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Transportation Nation

Mica Draws Connection Between Central Florida SunRail and Port of Miami Project

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

(Orlando, Fla-- Mark Simpson, WMFE) Central Florida Republican Congressman John Mica says he's carefully reviewing Governor Rick Scott’s proposal to deepen the port of Miami to accommodate a new class of larger ships.

As chair of the House Transportation Committee, Mica is in charge of signing off on Federal dollars for the project. At a meeting in Orlando Monday, Mica made a point to compare that process with the Governor's review of Central Florida's planned commuter train.

Governor Rick Scott wants to spend $77 million of state money to dredge the Port of Miami, but total costs for the project are expected to be as high as $150 million.

Congressman John Mica's committee gets to decide whether to approve an additional $75 million in federal money that would make up the difference.

Mica didin't directly  say he was linking that decision  to the Governor's  approval of the SunRail commuter train ... but he did bring up the similar timings for the two decisions, “ I get to authorize the project for the deepening at the federal level. Right now I’m studying them very closely as the Governor is studying the rail project very closely and I’ll make my decision next month in June about the time he makes his decision.”

Mica is referring to Governor Scott’s months long review of   SunRail's financial viability.

That has put a lot of SunRail supporters, including Mica, on alert, especially after the Governor torpedoed Florida’s High Speed Rail hopes in February.

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Florida Senator May Ask State Supreme Court to Reopen High Speed Rail Case

Friday, April 15, 2011

HSR in Florida No More

(Orlando, Fla. -- Mark Simpson, WMFE) The Central Florida lawmaker who sued Governor Rick Scott’s administration for scrapping Florida's high speed rail plan says he feels vindicated after the Governor’s office admitted it mis-stated how much money the state had spent on the project.

But Senator Thad Altman says he’s not sure what legal course to take now that the rail money is being offered to other states.

Melborne Republican Thad Altman argued before the Florida Supreme Court last month that Governor Rick Scott had a constitutional duty to carry out the high speed rail program which had been approved by the previous governor.

As part of the counter-argument, the governor’s legal council  told the court that the state had spend $110 million already on the project. But this week, the governor's office said that number was too high.

Senator Altman was not surprised, "Clearly we were right. We argued that only $30 million had been spent. We had appropriated $130 million. [In effect], that money had been impounded, that he in effect was trying to veto something that the previous governor had approved and that the project was being held up."
After hearing all the arguments, the Florida supreme court ruled Governor Scott did have the authority to reject $2.4 billion in federal money for the high-speed train.

Senator Altman says he may consider asking the  Court to reopen the case -- but he thinks there’s little chance to get the federal money back.

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Transportation Nation

How Much High Speed Rail will $2.4 Billion Buy?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) It should be more fun to give away billions of dollars for rail. One of the happiest things a politician gets to do, after all, is fork over cash for transportation projects. All those gold shovels, ribbon cuttings, and bridge-naming ceremonies! And, one could argue, President Barack Obama and SecretaryRay LaHood should feel triply blessed. With today’s politics being what they are, they get to dole out money more than once!

But there’s something of a deflated mood around the bids that came in this week for the $2.4 billion in High Speed Rail funds that Florida rejected in February. The money seems a little tainted, perhaps, and politically heavy. It’s unseemly to celebrate over such federal largess when Washington is on the verge of a shutdown and budget negotiators are contemplating cutting vital programs. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Florida Governor Rick Scott, elected as a budget hawks, decided the safe bet was to show restraint and send back big fat slices of transportation pie. By doing so, they left more for everyone else—but they also made the indulgence more fraught. These are hungry times, though, and money won’t sit around long. By Monday, twenty four states, plus Washington D.C. and Amtrak, had bid for pieces of Florida’s pie.

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What the Administration and rail boosters lost in the Florida debacle—a truly high-speed segment with right-of-way secured and private investors in line, that could have been built in the visible future (the next Presidential term, for instance)—will not be gained back by anything proposed Monday. Among the list of projects there is no item that will similarly turn a rail-less corridor into a futuristic proof-of-concept. The speeds mentioned are all easily imaginable by anyone with a decent car. Without a confidence in messaging that has so far eluded the Administration when it comes to transportation, it will be hard to sell this reapportionment as anything earth-shattering, or even (literally)  ground-breaking.

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Transportation Nation

Rail Supporters Holding Their Breath in Florida

Friday, March 25, 2011

(Orlando, FL -- Mark Simpson, WMFE) The dream of improving rail transit in Florida isn’t dead… completely.  High speed rail desires dissipated after weeks of dancing back and forth between HSR supporters - including US Senator Bill Nelson and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  The two fell short of convincing chief opponent, Governor Rick Scott, that cost concerns over the $2.6 billion project would be resolved.

There is one other Florida rail project that is currently in a state of suspended animation — Central Florida’s Sunrail commuter train.  It's supposed to run on 61 miles of track between Deland and Poinciana.  It's been approved and is supposed to be up and running by 2013. Planning and contract work worth about $235 million for the project is on hold while Governor Scott reviews Sunrail.  Scott says he will not make a decision until July when the new fiscal year begins for Florida. Supporters of Sunrail are worried though, because the Governor followed a similar review process before rejecting federal High Speed Rail money in February.

This week, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs met with Governor Scott for a half an hour to discuss the Sunrail project, and she told the Orlando Sentinel that she thinks Scott is still undecided. The Sentinel also released an analysis that shows the price of Sunrail is going up by close to $5 million because of the Governor’s hold on the project.

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TN Moving Stories: NY Tour Bus Checkpoint Finds 100% of Buses in Violation, LA Wants To Slash Bus Service In Favor of Rail, and More On The Bike Lane Culture Wa

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Senator Charles Schumer in Chinatown (photo by Arun Venugopal/WNYC)

A vehicle checkpoint in NY found that 14 out of 14 tour buses stopped had safety problems, leading NY Senator Charles Schumer to call for auditing the  drivers' licenses of all tour bus operators in New York State. (WNYC)

As Los Angeles moves to expand rail service, officials also aim to reduce bus service by 12%. (Los Angeles Times)

Bicyclists in Illinois want the state transportation department to start tracking "dooring" collisions. (Chicago Tribune)

New York Magazine looks at the city's bike lane culture wars.

Analysts worry factory shutdowns in Japan could slow shipments of popular cars to U.S. — including Toyota's Prius and Honda's Fit — and the shortages could spread to other models. (WNYC)

Military action in Libya helped push the average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline up another 7 cents over the past two weeks, making the the average price for a regular  gallon $3.57 (AP via Forbes).  The increase in gas prices is negatively affecting NYC taxi drivers (WNYC).

Hundreds protested planned transit cuts in Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

President Obama criticized Florida Governor Rick Scott for spurning high-speed rail. (Miami Herald)

Want to know how important buses were for the civil rights movement? Check out this NY Times article about one man's legacy. "Mr. Crawford’s work was simple. He kept a segregated population moving."

One man writes about his experiences using London's bike share program. "Sponsoring 5,000 bikes is one thing; building mythical “bike superhighways” on streets in which every square inch of asphalt is already fiercely competed for, moment by moment, is another." (NY Times)

The NY Daily News says the #7 tunnel is the MTA's #1 headache.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: A poll found that New Yorkers prefer bike lanes, 59% to 34%. Virginia's Loudoun County may withdraw its funding from the Dulles Metrorail project. Florida Senator Bill Nelson said the state's high-speed rail hopes were dashed. Travelers from Japan trickled into JFK airport. And the MTA christened two tunnel boring machines for its East Side Access project.

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A Man, A Plan, a Canal—Miami

Thursday, March 17, 2011

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) At noon today, Florida Governor Rick Scott is scheduled to take a helicopter tour of the Panama Canal expansion, to see firsthand the third set of locks that will allow bigger ships to pass from the Pacific Ocean into the Caribbean and, Scott hopes, on into the Port of Miami.

Scott traveled to Panama—his first trade mission as Governor—just weeks after he suggested that his state should fully fund a planned deepening of Miami’s port to allow those bigger ships to dock. He announced the plan on the same day he formally rejected $2.4 billion dollars in federal high speed rail money. In the face of criticism that he is thwarting economic development by refusing to pursue rail, Scott has made a point of touting the 33,000 jobs the dredging is projected to create. Miami is already the nation’s eleventh largest container port by volume, and allowing “New Panamax” ships to call could double its capacity when the canal widening is completed in 2014.

The dredging, which would increase the shipping channel’s depth from 45 feet to 50 feet, is expected to cost around $150 million. Normally the federal government would pay half of that (they pay 65% for dredging down to 45 feet), but in its 2012 budget proposal, the Obama Administration failed to earmark the money Miami needed to proceed, leaving the role of port champion open for Scott to fill.

The Governor has presented the port enhancements as a sort of alternative to the Tampa-to-Orlando High Speed Rail project, but money for the two projects would flow from different springs in Washington: while rail is a Department of Transportation responsibility, ship channel dredging is the purview of the Army Corps of Engineers, and appropriations come from Energy and Water bills.

However, transportation dollars are already playing a huge role in the port’s expansion. The TIGER II stimulus program provided $22.7 million to help rebuild the port’s freight rail connection, and construction has already started on a $610 million tunnel that will obviate what is now a parade of containers through downtown Miami, as trucks make their way to Interstate 95.

Both projects are on track to be completed in 2014, the year the Panama Canal expansion opens. State and local governments have already come up with financing for the tunnel, their half of the dredging, and ancillary tasks like strengthening retaining walls and installing newer, wider, taller cranes. The federal share of the dredging funds—a relatively small sum of $77 million—is the last and the most important piece of the puzzle. The necessary studies have been done, and there’s not much time to wait.

“It's such a tight schedule,” Juan M. Kuryla, the Deputy Port Director, told me. “The canal is going to open in 2014, you're going to have a tunnel open in 2014, the rail is going to be open in 2014, and the last leg of the stool is this deep dredge. I always equate it like you're building airport. The brand new airport is done, you've got the connection to the interstate highway system, you got the terminal and everything done, and the only thing you're missing is the runway is not long enough to land the 747's. And our runway is our water and it's not deep enough.”

Kuryla and his colleagues have not been shy about expressing their needs. When I toured the Port of Miami late last year, before Rick Scott’s tenure began, a sign at the downtown entrance to the bridge leading to the port read “Mr. PRESIDENT, Deep Dredging = 33,000 new jobs.” Obama had recently come through town, and port officials were eager to communicate just how badly they needed recognition in the federal budget.

Container shipping companies joined the chorus as well, sending letters to the President last fall. Ian Calms, Vice President of Terminal Strategy & Development for CMA CGM wrote the president to “respectfully urge” him to fund the deep dredge. “The Port of Miami is the only port south of Norfolk, Virginia, that has Congressional authorization to dredge to -50 feet,” he pointed out, “and perhaps most importantly is the only port that can complete the project in the next three-four years.”

On November 14th, CMA CGM brought its ship the Don Carlos to Miami to show just how impressive these new, larger post-Panamax ships were. The Don Carlos carries an impressive 8500 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units, or standard containers). The current Panama Canal locks permit boats carrying about 5000 TEUs, but the expansion will allow ships carrying 13,000 TEUs. “The largest ship we do now is about 5800 TEUs, and if that one comes fully laden, we have to wait for high tide and only the two newest cranes can work it,” Kuryla said. “They couldn't bring the Don Carlos in here fully laden. You could see the watermark on the ship. It was more than half empty. But with the 50 feet dredge, we can handle 8500 TEU's fully laden with the proper equipment. We're excited. But we need the 50 feet. If not we're going to remain a second tier port.”

Kuryla says the port doesn't even need the full $77 million to get moving on the deep dredge. A "symbolic appropriation" from Congress would allow the Corps to start drawing up contracts. But with the current budgetary climate in Washington, the port will likely find its money closer to home.

Since Governor Scott's initial declaration, almost two weeks ago, that he had "directed the Florida Department of Transportation to amend their work plan to include $77 million so that Florida can take another leap forward in international trade,” there have been no further news or details on the state's efforts to fund the dredge. Emails and calls to the Governor's office from Transportation Nation went unreturned on Wednesday. We will update this post with any developments.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Senators Meet With LaHood, Ask for $$ for Northeast Corridor High Speed Rail

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A congressional delegation today met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, asking him to redirect to the Northeast Corridor the money Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected for high speed rail.  The U.S. DOT will only say it will make a decision "soon."

Senator Frank Lautenberg's office issued the following press release -- TN

LAUTENBERG, CARPER, COLLEAGUES MEET WITH SECRETARY LAHOOD, URGE ADMINISTRATION TO REDIRECT REJECTED FLORIDA RAIL FUNDING TO NORTHEAST CORRIDOR

WASHINGTON— During a meeting today in Senator Lautenberg’s office, U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Coons (D-DE) asked U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to redirect the $2.4 billion in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funds rejected by the state of Florida to the Northeast Corridor.

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Transportation Nation

Florida Moves On From High-Speed Rail -- and Onto Panamax Ships

Friday, March 04, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) UPDATED WITH SENATOR SCHUMER'S COMMENTS

Just minutes after issuing a statement that he was passing on $2.4 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail, Florida governor Rick Scott announced that he told the state Department of Transportation to spend $77 million to deep dredge Miami's port.

“This is the type of infrastructure project that will pay permanent, long-term dividends, and provide a solid return on investment for Florida’s taxpayers,” Scott said in a statement, adding: "There are a number of worthy infrastructure projects that deserve our attention, and as Floridians, we know best where our resources should be focused.”

In his statement, Scott said the dredging project would create 30,000 jobs.  Rail advocates had said that building the Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail link would create 24,000 jobs.

Scott had been telegraphing his position for weeks, most recently in a conversation with Transportation Nation Wednesday, when he said "I want to focus on the places where we have a long-term impact, not just construction of high speed rail. Things like our ports, our highways, the infrastructure, that’s what I want to focus on. We’ve got a great position, Florida has, with the expansion of the Panama Canal and the expansion of the economies of Central and South America."

The Panama Canal is currently being widened. When that work is completed in 2014, it's expected that the enormous "post-Panamax" ships will become the norm, and ports across the United States are scrambling to accommodate them.

Although Florida State Senator Paula Dockery sarcastically tweeted her congratulations to California and New York, it's not clear yet where the US Department of Transportation will reallocate the money it had set aside for Florida's high-speed rail program. New York Senator Charles Schumer moved quickly to reemphasize his interest in the funds.  "Florida’s loss should be New York’s gain," he said today in a written statement. "Other states may not realize the potential of high-speed rail, but rail is a top priority for upstate New York. We can put these funds to use in a way that gets the best bang for the buck. The administration should redirect these funds to New York as quickly as possible.”

Plan for high-speed rail in the US as of 10/2010

Meanwhile, Congressman John Mica, who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was more diplomatic than his colleague Dockery.  “While I am disappointed that a plan to transfer the project to local governments and allow the private sector to at least offer proposals was not possible," he said in an emailed statement. " I respect Governor Scott’s decision and will continue to work with him and others to find cost-effective alternatives that keep Florida and our nation moving forward with 21st century transportation and infrastructure systems.”

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: No High-Speed Rail For Florida -- Scott Tells DOT No, and the Court Upholds His Authority To Do So

Friday, March 04, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Florida Governor Rick Scott told US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this morning he would not move forward with high-speed rail. And his decision was backed up by the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld his authority to reject the $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds for the project.

A DOT official said there are no more deadlines and that money will now leave Florida. “The U.S. Department of Transportation now plans to evaluate our options for making this $2.4 billion available to states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors, where the business case is strong, in regions across the United States.”

Earlier this morning the justices rejected a lawsuit brought by two state senators that challenged the governor's refusal to accept $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds for the project.  The court's decision is below.

Meanwhile, Scott's spokesman, Brian Burgess, released the following statement:

"The Governor is gratified that the court provided a clear and unanimous decision, he is now focused on moving forward with infrastructure projects that create long-term jobs and turn Florida’s economy around.  He also spoke with US DOT Secretary LaHood this morning and informed him that Florida will focus on other infrastructure projects and will not move forward with any federal high speed rail plan."

And Ray LaHood's statement reaffirmed that the president's high-speed rail program would move forward. “The Obama Administration’s bold high-speed rail plan will not only create jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing sector in the near term, it is a crucial and strategic investment in America’s future prosperity. I know that states across America are enthusiastic about receiving additional support to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life and deliver all its economic benefits to their citizens.”

Filed_03-04-2011_Ruling

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Transportation Nation

11th Hour for Florida High-Speed Rail: Look What's On Gov. Scott's Schedule Tomorrow

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Florida's planned high-speed rail route

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Tomorrow is the deadline for Florida to either move forward with high-speed rail -- or forfeit its $2.4 billion in federal funds. Governor Scott has twice rejected the Department of Transportation's money -- but is he poised to change his mind? Look what's on his schedule tomorrow:

9:00am-9:15am MEETING WITH SECRETARY RAY LAHOOD (VIA PHONE)

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, let's review the timeline:

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Transportation Nation

Florida Mayors to Rick Scott: We May Never Have This HSR Opportunity Again, Please Reconsider

Thursday, March 03, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) With just hours to go before oral arguments begin in Florida's high-speed rail lawsuit -- and one day before the Department of Transportation-imposed deadline for the state to accept the $2.4 billion in federal money or lose it -- the mayors of Orlando, Tampa and Lakeland jointly sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott they say addresses his concerns about the state's liability.

Scott has been resolute in his belief that the state's taxpayers would be on the hook if the project goes bust. The Mayors' letter argues that the state is protected and that the "USDOT has unambiguously waived its standard repayment obligation."

The letter concludes: "We may never have the opportunity again in Florida to build a project of this scale, impact, and significance with 90% federal funding.  We have had every reasonable indication that the balance of construction costs and operating costs will be funded by the private sector.  This provides a remarkable combination of resources for a project promising so many benefits to our region and our State. It is our sincere belief that this letter fully addresses all of your concerns and that there is no reasonable risk to the State of Florida or any other impediment to moving forward with this worthwhile project."

We've reached out to the governor's office for his reaction and will update if we hear anything.

Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in the case today at 3pm; there will be a live video stream here.

You can read the letter the mayors sent the governor here (pdf) or below.

Letter to Gov Scott HSR 03-02-11 v6

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Transportation Nation

Rick Scott Not Wavering on Rejection of High-Speed Rail, Says No Meetings with US DOT Before Deadline

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Donald Trump and Florida Governor Rick Scott at a New York City event to promote the state's tourism industry (photo by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  Florida Governor Rick Scott isn't wavering in his rejection of high-speed rail funds.  And he says he has no meetings scheduled with the US DOT to discuss the issue -- despite the fact that Friday is the deadline for Scott to turn over authority for Florida high-speed rail to another entity.  If he doesn't the funds will revert to the U.S. DOT.

Scott was in New York City today as part of a multi-city tour promoting Florida's tourist industry. Transportation Nation grabbed him for a few minutes afterwards; transcript below.

Q: You talk about jobs. Senator Nelson says high speed rail will bring 24,000 jobs to Florida – how can you turn it down?

Rick Scott: Well, my concern is I want to focus on the places where we have a long-term impact, not just construction of high speed rail. Things like our ports, our highways, the infrastructure, that’s what I want to focus on. We’ve got a great position, Florida has, with the expansion of the Panama Canal and the expansion of the economies of Central and South America. My concern about the high-speed rail is it’s a large number-- $2.4 billion-- however it doesn’t cover all the operating costs, it doesn’t cover the construction costs, and, if it doesn’t work, and we have to shut it down, we have to give all that money back. That’s what I’m worried about.

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: Florida Governor Says Lawsuit "Disrespects" Taxpayers

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Gov. Rick Scott just issued a terse statement in response to a lawsuit seeking to force him to accept federal money for the state's high-speed rail project.

“My position remains unchanged, I’ve yet to see any evidence that Florida taxpayers would not be on the hook. Senators Altman and Joyner’s disrespect for taxpayers is clear by their lawsuit trying to force the state to spend this money.”

Earlier today two state senators filed a lawsuit in Florida Supreme Court, saying the governor had overstepped his constitutional authority. The court has given Scott a deadline of noon tomorrow to respond. 

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: Florida High Speed Rail Lawsuit -- State Senators Say Gov has "Exceeded... Constitutional Authority"

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Two state senators have filed a lawsuit to force Florida Governor Rick Scott to "expeditiously accept" $2.4 billion in federal money for the state's high-speed rail plan.

Republican Thad Altman and Democrat Arthenia Joyner claim in their petition to the Florida Supreme Court that the governor has overstepped his authority and is legally obligated to accept the high-speed rail money from the federal government, because the Florida State Legislature voted in December 2009 to authorize the project.

The massive document, which contains not only the legal argument but dozens of exhibits and letters, can be found here (pdf) or below.

Governor Scott said two weeks ago he was rejecting funds for high-speed rail because he was convinced there would be cost overruns. Since then, US Department of Transportation Secretary RayLaHood granted the governor two one-week extensions in an effort to change his mind. But the governor said as recently as this morning that he remained unconvinced.

Governor Scott's office has not yet returned calls seeking his comment on the lawsuit, while the Department of Transportation has no comment. More as we learn it!

Filed 03-01-2011 Altman v Scott

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TN Moving Stories: Chicago To Build 'Cycle Tracks,' Florida Polls Mulling HSR Lawsuit, and India's Infrastructure Budget

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers is mulling suing Governor Rick Scott over his rejection of high-speed rail. (WESH TV, Orlando)

Chicago is testing a new kind of bike lane called a cycle track. (Chicago Tribune)

The Indian government says the country needs $1 trillion worth of infrastructure work. It won't get that number in its 2011 budget, but there's an increase. (Wall Street Journal)

The Indian budget also sets up a National Mission for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles to encourage the manufacturing and selling of eco-friendly vehicles. (AltTransport)

Transit advocates are seeking an overhaul to Maryland's commuter train service. (Washington Post)

The NY Daily News wants to Christie-ify the World Trade Center transit hub.

Gothamist talks with New York State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, a Queens Democrat who has introduced legislation that would require every bicycle in New York State to have a license plate.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: In his first remarks on infrastructure since the Florida High Speed rail near-death experience, the President acknowledges "controversy." NY state suburban legislators and the head of the MTA square off over the payroll tax for transit. Ten US senators from the Northeast are hungrily eyeing Florida's high-speed rail money. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by New York City officials who want to force cabs to purchase more fuel-efficient cars. And experience a day in the life of a Volt owner.

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Senators To Florida: You Gonna Eat Those HSR Funds?

Monday, February 28, 2011

(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) Have you ever been out to a restaurant with a group of people and one person didn't quite finish their entree? Whenever this happens, I'm usually the first to broach that eternal question, "You gonna eat that?"

I realize in some circles this is interpreted as uncouth behavior. I ask the question not to offend, but simply as a means to distribute a meal more efficiently. In other words, if you're not going to eat it, I will.

And I'm not the only one who holds these controversial views. Ten Democratic Senators from the northeast sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday asking that $2.4 million in high speed rail funds semi-rejected by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) be redirected to their states. In other words, if Florida won't eat it, they will.

Full text of the letter after the jump...

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TN Moving Stories: Automakers Struggle To Win 20-Somethings, Britain's HSR Woes, and Navigating by iPad

Monday, February 28, 2011

Automakers struggle to market cars to the younger generation. (NPR)

Joan McDonald --Gov. Cuomo's choice to head the New York State Department of Transportation -- is scheduled to go before lawmakers today in Albany, talking budget and transpo funding. (Wall Street Journal)

High-speed rail in Britain has had cross-party support, but it's now facing opposition on environmental grounds. (Telegraph)

Navigating by Apple: the FAA is allowing some pilots to use iPads instead of paper charts. (Autopia)

Turf battle: the FAA and the NTSB are sparring over who has access to safety data. (Wall Street Journal)

MetroCard vandals are becoming more aggressive in some parts of New York. (NY Post)

The NY Daily News's Pete Donohue writes: "The MTA is paying hired-gun lawyers more than $540 an hour to deny token booth clerks earning $18 an hour a modest raise."

If Karsan wins NY's "Taxi of Tomorrow" competition, will they assemble part of the vehicle in Brooklyn? (Brooklyn Paper)

The National Journal debates Rick Scott's rejection of high-speed rail in Florida.

New York City is eyeing ways to maximize parking meter revenue. (NY Daily News)

More than $4 million in federal funds is ready to fuel passenger train service across New Hampshire. But legislation proposing to disband the N.H. Rail Transit Authority has stalled the effort. (Nashua Telegraph)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Washington State has reached an agreement with the DOT over high-speed rail funds. A new report says improving transit in outer boroughs is key to NYC's job growth. And Houston's bicyclists and pedestrians win a small victory.

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Scott Wavering on High Speed Rail

Friday, February 25, 2011

(Orlando, Florida -- Mark Simpson, WMFE) It looks like there may still be life in Florida's High Speed Rail Project. We've posted the announcements and public statements all day long, from the DOT, Gov. Rick Scott, and others. At the end of a day that saw several meetings, public pronouncements and back door negotiations, here's where the Tampa-Orlando bullet train stands.

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has agreed to give Florida one more week to come up with a way to build the proposed rail line before the DOT reallocates the $2.4 billion in federal funds allocated to the project. Governor Rick Scott says he is willing to listen.

Today was supposed to be the deadline imposed by the US Department of Transportation for Florida to come with a plan to work around Governor Rick Scott's refusal of federal money for high Speed Rail.

Governor Scott met with LaHood in Washington D.C. and asked for more information on the proposed Florida High Speed Rail line.

Scott refused the money last week citing concerns about the state's financial liability if the project did not generate enough money to cover its estimated $2.6 billion dollar cost.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and US DOT lawyers have been working on a legal workaround since the Governor's refusal and may yet arrive at a solution.

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BREAKING: The Undead? LaHood Says FL Governor Scott Asked for, Was Granted, Another Week on High Speed Rail

Friday, February 25, 2011

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Statement on High-Speed Rail in Florida

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today issued the following statement on high-speed rail in Florida:

“This morning I met with Governor Rick Scott to discuss the high speed rail project that will create jobs and economic development for the entire state of Florida. He asked me for additional information about the state’s role in this project, the responsibilities of the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as how the state would be protected from liability. I have decided to give Governor Scott additional time to review the agreement crafted by local officials from Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland and Miami, and to consult with his staff at the state Department of Transportation. He has committed to making a final decision by the end of next week. I feel we owe it to the people of Florida, who have been working to bring high speed rail to their state for the last 20 years, to go the extra mile.”

Here's Senator Bill Nelson's comment:

"I am grateful the governor has agreed to receive the facts on how the state will have no financial responsibility in high-speed rail.  I’m especially grateful to Secretary [ Ray ] LaHood for giving Florida at least one more week before our money goes to another state.  Hopefully, this will be enough time for people of good intentions to put Florida’s interests first.  There is too much at stake for us not to try everything we can. ”

Scroll down in our blog to see how unhappy both LaHood , Nelson and others were yesterday.

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More Criticism Rains down on Scott from FL Officials for Killing High Speed Rail

Friday, February 25, 2011

This just in from Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown:

PRESS RELEASE
THE HONORABLE CORRINE BROWN

THIRD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT OF FLORIDA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  February 25th, 2011

Congresswoman Brown:  Rick Scott Puts Florida Jobs on High Speed Train to California

(Washington, DC) Congresswoman Brown delivered the following statement:

"Today is a very sad day for the state of Florida.  As the Ranking Member of the House Railroad subcommittee, I am more than disappointed in the Florida's governor's decision to return $2.4 billion in funding for a high speed rail system.  Just yesterday, Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica and I attended a previously scheduled listening tour to obtain input from Americans nationwide on the upcoming six year Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill.  The hearing, which was jointly held with Senator Barbara Boxer and attended by several Members of the California congressional delegation, was widely attended and attracted a great deal of interest in the Los Angeles area.  Sadly, I must admit that many of the California delegation members thanked Congressman Mica and me profusely for the high speed rail money Florida Governor Scott is about to hand over to their state.  It was extremely painful for me to hear these types of remarks, as well as to physically be, ironically, in California at the same time our governor is working hard to give away over $2 billion in high speed rail funding destined for our state.

Unfortunately, Florida's governor is much more interested in politics than in creating jobs or improving the transportation system for Florida residents.  And his decision will not do anything to bring down Florida's 12% unemployment rate. 

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