Infrastructure News, March 1st

Does Light Rail Really Alleviate Highway Congestion?

Transit advocates take for granted that public rail transportation relieves congestion on the roadways, but experts consider the question far from settled. Take two influential studies published in the last few years as an example: One found the latent demand for road space so strong that even expanding public transit cant hope to diminish it while another concluded that cities with well-established rail systems do indeed have less traffic.than those that do not. And that’s just in the recent past; the debate stretches back much farther. New research by two geographers at the University of Denver nudges the literature in a hopeful direction. Focusing on light rail in Denver, Sutapa Bhattacharjee and Andrew Goetz examine the question from two angles at once: they perform a temporal analysis that compares highway traffic before and after the system opened, and a spatial analysis that measures whether or not traffic changes have taken root on highways adjacent to the rail corridor.

Metro business groups promote Southwest Light Rail

It’s not uncommon to see Chamber of Commerce leaders at the State Capitol, but their cause this legislative session is catching some by surprise. They promoting the Southwest Light Rail, more specifically $25 million in bonding for the line that would connect downtown Minneapolis to St. Louis Park,Hopkinsand Shakopee. That’s only part of the projected $125 million price tag, but an important piece to a financing plan that would leverage federal dollars. “The Met Council’s own figures show that 80-plus percent of all riders of the metropolitan transit system, whether it be bus, light rail, or north star are either going to or from their place of employment, or they’re going to or from school,” Matt Kramer, president of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce told reporters Tuesday.

Poll: Most Minnesotans support state funding for Southwest Light Rail

About 61 percent of Minnesotans support spending $25 million in state bonding funds on building the Southwest Light Rail line, according to results of a poll conducted by three chambers of commerce. The poll surveyed 700 state residents during the month of January.

Light Rail: Hiawatha Line=Blue, Central Corridor=Green

2012 is scheduled to be the last major year of construction for the Central Corridor light rail. Work continues apace on University Avenue and in downtown St. Paul, with lots of track laid, brand new stations, and plenty of progress to be seen. Weather depending, 75% of the project should be completed by the end of the year. The lane closures and disruption continue, and hopefully University Avenue and downtown St. Paul businesses manage to survive another year. So please support University Avenue businesses – it may look like a mess, but parking really isn’t that bad. Most businesses still have plenty of street parking in the side streets, or are sharing lots with other organizations – look for signs.

Metro Transit unveils new branding for Light Rail and BRT

Metro Transit operator The Metropolitan Council has revealed the new branding for the Light Rail transit (LRT) and bus-rapid transit (BRT) system. Together, the system will be known as METRO, with individual lines identified by color names. The existing Hiawatha LRT line has been dubbed the Blue Line. The upcoming Central Corridor and Southwest Corridor LRT lines have been collectively dubbed the Green Line. I-35W’s BRT line has been named the Orange Line, and a the Cedar Avenue BRT line will be known as the Red Line when it is completed in November.

Stillwater bridge bill passes U.S. House

A bill that will pave the way for a new St. Croix River bridge passed the U.S. House with 339 votes shortly before 10 a.m. today. Eighty voted against the measure. The news sent shockwaves through downtown Stillwater this morning. “We’re now in the final stage of a 60-year process,” saidStillwater MayorKenHarycki, just minutes after the historic vote. “This wasn’t a Democratic bridge. This wasn’t a Republican bridge. This was a bridge to serve the people, and that’s what Congress did today.” The passage of the bill removes “the last remaining roadblock” for a new four-lane bridge south of Stillwater,Rep.TomPetri, R-Wis., said during House debate on the measure Wednesday night. “We just need this final action in order to finally proceed with the bridge. It’s time to end the gridlock.”

MPR News Primer: St. Croix River bridge

After more than a decade of bitter politics and litigation, Congress is close to a vote authorizing a new St. Croix River bridge to replace the aging span in Stillwater.  The 80-year-old Stillwater Lift Bridge has served as a vital connection across the St. Croix River. But now it’s a choke point. When the Lift Bridge rises to let boat traffic pass on the river, cars back up into downtown Stillwater and up Minnesota 36, creating all kinds of traffic congestion and hazards. Congestion crashes occur at twice the rate of a similar segment of roadway, the Minnesota Department of Transportation says.

 Which city’s rail system has the best Walk Score?

Last week, David Klion computed the Walk Score for all Washington Metro stops. How does Metro stack up to the other heavy rail systems in the United States?  The answers may surprise.

 White House’s Summary of USDOT 2013 Budget Proposal

 The President has proposed a $74 billion 2013 budget for USDOT, along with a six-year surface transportation reauthorization totaling $476 billion. According to White House briefing materials, below are highlights (page one) of the 2013 budget; the longer summary is reprinted below.   USDOT has released a 68-page report on the 2013 proposal which also contains information about its authorization proposal. Visit USDOT’s Performance & Budget information center and the White House’s budget page for more information about other issue areas.

 John Boehner May Scale Back Highway, Energy Bill

Facing increasing opposition from within his own party, Speaker John Boehner may scrap his ambitious five-year highway and energy package in favor of a shorter and more palatable measure.  Although the bill was intended to be his signature legislative policy proposal, Boehner has struggled to pull together enough GOP votes to pass it. He was first forced to break the comprehensive package into separate energy, funding and transportation bills last week. But as opposition to the transportation portion continued to build, he was then forced to delay a vote on it until next week. Although it is unclear what effect the latest tinkering will have on the schedule, it appears likely the bill could be delayed for at least another week while changes are made.

Surface transportation legislation revisions still unclear, Mica says

In a speech yesterday to American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) members, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said several options for revisions to the House’s surface transportation legislation are being discussed. But after talking with House Speaker John Boehner on Monday, Mica still didn’t know what the final options will be, including the number of years the bill would cover, he said.  Press reports earlier this month claimed that Boehner was considering a shorter and less expensive bill than the original five-year $260 billion legislation that Mica introduced earlier this year. “The final proposal I cannot tell you exactly where we will be,” Mica said, adding that he is pushing for the bill to cover “as long a term as possible” to give stability to surface transportation and infrastructure planning.

LAX Light Rail Opponents Sue Uncle Sam

South Los Angeles residents challenged the approval of a $1.75 billion light rail project toward LAX airport, insisting that at least part of the line should go underground.     The Crenshaw Subway Coalition sued the Federal Transit Administration in Federal Court, seeking to stop the project on environmental grounds.     The “Crenshaw-LAX” project is an 8.5-mile light rail line which will link the Metro Green Line and Expo Line. It is under construction at Crenshaw and Exposition Boulevards.     The metro project came in for criticism after it became public knowledge that the line will stop 1 mile short of LAX.     The LA Weekly in January called the metro line a “monument to stupidity,” and said that Los Angeles officials were “creating a potentially hobbling obstacle for the airport.”     City leaders floated the idea of a tram or rail extension to bridge the remaining mile to LAX terminals, NBC News reported last year.

Report: California needs infrastructure upgrades

California’s infrastructure is out of date and needs a $65 billion investment, a civil engineering group said Thursday. The American Society of Civil Engineers    American Society of Civil Engineers Latest from The Business Journals Follow this company rated infrastructure from aviation facilities to wastewater systems and gave an overall grade of “C” in a report that seeks to call attention to deficiencies. The worst grade went to levee and flood control systems, earning a “D” grade.The best grade went to solid waste facilities, which earned a “B.”“To remain a strong and prosperous state, we must maintain and continue to improve infrastructure that makes California’s quality of life second to none.” saidYazEmrani, co-chairman of the committee that issued the report card.

Conrad Presses Transportation Secretary on Oil Patch Infrastructure Needs

“In  North Dakota, investment in transportation infrastructure is not keeping pace with our growing needs,” SenatorConradrecently toldSecretaryLaHood.  “Unfortunately, we have a transportation system from another era.”SenatorConradnoted that road networks in the oil patch are incapable of handling the increased truck traffic as a result of the energy development.  Traffic bottlenecks are common, slowing the movement of oil and other goods, while creating safety hazards. ChairmanConradsaid the vast energy reserves can only benefit the nation if significant investments are made to upgrade our roads.  SecretaryLaHoodechoedSenatorConrad’s repeated calls for Congress to pass a new multi-year highway bill to address the neglected and inadequate state of the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems.

America’s crumbling transportation infrastructure

It’s hard to claim that America’s transportation system is in great shape. The American Society of Civil Engineers says the United States has a $3 trillion backlog on transportation projects and it costs drivers in traffic jam time, wear on cars and damage to the environment.   Taxes on gasoline have always been a strong source of funding for transportation infrastructure projects as long as there were more drivers using more gasoline, thus paying more taxes. People are willing to pay more for transportation infrastructure if they know their money is actually going to fixing the roads they use.

 A Bank for Infrastructure Funding

A national infrastructure bank’s purpose is to help increase state and local deal flow and private-sector deal flow.  In the U.S. public-private partnership market today, it is very hard and very expensive to get to close with a project. What an infrastructure bank will do is decrease the likelihood of closure of a project because there will be an additional federal champion involved, additional federal underwriting and higher underwriting standards. The bank also has a best practices unit in it, so there’ll be some technical assistance to state and local governments that often run into problems closing projects because there’s not the capacity to assess bids. That’s another aspect that the federal bank is meant to support.

About Polly Snider

I have been a reference librarian at Dorsey for 16 years. As a part of that position I have drafted other practice group e-newsletters and have enjoyed doing so. This practice group is on an exciting initiative and I look forward to participating.
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