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Revisiting the Senate Highway Bill

As Rep. DeFazio observed, getting to know the finer details of the Senate highway bill (MAP-21, S. 1813) has taken on new significance now that a House-Senate conference negotiation on the reauthorization measure has become a reality. Understanding the Senate bill is important because the Senate measure is likely to become the basis of any final bill. The House bill (H.R. 4348) is little more than a 90-day extension of the current program (through September 2012) with the Keystone XL pipeline amendment attached to it. It is silent on nearly everything addressed by the Senate bill. And, equally, it is silent on nearly every issue germane to the transportation reauthorization except for a detailed set of environmental streamlining provisions. Read More ›

Why Washington state should invest in passenger rail

Over at Transportation Issues Daily, Cascadia Center director Bruce Agnew has written a guest post arguing in favor of continued investment in passenger rail in the state of Washington. [Washington] successfully competed for $750 million in new federal rail funds for projects with BNSF Railway from Vancouver, Washington to Blaine. These projects have multiple benefits from more passenger service to better freight access to ports and safer highway/rail grade crossings. … The state should encourage public private partnerships for new and expanded train/bus ferry centers linked by more passenger rail. … [M]ore trains requires more public investments in the BNSF line. Since they carry millions passengers every day, the state should explore new revenue options with them as partners. The Read More ›


Greyhound Lines looking for new Seattle home

Image via Wikipedia The last time Greyhound Lines had to look for a home in Seattle, Calvin Coolidge was still president. But with an eviction notice earlier this fall, the bus line will need to move from its Stewart Street location by April 2013.  As Crosscut’s C.B. Hall writes, the company says if a location can’t be found, it’ll need to leave Seattle. It’s a test, he says, to Seattle’s “commitment to mass transportation.” Greyhound officials, according to Hall’s reporting, say the company’s preference for a new home would be at or near King Street Station in Pioneer Square. According to Hall’s Crosscut article, “Greyhound’s first choice, says [Greyhound] district manager Mike Timlin, ‘would be to go in with King Read More ›


U.S.-Canada agreement will speed-up train service

Image via Wikipedia An agreement signed between the U.S. and Canada will make traveling between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle, Wash., faster and more efficient.  The “Beyond the Border” accord, signed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama, includes provisions for pre-clearance. That means, among other things, that travelers heading south from Vancouver will no longer have to undergo inspections in both Vancouver and Blaine, Wash. The inspection functions will be consolidated in Vancouver. From the Cascadia Center’s official statement in support of the accord: By eliminating duplicative inspection functions and increasing the speed of travel between Canada and the U.S., the Beyond the Border accord serves as a long-awaited landmark agreement. … By December 2012, with Read More ›


The Precarious State of the Highway Trust Fund

On November 18, President Obama signed into law a bundle of appropriation bills for FY 2012 including appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation. The measure had been passed earlier in the House by a vote of 298-121 and in  the Senate by a vote of 70-30.

The bill provides $39.14 billion in obligation limitation for the highway program, a reduction of
almost $2 billion from FY 2011; however, an additional $1.66 billion is appropriated for highway-related “emergency relief.” The transit program is funded at $10.31 billion (incl. $1.95 for New Starts), a $400 million increase from FY 2011, and Amtrak at $1.42 (incl. $466 million for operating expenses). The discretionary TIGER program is retained at $500 million, a
slight decrease from FY 2011.

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Thousands descend on Orlando, Fla., to talk transportation technology

Thousands descend on Orlando, Fla., to talk transportation technology
Experts focus on technology’s role in moving people and goods quicker, safer, cleaner

By Larry Ehl

 When you travel today — whether by car, bus, rail, plane or bike — technology made your trip safer, faster and cleaner than in the past. That technology may have been obvious to you (hybrid vehicles, GPS) or not (traffic light synchronization, interstate weigh-in-motion for trucks).

Yet our transportation network can be much, much safer, efficient and cleaner. Every year nearly 40,000 people are killed on our highways. Congestion cost about $101 billion and 4.8 billion wasted hours in 2010. Transportation accounts for nearly 30% of our greenhouse gases.

Making transportation safer, more efficient and cleaner was the focus of a recent conference — the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) World Congress, held Oct. 16-20, in Orlando, Fla. —  attended by about 8,000 public- and private-sector transportation specialists from more than 65 countries.

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Seattle voters say “yes” to tunnel

Waterfront Visualization WSDOT.png

Future waterfront visualization. (Photo source: WSDOT)

Though one hesitates to say something in Seattle is ever actually finished, in the land of indecision, it appears that a decision has finally been made. With nearly 60 percent in favor, Seattle voters told their elected officials on Tuesday to move forward with a tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

As The Seattle Times reports, the defeat of the effort to recall the earlier decision to build the tunnel sets into motion the final bureaucratic and regulatory approvals that will move the project forward rapidly and allow “the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to tell its tunnel contractors by Sept. 1 to move into final design and construction.”

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The future of high-speed rail in the Northwest

Washington state’s Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations held a hearing in Seattle to examine the future of high-speed rail in the state of Washington as well as the Northwest. Cascadia Center’s testimony, done jointly with All Aboard Washington, can be watched in the clip below. Video of the entire hearing can be found at TVW.


New Electric Car Charger: Consider the Source

Reposted from Discovery News By Bruce Chapman The Japanese have come up with a new electric car charger that can provide a Nissan Leaf (for example) a complete charge, good for 200 miles, in only five minutes. It’s a potentially serious advance. However, it is important with all these stories to note that energy is still needed to CHARGE a car. You save gasoline (and its fumes) in this process, but you don’t save net energy. If one lives in an area that generates energy through hydropower, it’s all a plus; almost the same with nuclear power; less so with natural gas; none at all or even a minus with coal or oil.


Adjusting to fiscal and political realities

Thumbnail image for Innovation Briefs Header.png

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Ken-Orski-Headshot.pngInnovation Briefs, now
in their 22nd year of publication, are published by Ken Orski. Cascadia
Prospectus reprints them with permission. The content of Innovation
Briefs does not necessarily represent the view of Cascadia Center of
Discovery Institute.

While we do not know the exact level of funding the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will propose in its draft legislation, to be unveiled in the first week of July and marked up the following week, we do know it is going to be far less than the current (FY 2010) funding of  $52 billion —$41 billion for highways and $11 billion for transit. What will be the consequences?

That the Federal Government “must learn to live within its means” has become the fiscal conservatives’ elliptical way of stating their opposition to deficit financing. This principle found its way into the House T&I Committee’s “Views and Estimates for Fiscal Year 2012” report and has been reaffirmed since in countless statements and briefings by congressional sources.

The practical implications of this policy for the federal-aid transportation program are unambiguous: federal budget authority in FY 2012 and beyond will be limited to tax receipts flowing into the Highway Trust Fund. Those revenues (plus interest) will amount to an estimated $36.9 billion in 2011, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)– $31.8 billion will be credited to the Highway Account and $5.1 billion to the Transit Account. Over the next ten years, CBO estimates these revenues will grow at an average rate of a little more than one percent per year, largely reflecting expected growth in motor fuel consumption. (“The Highway Trust Fund and Paying for Highways,” testimony of Joseph Kile, Asst. Director of CBO, before the Senate Finance Committee, May 17, 2011).

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