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New Jersey, Feds Agree on $95 Million Payment for Cancelled Tunnel

Friday, September 30, 2011

WNYC

New Jersey has agreed to pay the federal government $95 million for a never-built transit tunnel under the Hudson River.  The U.S. Department of Transportation and Governor Chris Christie's administration have been engaged in a bitter dispute over $271 million that New Jersey had already spent on the tunnel when Governor Christie pulled the plug on the project a year ago, citing a fear of cost overruns on the $9 billion project.

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Transportation Nation

The American Jobs Act on Transportation, By the Numbers

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari

Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari lowballed the numbers for transit in the American Jobs Act in his conference call earlier this week.

The actual numbers, the D.O.T says are:

$27 billion for rebuilding roads and bridges

$9 billion for repairing bus and rail transit systems (not $2 billion, as the Deputy Secretary said)

$5 billion on projects selected through a competitive grant program (these tend to be local projects of national significance, like Bus Rapid Transit systems)

$4 billion on high-speed rail construction

$2 billion on airport improvements

$2 billion on Amtrak upgrades

$1 billion on NextGen air traffic control

This spending, by the way, would be  far more focused on getting money out into the economy quickly -- through the unglamorous mechanism of maintenance and repair -- than was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka, "the stimulus").  That bill favored "shovel-ready" projects, which still often needed final stages of approval before they could start.

Now, we know, right now, that the American Jobs Act is given about a zero chance of passing the GOP-controlled House.  But the President is stumping hard for it or it in the key swing states of Ohio, North Carolina, and most recently, Colorado.

 

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Transportation Nation

After FAA Shutdown, Resumption Of Airport Construction Won't Happen Overnight

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Runway reconstruction at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle. (Photo by Michael @ NW Lens / Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) About 74,000 transportation and construction workers are looking forward to getting back to work on more than 250 airport construction projects now that Congress has agreed to re-authorize the Federal Aviation Administration.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation said in an email that, "FAA employees can go back to work the day after the law is signed by President Obama. If the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by the President [on Friday], that would be Monday."

But FAA engineer Dan Stepko warns many of those projects have lost more than the two weeks during which workers were furloughed while Congress wrangled over the agency's temporary re-authorization.

"There's going to be a lot of carnage in the wake of this shutdown," he said. "Projects don't just start and stop, especially projects that are in the tens of millions of dollars. If you're down for a week, it's going to take two to three weeks to get going again. Construction equipment has to be rented again, workers have to be rehired in a lot of cases."

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, appearing on Hardball with Chris Matthews, also lamented the loss of time "smack dab in the middle of the construction season." He said construction workers count on employment during the summer to make it through bad-weather seasons when fewer jobs are available. "This is their bread and butter," he said. "This is when they make their money."

Despite the sigh of relief breathed by Stepko, LaHood and the entire U.S. aviation industry, Congress must vote to re-authorize the FAA again when it reconvenes next month.

You heard right. In six weeks or so, the wrangling starts again.

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US DOT Announces $1.6 Billion for Transit Projects

Monday, June 27, 2011

This just in from the DOT:

To see what's getting funded in your area, click here.

Full press release:

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $1.58 Billion for 27 Major Transit Projects Across America
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced $1.58 billion for 27 transit projects nationwide that will improve public transportation access for millions of Americans while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and curbing air pollution.

“Investing in a modern transportation network is a key part of President Obama's strategy to win the future by out-building and out-competing the rest of the world," Secretary LaHood said. “America’s long-term economic success requires investing now in transportation infrastructure capable of moving people and goods more safely, efficiently and quickly than ever before.”

“Our investments in expanding America’s transit networks will not only improve reliable transportation access for communities across the country, they will support construction jobs and economic development,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff.  “And, a more efficient and reliable transit network means new opportunities for Americans to keep more of their paychecks in their wallets and spend less at the gas pump.”

Twenty-seven transit projects across America are on a path to receive funding under the New Starts program, through which Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provides federal support for major capital construction projects such as subways, light rail, streetcars, and bus rapid transit. These projects include:

  • The New Britain-Hartford Busway will provide commuters traveling between New Britain and Hartford a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to the current daily commute on Interstate 84, the region’s most congested highway. The dedicated busway will provide the area’s relatively large transit-dependent population better access to the 81,000 jobs along the route and across the busway’s 11 stations, promote redevelopment opportunities along the 9.4-mile corridor, and provide faster transit access to major activity centers throughout the area. The FTA anticipates an overall federal commitment of $275.3 million to the $572.7 million project.
  • Denver’s 13-station Eagle Commuter Rail project, which will add nearly 23 miles of service to Denver’s transit system connecting downtown Denver and Denver International Airport to the east with numerous communities in between. Ultimately, the FTA projects contributing approximately $1 billion towards the $2 billion project, which is expected to create 5,400 jobs during peak construction. This is one component of FasTracks, a multi-billion dollar, multi-year transit-expansion program that will help Denver support smart, sustainable growth, create jobs, and compete for business for decades to come.
  • The Rapid C Bus Rapid Transit Line will help to relieve traffic congestion in West Seattle, Washington, improve access to downtown Seattle’s 150,000 jobs, and connect the popular Washington State Ferries serving Vashon Island and Southworth among other spots along the corridor. Nearly $21.3 million in discretionary 2011 funds has been budgeted for construction of the $28.4 million project. The C Line, which should be fully operational by the fall of 2012, is expected to create approximately 180 construction, manufacturing, and transportation jobs during the peak construction period.
  • The Central Corridor light rail project will connect Minnesota's two largest cities—Minneapolis and Saint Paul—by light rail for the first time. The FTA recently signed a Full Funding Grant Agreement making a long-term financial commitment to the $957 million light rail line, which will carry 40,000 riders along this busy 11-mile corridor. The project, which includes 18 new stations and 31 new rail cars, is scheduled to open in 2014. In addition to serving the downtown areas of the Twin Cities, the Central Corridor line will provide more efficient access to the University of Minnesota, the Midway area, the State Capitol complex, Target Field and the Metrodome, and many neighborhoods in between.
  • The Austin MetroRapid is a 37.5-mile, 40-stop, bus rapid transit (BRT) system.  The FTA is supporting the local vision with a $24.2 million investment in 2011 towards the nearly $50 million project.  The project, which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2013, is the first phase of Capitol Metropolitan Transit Authority’s comprehensive and forward-leaning All Systems Go ten-corridor long-range transit plan.

A complete list of the 27 projects receiving New Starts funding allocations for 2011 can be found here.

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Transportation Nation

Grading Intercity Buses

Monday, June 20, 2011

An intercity bus in New York City's Chinatown (photo by Kate Hinds)

Following a series of deadly intercity bus crashes which have killed 25 people since the start of the year, New York Senator Charles Schumer has proposed an idea that will be familiar to many New Yorkers: letter grades.

In a letter to US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the Senator wrote that his idea was inspired by NYC Department of Health grades that are prominently displayed in New York City's restaurants. "This simple grading system provides customers with the information they need when choosing where to eat and a similar scheme could be used to bring more transparency to the intercity bus industry."

The idea is that the DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (which regulates the tour bus industry) develop a ratings system that assigns letter grades to operators. Companies would then be required to display the information at both the point of purchase, as well as on the bus. "If bus companies have a poor safety record, passengers should know about it before they purchase a ticket," Schumer said in a written statement.

The FMCSA currently maintains an online safety database, but Schumer said it is "difficult to navigate and the rating system is not easy to understand."

In recent weeks the DOT and the FMCSA have been criticized for not moving fast enough to shut down tour bus operators with dozens of safety violations. Last week Anne Ferro, the head of the FMCSA, told Congress that shutting down unsafe bus companies was a cumbersome process and that her agency needed "stronger authority" to better regulate the industry.

LaHood has not yet commented on the Senator's idea. His office says he'll respond to Schumer "directly."

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Transportation Nation

Video: Ray Lahood Bikes To Work [UPDATED]

Monday, June 06, 2011

 

Ray LaHood Bikes to Work from Jay Mallin on Vimeo.

[UPDATED to add Video - AG]

The DOT just pointed us toward this video of Transpo Secretary Ray LaHood biking to work. He just oozes Washington, D.C. pride, calling the area "one of the most livable communities in America."

And, in response to an off camera question, he says "everybody has a right to the roadways, and certainly cyclists."

Original post:

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood Bikes To Work (Photo: US DOT)

As promised, U.S. Secretary of Transportation rode a bike to work today. Heres' how he describes it on his blog: "This morning I biked to work with a group of DOT commuters from the Washington Monument to our headquarters building. The route was safe and well-marked; we enjoyed some exercise; and we didn't burn a drop of gas--which saved us some money.

That's what I call a successful commute."

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Transportation Nation

Northeast Rail Reaps Nearly $800 Million Windfall From Fed Funds Returned by Florida -- But Will Trains Be High Speed?

Monday, May 09, 2011

(Photo by StevenM_61 / Flickr - creative commons)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to Penn Station to announce he was giving $795 million to improve rail service in the Northeast. LaHood's largesse is part of a $2 billion award going to rail projects in 15 states-- money that became available after Florida governor Rick Scott canceled rail plans there in February.

But that doesn't mean riders can expect a bullet train to Boston any time soon.

LaHood said northeast corridor train speeds will increase from 135 to 160 miles per hour--but only along open stretches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where Amtrak already moves swiftly. Bottlenecks like hundred year-old bridges and tunnels will continue to slow trains in other parts of the corridor.

The $795 million will fix some, but not all, of those problems. Officials couldn't say how much time might be shaved from popular routes. One transportation expert thought saving 15 minutes between New York City and Washington, DC, was probably the best that could be hoped for from the upcoming round of upgrades. Supporters say Amtrak should greatly increase its reliability, which in itself will save thousands of rider hours.

Petra Todorovich, spokeswoman for the Regional Plan Association, said it would take a $100 billion investment to bring European-style high speed rail to the northeast. She said today's DOT grant will bring long-awaited improvements to the region's rail infrastructure, lifting it to something approaching a state of good repair.

Todorovich said it was about time the federal government spent money on the most heavily trafficked rail corridor in the country, with 250 million passengers per year.

"We were disappointed that the previous grants ignored the northeast corridor," she said. "The previous funding all went to areas that don’t have a market yet. We feel very gratified that that the federal government is directing funding where people rely on rail the most. Even if it doesn’t result in a bullet train overnight, it will result in increased speed and reliability where people use rail the most."

The Brookings Institution's Robert Puentes added: "Concentrating the relocated funding in the Northeast Corridor, California, and parts of the Midwest is a happy byproduct of a difficult process but it is probably where the high speed rail funding should have been concentrated in the first place."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also praised the grant. In a statement, he recalled it's not the first time the state has benefited from Republican governors turning down rail money. "In 2010, Wisconsin and Ohio returned their federal funding," Cuomo said. "Of that money, New York received $7.3 million."

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US DOT: No Tarmac Delays Longer Than Three Hours in February, down from 60 in Feb 2010

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

This in from the US DOT:

The nation’s largest airlines reported no flights in February with tarmac delays of more than three hours, down from 60 flights in February 2010, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Data filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, showed there have been only 16 total tarmac delays of more than three hours reported from May 2010 through February 2011 by the airlines that file on-time performance data with DOT, compared to 664 reported from May 2009 through February 2010.  In February, the carriers also reported that .0400 percent of their scheduled flights had tarmac delays of two hours or more, down from the .0600 percent reported in January 2011

February was the 10th full month of data since the new aviation consumer rule went into effect on April 29, 2010.  The new rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations.  The Department will investigate tarmac delays that exceed this limit.

During February, when large parts of the country experienced severe winter weather, the carriers canceled 4.9 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, compared to 5.4 percent in February 2010 and 3.9 percent in January 2011.

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US DOT Orders Safety Review After 22 Workers Die in Pipeline Explosions in 2010

Monday, April 04, 2011

This in today:

U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY RAY LAHOOD ANNOUNCES PIPELINE SAFETY ACTION PLAN

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today launched a national pipeline safety initiative to repair and replace aging pipelines to prevent potentially catastrophic incidents.

Following several fatal pipeline accidents, including one that killed five people in Allentown, PA, Secretary LaHood called upon U.S. pipeline owners and operators to conduct a comprehensive review of their oil and gas pipelines to identify areas of high risk and accelerate critical repair and replacement work. Secretary LaHood also announced federal legislation aimed at strengthening oversight on pipeline safety, as well as plans to convene a Pipeline Safety Forum on April 18th in Washington, DC, to gather state officials, industry leaders, and other pipeline safety stakeholders in order to discuss steps for improving the safety and efficiency of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure.

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“People deserve to know that they can turn on the lights, the heat, or the stove without endangering their families and neighbors,” said Secretary LaHood.  “The safety of the American public is my top priority and I am taking on this critical issue to avoid future tragedies we have seen in Allentown and around the country.”

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Transportation Nation

U.S. to Make Florida High Speed Rail $$ Available Through Competitive Bidding

Friday, March 11, 2011

This just in from the US DOT:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Makes $2.4 Billion Available for High-Speed Rail Projects Across America

WASHINGTON U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that he is making available approximately $2.4 billion, through a competitive process, to states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors across the United States.

“The Obama Administration’s bold high-speed rail plan will create jobs, reinvigorate our manufacturing sector and spur economic development for years to come,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “States across the country have been banging down our door for the opportunity to receive additional high-speed rail dollars and to deliver all of its economic benefits to their citizens.”

President Obama’s vision is to connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail within the next 25 years.  To put America on track towards that goal, the Obama Administration has proposed a six-year, $53 billion plan that will provide rail access to new communities; improve the reliability, speed and frequency of existing lines; and, where it makes economic sense, build new corridors where trains will travel at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour.

The Obama Administration’s investments in high-speed rail are also projected to create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs in the United States. Jobs will be created both directly on manufacturing, construction and operation of rail lines, and indirectly, as the result of economic developments along rail corridors. A report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, projected that high-speed rail would create tens of thousands of jobs in cities and along rail corridors across the United States.

A one-hundred percent ‘Buy America’ requirement for high-speed rail projects also ensures that U.S. manufacturers and workers will receive the maximum economic benefits from this federal investment. And, in 2009, Secretary LaHood secured a commitment from 30 foreign and domestic rail manufacturers to employ American workers and locate or expand their base of operations in the U.S. if they are selected for high-speed-rail contracts.

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Transportation Nation

US DOT: Highway Traffic Reaches Highest Level Since 2007

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

More analysis later, but the US DOT tells us:

WASHINGTON – Americans drove three trillion miles in 2010, the most vehicle miles traveled since 2007 and the third-highest ever recorded, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today.   The increase in traffic volume comes as the U.S. in 2009 posted its lowest number of traffic fatalities and injuries since 1950.

“More driving means more wear and tear on our nation's roads and bridges,” said Secretary LaHood.  “This new data further demonstrates why we need to repair the roads and bridges that are the lifeblood of our economy."

The Secretary noted that Americans drove 0.7 percent more, or 20.5 billion additional vehicle miles traveled (VMT), in 2010 than the previous year. Travel increased by 0.6 percent, or 1.4 billion VMT, in December 2010 compared to the previous December. It is the tenth consecutive month of increased driving.

The new data, from the Federal Highway Administration’s monthly “Traffic Volume Trends” report, show the South Gulf area, a bloc of eight states ranging from Texas to Kentucky, experienced the greatest regional increase in December 2010 at 46.6 billion VMT, an increase of 624 million miles traveled compared to the previous December.

With an increase of 11.1 percent, or 156 million additional miles traveled, Nebraska led the nation with the largest single-state increase that month, and rural driving outpaced urban driving across the country.

"These data are critical to identifying and evaluating patterns of use on America’s road system, which help us to make decisions about investments in critical infrastructure,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “Repairing our nation’s roads, bridges and tunnels will help us ensure safety, strengthen the economy and build for the future.”

To review the VMT data in FHWA's "Traffic Volume Trends" reports, including that for December 2010, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/tvtpage.cfm.

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Transportation Nation

More hints on what the State of the Union will say about Transportation

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(Washington, DC -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  What's in tonight's speech?  No one is saying for sure, but Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari just told an audience of transportation professionals in Washington:  "You can bet the President will talk about what we need to do to address our shared challenges…our economy can’t roll along on rusty rails or overburned roads or congested runways.  Transportation is  essential to our nation’s success, the President understands that.

"We may not be able to discuss exactly what we’ll be hearing tonight, but we do know this after years of stagnant budgets…this President clearly gets how important [transportation infrastructure] is.  In America we invest in the future not just in spite of the challenges but because of them...We’ve always found great opportunity in the shadow of great challenge"

"If we’re honest with our selves we look at transportation infrastructure and we know it was built by our parents, our grandparents, in some cases our great grandparents."

We'll have more soon.

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DOT Contest: Design a Better Way for Cars to Talk With Each OTher

Monday, January 24, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The technology research arm of the Department of Transportation launched a competition  to spur new ideas on how cars should talk to each other to increase safety, sustainability and congestion. The cars can also communicate with bikes or anything else actually, as long as they use Dedicated Short-Range Communications technology.

The Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge, “invites problems solvers, and innovators to develop new applications, devices, products, services and business solutions—any operational concept” based on the new kind of technology known as DSRC that lets moving vehicles communicate with each other and with intelligent transportation systems (ITS).

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NJ Governor Mum About Feds' Offer to Cut $271 Million ARC Bill Nearly in Half

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New Jersey could be off the hook for almost half the $271 million  the federal government says it owes for scrapping a rail tunnel under the Hudson after work had been started.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says it will give the state $128 million back for projects that improve air quality by cutting traffic congestion. But only if New Jersey pays the whole bill by December 24.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a letter containing the offer. A spokesman for Governor Christie said he had no comment on it because the department hasn't contacted him.

Governor Christie halted the $8.7 billion ARC tunnel project in October because of potential cost overruns. The decision has been controversial. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, for one, repeatedly decries it as “disastrous.”

Lautenberg took credit on Wednesday, along with fellow New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, for brokering the rebate offer from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. A press release from Lautenberg claimed that, “The Senator has been working quietly with DOT on reducing New Jersey’s burden since the project was killed.”

Now the Christie administration must decide if half a loaf is enough to end its scrap with the feds. Earlier this month, the governor directed New Jersey Transit—the state agency overseeing the project—to hire well-connected DC law firm Patton Boggs at $485 an hour to fight the tab from LaHood, which is for preliminary work on the ARC tunnel.

James Weinstein, executive director of New Jersey Transit, stood before reporters after a recent board meeting at the agency and contended the federal government was wrong to ask for money it spent in collaboration with the state.

“This isn’t like they sent us a check for $270 million and then walked away and let us spend it,” Weinstein said of the U.S. DOT. “They were a participant in everything we did, every day, every minute, every hour.“

If the Christie administration sticks to that position, it could be that the Transportation Secretary just made an offer that can be refused.

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Transportation Nation

US DOT Redistributes 1.2 B in Wisconsin HS Rail Funds

Thursday, December 09, 2010

From the US DOT:  (analysis coming)

U.S. Department of Transportation Redirects $1.195 Billion in High-Speed Rail Funds

WASHINGTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that $1.195 billion in high-speed rail funds originally designated for Wisconsin and Ohio will be redirected to other states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors across the United States. Wisconsin has suspended work under its existing high-speed rail agreement and the incoming Governors in Wisconsin and Ohio have both indicated that they will not move forward to use high-speed rail money received under the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As a result, $1.195 billion will be redirected to high-speed rail projects already underway in other states.

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Billions for Rail Means an Election Opportunity

Thursday, October 28, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $2.4 billion in federal grants for high-speed rail projects around the country. The bulk of the the money, a combined $1.7 billion, is going to Florida and California for ambitious intercity rail projects that have already received $3.5 billion in federal grants as well as local bond money. Here's the complete list of grants.

Today's announcements are for FY2010 yearly allocation the the Federal Railway Administration's High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, as approved by Congress. It is not stimulus money, which amounts to another pool of approximately $8 billion dedicated to HSR. These announcements come just five days before election day and some elected officials are using the occasion to prove they can bring home the bacon. Thursday morning, our partner The Takeaway covered how America's diminishing appetite for infrastructure is playing out politically. But local politicians sure seemed happy to tout the millions headed to their districts. Here's how the announcements—leaked on Monday in most cases—are being discussed and celebrated by political officials around the country, just part of our regular coverage of the intersection of transportation and politics.

In Iowa—The official announcement - Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood makes the official announcement at 1:30 p.m. EST (full audio here) at the Iowa City Rail Depot. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Iowa Governor Chet Culver and U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack all joined LaHood as he called the full package "historic" and touted the job-creating power of rail construction. They also held a local event touting plans to connect Iowa City and Chicago.

In Michigan— on Wednesday, Democratic politicians made some hay of the $161 million their state is getting to connect Detroit with Chicago. Senator Carl Levin, Congressman Mark Shauer and other local leaders all turned out. It just so happens the event took place in Jackson, MI, a congressional district up for grabs on Tuesday.  U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari discussing the Michigan grant with WDET.

In CaliforniaA second official announcement
Federal Railroad Administration head, Joe Szabo, made his own announcement in Fresno, Cali. to a supportive audience at a local high speed rail conference. California got the largest share of the grants in this round. Of the $901 million, $715 million will go to the San Joaquin valley, and $16 million to connect San Fransisco with San Jose. Something Rep. Jim Costa is pleased to hear, and share. “Our years of hard work have paid off and the Valley will kick off construction of our nation’s first high-speed rail system,” he said. He also reminded constituents he was the author of the $9.95 billion bond measure that is funding the mega-project to connect LA and San Fransisco. The fate of this project could hinge on the outcome of the governor's election Tuesday.

In Florida—$800 million isn't enough. Republican candidate for governor Rick Scott says the feds should pay even more. They've already given $1.25 billion to connect Tampa and Orlando, but Scott says Washington should pay 100 percent of the cost, of the $2.6 billion project. Then there's this from Tampabay.com: "The announcement comes just days before Hillsborough County voters decide on a 1-cent sales tax increase for transportation, of which about 43 percent would go toward light rail. Supporters say local light rail is necessary to the success of high-speed rail." Just a little something.

In Virginia—$45.4 million in grants will go to the first steps of planning for a Richmond to D.C. line. This would eventually connect to the Boston-Washington Northeast corridor, and Senator Jim Webb likes it.  “I worked with Virginia officials to secure these funds because high-speed passenger rail promises significant economic benefits for Richmond and the Commonwealth,” Webb wrote in a press release. “These funds will spur job creation and economic growth, while reducing traffic on our highways in a cost effective way.” Neither Senator in Va. is up for re-election this year.

In NY—$1.5 million goes to the Empire Corridor rail project in Western, NY. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) is quite pleased. Her area pulled in just one of the smallest allocations, but look how she spreads the news. She's also in no danger of being unseated on Tuesday, just giddy for rail maybe.

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LaHood's Reaction to ARC Cancellation: "I Am Extremely Disappointed."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  Transportation Secretary RayLaHood issued an unusually detailed response to NJ Governor Christie's official killing of the ARC tunnel--one in which he lays out his version of what the estimated project cost would have been. Read his full statement:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Statement on the Termination of the ARC Tunnel Project

Washington, DCU.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today issued the following statement on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s decision to terminate the ARC tunnel project.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood: “I am extremely disappointed in Governor Christie’s decision to abandon the ARC tunnel project, which is a devastating blow to thousands of workers, millions of commuters and the state’s economic future. The governor’s decision to stop work on this project means commuters – who would have saved 45 minutes each day thanks to the ARC tunnel – will instead see no end to traffic congestion and ever-longer wait times on train platforms. Our DOT team has worked hard over the last several weeks to present Governor Christie with workable solutions to bring the ARC tunnel to life. I want to thank Senators Lautenberg and Menendez for their tireless efforts on behalf of this important project.”

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Transportation Nation

Distracted Driving Is Bad. Distracted Office Working--That's Called Multitasking.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Today the Department of Transportation kicks off its second Distracted Driving Summit. Members of the Transportation Nation team are there and will be posting later on today.

But in the meantime: there's no need to let, say, your work schedule interfere with your desire to follow the proceedings. A recent Ray LaHood tweet reads: "Can't watch at work? Staff blogging distracted driving summit live at http://fastlane.dot.gov You can participate w/comments!"

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LaHood: Distracted Driving Caused 5500 deaths in 2009

Monday, September 20, 2010

Writing in the Orlando Sentinal, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood writes that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports at least 5500 deaths and 450,000 injuries in 2009 from calling or texting while driving. At least, because many local police departments still don't record this information when taking accident reports. Texting while driving, LaHood writes, is like driving "the length of a football field blindfolded."

Ending distracted driving has become a cause celebre for LaHood. Tomorrow he'll convene his second annual distracted driving summit in DC.

-- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation

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New Tarmac Delay Rule May Be Working As Planned

Monday, September 13, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) Data released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation shows a new rule designed to prevent airlines from delaying their passengers on airport tarmacs may be working.

Only three flights in July of this year experienced a tarmac delay of three hours or more, the DOT says. That's compared with 161 flights with three hour tarmac delays in July of 2009.

DOT enacted its new tarmac delay rule in April. The rule was designed to combat the growing trend of passengers stranded on grounded planes for hours. Under the new rule, airlines are prohibited from keeping passengers on a grounded plane for more than three hours, unless there are mitigating safety or security factors.

Some airline industry analysts had worried this rule would prompt the airlines to simply cancel flights if they felt they couldn't make that three hour window. But, according to DOT data, that hasn't happened.

Large airline carriers only cancelled 1.4 percent of their domestic flights in July, the DOT says, only slightly up from the same time last year - and slightly down from the month before.

For more info, see this report.

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