Friday, March 9, 2012
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: March 9, 2012


Politico: John Boehner stacks up losses on legislation
Speaker John Boehner’s got quite the losing streak going. Just in the past two weeks, nearly 100 Republicans said they’d vote against two different versions of Boehner’s signature highway bill — one that covers five years and another that was merely 18 months. On Thursday, Boehner was forced to admit that the “current plan” is to bring up the Senate bill or “something like it.” Meaning he will be hard up to find enough members to support his vision for more road building coupled with expanded oil drilling. And that loss is just this week alone.

Journal of Commerce: Boehner Rides Senate's Version of Transport Bill
House Speaker John Boehner appears to have given up hope of resuscitating the ailing House surface transportation bill after he said Thursday he would take up the Senate’s two-year bill once it clears the upper chamber, according to The Hill. The announcement marks a considerable failure for House Republicans, whose five-year, $260 billion plan received criticism from fellow party members for being too costly and from Democrats for expanding domestic energy production. Republicans’ proposal to scale the plan down to 18-months wasn’t successful, either.

The Hill: Senate to complete highway bill vote-o-rama next week
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday afternoon delayed more than 20 of the planned votes on pending amendments until next week, saying the Senate had already done enough work for the week. "Its 4:15 p.m. … we have a locked-in set of amendments now, there is no reason to work into the night,” he said. "We have had a good week, we will have a good week next week, I wish everyone a good break." Reid announced the deal to vote on 30 amendments late Wednesday night after the Senate had agonized on how to move forward on amendments to the bipartisan highway bill for more than a month.

DC Streetsblog: Senate Leaders Reach Deal on Transpo Bill, Setting Up Slew of Votes Today
The leaders of each political party in the Senate have reached a deal on their two-year, $109 billion transportation bill, clearing the way for as many as 10 votes on amendments to the bill later today. With a deal struck, prospects for passage of the Senate bill have now improved dramatically. Majority leader Harry Reid had tried to bypass much of the amendment process with a cloture vote on Tuesday, but couldn’t assemble enough votes to move forward. Top Republican Mitch McConnell had indicated prior to that vote that he felt a deal was near, and urged his colleagues to vote “no” in order to give him more time to negotiate.

Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. Rail Infrastructure
The American Society of Civil Engineers, which graded U.S. rail infrastructure with a C-, notes that the rail industry requires $200 billion in investment by 2035 to meet projected future demand. In the United States, modern freight and passenger rail systems share the same corridors and infrastructure. But while privately owned U.S. freight has succeeded in remaining competitive with other transportation modes, federally run passenger rail has struggled. Experts say the continued success of freight rail will require billions in new funding to avoid congestion, particularly if plans for expanding passenger rail proceed.


California High Speed Rail Blog: PPIC Poll Finds Continued Support for High Speed Rail
Yesterday the Public Policy Institute of California released its latest poll of Californians on a range of issues, including the high speed rail project. Overall, the numbers show the public still continues to support the project, although the constant drip-drip-drip of attacks and misleading articles on the project are probably having an impact, as is Republican opposition. The poll found that of all adults, 51% favor building high speed rail and 45% oppose. That’s pretty close to the 52-48 yes-no split from the Proposition 1A vote in 2008. When PPIC asked “likely voters” it flipped to 53-43 oppose.

Crain’s Chicacgo: Emanuel vows transparency, low risk in new infrastructure bank
Having apparently learned from Richard M. Daley's mistakes, the Emanuel administration is pledging both total transparency and limited city financial risk in its much ballyhooed new infrastructure bank. And any more long-term lease or asset sales are off the table. In a background briefing late Thursday, city officials said the new Chicago Infrastructure Trust will operate under strict rules designed to protect taxpayers, attracting the kind of private financing the city needs without burdening its own balance sheet.

Baltimore Sun: Editorial: It's a terrible time to raise gas taxes — and the right time
With the cost of gasoline inching ever upward, this certainly is a lousy time to be raising taxes on gasoline. Which helps explain why both state lawmakers and most of the general public have greeted Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to apply the sales tax to gasoline with all the enthusiasm they'd muster for greeting a dead skunk on their front doorstep. Still, one could also argue that this is the right time to raise taxes on gasoline. Maryland's transportation system is in serious need of improvements — some $800 million a year's worth of improvements, according to one commission.

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