Tag Archive for 'roads'

Action Needed to Reduce Traffic Congestion’s Impact on Drivers, Businesses and Local Economies

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.

About INRIX

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.

 

http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums/

Construction Input Prices Trend Lower in Jul

CEU2“Key input prices fell or were flat in all but one category in July and further downward pressure on input costs is likely to be reflected in next month’s report.” —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

PPI July 2015Prices for inputs to construction industries declined 0.1 percent in July after increasing 0.2 percent in June, according to the Aug. 14 producer price index release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Year-over-year prices were down 3 percent in July and have been down on an annual basis for each of the past eight months. Prices of inputs to nonresidential construction industries declined 0.3 percent on a monthly basis and are down 3.9 percent on a yearly basis.

“Key input prices fell or were flat in all but one category in July and it is important to note that further downward pressure on input costs is likely to be reflected in next month’s report, as well,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

“The state of affairs today is unprecedented,” said Basu. “Nonresidential construction spending has been recovering robustly in the U.S. in recent months—up more than 11 percent on a year-over-year basis. On top of that, the multifamily building boom continues in most major U.S. metropolitan areas.

“All things being equal, these circumstances should correspond with rising construction materials prices,” said Basu. “But as a reflection of how global the economy has become, America’s nonresidential construction recovery is taking place in the context of collapsing commodity prices. The latest round of commodity price decreases has been spawned by softening growth in China and ongoing increases in production of key inputs worldwide, including oil. However, this form of deflation should not be troubling to contractors. If anything, it will tend to boost profit margins for the average contractor, though falling commodity prices do not represent good news for construction firms heavily invested in oil and natural gas segments. These falling prices also imply slower increases in interest rates going forward, which will help extend the ongoing nonresidential construction recovery.”

Below are the key input prices for the month and the year.

  • Prices for plumbing fixtures remained flat on a monthly basis and are up 1.2 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • Softwood lumber prices expanded 6.2 percent in July, but are 3.7 percent lower than a year ago.
  • Concrete product prices fell 0.1 percent in July, but are up 3.8 percent on a yearly basis.
  • Crude energy materials prices declined 6.2 percent in July and are down 37.8 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • Fabricated structural metal product prices fell 0.7 percent for the month and have declined 0.4 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • Natural gas prices declined 1.9 percent in July and are 38.4 percent lower than the same time one year ago.
  • Iron and steel prices were down 1.1 percent in July and are down 15 percent from the same time last year.
  • Prices for prepared asphalt, tar roofing, and siding fell 0.1 percent for the month and are down 0.4 percent on a year-ago basis.
  • Steel mill products prices fell 1 percent for the month and are 13.2 percent lower than one year ago.
  • Crude petroleum prices fell 12.3 percent in July and are down 48.8 percent from the same time one year ago.
  • Nonferrous wire and cable prices fell 1.3 percent on a monthly basis and are down 5.2 percent on a yearly basis.

To view the previous PPI report, click here

Statement from Transportation Construction Coalition Co-chairs

ee0d071a-4431-491a-ae5f-0d9154114faeStatement Relating to Senate

Passage of the DRIVE Act

The following is a statement from Transportation Construction Coalition Co-chairs Pete Ruane, president & CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, and Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America regarding the Senate’s approval of a multi-year highway/transit bill:

“On behalf of the 31 national associations and construction trade unions of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), we applaud the Senate for passage of a multi-year surface transportation bill that would guarantee real growth in federal highway and public transportation investment over the next three years.  The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act would also assist state long-term transportation planning by distributing six years of contract authority.

“Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Inhofe and EPW Committee Ranking Member Boxer demonstrated exemplary leadership in finding the common ground necessary to earn overwhelming bipartisan support for the longest duration surface transportation bill approved by either chamber since 2005.  Furthermore, they accomplished this feat before the current short-term extension of the highway and transit programs expires.

“Today’s Senate vote on the DRIVE Act and the expected enactment of a three-month extension of the surface transportation programs by July 31 should bring to a close once and for all claims that Congress needs “more time” to develop a long-term reauthorization bill and Highway Trust Fund solution.  For more than a year members of both parties and chambers have used this rationalization for kicking the reauthorization can down the road.  The time for any further short-term extensions is over.

“We appreciate House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s recent statement reiterating his commitment to producing a multi-year surface transportation bill soon.  Achieving this goal, however, will require House Republican leaders and the Ways & Means Committee to develop a bipartisan plan to generate the resources necessary to grow highway and public transportation investment.  This must be a priority focus over the next six weeks.

“Members of the TCC will spend the August recess making sure all House members hear from their constituents about the need for the House to pass a meaningful, long-term surface transportation bill in September to ensure a final measure can be enacted before the latest short-term extension expires.”

Highway Bill Happenings…

The House approved a three-month extension before leaving for its summer vacation. That was yesterday.

Today: Senate approves six-year highway bill.

THE HILL Reports:

The Senate passed its long-term highway bill Thursday, though their work on federal infrastructure funding isn’t over.

Senators voted 65-34 to approve the six-year bill, which funds federal highway and infrastructure projects for three years.

Democrats were split on the measure, with most of the caucus’s leadership voting against the bill negotiated by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Fifteen Republican senators, including three 2016 presidential candidates, bucked McConnell and voted against the proposal.

The legislation also faces an uncertain future with the House, which has committed to passing its own long-term highway bill after the August recess.

In the meantime, the House has approved a three-month stopgap measure that the Senate is expected to approve later on Thursday.

That legislation also addresses a budget shortfall at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

McConnell on Thursday cast the short-term measure as buying time for the House to put together its own long-term highway bill.

“The multi-year nature of this legislation is one of its most critical components. It’s also something the House and Senate are now united on,” he said. “We all want the House to have the space it needs to develop its own bill, because we all want to work out the best possible legislation … in conference.”

Another hurdle for the bill with the House is that it would extend the Export-Import Bank for five years. Conservatives in the lower chamber want to prevent the bank’s charter from being renewed.

The legislation would be used to pay for about $47 billion of funding for the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund. That funding accounts for only the first three years of the legislation. Under the Senate bill, senators would have to determine by 2018 how to pay for the full six years.

In an effort to keep McConnell’s pledge to not increase the gas tax, the Senate’s bill includes a package of payfors including revenue from reducing interest rates paid by the Federal Reserve to large banks and selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, normally used to prevent energy crises.

But there’s more…

Senate sends three-month highway bill to Obama

The Senate on Thursday approved an $8 billion extension of federal transportation funding, sending it to President Obama’s desk with just one day to go before the nation’s road and transit spending expires.

The bill, which extends infrastructure spending until Oct. 29, passed in a 914 vote, pushing the debate into the fall.

Obama, who has advocated for long-term extension of highway funding, is expected to sign the patch to prevent an interruption in funding during the busy summer construction season.

The vote Thursday came after the Senate passed its preferred fix, a six-year highway bill negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

House Republicans refused to take up that bill and left town on Wednesday, forcing the Senate to accept the three-month stopgap.

Republican leaders in the Senate sought to downplay the squabbling between the chambers as they punted the highway debate to the fall.

“We all want the House to have the space to develop its own bill, because we all want to work out the best possible legislation for the American people in a conference later this year, “McConnell said ahead of the vote.

McConnell touted the earlier vote to approve three years of funding as a victory.

“Many thought we’d never get there, but we have indeed,” he said, saying the Senate’s long-term highway bill “doesn’t raises taxes by a penny.”

“This is more than just another accomplishment for the Senate. It’s a win for our country because the bill would cut red tape and streamline regulation. It would modernize infrastructure and advance research and innovation,” McConnell said.

Democrats in the Senate complained about the House’s rejection of its long-term highway bill even as the chamber approved the temporary patch.

“This has been a long and winding road to get the point where we can pass a transportation bill that is a very good bill, that is very bipartisan,” said Boxer, who is retiring from the Senate in 2017.

“This person says, ‘I don’t like the process.’ And this one says, ‘I don’t like the pay-fors,’ ” Boxer continued. “But we know if we run into a construction worker who is unemployed and we say, ‘Well, we didn’t vote for this because we didn’t like the process,’ he would say, or she would say, ‘I need a paycheck.’ ”

The fight over road funding has cut across both parties, with Senate and House Republicans pitted against one another when it comes the idea — pushed strongly by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — of trying to negotiate a highway bill paid for by tax reform.

House Republicans earlier this month approved a five-month extension of highway funding, seeking to buy time for negotiations with the White House over a long-term bill that would be paid for with changes to tax policy.

But rather than take up the five-month bill, McConnell quickly brought his long-term plan to the floor over the objections of Democrats who complained they did not have enough time to read the measure.

Republicans leaders in the Senate predicted the House would be amenable to their long-term bill once lawmakers return from their summer recess.

“I think the House will end up taking up our bill,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, predicted ahead of the Thursday votes.

“In fact, I think a lot of the staff people are working on that right now over on the side,” he continued.

Inhofe said it was important for the Senate to have also passed the long-term bill to “encourage” the House to act.

“If we don’t pass the DRIVE [Developing Roadway Infrastructure for a Vibrant Economy] Act out of this chamber, then [what] we’re doing is reinforcing current law,” he said. “What is current law? Current law is short-term extensions.”

Congress is grappling with a funding shortfall for transportation that is estimated to be around $16 billion per year. Since 2005, lawmakers have not passed a transportation bill that lasted longer than two years.

Passage of the three-month highway bill means that the Export-Import Bank’s charter will remain expired through the August recess. The three-month bill sent to Obama on Thursday does not include language on Ex-Im.

Aside from the highway extension, the temporary patch includes a provision allowing the Veterans Affairs Department to shift $3 billion within the agency to shore up a budget shortfall so hospitals and other facilities don’t close in August, aides said.

The legislation also would ensure that veterans with service-related disabilities are able to use health saving accounts.

Bottomline: Highway Bill Patch Number 34 is in place until October 29, 2015. Between now and then the House has a to accept, reject, modify or refine the Senate’s 6-year proposed bill.

THE HILL Reports: House passes three-month highway bill

http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/249685-house-approves-three-month-highway-bill

The House voted Wednesday to approve an $8 billion bill that would extend federal transportation funding until the end of October, sending it to the Senate with just two days to go before the nation’s road and transit spending expires.

The bill passed in a 385-34 vote, with Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) voting present. Senators are expected to accept the patch to prevent an interruption in the nation’s infrastructure spending during the busy summer construction season.

The House is adjourning for the traditional August recess after the vote, forcing the Senate’s hand.

But senators are planning to stay in Washington next week, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to finish a six-year transportation bill to jumpstart conference negotiations on a final bill.

Republican leaders sought to downplay the squabbling between the chambers as they punted the highway debate to the fall.

“Sen. McConnell and I, while we have a disagreement over this bill — we’ve had one — we both want to get to a long-term highway bill,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said ahead of the vote.

“And Sen. McConnell and I have, frankly, worked very closely trying to minimize the differences,” he continued. “And so I’m confident as we get into this fall we’re going to have … pretty smooth sailing.”

The fight over road funding has cut across both parties, with Senate and House Republicans pitted against one another, and Democrats also divided in the Senate.

House Republicans earlier this month approved a five-month funding extension, seeking to buy time for negotiations with the White House over a long-term bill funded by tax reform.

But rather than take up the five-month bill, McConnell negotiated a long-term funding measure with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and quickly brought it to the floor.

While that measure is still expected to pass the Senate, it got a chilly reception from the House, with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.) refusing to bring it up for a vote.

The short-term funding measure that was approved on Wednesday would continue highway funding until Oct. 29, 2015 — setting up a new deadline for Congress when they return to Washington in September.

“We’ll conference the legislation we pass with what the House passes and then send a unified bill to President Obama,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a floor speech Wednesday.

“In the meantime, we’ll work with our friends in the House to give them the space they need to develop a multiyear highway bill,” McConnell continued. “We’ll take up that bill once the House sends it to us, and we’ll continue working in the interim to finish our own multiyear highway bill, a bill that’s fiscally responsible and won’t raise taxes by a penny.”

McConnell also sought to downplay the infighting between Republicans over the highway bill this week as he acquiesced to the House’s demand for a temporary patch.

“Late nights of vigorous legislating and sometimes unpredictable outcomes might make some reach for the aspirin, but these are the hallmarks of a functioning Congress,” he said.

“The push and pull between different parties, different members and different chambers is all just part of the democratic rhythm,” McConnell continued. “That’s especially true when you’re talking about a measure as complicated and consequential as a multiyear highway bill.”

Congress is grappling with a funding shortfall for transportation that is estimated to be around $16 billion per year. Since 2005, lawmakers have not passed a transportation bill that lasted longer than two years.

The decision to fund highways for three months also means the Export-Import Bank’s charter will remain expired through the August recess.

The Senate highway bill includes a five-year renewal of the bank, which has run into opposition from conservatives but is backed by the White House, Democrats and a portion of the GOP.

But the House’s three-month bill does not include Ex-Im, leaving the bank in limbo.

The House patch includes language allowing the Veterans Affairs Department to shift $3 billion within the agency to shore up a budget shortfall so hospitals and other facilities don’t close in August, aides said.

The legislation also would ensure that veterans with service-related disabilities could use health saving accounts.