"The fact that the ARC project is not financially viable and is expected to dramatically exceed its current budget remains unchanged. However, this afternoon Secretary LaHood presented several options to potentially salvage a trans Hudson tunnel project. At the Secretary’s request, I’ve agreed to have Executive Director of NJ Transit Jim Weinstein and members from his team work with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to study those options over the next two weeks."
Christie's spokesman would not elaborate on the options, and said work shutting down the tunnel construction is still underway. LaHood issued an almost identical statement:
"Governor Christie and I had a good discussion this afternoon, during which I presented a number of options for continuing the ARC tunnel project. We agreed to put together a small working group from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the office of NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein that will review these options and provide a report to Governor Christie within two weeks."
It's unclear whether this is a face-saving measure for Secretary LaHood, a big advocate of rail and transit, or whether there will be a serious consideration of whether the project can be saved.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) If you ride a bike in New York, you know that bike lanes are pretty much seen as suggestions, not rules. Now comes a report from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer that says, in just two days, the bikes lanes they surveyed were misused 1,700 times. Stringer's researchers found unmarked police vehicles in non-emergency citations, "motor vehicle encroachment and speeding," a school bus, and "rampant pedestrian encroachment."
But bikers have their own problems. On Grand Street in lower Manhattan Stringer found there were more bikers going in the wrong direction than the right one.
Says Stringer (all caps his) "CLEAR THE PATH."
Read his press release below:
BOROUGH PRESIDENT SCOTT M. STRINGER RELEASES UNPRECEDENTED REPORT ON BIKE LANE INFRACTIONS
“Respect the Lane – Clear the Path” Survey Shows Flagrant Violations and
Infractions Plague Manhattan Bike Lanes
(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) General Motors is recalling nearly four thousand vehicles in the U-S because of a power steering issue. The recall affects Cadillac SRX crossover vehicles from the 2010 model year with two-point-eight or three liter engines.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says some of the vehicles’ power steering pressure lines may have been damaged during manufacturing, and could lead to a leak. If power steering fluid sprays onto hot engine parts, the fluid could ignite and cause an engine compartment fire. GM says it has a report of one such fire, but no reports of accidents or injuries related to the issue.
Dealers will inspect the power steering lines and, if necessary, replace them at no cost to consumers. Affected owners will be notified by mail.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff head to Trenton to meet with Governor Christie about the ARC tunnel. (WNYC)
Paul Krugman gets into the ARC fray with an op-ed calling Christie's decision "destructive and incredibly foolish." He continues: "We have become...a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness." (New York Times)
Bus Rapid Transit to begin Sunday on New York's East Side.
The upcoming election will likely decide whether passengers on DC's future Purple Line will ride trains or buses (Washington Post). Meanwhile, Virginia governor fails in latest bid to put his representatives on Metro board. (WAMU)
From the Economist: electric vehicles are neither useful nor green. But here in the U.S., purchasers of EVs get bombarded with incentives. "It just keeps getting better and better," says one buyer. (New York Times)
San Francisco, Oakland, climb list of bicycle commuting cities, with Oakland posting a whopping 18% increase. (Streetsblog)
President Obama’s Transportation Department has collected nearly twice as much in aviation industry fines as in the final two years of George W. Bush’s presidency. (Boston Globe)
European high-speed rail network to expand: in 2014, Eurostar will offer trains from London to Amsterdam and Geneva. (Telegraph)
(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) If you use public transportation to get around the Bay Area, the Clipper card can seem like a pretty great thing: load it up with money and it will keep track of how much you've spent on any of the Bay's many transit agencies. You still might have to take three kinds of transit to get to work, but instead of hunting around in your pockets for change or riffling through all your receipts to find a transfer, you just tag your card and go. It’s supposed to simplify things, and for a lot of people it has. Eventually, transportation officials want the Clipper to be the main way that regular riders pay their fares. That means no more paper passes. You might not think that’s such a big deal – why waste the trees? But it’s not so easy for everyone to get around without them. Hear why over at KALW News.
(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez (D) has come out swinging against Gov. Chris Christie’s decision today to kill a planned transit tunnel across the Hudson River to New York City.
Menendez fired off a statement this afternoon accusing Christie of wasting taxpayers’ money and killing jobs by nixing the multi-billion dollar-project.
“Instead of getting a major investment from the federal government, New Jersey taxpayers now owe the federal government $300 million plus interest and penalties as a result of the governor giving up on the tunnel. That’s on top of the $300 million our state has already spent. New Jersey taxpayers are now the owners of a brand new, $600 million Hole To Nowhere,” the statement read.
Menendez also took aim at Christie’s assertion that the $3 billion pledged by the feds for the project could be used for other programs in New Jersey. Menendez said he spoke with DOT officials.
“The Department of Transportation reiterated that the tunnel was a high-priority New Starts project and that this funding was dedicated for that purpose and can only go to a New Starts project, not to other state transportation projects in our state,” he said.
Federal DOT officials said they’re set to meet tomorrow on the turn of events.
New Jersey’s other senator, Frank R. Lautenberg (D) took a similar stance to Menendez earlier today. “Killing the ARC Tunnel will go down as one of the biggest public policy blunders in New Jersey’s history. Without increased transportation options into Manhattan, New Jersey’s economy will eventually be crippled,” he said.
Lautenberg is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
"Secretary LaHood and Governor Christie plan to meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss a path forward on the ARC tunnel project.”
Senator Frank Lautenberg will also be speaking in about half an hour about the ARC tunnel. We'll keep you updated.
"The ARC project costs far more than New Jersey taxpayers can afford and the only prudent move is to end this project."
He continues: “There is no doubt that transportation projects are critical to creating jobs and growing our economy. I have asked Commissioner Simpson and (NJ Transit) Executive Director Weinstein to work with all interested parties - Amtrak, the Federal Transit Administration, the Port Authority, the State and City of New York and our Congressional delegation - to explore approaches to modernize and expand capacity for the Northeast Corridor. However, any future project must recognize the regional and national scale of such an effort and work within the scope of the State’s current fiscal and economic realities."
He adds: "The ARC project will be terminated and staff will immediately begin an expeditious and orderly shutdown of the project."
This decision comes after the governor halted work on the tunnel last month to assess its cost.
More as we learn it.
Below is the memo from the ARC Project Executive Committee to Governor Christie recommending the project's termination.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The National Transportation Safety Board reported yesterday that "transportation fatalities in the United States decreased by 9.2 percent in 2009 from 2008, according to preliminary figures. The data indicate that transportation fatalities in all modes totaled 35,928 in 2009, compared to 39,569 in 2008."
Highway fatalities -- which account for nearly 95% of all transportation deaths -- decreased from 37,423 in 2008 to 33,808 in 2009. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announced last month that road deaths have dropped to their lowest level since 1950.
The only categories to see an increase were pipeline fatalities, which went up from eight to 14, and marine deaths, which went from 783 to 817.
Earlier this week, the NHTSA unveiled changes to the government’s 5-Star Safety Rating System that made it more difficult for cars and trucks to earn top scores.
The long-awaited MTA fare hike is now official. MTA Chairman Jay Walder announced Thursday that the price of a monthly MetroCard will go from $89 to $104, weekly cards will rise from $27 to $29 and base fares for single rides will increase by 25 cents.
AltTransport points out that "For people earning minimum wage in this city (which is currently at $7.25), the $104 card is more than a 10th of their salary."
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Earlier this week New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg tried to save the ARC tunnel by asking the Port Authority to guarantee to pay for any cost overruns on the ARC tunnel.
Today he's issued a statement that says NJ would not only have to repay $300 million to the federal government if the state kills ARC--but it would have to pay interest.
"How does it make fiscal sense for the state to write a $300 million check to the federal government right now?" asked Senator Lautenberg. "It's bad enough that the Governor's blunder cost our state $400 million in federal education money over the summer - but now he wants to add $300 million to the tab. Canceling the tunnel project is not just bad transportation policy - it's bad fiscal policy."
Lautenberg says $300 million is the amount of federal money that New Jersey has already spent on the tunnel.
Poverty is on the rise across the country, but it's worse in the suburbs, where (since 2000) there's a 37.4% increase. Rise in cities: 16.7%. "Future poverty increases will be partly determined by...government policy decisions promoting job growth, affordable housing and transportation." (AP via New York Times)
The new Straphangers Campaign State of the Subways report says that overall, New York's subways have improved (New York Daily News). Especially compared to 25 years ago, when "17 percent of trains were mislabeled with the wrong line number or letter." All aboard the mystery train! (WNYC)
The implementation of New York's "bikes in buildings" law is proving...challenging for some. (AM NY)
Ford is working with the New York Power Authority to prepare New Yorkers for electric vehicles. (Automotive World)
U.S., Japanese airlines win antitrust immunity for cooperating on pricing and routes (Bloomberg). Meanwhile, in other antitrust news, a company that provides ferryboat service to Mackinac Island (MI) is suing the local government and another ferry provider, saying that the latter two have conspired to create a monopoly. (Detroit Free Press)
The Seat Not Taken: John Edgar Wideman's op-ed on race and seating on the Acela. "Unless the car is nearly full, color will determine, even if it doesn’t exactly clarify, why 9 times out of 10 people will shun a free seat if it means sitting beside me." (New York Times)
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Speaking at a hospital bill signing event in Newark today, NJ Governor Chris Christie, who is just back from a midwest swing where he was campaigning for fellow Republicans, says he hasn't had time to meet with his transit director and his transportation commissioner to "review cost estimates" of the 8.7 billion dollar ARC commuter tunnel.
Christie said he'll be doing "a cold-hearted analysis of whether New Jersey can afford," the tunnel.
Sources say he's already made up his mind to divert New Jersey's 2.7 billion contribution to the ARC to roads, forfeiting the $3 billion federal transit administration new starts funding.
Christie rejected the idea, as Senator Frank Lautenberg has suggested, that the Port Authority guarantee overruns, maintaining much of the Port Authority's revenue comes from New Jersey tollpayers. Full story here.
(St. Paul, Minnesota - Laura Yuen, MPR News) -- Were authorities too quick to blame cell phones for a fatal rail accident that occurred last month in Minnesota? Perhaps.
Andrew Kim Weaver, 53, a veteran employee of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, was killed September 1, 2010 in the northern Twin Cities suburb of Coon Rapids.
Authorities said the man stepped off a test train and walked onto a nearby track, where he was hit by a Northstar commuter train that he apparently did not see. At the time, authorities said that was because he was talking on his cell phone.
It's a story that been repeated -- with some reason -- after a series of recent high-profile accidents involving trains.
But since then, family members began to question that claim, saying the story didn't jibe with what they knew of the veteran employee of the BNSF Railway.
Under pressure from Weaver's family, the sheriff's department this week said Weaver was not on his cell phone at the time he died, reversing its earlier version of events. Now, the office says Weaver, 53, of Fridley, apparently was using his cell phone shortly before he died -- but not at the exact moment he was hit. (See updated MPR story here.)
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)
"These are the bold projects that in the past, were either debated to death or simply ignored."
That's Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, speaking at the June 8, 2009 ARC tunnel groundbreaking in North Bergen, New Jersey.
What a difference a year makes. Today, officials around the region are awaiting formal word that the $8.7 billion tunnel is dead, and that NJ Governor Chris Christie will revert NJ's $2.7 billion to its transportation trust fund, mostly for roads. We can't afford the overruns, Christie has said. It's time for belt-tightening.
But this is now.
In the tape below -- from only 16 months ago -- you'll hear a host of hopeful and optimistic politicians, including then-Governor Jon Corzine, U. S Senators Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and others referring to the ARC tunnel as a monumental boon for the region. It would be America's largest public work, a cousin to the 1910 Pennsylvania Railroad's trans-Hudson tunnel (which marked the last time a trans-Hudson tunnel was built). It was described as a project that was critical not only to the region's economy, but safety as well. It would relieve congestion on all modes, reduce carbon emissions, and improve family life (no kidding!) The tunnel was nothing less than the start of a new era.
Here's another tip that you're listening to a different time: at ten minutes and 30 seconds into Part 1 of the groundbreaking below, you'll hear Governor Corzine talking about how both Democrats and Republicans from both states came together to make the project happen. "It's been bipartisan, something that we all have worked on," he said. "Governors [George Pataki]
[Eliot] Spitzer, [David] Paterson, all pitched in." Other speakers: at 14:30, you'll hear Senator Lautenberg; and at 21:50 Senator Robert Menendez speaks. (Even so, the crowd at the groundbreaking was overwhelmingly Democrats.)
Peter Rogoff, the head of the Federal Transit Administration, begins speaking at :43 in. "These are the bold projects that in the past, were either debated to death or simply ignored." Other speakers: at 9:30 the (now outgoing) chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Anthony Coscia, begins speaking. Executive Director Chris Ward starts at 14:26 . Congressman Albio Sires is 16:47, and Congressman Bill Pascrell concludes at 18:58, with "this is a happy day for all of us. You've heard all the biblical things today. It is time to move on!"
The number of people commuting by bike is on the rise. Slowly -- but steadily. (Wired)
Ray LaHood got an earful from Staten Islanders yesterday, who "face the longest commute in the entire country." (NY1)
A proposed bike lane drew more crowds at a Vancouver city council meeting than a discussion of a future transit link. (The Province)
Albany grapples with a parking plan, debates a "system that uses market forces and incentives -- rather than 'rationing and command and control.'" (Times Union)
School bus driver training varies "wildly" from district to district in Georgia. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Fill That Hole! was once just a public works rallying cry. Now it's an iPhone app in London. (Good)
The New York Times reviews the new musical "In Transit," which chronicles subway life: "Some will scoff at those searching for enlightenment in the crowded underground world. Yet that wide-eyed wonder may remind others of why they came to the city in the first place."
NJ US Senator Frank Lautenberg is making a last-minute pitch: he wants the Port Authority to guarantee to pay for any cost overruns on the ARC tunnel, thereby taking NJ off the hook. It's a bit of a Hail Mary -- and complex, because Governor Chris Christie controls half the Port Authority. (Paterson hasn't made a position on ARC clear, and the Democratic Candidate, Andrew Cuomo, says he hasn't taken one yet.)
Here's the letter.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation, and Quinn Klinefelter, WDET, Detroit ) While many of the usual suspects got a piece of yesterday’s Federal Transit Administration’s $776 million “State of Good Repair" program, there was one notable absence from the list: Detroit.
While roughly $11 million is going to Michigan cities like Ann Arbor, Flint and Saginaw, Detroit is NOT receiving any federal money from this particular grant. But FTA chief Peter Rogoff says the federal government is keenly aware of the need for transit funding in the Motor City. “Detroit has started off, for a city of its size, way behind comparable cities in providing a real network of transit service. And they’re struggling to do so, given the financial challenges they have.”
Although Detroit missed out in this round of grants, the mayor’s administration estimates Detroit has received more than $37 million to improve the city’s bus system, and has used it to buy 46 new bus coaches--four of them hybrid models.
Other embattled urban transit agencies were successful.
(New York -- Matthew Schuerman, WNYC) New Jersey never put up much of its own money towards the ARC Tunnel. And yet Governor Chris Christie seems poised to cancel the project because of money concerns.
Out of the tunnel’s $8.7 billion budget, New Jersey was contributing just $2.7 billion. Even that figure overstates the case, however. According to transportation officials, only $1.25 billion would come from New Jersey sources: the tolls collected by the NJ Turnpike Authority. Another billion and change comes from the federal government’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), according to transportation officials.
If, or when, the tunnel’s canceled, New Jersey could divert the $1.25 billion in turnpike tolls easily—even to help out the state’s ailing Transportation Trust Fund. Christie will also be able to spend the CMAQ money on other road and bridge projects—although transportation sources say the money will have to be used in accordance with federal regulations, which would rule out its use for the trust fund.
The other $6 billion, contributed equally by the Port Authority and the Federal Transit Administration, is money slated specifically for the ARC Tunnel. Transportation sources say that Christie will have to sacrifice all of that money should he cancel the tunnel. However, presumably some Port Authority projects would take place in New Jersey.
Christie’s stated concern all along, however, was what New Jersey would do if the tunnel ended up costing more than $8.7 billion. According to one legislative source, the current agreement with the Federal Transit Administration calls for the Port Authority and the state of New Jersey to be jointly responsible.
The bottom line: Christie gets loses $6 billion in free money. But he gets to spend a different $2.25 billion on roads and bridges, all the while limiting his liability for cost overruns.
He also wouldn’t need to increase the gas tax to bail out the Transportation Trust Fund,thereby protecting his reputation as a fiscal conservative.