A Bridge to ... London?! Historical Map with Grand Rail Plans

Monday, December 06, 2010

(St. Paul, Minnesota -- Dan Olson, MPR News) Who says people out here in Flyoverland don't dream big  transportation dreams?  Remember the contemporary kerfuffle over the bridge to nowhere?  Well, here's  a circa 1871 vision for a bridge to somewhere -- a rail line from St. Paul to the East Coast, with a bridge to London! Note the heading reads "St. Paul in the year 1900."

It's a map in the Minnesota Historical Society collection in St. Paul.  MnHS curator and map wrangler Patrick Coleman says the idea was created by the Tea Partiers of that era. Check with him for more on that.

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First Fare Hikes, Now NJ Transit Users Will Pay More to Park

Monday, December 06, 2010

Over there, an empty spot.  Image by Flickr user JGNY

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New Jersey Transit is preparing to charge more money for parking spots. The cash-strapped agency says its plan to privatize eighty-one parking lots at train stations and bus stops will raise an estimated $100 million dollars.

The agency has narrowed the field of competing companies to seven. The winning firm will be chosen in May and offered a 30 to 50 year lease. It will then control 60% of the parking spots in New Jersey Transit's system.

Prices are expected to rise at lots that already charge drivers to park and fourteen free lots covered by the plan are likely to begin collecting fees. The increases come on top of a 25% fare hike in May for New Jersey Transit train and interstate bus commuters.

Critics say the agency is sacrificing steady income for a large up-front payment. Jay Corbalis, an analyst with the public policy group New Jersey Future, said the plan is mainly designed to deliver a spike of revenue toward next year's budget.

"But that compromises future revenue for the agency," he said.

He added that privatization will lock up some parcels next to train and bus stops that  might better be developed with office buildings and stores. "It raises a number of questions about the long-term use of the lots," he said. "This land would not be available for 30 to 50 years for transit-oriented development."

NJ Transit says a private operator will upgrade the lots and bring consistency to a  system that is operated by a combination of municipal, private and New Jersey Transit operators.

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A Plan for Reliable Transportation For Poor Montanans

Monday, December 06, 2010

(Billings, MT – Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) – The provider of public health services for Montana’s largest community is moving most of its services to one campus. A lack of reliable transportation has hindered access to some programs spread across Billings.

Riverstone Health oversees the community health center that provides primary care to the uninsured or underserved in Billings. Many clients are low-income. The organization, formerly known as the Yellowstone City-County Health Department, is currently undergoing an expansion and renovation of its campus.

John Felton, Riverstone’s vice president of operations says the maternal health program -- Women, Infants, and Children -- will be moved to the community health center as part of renovation. “For one of us to get in the car and go a couple of miles is not a big deal if we have reliable transportation,” he says.

But for many of the center’s patients who would benefit from WIC, it is a burden to go to another location for services, he says, especially because it’s not along a bus route.

“When this project is complete, rather than getting in a car or finding a ride people will literally walk upstairs and they’ll be at the WIC program,” Felton says. He notes that Riverstone Health is located on Billings’ Southside in part because the U.S. Census has identified this area as lower-income.

“And one of the hallmarks of being low income,” he says, “is not having access to reliable transportation. So we’re on a bus line here and many of our patients walk.”

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New Transit Lines Open Today in Dallas, Rhode Island

Monday, December 06, 2010

[UPDATED 12/7/2010 explaining Rhode Island service addition more accurately]

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation).   Two new transit lines launched today. Dallas Area Rapid Transit opened its electric light rail Green Line. And in Warwick, Rhode Island,  new rail service kicked off connecting the local airport with the regional commuter rail line to Providence and Boston allowing for more transit commuting options.

The Dallas Morning News calls Dallas' 28-mile Green Line a "new era" as the DART rail system adds 15 new stations and grows from 48 to 72 rail miles (the Green Line shares track for four miles with another line).  The cities of Farmer's Branch and Carrollton are now connected with downtown, the Baylor University Medical Center, Victory Park and the Pleasant Grove area of south Dallas.

Along with those extra rail miles, DART adds: 18 new high capacity light rail vehicles, 38 redesigned rail cars, 2,700 parking spaces, and 10 park-and-ride lots. DART estimates that its light rail lines are responsible for about $7 billion in current and projected transit-oriented development.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood enthusiastically touts on his blog that the $1.8 billion project, including $700 million in Federal money, was completed on budget and ahead of schedule, six months ahead of schedule by some counts.

See the new route on this special Green Line centric DART map, or watch the video above to actually see the view from the front of a test train run. It almost looks fake as the train passes pristine empty stations again and again.

The new rail line in Rhode Island, is far more modest, but also Green. The new service connects the T.F. Green International airport and its surrounding area to Warwick, RI, in the process making possible rail commuting to Providence and Boston. The six trains each weekday will connect to Amtrak regional rail in those cities. This, in theory, offers an alternative to a ride up Interstate 95 for some commuters south of Providence. They can now park at the new station and commute by rail from to Providence, or if they want, connect on to Boston.

As Jef, in comments section correctly points out, this opens the door to reverse commuting to the Warwick area and thus potential transit oriented development in the airport area.

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VA Governor McDonnell Makes Good On Promise To Accelerate Highway Spending

Monday, December 06, 2010

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

(Washington, D.C. -- David Schultz, WAMU) We told you earlier about Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's discovery of $1.5 billion dollars in unspent transportation funding. McDonnell, a Republican, found the money through a comprehensive audit of the state's Department of Transportation that he ordered immediately after succeeding Virginia's previous governor, Democrat Tim Kaine.

Now, the Governor is delivering on his pledge to get that $1.5 billion out the door as quickly as possible. Earlier today, he announced that almost three quarters of that newly-discovered funding would be advertised immediately -- meaning contractors can start bidding on it today. Excerpts from McDonnell's announcement are posted below.

But first -- in the interest of balance -- a caveat about that funding: Virginia Democrats say McDonnell didn't really discover any new funding and, in actuality, is drawing down the Transportation Department's cash reserves, which will make the state less able to respond to a natural disaster in the future.

Anyway, here's that announcement:

Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will advertise an estimated $1.1 billion in construction and maintenance projects during the first six months of Fiscal Year 2011. The estimated economic impact of this work is 33,900 jobs created or supported, as well as $2.83 billion in economic activity and $282.5 million in taxes that come back to the Commonwealth.


According to studies published by the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, every $100 million spent on highway construction and maintenance projects adds 3,000 jobs created or supported, $250 million in economic activity and $25 million in taxes that go back to Virginia coffers.

McDonnell directed VDOT to more quickly initiate transportation improvements. A recent independent audit of the agency criticized its ability to move projects through the pipeline. VDOT and members of the McDonnell administration have been developing new business practices that speed the investment of transportation funding.

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Do Bad Past Debt Decisions Make Voters Weary of Transit Investments?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Wonder why voters seem to be coming down against big transit projects like the ARC? Over at "It's a Free Country," our colleague Bob Hennelly tallies up what local governments have spent on big projects like stadiums and shopping malls.

Much of the state and local debt can be traced to the proliferation of so-called "special district" governments like your local "economic development” or “incinerator authority.”

These entities can be used to build critical transportation and water projects or to finance higher education.  But they also can provide the grease for the "private-public" partnerships  that builds sports stadiums and shopping malls for the politically connected.

In 1952, there were just 12,340 of them. By the start of the 21st century there were 35,359 of them. Eleven states each now have over one thousand such publicly-funded independent authorities.  Not surprisingly, Illinois tops the list with 3,145, followed by California with 2,830 and Texas with 2,245. Pennsylvania has 1,885 and New York has spawned 1,135.

Full story here. -- TN

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TN Moving Stories: All Aboard The European Road Train, A Possible Stay of Execution for LI Bus, and Santa Rides Chicago's L Train

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock ponders: is the federal transit benefit good transportation policy?

Port Authority looks to recommit ARC money, dusts off repair wish list. (Wall Street Journal)

"Road Trains" --known as the European Union’s Safe Road Trains for the Environment (or EU SARTRE--you can't make this stuff up)-- move closer to reality in Europe. (Wired)

Traffic fatalities are down in DC. But: "Just because there are fewer deaths doesn't meant that there are fewer accidents and injuries. Further, the fatalities MPD reports are just pedestrians, they don't take bicyclists into account." (DCist)

The Virginia Department of Transportation has wrapped up the installation of 70 mph speed limit signs on various rural sections of interstate. (Land Line Magazine)

If your NYC Metrocard is damaged or expired, chances are a token booth clerk can't help. (NY Daily News)

Bike lane editorials in the New York Daily News: First, Transportation Alternative's Paul Steely White sings their praises, but the editorial board wants Janette Sadik-Khan to prove the lanes' worth.

In Lyon, cyclists travel faster than cars during rush hour. And, interestingly, they ride faster on Wednesdays than the rest of the week. (Alt Transport)

Will the Long Island Bus be saved? New York's MTA has told Nassau County that it will conditionally keep operating the Long Island Bus through next year even if Nassau can't immediately fulfill its obligation to fund the system. (Newsday)

In Chicago, Santa rides the L train. "Santa and his reindeer can be found on a flat car in the middle." (Chicago Tribune)


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Jim Oberstar, Exit Interview after 17 Terms with House Transportation Committee

Friday, December 03, 2010

Rep. James Oberstar (Dem-Minn.) is about to leave the House after serving 17 terms representing the 8th Congressional District of Minnesota. He's spent 15 years as the senior Democrat  on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, with two terms as chairman. Oberstar has presided over or participated in some of the biggest highway and transportation bills in recent memory. But his vision for a transformative, nearly $500 billion surface transportation authorization bill was dashed when Congress couldn't agree on how to fund the ambitious bill earlier this year. Transportation Nation Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich sat down with Oberstar in his Capitol Hill office to talk about the Congress and the future of transportation funding in an age of budget austerity.

"In the stimulus, the $34 billion we were allocated for highway and transit resulted in resurfacing and rebuilding 35,411 lane-miles of highway nationwide. That’s equal to ¾ of the entire state highway program. Yet that represents 4 percent of the state of good repair needs of our national highway system. Four percent!"

Listen here:



Todd Zwillich: Congressman James Oberstar of Minnesota. Thanks for being with us.

Rep. James Oberstar: My privilege and pleasure to be on the program with you.

TZ: I wanted to start with some transportation issues, of course since you have had your tenure as Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. You tried to achieve an ambitious surface transportation bill. It did not come to pass. … left undone, what do you think is the most critical transportation issue facing this country?

JO: A long term authorization for the surface transportation programs of the nation: highway, bridge, transit, highway safety. And the livability issues that have become such a centerpiece for transportation over the past dozen plus years, since the end of the interstate era and the beginning of a new era for transportation. Livability is foremost in people’s minds. Passing a long-term, six year authorization would give stability to the states, to the contractor community, to building trades, labor, to the transit sector, it will result in—if we pass the $450 billion bill—six million construction jobs over the next six years. It will give states the ability to bring our existing portfolio of highway projects up to a state of good repair and go beyond with major rebuild projects such as the Brent-Spence bridge between Ohio and Kentucky, which carries 3 percent of the GDP of the nation. It would allow Oregon to complete its work on a whole stretch of bridges that were sub-standard on Interstate 5 on the West Coast.

"This is the transportation bill of the future that we need. A funding mechanism for it is essential, that’s where it foundered. President Obama said that he could not support an increase in the user fee, the gas tax, which three Republican presidents have supported: Eisenhower, President Reagan, and President George Bush the first."

There are many other instances I can provide of major rebuild projects that are long term, create stability in the construction sector, but add to our GNP and ability to move goods and people more efficiently. This is the transportation bill of the future that we need. A funding mechanism for it is essential, that’s where it foundered. President Obama said that he could not support an increase in the user fee, the gas tax, which three Republican presidents have supported: Eisenhower, President Reagan, and President George Bush the first.

But the reluctance to

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Comments [3]

Tennessee Cracker Barrel Restaurants to Become EV Charging Stations

Friday, December 03, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) 24 Cracker Barrel restaurants in Tennessee will get electric vehicle charging stations, the company said in a press release. reports that 12 locations will get Blink DC Charging Stations—capable of getting a plug in hybrid to 80 percent charge in 20 minutes. That's faster than it will take to finish your fried chicken liver. The other restaurants will receive a slower Level 2 charging system.

"These locations are centered on the Tennessee Triangle, a 425 mile stretch of highway connecting Knoxville, Nashville, and Chattanooga. Installations start next spring, and while costs haven’t been discussed, I doubt they are just giving this service away. "

GOOD points out that Tennessee is part of the EV Project, a public private partnership sponsored by the Department of Energy to promote and build EV infrastructure in six states.

Why start this chain store roll out in Tennessee you might ask? Well, just 11 minutes away from the Smyrna, Tenn. Cracker Barrel you find the Nissan manufacturing plant building electric Leaf cars for one.  The Cracker Barrels are pretty well distributed around major highway arteries. And if you have to stop to charge up your locally built leaf, why not do it where you can pick up some country cooking?

Texas, also in the EV Project partnership, recently got some good news on this front as well with the announcement of a privately funded initiative by NRG Energy in Houston. Why not a fast food home cooking restaurant?

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City Council Vote On Streetcar Could Signal New Era In D.C. Transportation

Friday, December 03, 2010

A prototype of D.C.'s new streetcar

(Washington, D.C. -- David Schultz, WAMU) The D.C. City Council, convening in a lame duck session next week, will cast a crucial vote on funding for an urban street car project.

The project was the darling of outgoing Mayor Adrian Fenty and his Director of Transportation Gabe Klein. Building a streetcar as a supplement to the city's already-existing bus and subway service was a huge part of their overall goal to make D.C. more walkable and to spur economic development in blighted neighborhoods.

D.C.'s Mayor-elect, Vincent Gray

But the project's costs have been climbing steadily upward, and there are still questions about how the streetcars will be powered (i.e. whether there will be overhead wires blocking D.C.'s monumental views).

Then, after a campaign that focused heavily on D.C.'s longstanding race and class inequalities, Fenty lost his reelection campaign. Badly.

His soon-to-be successor, current Council Chairman Vincent Gray, has been much more cool to the streetcar. In a late night budget session earlier this year, Gray eliminated funding for the streetcar project — only to reinstate it later that day after an outcry from the local transit backers.

Gray later blamed the elimination of streetcar funding on a "staff error," and said he is a full supporter of the project. But the upcoming vote, which could be one of his last on the City Council, will be a true test of that support.

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TN Moving Stories: Transportation Funding Woes Dog States, and Looking Ahead to Looking Back: Will Rear View Cameras Become Status Quo?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell wants to redirect $45 million in federal funds to stave off huge Port Authority service cuts, but says it's a short-term fix. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

NJ Spotlight writes about "New Jersey's troubled transportation outlook" and says that "a proposed subway to Secaucus and a depleted Transportation Trust Fund are only the beginning."

And PA and NJ aren't alone: Virginia is considering a host of options to help cover a massive shortfall in state transportation funding, including a small sales tax, tolls and the use of toll credits (Washington Post). And: Rhode Island officials are warning that "basic elements of the state’s transportation system are threatened. Officials responsible for both the highways and the transit system said a lack of money is undermining their efforts." (Providence Journal)

Now Ontario's transportation minister is getting into the transit fray, says it would be wasteful to scrap the $8.15 billion Toronto light rail plan because work has already started. (Toronto Star)

Rear view cameras could become more common in cars, as the Transportation Department proposes new safety rules. "There is no more tragic accident than for a parent or caregiver to back out of a garage or driveway and kill or injure an undetected child playing behind the vehicle," says Secretary Ray LaHood. (AP)

Buffalo Bills safety Bryan Scott bikes to practice. In Buffalo. In the winter. (Well, not when it's really snowing.) (Sports Illustrated)

Honda is ending production of the Element. (Auto Guide)

Outgoing congressman Jim Oberstar may land at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, where he's in talks about a possible role. (AP via Minnesota Public Radio)  But first, he gave an exit interview to TN's Todd Zwillich, which aired on today's The Takeaway. Listen below!

Tweet of the day, from WNYC's Azi Paybarah: "Think Rev. Billy, the eccentric 2009 candidate for #nyc mayor was just on my F train to #brooklyn. And he wasn't yelling about term limits!"

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NJ Transit to Hire Biggest DC Lobbying and Law Firm to fight FTA

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Gov. Chris Christie

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC)

Here come the lawyers.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has hired a law firm to challenge a $271 million tab the federal government says the state owes for the canceled ARC rail tunnel. Christie says he's approved the selection of the high-powered Washington, D.C. firm of Patton Boggs.

New Jersey Transit, which oversaw the trans-Hudson tunnel project that Christie killed in October, could ratify a contract with the firm at its meeting a week from Thursday.

Christie's office said yesterday the state would challenge the federal bill for money already spent on the project, known as Access to the Region's Core, or ARC.

The November 24 bill seeks payment within 30 days.

A Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak defended the hire, saying "We're much better off using a firm like this than using our own in-house attorneys or attorneys general. Not to knock their expertise, but let's face it, that's what these attorneys [at Patton Boggs] do for a living."

Read the rest of the story here.

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California Selects Controversial High-Speed Rail Route

Thursday, December 02, 2010

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) The California High-Speed Rail Authority voted today to select a route from Madera to Corcoran as the first segment of the planned statewide system.

From the press release:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board voted today to begin construction of the system connecting Los Angeles to the Bay Area in the heart of the state’s Central Valley, choosing an option that makes the best use of available funding and lays the foundation for expanding the track both north and south.

“We are building a statewide system. We’re in the business of connecting major metropolitan centers across our state, and we won’t have a true high-speed rail system until we tie every part of this state together,” said Authority Vice Chair Tom Umberg. “It’s not one town or one region versus another; it’s about connecting one region to another. ‘’

This route selection is controversial –- it's a hybrid of the two Central Valley sections previously under consideration, Merced-Fresno and Fresno-Bakersfield. You can hear me discuss some of the politics and roadblocks confronting the project over at KALW News.

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Rep. Oberstar Chairs Final Transpo Hearing after 46 Years of with Committee

Thursday, December 02, 2010

(St. Paul, Minn. — Bob Kelleher, MPR) Rep. Jim Oberstar on Thursday chaired his last meeting of the House Transportation Committee that he's served in some capacity for 46 years.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski said he's drawing up legislation to name a new Department of Transportation headquarters building after the outgoing Minnesota Congressman.

Lipinski joined members of the committee with words of praise for Oberstar. Comments were bi-partisan, led by incoming chair and ranking member Rep. John Mica, R-Florida.

"We are truly blessed to be able to serve the people," Lipinski said. "And the people have been blessed to have your service for these years."

Oberstar told committee members his service has been a long, fulfilling and productive journey.

Oberstar commended the significance of the committee's work funding enduring infrastructure like highways and bridges.

"That our body of work, when we leave this place, will be there for our children, that it will be an enduring monument for this country, then we will have achieved our goal of serving the public," Oberstar said.

Committee members from both sides of the aisle gave Oberstar two standing ovations and ongoing praise. Oberstar leaves office after losing his re-election bid to incoming Republican Chip Cravaack.

For audio of Oberstar's final hearing head to our partner, MPR.

Watch this site for a Transportatio Nation interview with Oberstar to be posted soon.

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New York City's 10,000 Designated Drivers

Thursday, December 02, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  The New York City Department of Transportation announced today that it will be handing out thousands of pre-paid debit cards this holiday season as part of its anti-drunk driving efforts.

You the Man -- as the campaign is known -- offers a find-a-ride search engine, sobriety tests, and a general reminder that the city has 10,000 designated drivers--also known as cabbies.

There's also an iPhone app that has a designated driver picker, as well as a blood alcohol level calculator (although as one reviewer put it:  "if you're buzzed you prob shouldn't base a decision to drive on an iPhone app.")

Beginning next week, the NYC DOT will begin distributing 2,000 free rides home in the form of pre-paid $25 debit cards, programmed for use in taxis and livery vehicles--as well as MTA, PATH and NJ Transit ticketing machines.  To find out where to get a card, follow You the Man on Twitter or Facebook.

As we reported earlier, presumably you can avail yourself of the You the Man services even if you don’t have a car--but just happen to be out and about, needing a ride home. Even if you're sober.

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EPA Chief: Cleaner Cars One of Agency's Biggest Achievements in 40 Years

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The nation's top environmental officer cites cleaner cars as one of the top achievements of the past 40 years. Transportation Nation partner WNYC interviewed Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, about her tenure and her agency's achievements.

WNYC's Ilya Maritz: "What would you say is the single biggest achievement of the EPA in the last 40 years, if you could tout just one, which I know is probably difficult."

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: "It's actually impossible. You know, the Aspen Institute just released what they call "10 Significant Achievements by EPA." And there are some on the list that are surprising and some that aren't. It starts with the banning of DDT, which the first administrator did not long after EPA was formed, and you might recall DDT was the subject of the book "Silent Spring," a lot of the early environmental movement.

"There's taking the acid out of acid rain -- making rain rain again.

"There's cleaner cars, when you think about the fact that there are a hundred million more Americans and a lot more drivers than when EPA was formed and a lot more cars on the road, and yet air quality has gotten better."

Read and listen to the full interview at WNYC.

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Christie Hires Big DC Lobbying/Law Firm to Argue Transit Tunnel case

Thursday, December 02, 2010

From Governor Christie's Press Office (analysis coming):

Governor Chris Christie Approves Retention of Law Firm to Protect Taxpayers from Unreasonable FTA Demands

For Immediate Release

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trenton, NJ – Furthering his commitment to protect New Jersey taxpayers, Governor Chris Christie today approved New Jersey Transit’s retention of a law firm to challenge the Federal Transit Administration’s attempt to bill the state $271 million in connection with the Governor’s cancellation of the ARC Tunnel project with its billions in potential cost overruns.

In cancelling the tunnel project, Governor Christie sought to protect taxpayers from an open-ended bill for a project whose final costs were unknown and unpredictable and which left New Jersey responsible for all cost overruns.  Now, Governor Christie will extend his pledge to protect taxpayers by challenging the federal government in its demand for more money from New Jersey.

“It’s not surprising that the same federal transit agency that had no clear way to pay for cost overruns of a project already hurt by poor planning and inequitable cost sharing is relying on bureaucratic power plays to wring even more money from New Jerseyans,” Governor Christie said.  “New Jersey and its taxpayers should not be responsible for these costs, which is why our Administration is making every effort to fight the FTA’s unreasonable demands.  I simply cannot allow our state to be taken advantage of any further over this highly flawed project.”

The Governor also said he was gratified to see bi-partisan support emerging from New Jersey’s Congressional delegation in support of the move to challenge the FTA and protect New Jersey taxpayers.

The Governor has authorized New Jersey Transit to retain the Washington, D.C. law firm of Patton Boggs, LLP.  NJ Transit will consider ratifying the contract at its regular board meeting on December 9.

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Detroiters Wait To Hear Fate Of Proposed Bridge Project

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ambassador Bridge. Image: (CC) by Flickr user mcclouds

(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET)  Detroiters and their counterparts in Windsor, Ontario, Canada are waiting for Michigan legislators to determine the fate of a proposed border crossing.

Legislation supporting the Detroit River International Crossing will die in a state Senate committee unless it’s brought to the Senate floor today. The lame duck legislature is expected to adjourn later today.

A group of Senators is pushing to get the bridge plan out of committee--but they’re still not sure if they have the votes needed.

If the measure isn’t voted on today, new legislation will have to be written next year and a new group of legislators will have to determine whether the project is worthwhile.

Canadian officials have already approved the project and have even offered to help pay for Michigan’s construction costs. The Michigan House passed the bill in May.

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Survey: Texas Drivers Feeling Less Safe on the Roads, Want Ban on Cell Phones

Thursday, December 02, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Texans feel less safe on the roads than they did five years ago, according to a study released by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). Researchers asked drivers how they feel about traffic safety, and most say too much technology behind the wheel is getting in the way.
TTI Safety Culture

Despite the falling rate of traffic fatalities across the state, more than a third of Texans who participated in the  survey say they don’t feel any safer. Just twenty percent of respondents reported feeling more safe then they did five years ago. Quinn Brackett, a senior research scientist with TTI, says more than half of the people surveyed believe aggressive driving is on the rise. But even more — over eighty percent — say talking or texting on cell phones is worse than it was five years ago. The results didn't surprise Brackett. He says people know that cell phone use "interferes with safety while driving."

The participants’ concern with distracted driving is reflected in their answers to another question: "Are you in favor of or opposed to a law against any type of cell phone use while driving?" Supporters of a ban outnumbered opponents by a margin of two to one. Texas of course has no state-wide ban, but lawmakers are expected to file several bills seeking to prohibit or limit cell phone use while driving when the 2011 Texas Legislative session starts in January.

The ban is just one of many initiatives the majority of  respondents  say they would back. They also favor of sobriety check-points, ignition interlock devices for DWI offenders, requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, and red light cameras -- which are still a hot button issue here in Houston.

Listen to the story over at KUHF News.

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November Auto Sales: Boy, 2010 Beats 2009

Thursday, December 02, 2010

(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET)  Remember the auto bailout? The closing of the dealerships? The miasma of doubt and fear surrounding the future of the American auto manufacturer?

That was then, this is now. Most of the major U.S. automakers are posting double-digit sales gains for the month of November. And some analysts believe the car sales could be even higher next month.

Industry watchers say demand for new vehicles --which had bottled up for months as potential buyers nervously eyed the economy--pushed more consumers into dealer showrooms. General Motors sold more than 168,000 cars and trucks last month--up 11.4% compared to November 2009.

The report comes just days after the Detroit automaker issued its initial public offering of stock, amid international fanfare.

Ford sales jumped 20% compared to year-ago figures.  The automaker saw double-digit increases in demand for both its cars and its trucks. Chrysler sales rose 17%, and demand for the Jeep Grand Cherokee more than tripled from November 2009. November was the eighth consecutive month of sales improvement for the automaker.

Of the major automakers, only Toyota posted lower sales figures for the month, down more than three percent.

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