Streams

NE Corridor Officially Designated a HSR Corridor; Pols Begin to Organize

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The US Department of Transportation has officially designated the Northeast Corridor the "eleventh and final" high-speed rail corridor. (You can read the DOT's letter here: 110314 NEC Corridor Letter)

The designation means that Amtrak can apply directly for high-speed rail funding -- as opposed to states applying individually for their segment of the line. Or, as New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez enthusiastically tweeted earlier today: "Northeast designated as #HSR corridor by @RayLaHood. Means we are eligible for $2.4 billion in rejected FL $!"

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said last week the money Florida rejected was up for grabs -- putting rail-supporting politicians on high alert. And now they're organizing. Earlier today, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg announced the creation of the "Bi-Cameral High- Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus." The group's purpose is to support high-speed rail, and it's composed of representatives from states with horses in that particular race -- but so far it's only attracted Democrats, not Republicans.

Besides Lautenberg, other members of the group include congresspeople Louise Slaughter (NY), Corrine Brown (FL), Zoe Lofgren (CA), David Price (NC), Tim Walz (MN) and John Olver (MA). Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said today he will also join the caucus. The group formally announced its formation today at a press conference in DC's Union Station.

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Lawmakers Try Again on Infrastructure Bank

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Washington, DC –Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) If at first you don't succeed, try try again. But with less money.

That seems to be the philosophy behind a new congressional push to establish a government-owned "infrastructure bank" to help fund America's ailing water and transportation systems.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers--backed by unions and business groups--is pushing the idea as a way to pay for projects without dipping into the Treasury at a time when Washington is allergic to spending.

"We've got to be creative," said  Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who is behind the effort with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. John Warner (D-VA). They see the bank as a way to help fill the yawning gap between what the nation's aging infrastructure needs and what Congress and the public seem willing to pay. (You can watch a video of today's press conference here.)

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The Art He Left Behind

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Photo by Jeremiah Cox )

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The NYC MTA Arts for Transit Program, which cultures up the subways, just announced the passing of artist Ellsworth Rashied Ausby, whose “Space Odyssey” graces my local station, the Marcy Ave stop of the J / Z. When the late sun hits the glass right, part of the platform gets kaleidoscopic skin.

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Ray LaHood Answers Questions, Shares Disappointment Over Lack of Jet Pack Innovation

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood already blogs, Facebooks and tweets. Now he's answering questions in the first installment of what he says will be an ongoing video feature called "On the Go With Ray LaHood."

In the nearly seven-minute long video above, LaHood sits in what’s presumably his office (with the browser on his computer monitor opened to his Facebook page) and he's filmed answering questions on these topics:

A national cell phone ban on distracted driving (he doesn't directly answer the question: "We need good enforcement...but more than anything else, we need people to realize you cannot drive safely while using a cell phone")

Will the administration push for the reauthorization of the Recreational Trails Program and Transportation Enhancement Activities ("Absolutely. We've spent the last two years in this job promoting livable and sustainable communities...We know that people are always going to have cars. We also know that people want to get out of congestion, they want to get on a streetcar, they want to get on a transit system, they want to get on a bus, and they also want the availability of walking and biking paths and the amenities that those provide.")

The future of Tiger 3 ("We're not sure if there will be a Tiger 3 program… (the 2012 budget)  include(s) some programs where people can come directly to us – we don’t call them TIGER.")

And whether the programs in place to maintain bridges and highways are still viable, or will new government cutbacks cause improvements to be delayed. ("Not really...the president also understands that the transportation budget is also a jobs program...[he] has increased dramatically over the next six years the amount of money for roads and bridges -- over $336 billion -- a 48% increase.")

But he leaves the answer to one key question to his blog, not the video. In response to someone who asked, "Where are the jet packs; they said there'd be jet packs," LaHood writes: "I can only say that I share your disappointment that the 21st century so far lacks a decent jet pack.  But it may be of some consolation that, at last year's Oshkosh AirVenture, I did see a flying car."

LaHood writes that he hopes people will keep asking him questions and he's designated a twitter hashtag (#q4ray) for that purpose. No word, though, if he'll offer to come dig your car out of a snowbank, though, the way Newark Mayor Cory Booker did.

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Who Regulates Chinatown Buses?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) A second fatal bus crash in as many days has sparked renewed calls for increased regulation and safety oversight on so-called Chinatown buses. There just isn't that much oversight to begin with now.

The Super Luxury Tours charter bus flipped on its side while headed to Philadelphia from New York City's Chinatown. The driver was killed, along with one passenger. About 40 people were sent to area hospitals,  according to police.The cause of the crash remains unknown.

Listen to a radio report on WNYC about bus regulations and these two crashes.

The second crash comes as National Transportation Safety Board investigators are set to interview the driver of the World Wide Tours bus that crashed on Saturday, killing 15. The driver of that bus, Ophadell Williams, has not been charged with anything at this time, but he has come under public scrutiny after his initial story was contradicted by passengers and witnesses. His driving record is also under review because, investigators say, he gave a false name several times when stopped for traffic violations in the past. Federal and state investigators want to know if that should have resulted in a suspension of his driving privileges and why the violations weren't linked to his commercial driving record.

New York Governor Cuomo said he's "asking the NTSB do a top to bottom review of this industry."

Right now there isn't all that much regulation of intercity bus companies, Chinatown or otherwise, says DePaul University transportation professor Joseph Schwieterman.

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TN Moving Stories: Auto Factories Idle in Japan, FTA's Bus Safety Formula May Be Rewritten As America Gets Heavier, and Dems Form Caucus on HSR

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The crisis in Japan is affecting that country's auto production, as plants owned by Toyota, Honda and Nissan remain closed (Detroit Free Press). Grist writes that it appears bicycling is up in Japan, as public transit is affected and energy conservation measures are in effect.

The Federal Transit Administration may adapt the formula it uses to write municipal-bus safety rules because the average passenger is getting heavier. (Bloomberg)

Seeking to defend President Obama’s high-speed rail initiative from conservative criticisms, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and several Democratic House members will announce the creation of a bicameral rail caucus. (The Hill)

The city of Chicago and two airlines reached a $1.2 billion agreement (brokered by Ray LaHood) about how to expand O'Hare Airport. (Chicago Tribune)

Public comment ended yesterday on Detroit's Woodward Light Rail line (Detroit News). Not sure where Transport Michigan stands on the issue? They made a video, complete with Lego characters, explaining why they support the center running option. Sample lyric: Pushing bikes off the side streets ain't real nifty/we got Complete Streets laws -- it ain't 1950.

Top stories Transportation Nation is following: NYCDOT formally unveiled the redesign of its 34th Street redesign. We took a look at the safety record of the bus company involved in this weekend's fatal crash in the Bronx. And a new report says that $5 a gallon gas means 1.5 billion new transit trips.

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NYC Transpo Department's New 34th Street Design Wins Business, Local Plaudits

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How a new design would divide up parking, buses and vehicular traffic on parts of 34th Street (Graphic by NYC Dept of Transportation)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Last night at a public meeting in Midtown Manhattan, the New York City DOT unveiled a new design for 34th street. Major parts of the old plan were scrapped. There will be no wide pedestrian walkway on what was to have been a carless stretch of 34th Street between Herald Square at Sixth Avenue and the Empire State Building at Fifth Avenue, in an area that lacks as DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has mildly put it "quality public space."

Also gone from the plan are bus lanes protected from traffic by concrete barriers. Instead the bus lanes will be marked with terra cotta paint, as on Select Bus Service lanes along First and Second Avenues. And two-way traffic will remain along the corridor, allowing vehicles to move in both directions toward approaches to the Lincoln and Midtown tunnels at either end of 34th Street.

Urban planners, who did not want to speak for attribution, lamented the death of what transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan once called "the the only true bus rapid transit plan" on the boards for New York, with physically segregated plans.  The plan had been modeled on successful bus rapid transit systems in cities like Bogota, Columbia, and Ghanzhou, China.  In those cities, cars cannot wander into the bus lanes, as they frequently do in New York, making buses far more speedy than cars.  The plan for 34th street, planners say, would have provided a true "subway-on-wheels" experience river-to- river in midtown, connecting Bellevue hospital, the Empire State Building, Penn Station, and the Javits Convention Center.

But major businesses had complained the previous plan had too little space for pick-ups and drop-offs. The new plan has 300 loading zones, a seven-fold increase.

“This is good," Dan Biederman of the 34th Street Partnership said of the plan. "The property owners who were most upset before—Macy's, Vornado and the Empire State Building—were all either happy or not quite ready to endorse it but thinking this is a much better plan.”

Christine Berthet, co-chair of Community Board 6 transportation committee, said the city's attention to public feedback had produced a better design.

“I think this is the one which has the most interaction, where they seem to be listening the most,” she said.

More public meetings about the 34th Street design are scheduled for March 30th and 31st.

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NY Bus Crash: World Wide Travel Safety Record Not So Bad

Monday, March 14, 2011

Click to enlarge. (Data: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The bus company at the center of the New York crash that killed 15 people on Saturday morning has a safety record better than average in several categories, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data.

That's an image above of a snapshot from the company's safety record in the FMCSA data. Click to enlarge.

World Wide Travel of Greater New York operates 13 buses with 75 drivers,  according to the data. Forty-three random safety inspections over the past 24 months have found just one violation. That includes both driver and vehicle inspections. The company had one bus pulled off the road out of 16 vehicle inspections--6.2 percent--for a violation so serious it amounted to an immediate hazard. The national average is substantially higher --  at 20.7 percent of inspections failed.

Even so, New York elected officials are calling for greater regulation of the intercity bus industry, which has grown rapidly in recent years.

World Wide also does better than the national average on driver inspections which examine the certifications, license endorsements and log books of drivers. These inspections are meant to reveal if a driver is on the road more than the maximum 10 hours in a 15 hour work day. World Wide had no drivers fail in the  inspections 27 past inspections.

World Wide has had two crashes resulting in injuries over the past two years.

We'll bring you more on the safety record and regulations of intercity buses as the day goes on.

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Report: $5 a Gallon Gas Would Mean 1.5 Billion More Transit Trips

Monday, March 14, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  At $4 a gallon, transit systems would see almost 700 more passenger trips.  At $5 a gallon -- nearly 1.5 billion.  That's the conclusion of a report out this morning by the American Public Transit Association.

Using data from 2008 and other times in recent history,when gas prices have spiked, APTA  is projecting that transit systems will see more riders if gasoline prices continue to rise.

But since 2008, many municipalities have severely curtailed transit services, or even eliminated them entirely.  APTA says its model takes this into account.

The report says "many of the public transit systems across the country are already seeing increases in the month of February, some reaching double digits.  For instance; the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Pompano Beach, FL increased by 10.6  percent; Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority of Philadelphia, PA increased by 10 percent; The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority of Oakland, CA increased by 14 percent and the Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City Utah increased by 12 percent."

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TN Moving Stories: NY's $14m Fare Beaters, and NJ's Legal Bills to Fight ARC Tunnel Repayment Mounting

Monday, March 14, 2011

A blind man in California uses echolocation to ride a bike. (NPR)

The NY Times Week in Review takes a look at anti-bike lane sentiment, and offers an interesting theory about bike lane acceptance and normative behavior: Yeah, mini-van drivers are unhappy, Elisabeth Rosenthal writes,   "But of course, that is partly the point. As a matter of environmental policy, a principal benefit of bike lanes is that they tip the balance of power away from driving and toward a more sustainable form of transportation." (New York Times)

New York plans a $3 billion overhaul to the waterfront - complete with more waterfront parks and biking paths, dredging for bigger ships, and more ferries. (AP via WSJ)

Fare beaters cost NY's MTA $14 million annually. (New York Daily News)

So far, NJ has racked up a $330,000 legal bill in its fight with the feds over the repayment of ARC money. (Star-Ledger)

DC's DOT is considering new regulations for curbside intercity buses. (Washington Post)

"Smart bridges" use electronic sensors to check structural health. (New York Times)

Top Transportation Nation Stories we're following: Florida's high-speed rail money will be available to other states through a competitive process. If gas hits $5 a gallon, that could mean over a billion new trips on public transit. And economists are weighing in on the bike lane debate.

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Bike Lane Economic Debate Rages

Sunday, March 13, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)   The economic blogs are aflame with a debate prompted by a John Cassidy item in the New Yorker on why he thinks bike lanes are "a classic case of regulatory capture by a small faddist minority intent on foisting its bipedalist views on a disinterested or actively reluctant populace."

That prompted this from Reuters Felix Salmon:

"On top of that, every driver who decides to bicycle on one of the new lanes is one less driver for Cassidy to compete with in crosstown gridlock. By rights, he should be loving the way that bike lanes are reducing the number of cars on the road, rather than railing against them. But for all that he claims to be “wonky” in this post, it’s clear that he’s much more interested in coming up with any conceivable justification for his already-existing prejudices than he is in dispassionate analysis. The fact is, it’s the bicyclists who have all the data on their side. The car lobby just has inchoate rants."

And this from The Economist:

"When Mr Cassidy drives, he imposes a small congestion cost on those around him, drivers and cyclists included. Because he and others do not consider this cost, they overuse the roads, creating traffic. Mayor Michael Bloomberg had hoped to address this problem by adopting a congestion pricing programme in Manhattan, but he was unable to generate the necessary support. As a result, there are too many cars on New York's streets. From an economic perspective."

Oh, by the way, we did this story for Marketplace back in December.

So, (warning: Department of shameless self promotion!) if you want to know what everyone else will be talking about in a month, you should be reading Transportation Nation today!

And, need we remind you, we first had the interview with Marty Markowitz a year ago on this subject.

And, of course, we broke the story of the Prospect Park West bike lane law suit.

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Tony Kushner: "Homosexual," "Socialism" on Sides of Minneapolis Buses

Saturday, March 12, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Over at our sister site, WNYC Culture, I've posted an interview I did with award-winning playwright Tony Kushner on his plays, old and new, and how they reflect back on American politics.

It's the third interview I've done with Kushner since 1995, and this time we talked about his new play, The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures opening in New York later this month,  Angels in America,the revival of which runs until the end of April, his work on the screenplay for Munich, and what he thinks of the The Kids are Alright.

And, yes, we did talk about buses (read to the end of this excerpt):

Here's an excerpt:

AB: Your new play is the…

TK: Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures.

AB: Thank you.

TK: It’s about ten, God when was it, about 1997, my grandmother, my father’s mother, died in Louisiana where I’m from and I went down to Louisiana to help my father sort of pack up. Her husband—my grandfather—had been dead since 1984 and she died in 1997 and we went down to sort of pack up the house. They were wonderfully educated people and they had the kind of library that you’d expect very educated Jewish people of their generation to have. They had the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition and they had the plays of Ibsen and the novels of Mark Twain, Dickens, and they had a lot of Shaw. And one of the things I found that I’d never even heard of it was this book that Shaw wrote called The Intelligent Women’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism, which I thought was just a wonderful title.

And I sort of decided,

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Tour Bus Crash Kills 14 in New York [UPDATED]

Saturday, March 12, 2011

(New York -- Alex Goldmark, with AP) Officials say 14 people have died in a tour bus accident in the Bronx, New York.

A New York Fire Department spokesman said a tour bus overturned on the New England Thruway near the West Chester County line at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday. The World Wide tour bus skidded on its side into a sign post that sheered the roof off along the window line of the bus. (Photo) According to the New York Police department the cause of the accident is thought to be a tractor trailer that swerved towrd, or possibly hit, the tour bus.

The FDNY spokesman says the bus was carrying 31 to 33 passengers. He says in addition to the fatalities, six passengers were critically injured and four have been transported to hospitals.

The spokesman says 11 others sustained minor injuries.

Safety oversight on tour buses--and trucks--is sometimes difficult to execute and often inconsistently enforced according to The Center for Public Integrity's News21 report on tour bus safety. News21 cites the lack of a consistent federal system for enforcing safety regulations and the ease with which companies can skirt regulations by changing their names and re-incorporating as a new entity.

Family members needing more information regarding the accident can call 311 in New York City.

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U.S. to Make Florida High Speed Rail $$ Available Through Competitive Bidding

Friday, March 11, 2011

This just in from the US DOT:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Makes $2.4 Billion Available for High-Speed Rail Projects Across America

WASHINGTON U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that he is making available approximately $2.4 billion, through a competitive process, to states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors across the United States.

“The Obama Administration’s bold high-speed rail plan will create jobs, reinvigorate our manufacturing sector and spur economic development for years to come,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “States across the country have been banging down our door for the opportunity to receive additional high-speed rail dollars and to deliver all of its economic benefits to their citizens.”

President Obama’s vision is to connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail within the next 25 years.  To put America on track towards that goal, the Obama Administration has proposed a six-year, $53 billion plan that will provide rail access to new communities; improve the reliability, speed and frequency of existing lines; and, where it makes economic sense, build new corridors where trains will travel at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour.

The Obama Administration’s investments in high-speed rail are also projected to create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs in the United States. Jobs will be created both directly on manufacturing, construction and operation of rail lines, and indirectly, as the result of economic developments along rail corridors. A report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, projected that high-speed rail would create tens of thousands of jobs in cities and along rail corridors across the United States.

A one-hundred percent ‘Buy America’ requirement for high-speed rail projects also ensures that U.S. manufacturers and workers will receive the maximum economic benefits from this federal investment. And, in 2009, Secretary LaHood secured a commitment from 30 foreign and domestic rail manufacturers to employ American workers and locate or expand their base of operations in the U.S. if they are selected for high-speed-rail contracts.

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Was it Worth It? The Saga of San Francisco’s Central Subway

Friday, March 11, 2011

Winner of the Art Contest for the Central Subway Chinatown Station

(San Francisco -- Casey Miner, KALW News) When it's all done, San Francisco's Central Subway will add four stops to the light rail line that runs up the city's southeast side. By the time it opens it will have been in the works for 15 years; the price tag is $1.6 billion. At a time when MUNI is already facing more than a billion-dollar deficit over the next 20 years, is building the subway worth it? Listen to our report over at KALW News.

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Bike Lane Meeting Gets Hot

Friday, March 11, 2011

(Brooklyn, New York -- Kaomi Goetz, WNYC) It got heated at last night’s Community Board Six hearing on proposed changes to a bike lane along Prospect Park – literally.

But it was due to an overheated auditorium – not vitriolic words – that had nearly all of the about 400 attendees mopping their brows, including board chair Daniel Kummer.

The board was collecting comments about proposed changes to the contested two-way bike lanes on Prospect Park West and on bike lanes in general.

The audience was made up of mostly supporters, including seven-year old Ava Sonyos.  "For kids to have a really safe opportunity to ride in a bike lane without riders who are speeding that a kid could hit, so a bike lane is a very good safe opportunity for a kid to ride."

Supporters outnumbered opponents on a  pre-hearing sign-up sheet by about six to one.

But opponents -- many of them senior citizens -- weren't deterred. Lois Carswell was there representing Seniors for Safety.  "Prospect Park West would revert to three lanes of traffic with speeds controlled like every other street in New York City, with signalization."  Carswell was booed, but retorted "Please, I didn't boo you."

The board will make its own recommendation on the changes to the city DOT next week.

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TN Moving Stories: Now FLDOT Says HSR Would Have Been Profitable In Its First Year, But Ray LaHood Says "There's a Line Outside My Door" Waiting For The Rejecte

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Florida Department of Transportation released a study showing the now-dead high-speed rail line connecting Tampa to Orlando would have had a $10.2 million operating surplus in 2015, its first year of operation. (Miami Herald)

Meanwhile, DOT head Ray LaHood says "there's a line outside my door of governors, senators and congressmen" hoping to claim Florida's rejected $2.4 billion. ( First covered in Transportation Nation, now also The Hill,)

President Obama will talk about rising gas prices this morning (CNN). The Department of Energy said that U.S. drivers will spend about $700 more for gasoline in 2011 than it did last year. (AltTransport)

Gizmodo writes about a recent FAA rule requiring airplane lavatories to remove oxygen masks -- and says it turns bathrooms into "deadly traps" in the event of depressurization.

The Brooklyn Paper says the CB6 meeting on the Prospect Park West Bike Lane last night produced a lot of partisanship and no real solutions. (Coverage also in the NY Times and the NY Post, which called the hearing a "generational war.")

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New NYS Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald spoke about the fiscal challenges facing the state's infrastructure. And: megaloads traveled through a Montana city.

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NYS DOT Commissioner: I'm Tired of Challenging Economic Times

Thursday, March 10, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) In her first public event in New York City since being confirmed as state Department of Transportation Commissioner, Joan McDonald spoke about maintaining the state’s aging infrastructure during a tough economy.

“I don’t know about all of you,” she told the audience at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council’s annual meeting, “but I’m getting a little tired of the challenging economic times.”

Particularly in the Northeast Corridor, the most heavily traveled region in the country -- and the place with the oldest infrastructure.

“Here in the Northeast, in New York and New Jersey, we’re blessed and we’re cursed," she said. "We have an infrastructure that has been in place for over a century. We were ahead of the curve – but it’s old...We are doing our best to preserve the highway and transit networks, but the age and magnitude are daunting and they work against us."

McDonald ticked off a long list of New York's aging transportation assets, like the Long Island Rail Road (which began operating in 1836), the city's subway system (1904), and the Brooklyn Bridge (1883).

Speaking of bridges: "We rank New York State in the bottom ten in the nation in bridge conditions," McDonald said. "The average age of a bridge in New York State is now 46 years old – when 50 years is considered the average life. It’s a sobering statistic."

The bridge that was on everyone's mind during the NYMTC meeting is the Tappan Zee, -- a "600 pound gorilla," according to one participant. The 55-year old bridge bears more traffic than it was ever designed to carry, is enormously expensive to repair, and even more terrifyingly expensive to replace.

But McDonald tried to put a positive face on the proceedings, and talked about the need for continually planning and designing -- even  at times when finding money for just plain maintenance is a scramble. "You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself," she said. "The economy will turn around. And if you don't have plans and designs on the shelf, you can't take advantage (of it.)"

McDonald also voiced her support for smart growth. Last year, New York passed smart growth legislation to address sprawl. "And New York State DOT has the responsibility to insure that its provisions are implemented. I am a very strong proponent and advocate for those smart growth principles," she added.

She said she saw the need for it while serving as the serving as the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. "I never saw so closely the link between housing, transportation and economic development, and overlaying it all is land use planning," she said. "We have got to make sure we continue those principles and advance them together."

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Megaloads Travel Through Montana City

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A megaload waits on a snowy road (photo by Jackie Yamanaka)

(Helena, MT – Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) – ConocoPhillips successfully transported its two huge megaloads of refinery equipment through the city of Missoula early this morning.

Hundreds of protesters and onlookers flanked the 15-mile route through a major city street.

Each load is 26 feet high and 29 feet wide. The loads are so big crews had to move traffic signals and utility lines out of the way. As described in an earlier TN story, each load is “heavier than the Statue of Liberty, nearly as long as a football field, wider than the roads that they’re actually traveling on, and three stories high.”

Rich Johnson is a ConocoPhillips spokesman who flew to Missoula from Houston to accompany the loads. He says this is the first time he’s worked on a project this big that’s been the focus of intense media and public scrutiny.

“We had a lot of people out watching,” he says. “I mean there were the protesters. But there were many more people out watching to see this pretty amazing, unique site of these huge coke drums being transported through their city.”

The loads are not without controversy. A few protesters did try to block the loads. But they were removed by police. One person was arrested. Last month, the Montana Legislature was set to consider a bill that would have required separating permitting for megaloads, but it was tabled.

The route this morning through Missoula totaled about 15 miles. Johnson says the transport went smoothly.

“It went very well,” Johnson says. “We were able to safely transport our shipment from Lolo through the city of Missoula and ended up at our designated stopping point well before our required stopping time of 6 am.”

It took about an hour and a half to travel the 15-mile route. The load is destined for the company’s refinery in Billings.

The total miles to be traveled over the road is about 700. The loads were manufactured overseas, arrived via ocean freighter after traveling some 5,300 miles and then were sent by river barge to Lewiston, Idaho

When these two coke drums arrive at the ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings, the crews will return to Idaho for the two remaining vessels, also bound for the Billings refinery. The equipment is to be installed next year.

Montana is awaiting another set of megaloads. That one is for an ExxonMobil project destined for the oil tar sand fields of Alberta, Canada.

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You can read more TN coverage about this issue here and here.

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TN Moving Stories: Ray LaHood Goes to Capitol Hill, Reversing DC Metro's Decline Will Take Years, and More British Coverage of NYC Bike Lanes

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will be up on Capitol Hill again today to field questions from lawmakers on President Obama's proposed $556 billion in new transportation spending in his 2012 budget. (The Hill)

Marketplace looks at the economic impact of high-speed rail.

The head of DC's Metro said reversing the growing decline in its bus and rail network will take years. "This system is stretched to its limits," GM Richard Sarles said. "Every time we try to make another adjustment to it, it becomes much more complex and takes a lot longer than we thought." (Washington Post)

Scotland has okayed a £290 million plan to renovate Glasgow's subway. (BBC)

Speaking of Ray LaHood...he blogged about his speech to the National Bike Summit and posted a video of it:

Janette Sadik-Khan and other NYC officials get a little love from transit and bike advocates. (NY Daily News, Streetsblog)

Even The Economist has something to say about bike lanes and the New Yorker's John Cassidy.

Slate theorizes about why -- in their words -- conservatives hate trains, and points out that it didn't used to be that way.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Texas lawmakers consider a range of distracted driving bills. NYC is going after cabbies who refuse outer-borough fares. NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan talks about bike lanes -- and unveils an Urban Bikeway Guide. And: California's census shows that the high-speed "train to nowhere" is really "the train to where the population growth is happening."

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