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Infrastructure

Transportation Nation

Michigan's (Bridge) Commitment Issues

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

(Detroit - Noah Ovshinsky, WDET) -  The proposed second bridge crossing between Detroit and Windsor has been in limbo in recent months. The legislation that essentially authorizes the project--commonly called the DRIC (Detroit River International Crossing)--is stalled in the state senate. Critics say the bridge is unneeded and too expensive. But in Ontario, the project is moving full steam ahead--even though its U.S. partner has yet to commit.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Bike-Themed Restaurants, On-The-Go EV Charging, and Trans-Hudson Tunnel Update

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Who halted the Trans-Hudson tunnel?  NJ Governor Christie owns up, says: "If I can't pay for it, then we'll have to consider other options." (Newark Star-Ledger)

Cash for Clunkers...a clunker?  Two economists say that the spending program failed to achieve the desired economic boost.  (Freakonomics/New York Times)

The effect of the program on auto purchases was significantly more short-lived than previously suggested. We also find no evidence of an effect on employment, house prices, or household default rates in cities with higher exposure to the program.

One Wisconsin restaurateur hopes to start the "bike restaurant movement" in Madison.  Bike-themed Velo Bahn to open next year, replete with locally produced food...and indoor bike parking.  (Wisconsin State Journal)

Say your electric car runs out of juice while you're driving.  When you call roadside assistance, will they have a way to boost your battery?  One company has developed what it says is "on-the-go EV charging." (Fast Company)

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Transportation Nation

TX Lieutenant Gov: State DOT Needs to Fix Relationships -- and Roads

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

(Houston — Wendy Siegle, KUHF)  Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst was in Houston today to discuss the state of Texas transportation. He says the Texas Department of Transportation needs to make some serious changes if it wants to tackle the state's congestion problems.  While Dewhurst gave some praise to the Texas Department of Transportation, he also had some harsh words for the agency.  “I’ve never seen a state agency in my seven and half years as Lieutenant Governor that has such poor public relations with the legislature, and most Texans.”

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Transportation Nation

Why Was the Trans-Hudson River Tunnel Halted?

Monday, September 13, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) When the Newark Star Ledger reported yesterday that NJ Transit would be suspending activity on the so-called ARC tunnel (which stands for "access to the region's core") under the Hudson river, planners sat up in alarm.

The tunnel will allow NJ transit trains to effectively double their capacity into Manhattan, making transit an option for tens of thousands of NJ drivers, and bringing a steady stream of workers to midtown Manhattan ( Thirty Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue, to be precise). There, they'll be able to take the 34th Street bus rapid transit, planned for 2012, to gain access to a major new Manhattan development site, the Hudson Yards, on the far West Side.

The $8.7 billion project is funded half the the Port Authority, half by NJ Transit (which gets a dedicated stream of funding from Garden State Parkway Tolls), and is getting $1 billion in funding from the federal stimulus bill.

It's the largest single infrastructure recipient of stimulus funds under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, or ARRA, and is seen as crucial the the New York-New Jersey region's economic development.

But -- shock of shocks -- it may go over budget, and hence, as the Ledger reported it: " The month-long suspension of all new activity - imposed by NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein in the wake of concerns by the Federal Transit Administration - will be used to re-examine the budget numbers."

In the planning community today, there's an awful lot of head-scratching.  Did this really come from the FTA, and was the FTA legitimately concerned about costs?

If so, why? Other huge Manhattan infrastructure projects, like the Second Avenue Subway, have proceeded without full funding, the theory being that a significant infusion of funds to get a project going ends up drawing down more funds in future, by creating momentum around a project.

Does this signify that NJ Governor Chris Christie is backing away from ARC, or that he'd like to see the Garden State Parkway revenue go to other projects? Christie has been an opponent of raising the gas tax, and NJ's highway trust fund, like the federal government's is broke.

We're trying to sort this out...let us know what you're hearing.

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Transportation Nation

The Near Death of Reagan National Airport After 9/11

Friday, September 10, 2010

(Washington, DC - David Schultz, WAMU News) This week on WAMU, we aired a story about the closure of Reagan National Airport after the 9/11 attacks.

Some background: all U.S. airports shut down the day of the attacks. All but one reopened a few days later. That one was Washington D.C.'s Reagan National, which stayed closed for three more weeks.

In the terrifying days and weeks following 9/11, it didn't require much of a leap to imagine Reagan National - located just a few miles from the Capitol and the White House - being used as a launching pad for terrorism. So the Bush Administration, acting at the behest of the Secret Service, shut it down indefinitely.

For the details on what happened next,

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Transportation Nation

The second stimulus, I-69, and the battle for local control

Thursday, September 09, 2010

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  Along with the proposal to jump-start a six-year transportation authorization with $50 Billion in funding, President Obama on Monday also suggested changes in the way such federal dollars are spent. His Administration's promotion of a National Infrastructure Bank and other reforms are early, tentative steps towards what could be a major reworking of the way we decide which projects to construct.

But deciding how to decide won't be easy. Anyone looking for an object lesson in the difficult issues ahead would do well to study the Interstate 69 controversy in Bloomington, Indiana, where the state and the city have locked horns over the biggest highway project in years.

At Eastern Greene Middle School in southern Indiana, citizens peruse maps of the state's route for Interstate 69

The proposed 1400-mile extension of Interstate 69 into a Canada-to Mexico "NAFTA" highway has been on the books for twenty years. It was one of the high-priority corridors designated in the 1991 transportation reauthorization—a notable exception in a bill that was otherwise hyped as the beginning of post-interstate multimodalism and increased local control over planning.

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Transportation Nation

Obama Plan Could Help Dems. But Not the Way You Think.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

(Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Did President Obama do his party a political favor by proposing $50 billion in new transportation infrastructure spending to a budget-weary nation right before the November midterms? Was his labor day infrastructure plan an effort to allow struggling Democrats to distance themselves?

At least one vulnerable Democrat under fire for supporting the president’s first $787 billion stimulus plan now says he’s not on board for any more. And just like that, Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) has put a little distance between himself and a White House sagging in the polls.

“I will not support additional spending in a second stimulus package. Any new transportation initiatives can be funded through the Recovery Act, which still contains unused funds,” Bennett said in a statement released Wednesday.

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Transportation Nation

Moving Stories: Obama's plans may have to wait; transit strikes boost bike-sharing; Virginia DMV changes rules for immigrants

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Obama transportation plan likely to have to wait (Washington Post)

NTSB again asking for seats, restraints for airline passengers under two (AP)

Tube services resume in London after 24-hour strike (BBC News)

Bike share gets a boost from transit strikes in London, Paris (WSJ)

Police put GPS on criminal's car without a warrant in Virginia (WAMU News)

London forced to use gas-guzzling vans to re-distribute bike share (BBC News)

Virginia DMV no longer accepting a federal document as proof of residence for immigrants (WAMU News)

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The Takeaway

Listeners Respond: How Would You Spend $50 Billion?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

We asked Takeaway listeners to weigh in on President Obama's plan to spend $50 billion on infrastructure to stimulate the economy. If you had the money to spend, where would you send the check? 

Lindsey Swift wrote on our Facebook page:

“Water resources and management, waste disposal, upgrade ports, high speed internet everywhere, diversify transportation options, establish comprehensive energy smart grid.”

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WNYC News

Financial 411: Television News and the Changing Media Landscape

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Markets gave ground today, the Dow losing more than 100 points to close at 10,341. Worries about European banks and European debt dented investor confidence, causing declines in the the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 of more than 1 percent each.

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Transportation Nation

Democrats Say Obama Transpo Plan a Surprise

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

(Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Presidents Barack Obama's proposal Monday for $50 billion in new spending on highway and railroad infrastructure has players on Capitol Hill scratching their heads while at the same time predicting the money likely wont pass Congress this year.

Aides to key lawmakers in both the House and Senate said they knew little of Obama's proposal prior to his announcement Monday in front of a labor union audience in Much of what Capitol Hill knows of the White House's actual intentions it has learned from the press, several said.

"We didn't know Obama was going to make the announcement until Sunday and we didn't get any details until yesterday," one House Democratic aide told Transportation Nation. "There are a lot of questions here, a lot of gaps, as to how this is going to work, the aide said.

Obama proposed $50 billion in new spending for new railroads construction, highway installation and maintenance, and other infrastructure improvements. The president billed it as a way to further stimulate job growth, which continues to flag less than two months before the mid-term elections.

The White House has proposed funding the infrastructure bank through increased taxes on oil companies. While such a move could be popular with the public, no one on Capitol Hill who spoke to Transportation Nation was clear on how long the program would last, whether such tax increases would continue beyond a couple of years, or whether the proposed program would temporarily replace a renewal of the national transportation reauthorization bill.

That bill has stalled in Congress as lawmakers struggle to find money to pay for it. The Highway Trust fund used to fund the bill stands as much as $150 billion short of what it would need to pay for proposed infrastructure projects in the bill. The White House has rejected the idea of raising the federal gas tax to make up the gap, and lawmakers have so far failed to agree on an alternative.

Aides on both sides of the Capitol are already skeptical that Senate Republicans would give Barack Obama a legislative victory by allowing the plan to pass before the November elections.

"The White House has chosen to double-down on more of the same failed 'stimulus' spending," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement.

But Democrats aren't exactly predicting success. "I'd be surprised if we passed the infrastructure part of the plan" one Senate Leadership aide said. House and Senate aides both said they expect to be briefed on the plans details by White House or the Department of Transportation in the coming days.

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The Takeaway

Listeners Respond: How to Spend $50 Billion on Infrastructure

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

All morning we've been talking about President Obama's plan to spend $50 billion on infrastructure to stimulate the economy. Takeaway listeners have some of their own ideas about the money would best be spent.

Brandolon from Dallas says:

"Biking, walking, and mass transit infrastructure, for example, would reduce reliance on the automobile, and thus the dept that comes along with it—auto loans, payday loans to pay car notes and gas, etc. All that money goes to banks and bank execs who are more likely to invest it in other nations than our own. That rationale should be key in the decision-making process."

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The Takeaway

Obama to Congress: Fix Roads, Add Jobs

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

President Barack Obama is talking about the economy all week. Yesterday, he delivered a jobs speech before a whooping crowd in Milwaukee, Wis., where he called on Congress to swiftly approve a new stimulus plan: one that would devote at least an additional $50 billion to upgrade the nation's infrastructure.

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Transportation Nation

$50 Billion More for Infrastructure? Just the Facts (The White House version)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

September 6, 2010

President Obama to Announce Plan to Renew and Expand America’s Roads, Railways and Runways

Infrastructure investments one key way to continue recovery and keep our economy growing


WASHINGTON – Today in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, President Barack Obama will announce a comprehensive infrastructure plan to expand and renew our nation’s roads, railways and runways.

This proposal is among a set of targeted initiatives that the President will outline in Cleveland on Wednesday to support our economic recovery and ensure long-term sustainable growth.  The plan builds upon the infrastructure investments the President has already made through the Recovery Act, includes principles the President put forth during the campaign, and emphasizes American competitiveness and innovation.

A fact sheet on the President’s plan announced today is below.

FACT SHEET: Renewing and Expanding America’s Roads, Railways, and Runways

The President today laid out a bold vision for renewing and expanding our transportation infrastructure – in a plan that combines a long-term vision for the future with new investments. A significant portion of the new investments would be front-loaded in the first year.

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Transportation Nation

Obama: Infrastructure, Transportation Equals Jobs

Monday, September 06, 2010

(Marketplace) We mark this holiday by noting that there are millions of people in this country who wish they were laboring. We have the highest unemployment rate for a Labor Day in almost 30 years. Labor Day 1982 saw a 10.1% jobless rate. Today, it's 9.6%.

President Obama was in Milwaukee today -- endorsing another $50 billion in government infrastructure projects.  It will all be paid for by ending a tax break for oil and gas companies, he said.  More from Marketplace's John Dimsdale.

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WQXR News

Obama Proposes New Round of Stimulus Efforts

Monday, September 06, 2010

President Obama will be presenting a new $50 billion proposal for infrastructure investments at a speech in Wisconsin.

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The Takeaway

The Last Great American Highway

Monday, September 06, 2010

The history of economic development in the United States has always been connected to the messy business of opening up trade routes. Whether it was the Erie Canal, which for many threatened to cut through their quaint home towns, or the thousands of miles of railroad track and highways strewn across the country, the same has been true: new transportation routes brought development, shipping and a lot of change.

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Transportation Nation

New Ideas for the Troubled Path to Oakland Airport

Thursday, September 02, 2010

(San Francisco—Casey Miner, KALW News) If you had to get the Oakland Airport, and fast, would you rather ride a train or take a bus?

What if the train cost twice as much as the bus? Then again, what if the bus took longer?

These are the questions addressed in a new study evaluating the relative costs and benefits of several alternatives to the battered Oakland Airport Connector project.

Advocates at the nonprofit TransForm, which opposes the OAC, asked national transit firm Kittelson & Associates, Inc. to study bus alternatives to the connector and determine whether they would be feasible or cost-effective. The full study is available online, but here’s a quick summary of the options:

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Transportation Nation

First Steps for Obama's DOT, Seen Through a Bush Administration Lens

Monday, August 30, 2010

President George W. Bush speaks with US Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters in the Oval Office of the White House on September 27, 2007.(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

President George W. Bush speaks with US Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters in the Oval Office of the White House on September 27, 2007. The meeting was after a summer of long delays and flight cancellations at airports. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

(Transportation Nation)  Mary Peters and Ray LaHood, oddly enough, were both born in places called Peoria. (Peters's birthplace, a suburb of Phoenix, was named for Lahood’s hometown in Illinois.) Until recently, it might have seemed that this was all that the Secretary of Transportation and his predecessor had in common. LaHood, a Republican Congressman, was appointed with little experience in transportation policy, but has been given billions to spend. Peters had worked for twenty years at the Arizona DOT and was the head of the Federal Highway Administration before Bush nominated her to replace Norman Mineta as Secretary of Transportation in 2006.

Many of the hard issues now facing the Obama Administration—such as crumbling infrastructure, declining gas tax revenues, and disparate opinions on spending priorities—were first recognized during Peters's tenure. The solutions put forth by the Bush Administration were bold and controversial, and Peters took the lead in encouraging highway privatization and more permissive tolling policies. She stood firm with President Bush (and against many influential Congressional Democrats) in refusing to advocate a gas tax increase.

The Obama Administration's focus on "livability" and high-speed rail have been in contrast with the past, and yet lately LaHood has been sounding more like Peters, speaking kindly of tolling and private investment. Transportation Nation's Matt Dellinger interviewed Peters last week.  She talked about the persistent problems with our transportation policy, her reaction to the Obama Administration’s first steps, and what her own future holds after January, when federal law will allow her to lobby the White House and Congress.

DELLINGER: When you were with the Bush Administration, you told me that you felt like the canary in the coal mine as far as the gap in federal transportation funding, the weaknesses of the gas tax, and the need for innovative thinking. What were the first signals that we were headed for trouble? And have things gotten any better or worse since you left?

MARY PETERS: I would say in terms of the status of the federal Highway Trust Fund, from the perspective of the revenue that it's collecting, versus what was expected to be collected, it has gotten worse—due to the recession in part, but also due to the fact that we have more fuel efficient cars and we have more alternative and renewable fuels. And then of course Americans are driving less, especially during the recession and, in the summer of ‘08, the very high fuel prices.  American driving is picking up a little bit, especially through the summer months this year, but by-and-large we're not gaining vehicle miles traveled at the rate that we had in the past and I believe won't in the future. So if anything, yes, it has gotten worse. Now, the reason that I caveat that a little bit is because Congress has elected to put some fairly significant amounts of money into the Highway Trust Fund. Between the summer of ‘08 and February of this year they've put $34.5 billion dollars of General Fund monies into the Highway Trust Fund to maintain its solvency. Absent that, we would be in real, real trouble.

DELLINGER: Generally speaking, President Bush was against using general funds to boost the Highway Trust Fund.

MARY PETERS: He really was. Of course, he did sign off in the fall of ‘08 on the first infusion of money that had to go from the general fund into the Highway Trust Fund, but generally speaking, he felt that the trust fund ought to do what trust funds do: collect revenues from defined resources and operate within the constraints of those revenues. But again, because this came on very suddenly through the summer of 2008 and because the trust fund appeared that it would not remain solvent through September of ‘08, we went to Congress—in fact, just the week before Lehman Brothers failed—and got the first infusion of cash.

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Transportation Nation

Moving Stories

Monday, August 30, 2010

Portland streetcar success has fueled interest elsewhere (USA Today)

Union members face potential buyer of GM plant set to be closed in Indiana (Indianapolis Star)

Baltimore Gas & Electric to create smart grid (and 250 jobs) (WAMU News)

Texas celebrates decision said to increase local control over transportation policy (KCBD)

Long Island Rail Road finally running on schedule, after a week of signal problems (NY Daily News)

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