Tag Archive for 'bridges'
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On October 23, 2015 the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation & Infrastructure Committee unveiled a six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill. The bipartisan legislation, titled, the Surface Transportation Re-authorization and Reform Act (STRRA) of 2015, contains three years of flat-level funding for highway and transit programs and will be marked-up by the committee this Thursday. In rolling out their bill, legislative sponsors have stated the importance of its provisions to reform existing programs, refocus those programs on national priorities, provide more flexibility and certainty for state and local partners, and emphasis on transportation innovation.
ASCE believes that status quo funding levels for surface transportation, as is provided in STRRA, are inadequate. Currently this underinvestment costs the average American family about $1,000 from their budget each year from now until 2020 due to the current road, bridge and transit conditions. ASCE believes that members of the House should utilize every available opportunity to attempt to increase funding levels for highway and transit programs beyond where they currently exist in STRRA.
Despite the inadequate funding levels, STRRA does contain policy items that ASCE supports, including:
- Multi-year program certainty that will help states and localities better plan and deliver projects;
- Accelerated project delivery reforms aimed to improve collaboration between agencies and create deadlines for agency action(s);
- Providing grants to states for continued and expanded pilot testing of future road user fee collection systems;
- A new competitive grant to address bus and bus facility needs;
- Increased focus on funding for roadway safety infrastructure and on the safety needs of rural roads; and
- An option for localities to bundle small projects such as bridges to increase efficiency.
The introduction of the House bill follows action by the Senate in July in passing a multi-year bill with increased funding levels. In order to get a bill to President Obama for his signature soon, the House will have to pass a bill and negotiate a compromise with the Senate. The House and Senate will then have to pass that identical bill through each chamber for it to be sent to the President. Please contact your House member and urge he/she to move forward on a House bill in order to get to a conference with the Senate where agreement can be reached on a final bill. The House markup is set to begin this Thursday 10-29-2015 at 10:00AM ET.
Summer Has Ended
By Greg Sitek
… and so will the most recent (34th) extension of the highway bill
In a Recent American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) newsletter the civil engineering group noted:
Summer comes to an end next week as Congress returns to the Capitol after a five-week recess. Deadlines will be the theme this fall, with the first being the Oct. 1 funding deadline to keep the government open. The second important deadline for ASCE is Oct. 29, when MAP-21, the surface transportation bill, expires. With a D+ cumulative GPA, the topic of America’s infrastructure should be at the top of their to-do lists. Congress has several opportunities to address some of the nation’s infrastructure needs in the coming weeks. Here’s what to watch:
Before the U.S. Senate adjourned for August recess, they passed the DRIVE Act, a six-year surface transportation bill. The DRIVE Act would end the current cycle of short-term program extensions and increase federal funding for surface transportation programs. The U.S. House of Representatives has until a new deadline of October 29 to act to pass their own multi-year bill before the current law expires. ASCE has been focused on communicating with House members on the need to act quickly and pass a long-term bill. You can help by contacting your House members and urging them to #FixTheTrustFund.
- Appropriations for Federal Infrastructure Programs
So far this year, the House has only passed six of 12 annual appropriations bills and the Senate has not yet passed a single one. There is an Oct. 1 deadline to complete this year’s appropriation. Among the major dilemmas holding up the appropriations process are disagreements over the overall funding amounts for the federal government, policy riders that bog down spending bills and fundamental differences on what level to fund federal environmental, healthcare and military programs.
While it’s difficult enough for Congress to fund popular established bipartisan programs like the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving funds (which are facing 23% cuts), newer programs, like the Levee Safety Initiative, have not received any funding since the Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA) passed. If these programs do not receive appropriations, then the progress made by creating them becomes stagnant and no real progress is made in addressing the infrastructure the legislation aimed to improve.
And the ARTBA newsletter had the following to say:
On Sept. 17, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the document they had created. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) is using the 228th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution signing to remind Congress that Article One, Section Eight, makes support for transportation infrastructure investment a core federal government responsibility. It’s time, ARTBA says, for Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund.
“It only took the Founding Fathers 209 days—from a call for action on Feb. 21 to the signing ceremony on Sept. 17—to draft, debate and endorse the U.S. Constitution, one of mankind’s greatest documents,” ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane says. “In contrast, why have our elected leaders taken over 2,000 days since 2008 trying to figure out how to permanently address the Highway Trust Fund revenue problem?”
Ruane says members of Congress should heed and respond to the words of U.S. Constitution signatories Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and make expanding transportation infrastructure investment a federal priority to support economic growth and improve the nation’s competitiveness.
Hamilton said: “The improvement of the roads would be a measure universally popular. None can be more so. For this purpose a regular plan should be adopted, coextensive with the Union, to be successfully executed, and a fund should be appropriated sufficient… To provide roads and bridges is within the direct purview of the Constitution.”
Madison noted: “Among the means of advancing the public interest, the occasion is a proper one for recalling the attention of Congress to the great importance of establishing throughout the country the roads and canals which can best be executed under the national authority. No objects within the circle of political economy so richly repay the expense bestowed on them.”
Franklin challenged legislators: “And have we not all these taxes too… and our provincial or public taxes besides? And over and above, have we not new roads to make, new bridges to build… and a number of things to do that your fathers have done for you, and which you inherit from them, but which we are obliged to pay for out of our present labor?”
And George Washington, who presided over the Constitutional Convention, said: “The credit, the saving, and the convenience of this country all require that our great roads leading from one public place to another should be straightened and established by law… To me, these things seem indispensably necessary.”
With election-mania already in motion, gathering momentum with every news cast, what do you think the prospects of a worthwhile highway bill are?
This article appears in the October 2015 issues of the ACP magazines
By Greg Sitek
Note: This editorial appeared in the September 2015 issues of the ACP publications.
… We’ve been managing to keep our highways functional legislatively the same way we do in real life, i.e. scratch and patch. Fill the potholes, mill and resurface with a 2-inch overlay; they’ll last for a year or two, maybe even more.
I’ve been a strong supporter of the Highway Bill for 40 +/- years thinking it was the best solution. And it was 40+ years ago. Today I’m not so sure…
On May 5, 2015, Michigan citizens throughout the State sent a very compelling message to the Governor and to the State Legislature. Regarding Proposal One, a $1 .8 billion per year tax increase to fix our roads, the citizens, by a margin of 80% to 20%, said no thank you. Michigan has 83 counties, and every one of them said no.
Jack Brandenburg State Senator 8th District commented in a recent newsletter: “If I may, I want to go off topic just a bit and talk about taxation, which I often refer to as confiscation. Taxation of citizens’ earnings and the amount of government spending, which has dramatically increased through time, is a debate that has raged on for years and years. Sadly for some, the only way they know how to fix a problem is to increase taxes. They just cannot understand that the citizens are maxed out when it comes to paying taxes. Good people are literally screaming at those serving in elective positions and saying: Live within your means, like we have to’ Bottom line, common sense is the order of the day. The answer is not more taxation. The answer is less spending. We already have an $18 trillion national debt. Debts do not occur because we are taxing too little, they occur because we are spending too much.’ Want to know who said that last sentence? His name was Ronald Reagan.
“I fully agree and understand that we need better roads in Michigan. However, let’s remember that the worst roads are in our urban areas. We have all the population, trucks, cars and industry. Our annual State Budget for this year is in excess of $53 billion. The funding for our roads must be found within that $53 billion. I will not vote for any type of tax increase to repair our roads. I am very confident that the funding can be found inside our current budget.
“Since the failure of Proposal One last May 5, both the State House and the State Senate have passed their own legislative plan to fix the roads. Regarding the plan that came out of the state Senate I voted. No. The plan calls for a tax increase of fifteen cents a gallon for regular and diesel fuel to be phased in over the next 2 ½ years, amounting to a $700 million tax increase per year for the next 15 years.
“Obviously, something needs to be done, but just throwing money at the problem is not the answer. I want to take this opportunity to talk with you about what I and other Conservatives are advocating regarding our road problem.
“First and foremost, it is time to re-prioritize our spending. For far too long, too many other programs, projects and government entities were put at the head of the line before road repair. Now is the time to put road funding at the top of the list. All the other entities that have been fully funded through the years now will have to step back and let roads get their fair share for the next 7 to I O years. Some departments and people will not like this but far tougher things have happened to people in life.
“Second, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan Road Builders (MRB) have sold a lot of people in government on the idea that we need an additional (new money) $1.2 billion per year for at least 10 years to get our roads back in shape. Coincidently, MDOT and MRB have the most to gain from that additional funding. However, in the last two years, they have failed to say what type of roads would be built and where all this money is going to be spent.
“Third, this is a little known fact, but up until four years ago, none of the 6%, sales tax revenue generated at the gas pumps was ever used for road repair. This revenue from the sales tax on gas all went to our general fund, public education and local governments. Michigan was one of only eight states not to use sales tax revenue from gas to repair its roads. Even now this money has to be appropriated for road repair on an annual basis and the percentage can vary. I believe this revenue should be a permanent funding mechanism for our roads, in the full amount.
“Fourth, Representative Pete Lucido from Shelby Township has come up with an interesting idea, which I support. The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) has a S20 billion balance. Lucido ‘s legislation calls for the interest from that $20 billion to be used for road repair. The principal amount would not be touched, only the interest. If you figure an average of 3’% annually, that is a $600 million new revenue stream that we could use for roads, with no additional cost to the taxpayers.”
You have to ask yourself if this doesn’t, in fact, make more sense than raising taxes. Isn’t it time to ask, how much does it cost to administer the highway trust fund? How much better would our roads be if we took the politics out managing them?
America’s traffic congestion recession is over. Just as the U.S. economy has regained nearly all of the 9 million jobs lost during the downturn, a new report
produced by INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) shows that traffic congestion has returned to pre-recession levels.
According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours – 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. The total nationwide price tag: $160 billion, or $960 per commuter.
Washington, D.C. tops the list of gridlock-plagued cities, with 82 hours of delay per commuter, followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours), and San Jose (67 hours).
The problem has become so bad in major urban areas that drivers have to plan more than twice as much travel time as they would need to arrive on time in light traffic just to account for the effects of irregular delays such as bad weather, collisions, and construction zones. For example, drivers on America’s Top 10 worst roads waste on average 84 hours or 3.5 days a year on average in gridlock – twice the national average. Of these roads, six are in Los Angeles, two are in New York and the remaining two are in Chicago. Nine other cities have roads ranked among the 50 worst.
Scorecard findings also illustrate how traffic congestion isn’t just a big-city issue. Cities of all sizes are experiencing the challenges seen before the start of the recession – increased traffic congestion resulting from growing urban populations and lower fuel prices are outpacing the nation’s ability to build infrastructure. Of America’s Top 10 Worst Traffic cities, 7 of them experienced population growth outpacing the national average of 0.7 percent last year, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Houston and Riverside, CA. Additionally, some of the worst traffic cities also experienced some of the largest decreases in fuel prices (-4.1 percent nationally) including Riverside, Houston, Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston and Chicago. The result, the average travel delay per commuter nationwide is more than twice what it was in 1982. For cities of less than 500,000 people, the problem is four times worse than in 1982.
“Our growing traffic problem is too massive for any one entity to handle – state and local agencies can’t do it alone,” says Tim Lomax, a report co-author and Regents Fellow at TTI. “Businesses can give their employees more flexibility in where, when and how they work, individual workers can adjust their commuting patterns, and we can have better thinking when it comes to long-term land use planning. This problem calls for a classic ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach.”
Recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that Americans have driven more than 3 trillion miles in the last 12 months. That’s a new record, surpassing the 2007 peak just before the global financial crisis. Report authors say the U.S. needs more roadway and transit investment to meet the demands of population growth and economic expansion, but added capacity alone can’t solve congestion problems. Solutions must involve a mix of strategies, combining new construction, better operations, and more transportation options as well as flexible work schedules.
“Connectedness, big data and automation will have an immense impact over the next decade on how we travel and how governments efficiently manage the flow of people and commerce across our transportation networks,” says Jim Bak, one of the report’s authors and a director at INRIX. “This report is a great example of how data and analytics are evolving to provide transportation agencies with the insight needed to not only make our existing transportation systems work smarter but more quickly pinpoint where investment can have a lasting impact.”
The report predicts urban roadway congestion will continue to get worse without more assertive approaches on the project, program, and policy fronts. By 2020, with a continued good economy:
- Annual delay per commuter will grow from 42 hours to 47 hours.
- Total delay nationwide will grow from 6.9 billion hours to 8.3 billion hours.
- The total cost of congestion will jump from $160 billion to $192 billion.
Findings in the Urban Mobility Scorecard are drawn from traffic speed data collected by INRIX on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways, along with highway performance data from the Federal Highway Administration. The vast amount of information, INRIX and TTI say, makes it possible to examine problems in greater detail than before, and to identify the effect of solutions at specific locations.
INRIX is one of the fastest growing big data technology companies in the world. The company leverages big data analytics to reduce the individual, economic and environmental toll of traffic congestion. Through cutting-edge data intelligence and predictive traffic technologies, INRIX helps leading automakers, fleets, governments and news organizations make it easier for drivers to navigate their world. Our vision is simple – to solve traffic, empower drivers, inform planning and enhance commerce.
Whether through an in-car or smartphone navigation application, a local newscast or our INRIX Traffic app, our up-to-the-minute traffic information and other driver services help millions of drivers save time, fuel and frustration. INRIX delivers traffic and driving-related insight, as well as sophisticated analytical tools and services across six industries covering nearly five million miles (7.9 million km) of road in 41 countries. For more information visit us at INRIX.com or download our INRIX XD Traffic App for iOS and Android.
About the Texas A&M Transportation Institute
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute is the largest university-affiliated transportation research agency in the U.S. and a member of the Texas A&M University System. Since 1950, the Institute has been dedicated to saving lives, time, and resources by addressing problems related to all modes of transportation. See more information about the study at mobility.tamu.edu.