seeks Pedestrians
The automobile is undoubtedly the dominant mode of travel in Los Angeles. But to write off the city as made up entirely of car-driving, bumper-to-bumper rush hour commuters is clearly an over-generalization. A growing group of Angelenos is finding ways to make transit, cycling, and walking (and, often, a combination thereof) relevant and viable in their daily lives. A physical example of this transition opened this weekend in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood.

Chicago Tribune: Rockefeller Foundation backs city's push for bus rapid transit
Less than a week after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced an "infrastructure trust" that will bankroll public works projects, the effort is getting help from another source--a big foundation that's giving nearly half a million dollars in grants to back development of a bus rapid transit system in Chicago. Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Commissioner Gabe Klein announced today that the Rockefeller Foundation is bolstering Chicago’s efforts to develop a Bus Rapid Transit system through financial support for research, technical support, project management and community engagement.

Fast Lane: North Carolina highway projects: innovation for an America built to last
Last month, President Obama submitted a budget proposal calling for greater investment in projects that strengthen our infrastructure and create jobs. And one state that is achieving both of those goals is North Carolina, where a trio of high-priority projects is underway to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion along the Charlotte area's major east-west commercial route. The projects will complete the Charlotte Outer Loop and feature the state's first turbine-style interchange and a pair of double-crossover--or diverging diamond--interchanges designed to reduce risky left turns among drivers and cut traffic jams by as much as 60 percent.

Charleston Post and Courier: 'Cash-flow issues' plague I-526
Up to another $100 million is needed for the stalled Interstate 526 Expressway over James and Johns islands before the state Department of Transportation could take the reins of the project, DOT Commission Chairman Eddie Adams said Tuesday. "We've had a few cash-flow issues," Adams said. "We're not in a place to take on any additional funding." So far, the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank has approved $420 million for the project. The actual price tag is unknown until the environmental review process is finished. Adams estimated that at least another $75 million is needed, and maybe more.

Greater Greater Washington: More people support transit than new or wider highways
Over 90% of area residents want more public transportation options, walkable neighborhoods, and jobs close to housing, a WTOP poll found. WTOP's article on the subject emphasized highway construction instead. Highways garnered moderate support, but not as much as transit. 65% supported widening highways, but only 51% of people said they favor new regional highways. Inside DC, a large majority (59%) oppose widenings new highways. Only 56% of Virginians want to widen their roads add highways, and Marylanders are evenly split.


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