Inspector General: Transportation Earmarks Hit New Record High

A report by U.S. Department of Transportations’s Inspector General titled “Review of Congressional Earmarks Within Department of Transportation Programs” has determined that the Fiscal Year 2006 surface transportation appropriation contained 7,808 earmarks with a total amount of $8.08 billion or over 15 percent of highway appropriations and 28 percent of transit appropriations. This compares with 2,094 earmarks in FY 2005 ($3.27 billion), 2,282 earmarks in FY 2004 ($3.36 billion) and 1,493 earmarks in FY 202 ($3.22 billion). During the 10-year period from FY 1996 to FY 2005, the number of earmarks within the U.S. DOT appropriations increased by more than 1,150 percent. The common definition of earmarks is that they are Congressional pork projects directed to a specific district for Read More ›

Conservatives Versus Innovators On Transportation Funding

The bridge collapse in Minneapolis stressed the precarious state of the nation’s infrastructure, and has made infrastructure financing a tempting subject for an election-year policy debate. First to react publicly was Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He said a temporary 5-cent/gallon gas tax extending over 3 years might be necessary to finance his proposed trust fund to repair structurally deficient bridges in the National Highway System; that would raise roughly $28-30 billion. He’ll hold a hearing on the state of the nation’s bridges on September 5. Ranking Member John Mica (R-FL) was next to react. He called the chairman’s proposal inadequate, “a band-aid solution” which ignores the larger problem of the deteriorated Read More ›

Catastrophic Bridge Collapse In Minneapolis Highlights Puget Sound Risks; And Finance Challenges

The catastrophic collapse yesterday of a worn down, 40-year-old, 1,900-foot-long bridge with a single steel arch at its center, spanning Interstate 35W across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis had as of this morning resulted in four deaths, up to 30 people unaccounted for, and at least 79 more injured – some quite severely. The fatality toll is likely to grow. Very recent maintenance work on the bridge had focused on joints, lights and guardrails, and resurfacing work was being done on it when it failed. The cause of the collapse is unknown and will remain so until an investigation is completed. However, it can come as little comfort that, as the Associated Press notes in a report today from Minneapolis, Read More ›

A few good tunnels

We’ve already mentioned the 50 km tunnel for $3.5 billion that the Swiss voted to build. I wondered: the Swiss are building some fantastic tunnel in the Alps (see Matt’s 6/11 post)… but they’re Swiss. Surely they must be crazy.
As it turns out, their costs are not unusual for transportation infrastructure projects in developed countries. A random grab-bag since 1994:
English Channel Tunnel
Cost: 9 billion pounds (US $14 billion)
Length: 50 km (31 miles)
Cost per mile: $451 mil
Cooper River Bridge, SC, longest cable-stay bridge in America
Cost: $531 million
Length: 2.5 miles
Cost per mile: $212 mil
Woodrow Wilson Bridge, Washington DC
Cost: $2.4 billion
Length: 1.1 miles
Cost per mile: $2.2 bil
Daily Commuters: 200,000 (twice the capacity for the same price as ours)
Millau Viaduct, France
Cost: $394 million
The builders, Eiffage, financed the construction in return for a concession to collect the tolls for 75 years, until 2080. However, if the concession is very profitable, the French government can assume control of the bridge in 2044.
Length: 1.5 miles
Cost per mile: $262 mil
Sydney Harbor Tunnel, Australia
Cost: A$ 554 mil
Built by a private partnership, the tunnel is currently on a thirty-year lease, and will be handed back to the State Government in August 2022.
Length: 1.4 miles
Cost per mile: A$ 395 mil

Read More ›

Electronic Tolling Comes To Washington

Yesterday was the first day for office sales of electronic toll stickers for use later this year by drivers on the new eastbound, Route 16 Tacoma Narrows Bridge. State transportation officials by mid-day had sold or mailed out to customers 2,654 of the stickers, to be read by overhead transponders which automatically deduct toll costs from drivers’ pre-paid accounts. (UPDATE: registrations had grown to 6,131 by mid-day today, but with some short-term DOT server glitches, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports). This DOT animation contrasts the more free-flowing “Good To Go” electronic toll lanes, and the slower toll booth lanes for single-purchase customers. The animation also demonstrates how overhead cameras will capture the license plate numbers of scofflaws, who will be issued Read More ›

Research Compendium

Last updated August 25, 2008 The research, it just keeps coming. On this page, we’ll compile links to key studies and reports on innovation in transportation. MANAGING, PLANNING & FUNDING TRANSPORTATION Cascadia Center Reports “Lessons In Public-Private Partnerships & Climate Change: What British Columbia Taught California, And What Washington Can Still Learn,” 10/07. “A Tale Of Three Cities: How San Diego, Denver and Vancouver, B.C. Raised Major Regional Funds For Transportation,” Doug Hurley, Cascadia Center For Regional Development, 9/06. “Travel Value Pricing: Better Traffic Operations Management & New Revenue For The Puget Sound Region,” John S. Niles, for Cascadia Center, 4/06. “Transportation Working Group Recommendations,” Transportation Working Group, Cascadia Center For Regional Development, 2/15/05. Transportation Working Group background, members, and Read More ›

State Route 520 Bridge Funding Requires Leadership

The estimated cost now is as high as $4.4 billion to replace the dangerously earthquake-prone Evergreen Point Floating Bridge on State Route 520, which crosses Lake Washington to connect the populous and job-rich Eastside with Seattle. But only $560 million is in hand; and the rest is decidedly iffy, as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. (UPDATE: The state DOT’s 520 page lists $1.25 billion in identified funding, including $700 million in tolls). The P-I editorializes we need to get the full funding package pulled together ASAP. …we’re told that the Evergreen Point Bridge will be rebuilt, pronto, even though we’re $3.5 billion short on the project’s budget. We currently have just under 20 percent of the bridge’s $4.4 billion secured….This “build Read More ›

Everett Herald: “Don’t Bury Streamlined Transportation Planning”

In an editorial yesterday titled, “Don’t Bury Streamlined Transportation Planning,” the Everett Herald states it plainly: If November’s joint (roads and transit) vote in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties is to succeed, voters will have to be convinced that they’ll get their money’s worth. Merging the planning and funding of regional transit and highways – functions currently under the separate wings of Sound Transit, the Puget Sound Regional Council, the Regional Transportation Invesment District and the state Department of Transportion (whew!) – under a single, accountable commission would be a step toward winning voter trust. One version of such a commission is contained in ESSB 5803, which passed the Senate earlier this month. The House Transportation Committee is considering its Read More ›