Streams

DC Mayor Slams Predecessor On Transportation, Could Politics Be Involved?

Friday, February 18, 2011

(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) A scathing report has just been released by the transition team of incoming D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. The report is something of an indictment against the city's Department of Transportation, as led by Gray's mayoral predecessor, Adrian Fenty, and his young, charismatic transportation director, Gabe Klein.

Among its grievances:

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Back of the Bus Airs Today in Knoxville, Cleveland...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Want to know when to listen to "Back of the Bus" in your area?  Here are some upcoming airdates in Ohio, San Francisco, Illinois, Washington, DC, Missouri, Montana, Wyoming, and Minnesota. (You can also listen anytime by clicking on the icon to your right, or here.  The icon to listen online or download is on the right of your screen once you click over to the site.)

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TN Moving Stories: Metro-North Gets Earful from CT Commuters; Home Buyers Moving Closer to Transit, and Florida Pols Try to Save That State's HSR

Friday, February 18, 2011

NY's MTA scrapped plans to hire the main technology company working on the city's scandal-plagued CityTime project. (NY Daily News)

Metro-North got an earful from Connecticut commuters about this winter's service woes. "We need a reliable commuting system. This is not just an inconvenience, it's affecting our economy," said one. (Hartford Courant)

Home buyers are moving closer to public transit. (Marketplace; adapted from Back of the Bus)

Princeton University and local officials meet to try to resolve issues over the university's $300 million arts and transit neighborhood. (Star-Ledger)

Florida politicians try to save that state's high-speed rail project. (Marketplace)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford “can’t get into details” on his ambitious plan to privately fund $5-billion worth of subway, but he says residents should feel confident they’re getting the transit they voted for. (The Globe and Mail)

Good posts a beautiful film about cycling in Copenhagen.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Florida politicians met with RayLaHood to try to make an end run around Governor Scott's decision to refuse federal money for high-speed rail. California tells feds: if they don't want the HSR money, we'll take it. Delta got hit with a $2 million fine for violating disability rules. And rural residents are losing access to intercity transportation.

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High-Speed Rail: Florida Lawmakers Look for End Run Around Gov.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Florida lawmakers are scrambling in Washington to keep $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money in their state after Gov. Rick Scott (R) yanked support for the funding yesterday.

A new plan hatched on Capitol Hill would transfer the federal funds to a third party in an effort to insulate Florida from any financial risks association with building or operating trains. But the plan would still need Scott’s support, an uncertain prospect in the politically-charged environment of government spending and debt.

Scott dropped a bombshell on Obama Administration officials and lawmakers Wednesday when he announced he would reject federal money to fund a long-planned project running trains high-speed trains between Orlando and Tampa.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), told reporters Thursday that lawyers are working on a plan that appoints a third-party entity to receive the money from the feds.

That entity—possibly Amtrak, a metropolitan planning organization, a transit authority, or some other public or private group—would administer the project and also shoulder Florida’s financial exposure. That amounts to about $280 million, at least at first. Nelson and other lawmakers argued the arrangement would take care of Scott’s concern that Florida could be on the hook for costs of building or running the system.

“That should meet the governor’s requirement,” Nelson said after a short meeting called between Florida lawmakers and Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The plan needs sign-off in Scott’s office in Tallahassee, Nelson warned. LaHood has given the parties until February 25 to reach a deal.

“The governor is going to have to cooperate for that to happen,” he said.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who’s been tepid on high-speed rail funding in general, said he backed the high-speed rail in his state.

“If I didn’t think the project was cost-effective, I wouldn’t be here,” he told reporters gathered outside Nelson’s Capitol Hill Office.

But Mica said he was blindsided by Scott’s announcement.

“We were all taken aback by it,” Mica told reporters. “I had every indication prior to that that he would go forward.”

Scott’s decision sent lawmakers from other states clamoring for Florida’s money. Members of Congress from New York, California, and Minnesota and all made public appeals to the Obama Administration for the money if Florida passes.

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California: Florida's HSR Loss Could Be Our Gain

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) If U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is unable to put together a deal to save Florida's high speed rail, California wants the $2.4. billion.  And California is likely to get a bunch if it if the Florida deal falls through: it has the most advanced program, after Florida, in the nation.

Governor Jerry Brown and Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have already issued statements similar to those released after Wisconsin and Ohio returned their funds. "It is now clear that California will lead the way in demonstrating the viability of high speed rail to the rest of the country," wrote the senators; "The $2 billion that Florida rejected are more than welcome here," said Brown.

At least one congressman has also gotten in on the action; John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) wrote "we’re prepared to show the rest of the country what a modern transportation network looks like and will gladly invest every penny the federal government is willing to provide."

The politicians' statements get at the curious paradox of high-speed rail in this country: the more states reject high-speed rail because of perceived political and financial risk, the better the chance that the systems that do get funded will have the resources to avoid those problems. "The money reallocated to us from Ohio and Wisconsin enabled us to double the length of our initial construction," said California High Speed Rail Authority spokeswoman Rachel Wall. "We know how to use this money." Wall said the Authority is currently in discussions with the Federal Railroad Administration about whether and how California would obtain the funds.

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White House: High-Speed Rail Was Heavily Oversubscribed

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) In his second press conference as White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney fielded a number of questions about Bahrain, the economy -- and high-speed rail.

When asked about how Florida's rejection of high-speed rail money would impact the Obama Administration's infrastructure plans, Carney said:

"Well, our support for these plans -- the President could not have been clearer in the State of the Union about the absolute importance of investing in infrastructure in order to allow us to compete and win the future in the 21st century.  The decisions by individual states are the decisions they can certainly make.

We don’t support those decisions because we think it’s harmful to the economic growth of those states.  And certainly there are other states that are eager to participate in these programs.  I know that the high-speed rail, in particular, was heavily oversubscribed in terms of the states that wanted to participate."

Here's a transcript of the exchange:

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BREAKING LaHood: Give Us A Week on Florida High Speed Rail

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) After a meeting with Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and a group of Florida Congress members, the U.S. DOT wants a deal put together in a week  in which a third party assumes all the financial risk of building a high speed rail line.

More soon.

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Delta Fined for Violating Disability Rules

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The U.S. Department of Transportation said today that it fined Delta Air Lines $2 million for violating federal rules on passengers with disabilities.

This civil penalty is the largest penalty ever assessed against an airline by the DOT in a non-safety-related case.

Airlines are required to report disability-related complaints to the DOT, which provides that information to the public here. In 2009, the most recent year for which this information is available, Delta had more complaints lodged against it than any other domestic carrier.

The DOT said today that its investigation had found many violations of the requirements to provide assistance to passengers while getting on and off airplanes. The government also said that Delta frequently did not respond adequately to disability complaints from passengers.

Delta says it's addressing the problem.  "We take the responsibility of serving customers with disabilities seriously and have made significant investments in technology, feedback assessment, and training since the issues in 2007 and 2008 that the DOT cites in its consent order," said spokesman Morgan Durrant. "We will continue to coordinate with DOT and our Customer Advisory Board on Disabilities to ensure that these efforts are appropriately supporting customers with disabilities and providing them with a consistent travel experience."

Delta is allowed to use most of the fine to improve its service for travelers with disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs.

You can read the DOT's press release here.

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U.S. Senator Nelson's Office: Florida Planning Organization Wants to Take Over High Speed Rail

Thursday, February 17, 2011

From Florida Senator Bill Nelson's office:

"Officials now studying ways to help Florida, despite governor’s rejection of federal money for high-speed rail.  Today:

"Ø  A metropolitan planning organization in Tampa and a rail authority in South Florida have volunteered to step forward in place of the state to accept oversight of the bullet-train project and the $2.4 billion from Uncle Sam.  Lawyers are researching how to do it.

"Ø  At 1:30 p.m., U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will meet on the plan in Washington with the federal transportation secretary and members of Florida’s congressional delegation."

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SF MUNI Faces $1.6 Billion Deficit, But Big Projects Get a Federal Boost

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) It's a truism well-known in transportation circles that it's much easier for transit agencies to get money for new projects than it is to find cash for ongoing operations and maintenance. Here in the Bay Area we've got several big expansions on in the works, despite the fact that all of our transit agencies face ongoing cash-flow problems.

President Obama's proposed federal budget includes hundreds of millions of dollars for the Bay Area, including money for SF Muni to move forward on two big projects : $200 million to build the Central Subway from downtown up through Chinatown, and $30 million to build BRT on Van Ness Avenue. Both projects are also depending on additional federal grants.

But there's a wrinkle.

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Rural Residents Losing Access to Intercity Transportation, Report Says

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(Helena-Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) About 3.5 million rural residents lost access to scheduled intercity bus, ferry, and rail transportation between 2005 and 2010. That’s according to a new report from the U-S Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

The report says North Dakota had the lowest percentage of rural residents with access to intercity transportation.

BTS reported significant changes for the state  since 2005, including reductions in Greyhound Lines bus services and the suspension of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited New Orleans-Jackson route.

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BREAKING: LaHood to Meet with Florida Delegation to Salvage Florida High Speed Rail

Thursday, February 17, 2011

LaHood rides high speed rail in Japan last year with Central Japan Railway Chair Yoshiaki Kasai

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  A DOT official tells us "Secretary Ray LaHood has agreed to meet with the Florida delegation to discuss options for salvaging the [Florida high speed rail] project without the state's involvement."  The meeting comes a day after Florida Governor Rick Scott said he was returning $2.4 billion dollars to the federal government for the project. That move was met with widespread criticism, including from the Republican Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica.

More coverage below and here.

The meeting between LaHood and the Florida congressional delegation  is set for 1:15  today.  We'll update as we get details.

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WMFE: LaHood and U.S. Senator Nelson Looking to Restore Florida High Speed Rail

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On our partner The Takeaway this morning, Mark Simpson of our newest partner, WMFE in Orlando, reports:

"Readers of the tea leaves might have been able to anticipate this was coming. Last week Governor Scott was speaking with Wisconsin Governor Walker Scott who also rejected high speed rail money.  So you might have been able to anticipate this was coming up soon, but still it really did rock the Florida political establishment.

"But I wonder whether it really is dead, because you've already seen U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood working on just finding out if there is a legal work-around to still do this project without state participation."

Here's video of Nelson, who says "We are exploring how we could keep this project going forward since the state of Florida will not participate."

Simpson added:  "Rick Scott has kind of seen his base become the Tea Party in Florida.  When he unveiled his budget just a few weeks ago he didn't do it in the capitol Tallahassee, where all the establishment legislators could come hear the announcement, instead he went to a small town north of Orlando with a hand-picked crowd of Tea Party supporters to unveil the budget, kind of disavowing the Republican establishment that's been ruling Florida for a good long time. "

Listen to the Takeaway segment below.

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TN Moving Stories: NYC Council Votes To Improve Bike, Pedestrian Crash Data, Toronto Wants Private $ For Subway, and What's HSR's Future Looking Like?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Now that Florida's governor has 'pulled a Christie,' what does that mean for the future of the country's high speed rail program? (The Takeaway)

Good time for an ominous Ray LaHood tweet: "We have choices to make—not between left and right, but between forward and backward."

New York's City Council unanimously passed a suite of bills that will require police to provide monthly reports of traffic accidents and summonses -- as well as require the city's Department of Transportation begin annual reporting on the number of bike and pedestrian crashes broken down by police precincts. (WNYC)

Toronto's mayor is seeking private money to extend that city's subway. (Toronto Star)

The head of the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce threw his support Wednesday behind Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposal to speed the building of local transportation projects. (Los Angeles Times)

The Bay Area's transportation funding agency doesn't discriminate against minorities by steering state and federal dollars to trains instead of buses, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in dismissing a suit by AC Transit riders. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Should we focus on mass transit ...or mass transit AND road improvements? Maryland's Montgomery County Council can't decide. (The Gazette)

A NYC bus driver quizzes his passengers -- then leads the bus in song. The M86 has never been this much fun. (via NYC The Blog)

NY's MTA Board's committees will meet throughout the day today, starting at 8:30 a.m. Watch the meetings live: http://bit.ly/mtawebcast

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: High speed rail will not come to Disneyworld.  Or will it? And: New Jersey lawmakers present a united front in opposition to repaying feds for cancelled ARC tunnel, while Houston METRO gets a refund from a Spanish rail car supplier.

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High Speed Rail Will Not Come To Disneyworld

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sadiqa Muqaddam had been hoping for work on the high speed rail line

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) When I was in Tampa before last November's election, I met a man named Sadiqa Muqaddam.  Muqaddam told me he'd found his first job as an iron worker building ships in Pascagoula Mississippi.  "You know," he told me, "this is what I went to school for.  When I was coming up, I was taught by my people, the only way for you to have something in America, is for education."

For half a century, Muqaddam said, there was more work than he could handle. "One day I was going all over the state of Florida. I was working out of Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, everywhere, I was everywhere, you know? And now, when I look around, there’s no jobs. There’s no jobs.” In the last year, Muqaddam lost his home. “I’m renting, now I’m back renting. Before I used to own. I’m used to walking in my three bedroom house, two cars, my little Chihuahua. I don’t have that no more. Even my dog died. Lost my cars, everything.”

But there was one thing that Muqaddam was thinking about -- a bullet train from Tampa to Orlando.  "That right there would give me work. I fall in that category, of messing with iron, steel, whatever." But there will be no high speed rail line in Florida.

Saying "the risk far outweighs the benefits," Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican elected last November, called  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Wednesday morning. Scott said he would be rejecting $2.4 billion in federal funds for high speed rail. This makes him the third Republican Governor to do so, after Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio. But those projects were far less significant than the Florida plan, which was to be the first fully functioning true high-speed rail anywhere in the Americas.

This was to be a marquee project for the Obama administration, so important that the President announced his high speed rail program in January 2010.  It was going to stop at Disneyworld -- something that cheered planners, who figured happy tourists would ride the high speed rail, and then carry its banner back to their home districts.

Florida's Planned High Speed Rail Route

The Florida project had all the land it needed along the I-4 corridor. It had almost all the funding. But it did not have the political support of Republican Governor Rick Scott, and in the end, that's what mattered.  Scott said Wednesday:

  • "The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits."
  • "Historical data shows [sic] capital cost overruns are pervasive in nine out of 10 high speed rail projects and that two-thirds of those projects inflated ridership projections by an average of 65 percent of actual patronage.
  • "It is projected that 3.07 million people will use the train annually.  Keep in mind that Amtrak’s Acela train in Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore only had 3.2 million riders in 2010. And that market’s population is eight times the size of the Tampa/Orlando market.
  • "President Obama’s high-speed rail program is not the answer to Florida’s economic recovery."

Scott's announcement comes just a week after Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Philadelphia to announce an Administration push for $53 billion for high speed rail funding over the next six years. President Barack Obama has made high speed rail a signature initiative of his administration. But his goal, announced with some fanfare in his State of the Union address last month, to link 80 percent of Americans to high speed rail by 2036, has suffered a significant setback with the Florida cancellation.

Neither the President's nor the Vice President's office would comment on the political ramifications of Scott's action, instead referring us to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood's statement:

“We are extremely disappointed by Governor Rick Scott’s decision to walk away from the job creating and economic development benefits of high speed rail in Florida. We worked with the governor to make sure we eliminated all financial risk for the state, instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses. It is projects like these that will help America out-build our global competitors and lay the foundation needed to win the future. This project could have supported thousands of good-paying jobs for Floridians and helped grow Florida businesses, all while alleviating congestion on Florida’s highways. Nevertheless, there is overwhelming demand for high speed rail in other states that are enthusiastic to receive Florida’s funding and the economic benefits it can deliver, such as manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as private development along its corridors.”

But Petra Todorovich, the head of America 2050, and a general optimist about the future of high speed rail in the U.S., isn't so sure. "The funds will be distributed," she noted (Florida itself had been a beneficiary when newly-elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker sent back his state's high speed rail money), most likely to California, which already has some $12 billion in funding for its San Francisco to L.A. high speed rail.

But, she said in a phone interview, "It becomes much trickier now. The next project on line is California. It becomes much larger, much more complicated, much farther away.  This could set high speed rail back years, even decades."

In a poll released earlier this week, the Rockefeller Foundation (full disclosure, they support Transportation Nation) found that 71 percent of Americans agreed that "building a high speed rail system in the U.S. will be a benefit to travelers and to the U.S. economy."   Sixty-seven percent of independents, 56 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of tea party affiliates agreed.

But that doesn't mean Scott and other Republican governors haven't tapped into unease about how to pay for big programs like this, or what seems to weigh heavily on voters minds: whether the government should be spending at all on big projects just now.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the first to curtail a big infrastructure project,  when last October he sent three billion dollars back to the federal government that was to have been spent on a transit tunnel under the Hudson River.  It would have been the largest transit project in the nation.  Christie said NJ's portion of the bill -- another 2.7 billion --- could run too high, with cost overruns

Gov Christie, whose name is widely bandied about as a GOP presidential candidate, either in 2012, or 2016 is repeating his wariness of spending on big infrastructure projects like a mantra, and each time he does so, he becomes more full-throated (video) "I look at what is happening in Washington DC right now and I'm worried," Christie told the American Enterprise Institute Wednesday.

He continued "[The President] says the big things are high speed rail. The big things are high speed internet access for almost  80 percent of America,  or something,  by some date.  A million electric cars by some date.  Ladies and gentlemen, that is the candy of American politics.

"Those are not the big things, because let me guarantee you something:  if we don't fix the real big things there's going to be no electric cars on the road. There's going to be no high speed internet access -- or if there is you're not going to be able to afford to get on it. We're not going to be able to care about the niceties of life, the 'investments' that Washington wants to continue to make."

"This really was a world class high speed rail system," lamented Petra Todorvich, of Building America's Future. "It defies logic why a governor would kill a project like this -- private investors were just chomping at the bit. If the concerns were overruns, those questions could have been answered," she said.  "A deal could have been structured where the private sector took the risk."

Private sector firms certainly were coming forward, spending big money on lobbying campaigns. Everyone wanted to be able to build the first high-speed rail line in America.

In a sit-down interview in his headquarters in New York's Empire State Building, Mike McNally, CEO of  Skanska USA told me that Skanska was dying to take over big projects like high speed rail in Florida.  But he was worried about the signals some Governors are sending by canceling big projects after they began.  "The private sector can't, we don't operate that way. We're here to do what the governments -- they're our customers -- we want to do what they want to do. We need to know what they want to do and these are not short term decisions, these are long term commitments. You just can't keep changing every two fears or nothing's going to happen.

Even Republicans who've expressed reservations about the Tampa to Orlando line (it' was short, it had many stops, neither Tampa nor Orlando has much of a real downtown or a transit system to shuttle passengers to high speed rail) like John Mica, the Chair of the House Transportation Committee expressed regret at Scott's decision.

"I am deeply disappointed in the decision to not move forward with the Orlando to Tampa passenger rail project," Mica said in a statement. "This is a huge setback for the state of Florida, our transportation, economic development, and important tourism industry.''

Politicians from other states are already putting their hats in the ring to collect the money Florida just turned away. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York was one of them. He said, "Florida’s loss should be New York’s gain. Other states may not be ready to unlock the potential of high speed rail, but it is a top priority for upstate New York. We can put these funds to use in a way that gets the best bang for the buck. The administration should redirect these funds to New York as quickly as possible.”

But the sentiment of doubt about paying more taxes for anything remains real, and widespread.  Even people like unemployed iron worker Muqaddam have hesitations. When I went to Florida last fall, I was there to investigate how voters felt about a sales tax to fund a local light rail, another big transportation project.  I asked Muqaddam about that.  Initially, he was pretty sure he was against it. "We don’t have -- It’s just like you’re taking, you know, we ain’t got.  And then the little bit we do got, you’re taking, you know?”

A sentiment Rick Scott is speaking to.

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Christie Calls Infrastructure Investments "Candy"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011




Speaking  earlier today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called Obama's high speed rail and electric car goals "the candy of American politics" in a speech before the American Enterprise Institute Wednesday.

Watch in the video above, starting at 20:14  in for the transportation  comments.

Transcript:

"I look at what is happening in Washington D.C. right now and I'm worried. I'm worried. And, you know,  I heard the president's State of the Union speech, and it was two weeks after mine and he said America is about doing the big things. Now I'm not saying he copied me... But I think its important to note it because of what he thinks the big things are.

"He says the big things are high speed rail. The big things are high speed internet access for almost  80 percent of American or something  by some date.  A million electric cars on the road by some date.  Ladies and Gentlemen, that is the candy of American politics, those are not the big things, because let me guarantee you something  if we don't fix the real big things there's going to be no electric cars on the road.  There's going to be no high speed internet access, or if there is you're not going to be able to afford to get on it.  We're not going to be able to care about the niceties of life, the 'investments' that Washington wants to continue to make."

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Houston's METRO Gets Money Back From Spanish Rail Car Supplier

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Houston's METRO has officially received a $14 million dollar refund from the Spanish-owned rail car vendor Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF).

METRO had hired CAF to build 103 light rail cars for the North and Southeast rail lines. But last December METRO had to cancel the contract after the Federal Transit Administration said the $330 million dollar deal violated federal purchasing laws and Buy America rules. That has stalled $900 million dollars in federal grants. “The Federal Transit Administration made it clear that unless we terminated the CAF contract and purchased cars under a new program that they were comfortable with, we would not be eligible for the full funding grant,” said George Greanias, METRO’s president and CEO.

METRO was able to recover $14 million dollars of the $41 million it had already paid to CAF. Greanias says the money will go toward re-procuring the light rail cars. “We just issued a notice over the weekend that we’re going to be going out to take bids on rail cars," said Greanias. "And we’ve been working very closely with the Federal Transit Administration to make sure that every step in the process that we’re going through right now meets with their approval.”

Earlier this week the Obama Administration submitted its proposed budget for fiscal year 2012. It includes $200 million dollars for the North and Southeast rail lines.

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NJ to Feds: We May Not Have Agreed About ARC Tunnel, But We Agree We Shouldn't Have To Pay

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New Jersey politicians might not have agreed about the ARC tunnel -- but when it comes to paying back the federal government $271 million in ARC money, they present a united front ... against paying, that is.

Yesterday, Governor Christie's office released a copy of a letter that the entire New Jersey congressional delegation --13 congressmen (yes, the entire delegation is male) plus the two senators -- sent to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, expressing concern that "forcing New Jersey to pay these funds will undermine efforts for a new Trans-Hudson tunnel."

New Jersey has been pursuing legal action to avoid repaying the Federal Transit Administration $271 million that the agency billed the state for work on the ARC tunnel project. This letter appears to be the latest attempt by the state to try to get off the hook for the bill.

We reached out to the DOT for comment, wondering:  what triggered this letter? Were there discussions afoot about repurposing that money for a new iteration of a Trans-Hudson tunnel -- like the Gateway Tunnel or extending the #7 subway? The DOT says they have "no update."

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Waiting for "Go" Dough

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  They say attention spans are getting shorter. But great patience is required in the transportation world, where big plans don't always include... well, plans.

by Chuck Kennedy, via Wikimedia Commons

Obama's robust transportation budget (pdf), a wonky valentine on Monday, was greeted with the predictable enthusiasm from activists and equally expected groans from Republicans. Tea-Party-beloved Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) called the proposed increase in transportation spending evidence of the President's "fiscal irresponsibility," while the Public Interest Research group said it proved that the administration was "serious about investing in the future."

The reactions were unsurprising, in part, because so were the proposals: The ideas put forward in the budget read like a greatest hits from the past two years of rhetoric. You've got the half-trillion-dollar reauthorization commitment coupled with program streamlining that former Rep Jim Oberstar (D-MN) floated two years ago, before being swept out of the House in the November GOP takeover. And there's that upfront $50 billion in stimulus that Obama proposed to a crowd on Labor Day. A heap of high-speed rail. A dash of TIGER-like grants. Add the perennial Infrastructure Bank idea (to be specific, the much poo-poo'd version that would have the "I-Bank" live within the USDOT), and you've got yourself a budget.

No word on how to pay for it all, though.

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Ray LaHood: I'm Disappointed FL Rejected HSR Money -- But Other States Will Benefit

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) DOT secretary Ray LaHood is not happy about Florida governor Rick Scott's decision to reject federal funding for high speed rail. His office issued the following statement this morning:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Statement on Florida Governor Scott’s Decision to Decline High-Speed Rail Dollars

WASHINGTON U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today made the following statement regarding Florida Governor Rick Scott’s decision to decline high-speed rail dollars.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood: “We are extremely disappointed by Governor Rick Scott’s decision to walk away from the job creating and economic development benefits of high speed rail in Florida. We worked with the governor to make sure we eliminated all financial risk for the state, instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses. It is projects like these that will help America out-build our global competitors and lay the foundation needed to win the future. This project could have supported thousands of good-paying jobs for Floridians and helped grow Florida businesses, all while alleviating congestion on Florida’s highways. Nevertheless, there is overwhelming demand for high speed rail in other states that are enthusiastic to receive Florida’s funding and the economic benefits it can deliver, such as manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as private development along its corridors.”

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