Streams

Potential High Speed Rail Corridors Rated: Northeast Tops List

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) A new report compares almost 8,000 potential high-speed rail corridors to find the best routes for future investment. The study estimates potential ridership for each, and suggests predicted passenger demand should be the most important factor in determining where to build the next round of high-speed rail lines. According to the numbers, the lines already under construction aren't at the top of the list.

The study, "High Speed Rail in America," was issued by America 2050, a pro-high-speed rail research and planning organization. The most popular existing rail routes—connecting the biggest, most dense cities—come out on top, with New York to Washington cited as the best candidate for HSR in the nation. Some unexpected routes, like New York to Albany, do especially well, while the Tampa-Orlando line already under construction doesn't rank as high—suggesting that it was chosen for reasons beyond rider demand.

The report is a follow-up study to the group's 2009 report, “Where High-Speed Rail Works Best,” which analyzed 27,000 potential corridors (or “city pairs”) but did not consider the cities in between each pairing. A key advantage of rail compared to air travel is the ability to make intermediate stops, potentially creating a regional network for smaller feeder cities and corridors.

To be clear, this is a high-speed rail study from a group that is a huge supporter of high-speed rail so it's conclusions are how to build rail, how whether or not to do so. “America 2050 strongly believes that investments in HSR will be essential to the long- term economic success and mobility of the nation and its megaregions, and supports the Obama Administration’s efforts to lay the foundation for a national HSR network serving these places,” said Robert Yaro, president of Regional Plan Association and co-chair of America 2050. What these rankings do is suggest where to start that network. More details after the jump. 

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TN Moving Stories: NJ Gets Another ARC Repayment Extension, and Will NYC's MTA Preemptively Shut Down Some Subways During Blizzards?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Public-private partnerships are winning converts for transportation projects. (Marketplace)

New Jersey now has until January 18th to repay the federal government $271 million for the ARC Tunnel. (Star-Ledger)

Day one of the North American International Auto Show, wrapped up by a Detroit News reporter who had to be at a 6:30am press conference:

The New York Daily News says the MTA may shut down at least some subway service during future blizzards rather than risk trains getting stuck.

Illinois lawmakers voted yesterday to end the practice of giving all senior citizens free rides on local buses and trains. (Chicago Tribune)

Some California transportation officials are pleased with Jerry Brown's budget. (Mercury News)

Who's to blame for this week's spate of flight cancellations: Mother Nature or the federal government? (Wall Street Journal's "Middle Seat" blog)

Governance reform is in the works at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA): according to Greater Greater Washington, "the plan highlights a good set of proposals for immediate action, but cuts out Northern Virginia governments in a way that could hurt the region and Metro."

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Ford Plans To Add 7,000 Jobs To Its U.S. Workforce

Monday, January 10, 2011

(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) Ford Motor Company says it is adding 7,000 jobs to its workforce by the end of 2012. Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields made the announcement during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.

“This year alone, Ford is adding nearly four thousand jobs at our U.S. plants. And we plan to add another 750 salaried jobs.” Fields says the Dearborn automaker plans to add another 2,500 additional manufacturing jobs in the U.S. next year.

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Jerry Brown Reveals Budget, And It's Ugly

Monday, January 10, 2011

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) Governor Jerry Brown announced his budget proposal this morning, and it's a doozy: $12.5 billion in cuts to everything from MediCal to local redevelopment agencies. The press release is below, and you can peruse the whole thing at your leisure over at the budget website, and take a stab at balancing the budget yourself over at the LA Times. We'll have more on this as things progress.

Governor Brown’s Budget Slashes State Spending by $12.5 Billion

Sacramento – Governor Jerry Brown will release a balanced state budget today that slashes spending by $12.5 billion, including an eight to 10 percent cut in take-home pay for most state employees, and proposes a “vast and historic” restructuring of government operations.

“These cuts will be painful, requiring sacrifice from every sector of the state, but we have no choice,” Brown said. “For 10 years, we’ve had budget gimmicks and tricks that pushed us deep into debt. We must now return California to fiscal responsibility and get our state on the road to economic recovery and job growth.”

Brown’s budget also calls for temporary continuation of taxes while the state pays off debt, moves forward with his realignment plan and consolidates or eliminates functions.

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Volt Wins Car of the Year in Detroit, Electric Focus Debuts in Las Vegas

Monday, January 10, 2011

(Photo: GM)

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The hybrid-electric Chevy Volt beat out its all-electric rival, the Nissan Leaf, and the other finalist the Hyundai Sonata to win 2011 North American Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Chevy Volt has been racking up honors—it earned "car of the year" awards from Motor Trend, Automobile Magazine and the Detroit Free Press—despite barely being on the market. Chevrolet has sold just 326 Volts since cars began shipping to dealers last month, though reported demand remains high.

Truck of the year honors went to the Ford Explorer, the third consecutive win for Ford in that category.  To be eligible for the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards a vehicle must be all new, or "substantially changed" from the previous model. A jury of 49 veteran automotive journalists selects the winners.

Interest in electric vehicles even spread to Las Vegas where Ford took center stage at the Consumer Electronics Show to unveil their competitor to the Leaf and Volt: the new all-electric Ford Focus, available later this year, Ford says.

The Electric Focus is more like the Nissan Leaf than the Volt: it would be zero emissions (while driving that is, unless the the charging station is solar powered), all battery powered and charge through 240 volt charging stations in about three to four hours, according the the company. They wouldn't say how many miles it will get per charge, a key statistic in determining its functionality for potential drivers, but the top speed will be a swift 84 mph.

The Nissan Leaf by, comparison, gets an official 73 miles per charge according to the Environmental Protection Agency with a fuel efficiency of 99 miles per gallon equivalency.

Possibly the best news for EVs included in the Ford announcements are

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TN Moving Stories: NJ Transit's "Quiet Car" Program Spurs Not-So-Quiet Debate, and Has London "Misjudged Bike Demand?"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bicyclists in Dubai (Danny McL/Flickr)

The Star-Ledger's editorial board is not loving New Jersey Governor Christie's transportation plan, which they describe as a short-sighted "money grab — all to protect his image on the gas tax."

Speaking of the Garden State, NJ Transit's recently expanded "quiet car" program is experiencing some growing pains, like hearty debates over the difference between "silent" and "merely quiet." (New York Times)

Police in Fairfax, Virginia, are cracking down on distracted driving -- and say there's been a 45% decrease in fatal crashes and a 42% decrease in all crashes. (WAMU)

Bike sharing comes to Dubai -- along with a plan to build 900 km of bike tracks (lanes) by the year 2020 (Khaleej Times).

$500 million subway "boondoggle?" The New York Post says that more than a decade after the MTA pledged to transform the subway data network, the equipment is still busted and the multimillion-dollar price tag is growing.

Is London "a rather unpleasant place for cyclists?" That's the assertion made by an article in The Economist, which says London may have "fundamentally misjudged the nature of bike demand." “There has never been a shortage of bikes in London,” says one transport economist. “It’s just that people are afraid to use them.

Florida Governor Rick Scott met with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara at the Capitol to discuss trade -- and high-speed rail. (AP via the Miami Herald)

The New York Times profiled that friend to bicyclists, Denver mayor -- now Colorado's governor-elect -- John Hickenlooper.

California's new drivers' licenses are so complicated to produce that "up to 80% of some batches have had errors, forcing tens of thousands of motorists to wait as long as six weeks, rather than a few days, to get their cards." (Los Angeles Times)

Best Buy will sell 240-volt home charging stations for Ford's 2012 electric Focus. (Fast Company)

Supporters rally to save Toronto's Transit City; city councillor says “Transit City is a lot more than a transit plan, it’s a city-building exercise." (Toronto Star)

Stripping for public transit? Sunday was the 10th annual No Pants Subway Ride, an "international celebration of silliness."  (Good Magazine)

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What do road builders think of the new Congress?

Friday, January 07, 2011

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) What do road builders think of the new Congress? Attendees of the sixth annual Texas Transportation Forum in Austin got an earful about that Wednesday from Brian Deery, the Senior Director of the Highway & Transportation Division of the Associated General Contractors of America.

Brian Deery, Senior Director of the Highway & Transportation Division of the Associated General Contractors of America. (Video still from AASHTO)

Brian Deery, Senior Director of the Highway & Transportation Division of the Associated General Contractors of America. (Video still from AASHTO)

Just today AGC issued a renewed call for a long-term reauthorization bill, citing dwindling stimulus funds and industry job loss. But the Congress that would have to pass that reauthorization in the next two years seems more divided than it was for the last two.

Deery spoke for half an hour, and made passing swipes at the Obama Administration's agenda of "livability" and high speed rail, both endeavors which he finds to be unwarranted drains on highway funds. He was also highly critical of the recent rule change by House Republicans to allow raiding of the Highway Trust Fund.

Most of Deery's his comments concerned Congress, and he ended up making an interesting juxtaposition between John Mica, the Republican chairperson of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, and Barbara Boxer, the Democratic chairperson of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. It was hard to know which party—and which chamber—would be the construction industry's better friend, he said.

Excerpts from Deery's comments after the jump:

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Faked Inspection Reports Put Straphangers in Danger, NYC Council Says

Friday, January 07, 2011

In November, the NYC MTA's Inspector General released a report showing that the vast majority of subway signal inspection reports were falsified.  NYC transit chief Tom Prendergast says the agency still doesn't quite have a handle on the problem -- and the council says that's dangerous.  WNYC has the story. -- TN

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NJ Transportation Plan Draws Fire; Some ARC Money Goes to Roads

Friday, January 07, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's announcement yesterday that he was putting forward a "responsible transportation capital plan," drew a quick torrent of criticism from transit advocates already stung by huge fare hikes and, later, the death of the trans-Hudson passenger rail ARC tunnel.

Christie's move does seem to take NJ transportation funding back to the future -- to a time when road-building was prioritized over transit.   In the 1950's and through the end of the twentieth century, U.S. transportation policy favored road funding over transit funding at a ratio of about eighty to twenty percent.  In the last decade, everyone from urban planning graduate students to President Barack Obama have decried the sprawl such funding formulas created.

But for Christie, the ARC tunnel was an unsustainable project, getting built as NJ's Highway Trust Fund was broke and roads were falling into disrepair.   By re-purposing this funding, Christie says, he's taking the fiscally responsible route.

"Over each of the next five years the Christie Plan will increase cash contributions used to fund transportation projects while at the same time decreasing the use of borrowing.

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Everything Moving in NYC, More or Less

Friday, January 07, 2011

A NYC plow on the move in Northern Manhattan. Photo: John Keefe

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's snowing pretty hard now, but still, the streets seem fine, and the subways seem to be working about as well as they do on non-snow days.  School kids happily (more or less) trudging to school, catching flakes in their mouths.

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A "Toxic Tour" of Houston's East End

Friday, January 07, 2011

House next to animal feed manufacturer in Old Town Harrisburg

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF) While Houston has a number of sightseeing tours, most of them focus on the city's attractive destinations. But there is one tour that offers a sobering look at the dark side of Houston's industrial landscape.

Listen to the tour here: 010310toxic-tour, or visit KUHF.

More after the jump:

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TN Moving Stories: Boxer rends garments over House rules: Scott casts doubt on FL High Speed Rail; NY Subway Signal Fraud May Be Vast; But Hey, You Can Ride You

Friday, January 07, 2011

A downtown Manhattan parking meter--whose rates ARE rising (Kate Hinds)

New Florida Governor Rick Scott's Administration releases a report prepared by a Libertarian group that says Florida's High Speed Rail might be too costly. (WESH-TV, Orlando)  Scott said during the last debate that he wasn't necessarily against the Orlando-Tampa rail line, now funded with some $3 billion federal dollars -- but only if it didn't cost Florida taxpayers another penny.

California Senator Barbara Boxer, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, says if House Republicans act on threats to raid transportation fund "all our plans to do more...are thrown aside." (Streetsblog)

New York rolls back parking meter hikes--but only outside of Manhattan. (WNYC)

Subway officials unsure of extent of signal fraud in NYC subways:  (NY1)

NJ Governor Christie proposes a five-year, $8 billion transportation infrastructure spending plan that relies on borrowing -- as well as repurposing ARC money.  (Wall Street Journal, New York Times)

An advisory panel says the Texas Department of Transportation needs new leadership, consolidated financial operations and better communication with the public. (AP via Houston Chronicle).

Colorado's New Gov, John Hickenlooper Tells NY Times "Rather than  going to health care first, I would have gone, I think, to transportation infrastructure." (NY Times)

The US proposes reopening roads to Mexican trucking companies. "We can't say the Mexican trucking dispute is over, but we can now say that, at last, the end appears to be in sight," says one stakeholder. (AP)

The Illinois legislature voted to give the state's top ethics official new watchdog power over Chicago's mass transit agencies. (Chicago Tribune)

Norfolk tests light rail (AP via Washington Examiner).

Tesla releases some engineering porn to a car-hungry public (via Wired/Autopia). Video: Tesla Vehicle Engineering - Part 1 from Tesla Motors on Vimeo.

A Wisconsin woman bikes to the hospital...while in labor. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

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NYC Tries GPS to Track Snowplows

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A NYC plow working after the post-Christmas blizzard. AZI PAYBARAH/WNYC

[UPDATED WITH CITY HALL RESPONSE.]

(John Keefe, Transportation Nation) As meteorologists forecast more snow for New York City, City Hall plans to track where the streets are being cleared -- with GPS-equipped plows.

In the post-Christmas blizzard two weeks ago, cars, buses and ambulances were stranded throughout the city, and many streets remained unplowed for days. City officials and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were widely criticized for their response to the storm.

At a press conference this afternoon, Bloomberg said last time, "there was a discrepancy between information coming into and out of City Hall and what people were actually experiencing on the streets."

In a pilot project that will be tested if the snow flies tomorrow, GPS-enabled plows -- many of which are modified garbage trucks -- will roam the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Midwood, Flatbush and Ditmas Park, and also parts of Kensington.

Bloomberg said the tracking devices have become so cheap that eventually all 1,700 plows could be tracked, providing information not only on snow removal but also salting and trash pickup. Drivers of municipal vehicles in other cities, and in NYC taxi cabs, have fought such tracking systems as an invasion of their privacy.

Whether snowplow location information will be made public remains an open question. The Mayor's spokesman, Stu Loeser, said in a phone interview with TN that the city could expand the number of plows with GPS's. If it goes well tomorrow, he said, that could happen as soon as next week.  As for making the data public in real time, "we wouldn't rule it out."   In other cities, public access to real-time tracking data lets residents know when they can expect plows and buses.

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Why California Budget May Slam High Speed Rail

Thursday, January 06, 2011

(San Francisco––Casey Miner, KALW News) It’s only been a few days since Jerry Brown retook the California Governor’s office, but all signs suggest that he’s planning to put the state on a serious fiscal diet. Rumored to be among the casualties are local redevelopment agencies -- groups that undertake projects like revitalizing downtowns and building affordable housing. California’s perennial budget deficit is projected to be more than $25 billion this year, and slashing redevelopment could cut a quarter of that.

The Governor’s office isn’t commenting on specifics right now, so we’ll have to wait to know for sure. But losing redevelopment has big implications for the state as a whole – and perhaps for its biggest infrastructure project, high-speed rail.

The San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association (SPUR) just released a report arguing that for high-speed rail to reach its full potential, it will have to be accompanied by good planning and smart growth around stations. One of their recommendations is that cities be allowed to use a tool called tax-increment financing – essentially, a bond paid back by increased property tax revenues – to support transit-oriented development around high-speed rail stations. Egon Terplan, SPUR’s regional planning director, said while axing redevelopment agencies wouldn’t eliminate that possibility, it might make it a lot harder – especially in cities like Fresno and Bakersfield where future high-speed rail stations are in redevelopment zones. “Taking away their ability to get funding takes away their ability to implement projects,” he said.

Regardless of what happens to the redevelopment agencies, said Terplan, high-speed rail needs a way to fund itself over the long term – and that might include certain financing tools that redevelopment agencies currently use. “Redevelopment has been a model,” he said. “We now need a model that aligns itself with the goals of high-speed rail.”

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Go Ahead, Rebook that Flight

Thursday, January 06, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) There are still piles of cruddy snow crowding out the streets and sidewalks in many parts of New York City, and now there's two to six more inches coming. But not to worry! Airlines say you can rebook your flight from the Northeast this weekend now. No more airport camping! No more hanging around at your parents for an extra week while you spend hours on hold with the airlines!

Feel grateful?

It used to be  not too long ago that you could do this, free of charge, all the time. But those were the days when they used to hand out those nice playing cards on the airlines -- and didn't make you feel that they were merely suffering you when you boarded a flight.

Details on which airlines are participating here.

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Montana, Leading the Nation on DUIs, Poised For Crackdown

Thursday, January 06, 2011

(Helena, MT -- Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) -UPDATED Montana lawmakers are poised to crackdown on drunk drivers during the 2011 Montana Legislative session.

Per mile and per capita, Montana leads the nation in fatalities where alcohol is a contributing factor," says Kevin O'Brien, spokesman for the Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock.

O'Brien says that the number of convictions for felony DUI's in Montana rose 39% from 2009 to 2010.  A person will receive the felony DUI designation for any 4th or subsequent DUI conviction. He notes there's been a moderate decrease in the number of first time convictions but the number of repeat offenders keeps going up.

As of today, lawmakers have introduced or requested over 30 bills (or bill drafts) to deal with impaired drivers. This includes making it a crime to refuse a breathalyzer test when stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). State Attorney General Steve Bullock has said some 3,000 suspected drunk drivers refused the breath test last year, and he supports efforts to strengthen DUI laws.

According to an op-ed in the Billings Gazette, "DUI refusal is the bane of prosecutors. A refusal case is one of the most difficult types of criminal cases to try because the key piece of evidence — the suspects' blood alcohol level — is missing...According to Bullock, more people have refused the breath test than have been convicted of first-offense DUI this year."

It is not unusual for the courts to deal with offenders who have multiple DUI convictions on their records. For example, a man with nine DUI convictions was sentenced last August to 13 months with the Montana Department of Corrections. The judge said he would have meted out a longer sentence if one was allowed under Montana law.

The Montana Legislature convened Monday and is scheduled to adjourn at the end of April.

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TN Moving Stories: LA's Westside Subway Gets Federal OK, JSK is Compared to Robin Hood, and New Version of OnStar Is Essentially Omnipotent

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

(photo by Dre Batista/Flickr)

Federal officials okay preliminary engineering on LA's Westside subway and light rail line. (Los Angeles Times)

Profiling the grid: Nashville utility planners use research and census data to try to determine who will be buying electric vehicles.  Where should they build substations? In the neighborhoods of female Democrats who live close to work.  (AP via New York Times)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 85% of U.S. adults now wear seat belts. "Only 11 percent wore them in 1982, before the first state law requiring seat belt use."  (NPR)

The Guardian calls NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan "a modern day Robin Hood." And regarding congestion pricing, she says "I do think it's a matter of when, not if."

Two New York City Council members have introduced bills that shrink the no-parking zone on either side of a fire hydrant. (New York Times)

Planned construction on New York's F and G subway lines has been postponed due to the last snowfall. (WNYC)

Brooklyn bicyclists who don't obey the law: the NYPD is coming for you. (Gothamist)

The web war of American Airlines vs. travel sites continues to heat up: now, a company that provides ticket information to travel agents has ended its contract with the airline. (CNN)

A former CEO of Amtrak is the latest addition to the board of DC's Metro. (WAMU)

This could be Ray LaHood's worst nightmare: at the Consumer Electronics Show, General Motors and Verizon unveiled a new version of OnStar. Among its features: Exterior cameras that can detect and record hit-and-runs, and then send the video to the car's owner via a secure server. The ability to watch what's going on in and around the car using a smartphone or home computer. Access to social websites such as YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia using voice commands. Video chatting via Skype through a dashboard-mounted video display. Remote-controlled home appliance and energy use using an application accessible through the car's video console. Live video images from traffic cameras, to view in real-time congestion. (Detroit News)

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Saarinen's Ghost Haunts Dulles Metrorail Project

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Dulles International Airport

(Washington, D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia is not just an airport; it's also, according to design and planning guru Roger K. Lewis, "one of America's greatest works of modern architecture."

Dulles' main terminal was designed in the 1960s by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen. Along with the St. Louis Arch and JFK Airport's TWA Terminal (now the JetBlue terminal), Dulles Airport is one of his most well-known accomplishments.

But while Saarinen's Dulles terminal is almost universally celebrated, it's also causing some headaches for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

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Cuomo's State of the State: Zero Mentions of Transportation

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) If you read the prepared text of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address (prepared remarks here), you'll find a mention of transportation -- roughly what we posted earlier: "Grants will be awarded to the best and most comprehensive regional plans that coordinate sustainability efforts in housing, transportation, emissions control, energy efficiency, and create jobs..."

But if you read what he actually said here, you'll find zero mentions of transportation.  His staff tells WNYC he did not used a prepared text or teleprompter for his remarks.   And, to be fair, his delivered speech was a lot more fluid than the wonky "address" his office published as his written message to the legislature.

Other than for former Governor David Paterson, who is blind, it has been the custom for Governors to deliver a single address, that is published in booklet form beforehand.

Meantime, what do you make of his lack of mention of transportation (or infrastructure, for that matter?

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House GOP Majority Passes New Rule: It Can Now "Reappropriate" Transportation Funds

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Despite protests from an unusually broad coalition of transportation groups -- from the highways lobby to the New York transit system, the GOP voted today to rescind a 1998 rule that prevented it from taking transportation funds supported by the highway bill for other purposes.  That 1998 rule shielded Highway Trust Fund from being raided for other (non-transportation purposes).

The move comes even as transpo advocates nervously watch the new GOP-led congress for signs it will cut overall transportation funding to meet budget-cutting targets.

Read from the bottom of page 10 to the top of page 11 in the below document:

Rules for 112th Congress

Writing on The Hill's Congress blog, Republicans say that the new rules mean simply that "highway funding, with some exceptions, will now be treated as other general spending and therefore be subject to any member's attempt to reduce the spending."  One Republican spokesman told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that it's meant to keep the Highway Trust Fund from spending more than it’s bringing in.

But a number of industry and transit groups oppose this change. "The provision.. would hurt investment in transportation infrastructure, reduce jobs, and break faith with the American taxpayer," says a letter to House leadership signed by over 20 organizations.

New York's MTA says that transportation projects require "steady, predictable,  multi-year funding" (a PDF of their letter is here).

And New York Congressman Anthony Weiner sent out a press release that reads: "Buried in the rules written by the GOP majority is a change that is opposed by the City of New York and the State Transportation Department and which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said would cause 'significant damage.'"  He continues: "New Yorkers have already paid money at the gas pump that is guaranteed for transit, subways and roads.  Under the new rule change, this money would be put on the annual chopping block and not guaranteed at all."

The change does not require Senate approval, and is now in effect.

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