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Transportation Nation

Moving Stories: Dreamliner delays, GM "timebomb," high-speed rail jobs

Friday, August 27, 2010

Boeing postpones Dreamliner delivery until 2011 (WSJ)

Washington Post: Pension "time bomb" is major obstacle for GM turnaround

UC Irvine report predicts high-speed rail line would create jobs and boost L.A.-Orange County economy (LA Times)

Speakers, petitions pack meeting against I-69 in Bloomington (Bloomington Herald-Times)

NJ light-rail station, yet to be opened, is vandalized (Jersey Journal)

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Transportation Nation

A Lively Night in the Fight Over Interstate 69

Thursday, August 26, 2010

(Bloomfield, Indiana - Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  Tonight will be a big night for opponents of Interstate 69 in southern Indiana. The 20-year long local battle against the Canada-to-Mexico highway is reaching a climax. The state has released a draft environmental impact statement for the short segment closest to Bloomington, where the road is widely unpopular.

The Indiana Department of Transportation will host a public hearing this evening on the DEIS.  Public comments against the highway have historically failed to convince the Indiana Department of Transportation or the various Governors who have advanced the project. But one of the most contentious debates has long been based in Bloomington.

Longtime I-69 foes Thomas and Sandra Tokarski, the founders of  Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads, sent an urgent email to their supporters asking them to attend. “Governor Daniels is  fast-tracking and cheapening I-69,” they wrote, referring to Mitch Daniels’ strategy of reducing engineering standards in order to fit the project into the state’s shrinking budget. “It is VERY IMPORTANT for lots of people to show up and comment on this devastating project. We must speak out or be paved over.” 

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Transportation Nation

Explainer: What is a heat restriction, anyway?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

(San Francisco—Casey Miner, KALW News) It's been downright sweltering in the Bay Area over the past few days, and here at KALW News we’ve been enjoying the sudden summer weather by taking our laptops outside. But the heat hasn’t been so kind to everyone.  Both BART and Caltrain are experiencing heat-related equipment malfunctions that have led to long delays: computer failures on BART forced conductors to operate trains manually on Tuesday, while Caltrain cars had to slow down significantly due to “heat restrictions” on speed. From the San Jose Mercury News article on what happened:

“On the Caltrain tracks, trains were being slowed down from their top speed of 79 mph, according to a release from spokeswoman Christine Dunn, who explained that in extreme heat, tracks become soft and can be damaged by the weight of the train.”

Tracks going soft in the heat? Sounds kind of dangerous, right?

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Transportation Nation

Northeast Corridor Service Snarled; Second Time in Two Weeks

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Amtrak says service is suspended between New York City and Philadelphia because of low voltage problems that are also affecting regional commuter rail lines. Trains between Baltimore and Washington also are stopped.
The problems are derailing the ride to work for commuters for the second time in less than two weeks. In that case, a fallen tree knocked out power and rail signals.
NJ Transit says the problem is affecting Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line and Midtown Direct trains. Philadelphia's Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority says all its regional rail service is suspended.
Meanwhile, Long Island Rail Road commuters are facing significant delays after canceling 33 westbound morning trains because of a switching station fire Monday.

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Transportation Nation

Engineering Firm to Pay $52.4M in Bridge Collapse

Monday, August 23, 2010

(St. Paul, Minn. - MPR News)  More than 100 victims and their family members have reached a settlement agreement with an engineering contractor over the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in 2007.  MPR News is covering.

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Transportation Nation

Last Pieces of I-35W Bridge Moved

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cars are seen August 4, 2007 in the twisted wreckage of the collapsed I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Some debris still sits in a park just beond the dark bridge above. An agreement was reached today to move it. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

(St. Paul, MN - MPR News)  Debris from the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in 2007 will soon be moved to a storage site, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials said today.

Mangled steel from the bridge had been placed on parkland along the Mississippi River as the National Transportation Safety Board investigated the collapse. The debris was also considered evidence in several lawsuits stemming from the collapse, so MnDOT was instructed not to remove it.

But Minneapolis residents and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board complained last year that the seven-acre park had been closed too long. The board sued, saying it was losing parking revenue because the park was closed.

MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said Friday that the department has come to an agreement with the park board and with victims of the bridge collapse who have a lawsuit pending against a contractor hired to inspect the bridge.  Moving the steel is expected to start in a couple weeks and will take some time, Gutknecht said.

"It has to be cut so it will fit on flatbed trucks," he said.  But he said MnDOT is happy to move it.  "We are really glad to be able to get that park open again. We know it's been a trial for the city and residents of the city," he said.  More from MPR News.

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Transportation Nation

Major Brooklyn Artery To Be Narrowed for Arena Construction

Friday, August 20, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) In New York City this week, Brooklyn residents have been getting a mailer from Forest City Ratner, the developer of the new Nets stadium and mega-building complex near what's called the "crossroads of Brooklyn," Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. The mailer tells the residents that Flatbush Avenue, a major thoroughfare that connects the Manhattan Bridge to the Atlantic Ocean, will be reduced from six lanes to five until the summer of 2012 for a block at that crucial intersection.

The stadium project was approved only after a prolonged controversy. The mailer seeks to soften the blow by positing that the road closure is to make subway improvements.

We're working getting a traffic analysis, but transpo experts, if you're out there, let us know what you think in the comments page.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Record fine for AA, Rendell's moment, Hijack hoax

Friday, August 20, 2010

Feds propose record penalty of $25 million against American Airlines for maintenance lapses (WSJ)

Hijacking threat that grounded plane in SFO was bogus (SF Chronicle)

Will PA legislators listen to Gov. Rendell, and his call for taxes to support roads, bridges?  Answers may come Monday.  (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Homeland Security simulates gas attack in Boston's subway tunnels (AP)

Fourteen-inch "fatigue" crack caused hole to open in Southwest flight, NTSB says (Dallas Morning News)

$32.7 million budget surplus in Virginia will go to transportation.  (Washington Post)

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Transportation Nation

The Party of Roads?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) You won’t find a clearer policy statement than the domain name for NoTrain.com. The web site was created on behalf of Scott Walker, the republican gubernatorial candidate in Wisconsin, who in a new campaign spot takes a stand against a proposed Madison-to-Milwaukee rail line. Rather than build the $810 million dollar federally-funded “boondoggle,” Walker says, he’d like to “fix Wisconsin’s crumbling roads and bridges.” He’s worried for the “hard-working families who are going to pick up the tab” for a train they may never ride.

The undercurrents are of states rights and fiscal responsibility. The television ad and the open letter that appear on the web site are directed not so much against Walker’s Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (who supports the rail plan), but against President Barack Obama, who won the state of Wisconsin two years ago by nearly fourteen percent.

Walker isn’t the only Republican gubernatorial hopeful employing the roads-vs-rail rivalry in a state that voted for Obama. California nominee Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO, has complained that issuing bond debt for high speed rail is unwise in the current economy. She wants the plans put on ice. In Ohio, candidate John Kasich has proposed repurposing the $400 million in stimulus money set aside for faster trains serving Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati, and using that money for roads. And in Maryland, Republican challenger Bob Erlich has taken issue with Governor Martin O’Malley’s goal to “dial up mass transit.” Erlich says he wants to see a better balance of highway and transit projects, and has suggested that a number of commuter rail projects be converted to a bus program.

The party is not monolithic against rail.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: A Buick beats a BMW, returning rail money, Texas taxes for roads?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Big Three brands Lincoln-Mercury, Buick best European brands in consumer auto survey (Detroit Free Press)

In Wisconsin, GOP primary opponents agree that they'd halt high-speed rail.  One candidate says he'd return federal money.  (Milwaukee Public Radio)

New Haven-Springfield line gets $260 million in Connecticut; feds could add more (CT Post)

SF Bay Area , Pittsburgh among those facing public over transit cuts this week.

Siemens takes high-speed rail message directly to public at airports (Streets Blog)

Democratic candidate for governor in Texas says he won't rule out higher debt, taxes to bring new road projects.  (AP)

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Transportation Nation

The Highway Trust Fund: Big Wheel, Keep on Turning

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perpetual Motion by Norman Rockwell(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  Stephen B. Goddard, in his (very excellent) book Getting There, aptly compared the Highway Trust Fund to a perpetual motion machine. Devised in 1956 to pay for the Interstate Highway System, the HTF, as it’s often abbreviated, pooled gas taxes and other automobile-related revenues and spit them right back out as construction money for more highways, the presence of which encouraged more driving and therefore more revenue, and so on.  As Goddard tells it, the HTF was more of an engineering marvel than the roads it built: “It satisfied those who wanted spending linked to revenues, those opposed to diversion [of gas tax monies to non-highway purposes], and congressmen, who would now have one less vote to justify at election time.”

The magical self-feeding road beast did its thing for fifty years, but now, as transportation writer Yonah Freemark laid out last week, it’s become a much more complicated mechanism.

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Transportation Nation

5000 Fewer Riders Using Bay Bridge as Congestion Pricing Takes Hold

Friday, August 13, 2010

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/gohsuket/2550771432/

(Oakland, CA -- Casey Miner, KALW) CalTrans raised tolls on the Bay Bridge July 1 during peak hours, from $4.00 to $6.00 -- and for carpools, to $2.50, from nothing. What happened?

Five thousand fewer cars are using the Bay Bridge each day, and BART, the cross-bay commuter train, saw 4500 more riders. The full story here.

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Transportation Nation

San Francisco Breaks Ground on New Transbay Terminal

Friday, August 13, 2010

Only 25 percent of San Francisco Bay Area residents use mass transit -- but local planners are serious about trying to get that number up. As KALW reports, local political glitterati are getting behind a new bus terminal, which they one day hope will be a hub for rail, buses, and BRT.

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Transportation Nation

NY's New Deputy Mayor Likes BRT and Congestion Charging -- But Does He Like Bike Lanes?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) There have been some interesting political alliances in the transportation world -- former Charlotte Mayor Pat McGrory, a conservative Republican, has been one of the nation's biggest backers of transit. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,  also a Republican, who has also run on the Republican line, has found himself lauded by scrappy environmentalists who would probably otherwise hang with the far left. But when Bloomberg last spring appointed a former Republican Mayor of Indianapolis -- and adviser to George W. Bush -- to oversee Parks, Environmental Protection, and Transportation, a bit of a frisson shuddered through the transit world. Turns out Goldsmith is a huge supporter of congestion pricing, which he's called "terrific" and "imperative." He loves BRT and has seen it in operation in Curitiba, Brazil. He's studied bike share and thinks it's compatible with the short distances New Yorkers travel. But does he love bike lanes as much as Janette Sadik-Khan? Here's a bit of his exchange with me --

BERNSTEIN: There was some thought -- the commissioner wanted to have bike lanes all the way up First and Second Avenues. And then that plan was pulled back and that was around the time that you were coming and there was some speculation that was because you were concerned about that. Is there any truth to that?

GOLDSMITH: No. Not exactly. The mayor and I are concerned about getting the balance right. How to make the city more livable in a way that doesn’t create ancillary byproduct problems. And how extensive the bike lanes should be and where they should be is a legitimate question. I had a conversation about this with the mayor this morning. You know, he is interested in getting the balance right. He asked me a lot of questions and asked Janette a lot of questions about it, as he should, and I’ll continue to work on it.

BERNSTEIN: That was a very evocative ‘not exactly’. Can you expand on that?

GOLDSMITH: No.

Audio, and full transcript, after the jump.

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Transportation Nation

Portland Metro Council President to Join NYC Government

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's become de rigeur for major cities to have a sustainability plan -- but one of the largest and most comprehensive has been New York's PlaNYC. The plan has been a driving impetus for New York's bike lane expansion, its conversion of schoolyards to playgrounds, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's support for converting the Great White Way to a pedestrian plaza.

Now, after importing the former Republican Mayor of Indiana, Stephen Goldsmith, to be Deputy Mayor of Operations (in charge of Transportation, Parks, Environmental Protection, and other departments) , New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is tapping David Bragdon, former President of the Portland, Oregon Metro Council, that greenest of green cities, to run the New Ycrk City Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability.

Comments, Portland residents?

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Transportation Nation

A Tree Snarls in Princeton

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Commuters Jam NY's Penn Station Photo: Collin Campbell

(New York -- Collin Campbell, Transportation Nation)  The "massive" tree, as an Amtrak spokesman described it, couldn't have fallen at worse time or in a worse place.

At around 5 a.m. this morning near Princeton Junction, NJ, a storm of branches and leaves came down on overhead wires and an Amtrak signal box. The result fried fuses and shut down signals on a 20 mile stretch of the Northeast Corridor.

Great, just in time for rush hour on one of the busiest stretches of train track in America.

It's the latest insult and injury to New York and New Jersey commuters, who endured delays and humid, 90+ degree temperatures on the ride home.

In May, NJ Transit raised fares 25 percent and cut way back on service. Then, as the NY Times exposed, trains don't run on time anyway. I n New York, dozens of bus lines were cut and two train lines were scrubbed from the alphabet entirely at the end of June.  Trains are twice as dirty as they used to be. There are delays caused by the punishing heat ... and then came the tree.

NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel said he didn't even have time for breakfast. "The phone rang and I went to work," he said.  Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole called it "weird."  "We don’t have any storms or wind,” he said.

Garden State commuters were the hardest hit.  For much of the morning, NJ Transit trains couldn't leave a train yard near Trenton, as switches and signals wouldn't budge, or were limited to helping Amtrak function as it could.

Later, Amtrak workers "walked" trains through miles of track, functioning as traffic cops for miles of signal-less track. Commuters endured delays the reached two hours.  On the way home, express trains were canceled.  The 67-mile ride to Trenton was on crowded, local service.  Amtrak canceled some trains, but had delays under an hour by the end of the day.

Transportation officials saw days like this coming.   Currently, Amtrak workers are using $30 million in federal funds to remove trees close to the track in the Northeast Corridor.  But today, for the boughs of the mighty Princeton Junction tree, it was too late.

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Transportation Nation

NY Gets New Bridge

Monday, August 09, 2010

Photo: Daniel Tucker

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) The fanfare has been incessant -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did no less than FOUR live interviews this morning about it. Perhaps because it's been a season of relentless bad news for local budgets, which means major infrastructure completions are totally rare these days. Perhaps it's because this project has been so vivid -- a bridge floated down the Hudson River from Albany to Bayonne, NJ, tweaked, then sent up the East River by barge to its Bronx home. But we're suckers for it anyway, we can't help ourselves, it's catnip for journalists, irresistible especially these slow August news days. So here it is, the new Willis Avenue Bridge, getting ready to be moved into place in the Bronx.

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Transportation Nation

Breaking Ground on the Post-Interstate Interstate

Saturday, August 07, 2010

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) The highway megaproject, an animal still thriving in China and other developing countries, has become something of an endangered species here in America. This has a little bit to do with actual endangered species—and more specifically the environmental laws we put in place to protect them. It also has a lot to do with money, which is kinda tight these days: The Highway Trust Fund is famously broke, and the transportation reauthorization bill is stalled because there’s no consensus on how to make up for anemic gas tax revenues.

But despite all of this—and despite the fact that, technically, the interstate construction program ended in the mid-1990s—the biggest new interstate of the post-interstate era is still struggling its way into existence up and down the middle of the country.

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Transportation Nation

Over the river and through the towns: the fight over how to build California high-speed rail

Friday, August 06, 2010

(San Francisco—Casey Miner, KALW News) First things first: the California High-Speed Rail Authority didn't actually decide anything significant at its monthly meeting yesterday. The board voted unanimously to follow its staff's recommendations about two big sections of the project, Fresno-Merced and San Francisco-San Jose. But those recommendations were merely that staff continue to study the available options for building the rail tracks through those areas.

Those options, though, stirred up a whole lot of controversy. Mayors, councilpeople, assemblymen, activists and concerned citizens packed the auditorium to the point where it was standing-room only for most of the meeting, which began at 9am and lasted well into the afternoon.

At issue was the proposed structure of the train down the Peninsula from San Fransisco to San Jose.

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Transportation Nation

Unpaving Paradise To Put Up A Park

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Transportation Nation's own Andrea Bernstein guest-hosted today's Brian Lehrer Show. One of the segments talked about plans to demolish the Sheridan Expressway, reconnect local streets, and use the expressway's land for open green space and affordable housing. The plan is controversial -- especially with WNYC's listeners. Can Steve, a truck driver from West Babylon who drives through the Bronx a couple of times a week, be won over? Listen below! (And keep your ears peeled for Steve, who calls in about 12 minutes in.)

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