Tag Archive for 'transportation'

Ray O’Connor, President and CEO of Topcon Positioning Systems represented AEM at Bloomberg Government NEXT Infrastructure conference

Our infrastructure is critical to the future of our country. Recently American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publicized its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. To review the 2017 ASCE Infrastructure, which earned a D+ you can click  here.

The infrastructure is critical to everyone without exception. We depend on it for not only transportation but also everything we eat, drink, wear; going to work, going to dinner; going to the doctor, the hospital or emergency rooms, getting our children to school to the movies or the playground. Pay attention to local, state and national infrastructure issues and the proposed legislation that attempts to address some of the more critical issues. And the next time you hit a pothole think of the damage being done to the tires, rim, suspension and undercarriage of your care.

Ray O’Connor, President and CEO of Topcon Positioning Systems represented AEM at  Bloomberg Government NEXT Infrastructure conference in Washington D.C. last week. He spoke with Marcia Hale, president, Building America’s Future Educational Fund, in the Smart Infrastructure and Global Advantage segment of the conference.

Dennis Slater, President and Secretary of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), made the opening remarks.

It’s our infrastructure. Think of it this way, the better the infrastructure the safer our world.

TRIP Reports AMERICA’S RURAL ROADS & BRIDGES HAVE SIGNIFICANT DEFICIENCIES & HIGH FATALITY RATES

AMERICA’S RURAL ROADS & BRIDGES HAVE SIGNIFICANT DEFICIENCIES & HIGH FATALITY RATES; REPAIRS & MODERNIZATION NEEDED TO IMPROVE CONDITIONS, BOOST SAFETY & SUPPORT ECONOMIC GROWTH AND CONNECTIVITY

 America’s rural transportation system is in need of repairs and modernization to support economic growth in the nation’s Heartland, which is a critical source of energy, food and fiber. Rural America is home to an aging and increasingly diverse population that is heavily reliant on the quality of its transportation system. This is according to a new report released today by TRIP. The report, Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland, evaluates the safety and condition of the nation’s rural roads and bridges and finds that the nation’s rural transportation system is in need of improvements to address deficient roads and bridges, high crash rates, and inadequate connectivity and capacity. TRIP is a national non-profit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. The chart below shows the states with the highest rate of rural pavements in poor condition, states with the highest share of structurally deficient rural bridges and those with the highest fatality rates on non-Interstate, rural roads.

The report finds that the nation’s rural roads and bridges have significant deficiencies. Fifteen percent of U.S. rural roads are rated in poor condition, while 21 percent are in mediocre condition. Sixteen percent of the nation’s rural roads are in fair condition and the remaining 48 percent are in good condition. Ten percent of the nation’s rural bridges are rated as structurally deficient, meaning there is significant deterioration to the major components of the bridge.

In addition to deteriorated roads and bridges, the TRIP report finds that traffic crashes and fatalities on rural non-Interstate roads are disproportionately high, occurring at a rate more than two-and-a-half times higher than on all other roads. In 2015, non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.18 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, compared to a fatality rate on all other roads of 0.83 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel. The number of fatalities and the fatality rate on rural, non-Interstate U.S. roads increased in 2105 after decreasing each year between 2012 and 2014.

“Rural roads are far too often overlooked. With fatality rates rising, repairing and maintaining the nation’s roads must be a top priority for legislators,” said Kathleen Bower, AAA senior vice president of public affairs and international relations. “By investing in improvements for today and tomorrow, we can deliver safer experiences for motorists and save tens of thousands of lives.”

The quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas, and the health of the nation’s rural economy, is highly reliant on the quality of the nation’s transportation system, particularly its roads, highways and bridges. America’s rural transportation system provides the first and last link in the supply chain from farm to market, connects manufacturers to their customers, supports the tourism industry, and enables the production of energy, food and fiber. Rural Americans are more reliant on the quality of their transportation system than their urban counterparts.

“Farmers and ranchers depend on rural roads, highways and bridges to move their products to market,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Transportation delays and costs take a bite out of our profitability and competitiveness and impact the quality of rural life.  Securing the appropriate resources at the local, state and federal levels will allow for the improvements needed to provide a rural transportation system that will keep goods moving and foster economic growth.”

The TRIP report finds that the U.S. needs to implement transportation improvements that will improve rural transportation connectivity, safety and conditions to provide the nation’s small communities and rural areas with safe and efficient access to support quality of life and enhance economic productivity. The nation’s ability to address its rural transportation challenges will be greatly enhanced if Congress is able to provide a long-term, dedicated, user-based revenue stream capable of fully funding the federal surface transportation program.

“We applaud the president, the new administration, and members of Congress for leading the conversation on an issue of critical importance to our 21st century economy: rebuilding America’s infrastructure,” said U.S. Chamber’s Executive Director for Transportation Infrastructure Ed Mortimer. “The American business community looks forward to developing and implementing a long-term plan that will bring our nation’s rural and urban infrastructure up to speed and spur economic growth. Now is the time to take action and to get the job done.”

Rural America is home to the vast majority of tourist destinations, many of which rely on good access. “Crumbling bridges, poorly maintained roads and congested highways discourage travel, threatening the entire U.S. economy,” said Erik Hansen, vice president of government relations for the U.S. Travel Association. “Lawmakers have signaled their interest in finding solutions for America’s surface transportation, as evidenced in passage of the FAST Act and the formation of the NACTTI advisory board. However, far more is needed–and fast–to finish the job.”

Freight mobility and efficiency is fundamental to rural economic vitality and prosperity. “It’s time for our elected leaders to act. Investing in our rural roads will improve safety and efficiency on roadways that are vital to agricultural commerce. That is a top priority for our nation’s 3.2 million farmers, and the 320,000 Americans whose jobs are supported by the manufacturing of farm equipment,” said Robert B. Crain, senior VP & general manager, North and South America, AGCO Corporation.

“The safety and quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas and the health of the nation’s economy ride on our rural transportation system. The nation’s rural roads and bridges provide crucial links from farm to market, move manufactured and energy products, and provide access to countless tourism, social and recreational destinations,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.  “Fixing the federal Highway Trust Fund with a long-term, sustainable source of revenue that supports the transportation investment needed will be crucial to the modernization of our rural transportation system.”

To read the full report and regional/state reports visit: TRIP Rural Roads Report

Volvo introduces the P4410B paver: A true commercial/heavy highway crossover

The new P4410B tracked paver from Volvo Construction Equipment is a powerful machine in a compact package — bridging the gap between heavy-commercial and light-highway paving.

Born from the Blaw-Knox legacy, the P4410B is the latest addition to the B-Series lineup of tracked pavers from Volvo Construction Equipment. With a 155-horsepower (115 kW) Deutz Tier 4 Final engine, the P4410B delivers impressive power for a range of applications, as well as a 5 percent fuel efficiency improvement over its predecessor. Engineered to be easy to transport and incredibly maneuverable on site, the P4410B is impressively productive for its size thanks to a factory-fit Ultimat®16 front-mount screed and a host of design elements that make it easier to operate and maintain.

“The P4410B is designed to be the most used paver in any fleet,” says John Mooney, product manager at Volvo Construction Equipment. “Whether the job is light highway or heavy commercial, the paver’s unique size combined with its powerful engine, front-extending screed and ease of use make this machine a utility tool for any paving contractor. Adding to its versatility is the ability to install most auto-grade and slope systems.”
Sizing up for the job
With a 98-inch transport width and an overall length of 17 feet,10 inches, the P4410B can be easily transported along with a small asphalt compactor. But don’t let the size fool you — once on site, the Ultimat 16 screed can hydraulically extend to quickly double the machine’s base width to a full 16 feet. Add additional extensions for an impressive 18-foot paving width. At 6,500 pounds, the Ultimat 16 delivers a consistently smooth surface at high density and full width. The auger-to-screed distance is also adjustable via the tow arm position, allowing flexibility for any application and asphalt mix.

Dual screed consoles and remote controls are placed with ergonomics at top of mind, allowing excellent visibility and precise speed control. Combined with power slope and power crown, large hopper capacity, and durable rolled hopper wings that prevent material built-up — the P4410B enables high throughput and laydown volumes.

 

All the features of a larger machine
The P4410B is packed with features typically associated with larger 10-foot machines. Common controls with other Volvo pavers put the paving crew at ease upon first use. The machine also features large 20-inch foldable walkways, plentiful handrails, non-slip footing and glare-resistant hood paint for uncompromising safety and ease of movement around the platform. The 60-inch low deck and 360-degree visibility around the paver, hopper, auger channel and screed enable the operator to check material flow at a glance. The convenient swing console, which hosts intuitively grouped and clearly labeled controls, allows operation from both sides of the machine.

For a more comfortable ride, the engine delivers low noise levels, while the built-in SmokEater® extraction system collects and disposes fumes from the hot mix away from operators.

Servicing made simple
Large opening panels offer easy access to daily checkpoints and filters, while strategically placed hydraulic test ports keep machine downtime to a minimum. Combined with the clean hose and harness routing, the practical design of the paver provides reliability and durability. Maintenance-free auger and conveyor bearings eliminate daily and weekly greasing to reduce the need for daily maintenance. Features such as uncomplicated hydraulics, long-lasting wear plates, simple drive chains, straightforward solenoid controls and the clutch-free design promote high machine uptime and keep repair costs low. With reliable Tier 4 Final engine technology, the operation can benefit from longer 500-hour regen intervals.

Coast-to-coast support, fast parts
Regardless of where your work takes you, the P4410B is supported by Volvo through available technology and outstanding dealer support. Additionally, the P4410B is backed by the Volvo 24-Hour Parts Guarantee, which guarantees Class 1 (machine down/emergency) parts delivery within 24 hours in the United States, including Alaska, and within 48 hours to Canada and Hawaii.

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

 FAA’s regulatory reform advisory committee submitted initial recommendations to agency staff.  Seems like there ought to be some good ideas in the mix – after all, the draft is 154 pages containing over 300 individual suggestions to repeal, replace or modify regulatory language.  This is a rough draft listing all of the ideas from committee members.  Next steps: further review and working towards consensus on changes FAA can make to provide near-term regulatory relief consistent with the goals in the President’s Executive Order seeking a long term strategy promoting safe and efficient transportation systems.
*  Nothing to see here, folks – keep moving… Some concerns/comments sent from citizen John Doe re DOT’s regulatory reforms.  Mr. Doe identifies himself as a highway engineer, working for a consulting company, with 20 years experience: ** Multiple standards result in far too many personal preferences and design changes and sometime higher costs. ** Property owners with political connections get preferential treatment, e.g., one state recently spent $80 million on an interchange that could have cost $50 million but a Big Guy knew the governor and he wanted a “non standard” interchange to remain near his business. ** State pension issues are leading experienced people to bail out; inexperienced staff left behind cause design and construction problems.

*  The National Coal Council’s (NCC) June Newsletter cites a report from a group called GCube Underwriting, Ltd, a “renewable energy underwriter,” based in London.  GCube cautions that “resource risk” – a lack of wind or low wind speeds – will be the most pressing concern for the wind energy sector “for a number of years.” Low wind speeds are reportedly hurting the performance of wind farms in numerous markets. In fact, GCube writes that resource risk has now surpassed mechanical and electrical breakdowns as the top potential cause of financial loss.  I sent an email to GCube asking for their full report… No reply yet.

Tom Ewing
“reply” or 
513-379-5526 voice/text

ASCE Reports America’s Infrastructure as D+

President Trump Announces “Massive Permit Reform” Push

Capping off his Administration’s ‘Infrastructure Week,’ President Trump held an event this morning on permitting reform at the U.S. Department of Transportation. President Trump, joined by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, met with heads of state departments of transportation and then addressed a group of transportation officials and stakeholders. President Trump reiterated his commitment to fixing the nation’s infrastructure and named the existing infrastructure project approval process as a major impediment to that goal, saying “one of the biggest obstacles to creating this new and desperately-needed infrastructure…is the painfully slow, costly and time-consuming process for getting permits and approvals to build.”

President Trump is not alone in this view. Secretary Chao has repeatedly said over the last several months that “money is not the problem” when it comes to improving the nation’s infrastructure and instead cutting red tape to speed up the approvals process is the most important thing for restoring the nation’s infrastructure systems. Last month the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the topic, where Chairman John Barrasso (R-MT) called for simplifying the government review process and making it more flexible to meet the different natures of rural and urban states. However, Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) pushed back on the Secreatary Chao’s comments, declaring lack of funding the biggest impediment to infrastructure improvements and calling for the full implementation of changes to permitting laws passed in recent legislation before Congress takes further action.

Almost everyone agrees the federal infrastructure approval process is a long way from perfect, but there are strongly contrasting ideas about how to improve it. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires federal agencies to consider the environmental effects of an action and to involve the public in their decision-making process. The law is a frequent target of criticism from some sectors because it can add years to a project.

Congress has tried to fix the pain points in several recent pieces of legislation. The FAST Act included new procedural requirements aimed at ensuring early collaboration and efficient environmental reviews for complex infrastructure projects including: the use of a single NEPA document as much as possible with one agency serving as lead and ensuring the review meets the needs of the other agencies; requiring a schedule to be a part of a project coordination plan; and creating a publicly accessible dashboard to publish the status of NEPA and permitting for all projects requiring an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment. MAP-21 and the Water Resources Development Act also included permitting reforms, but these reforms have not been fully implemented yet.

A Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General report from March found that the streamlining provisions in the FAST Act have possibly delayed the improvements expected from the streamlining measures in MAP-21. This should give Congress pause as they contemplate more permitting reform, as the already approved reforms have not had the opportunity to be tested yet.

ASCE has called for mandating concurrent reviews by agencies; a single administrative permitting agency to shorten and improve the approval process and improve inter-agency collaboration; and time limits for decisions on infrastructure projects. To some extent these reforms have all been included in recent legislation (particularly the FAST Act), but their effect is not yet clear.

Today President Trump announced the creation of a new council to help project managers navigate the permitting process including the creation of a new online dashboard. He also announced the creation of a new office within the White House Council of Environmental Quality “to root out inefficiency, clarify lines of authority, and streamline federal, state and local procedures so that communities can modernize their aging infrastructure without fear of outdated federal rules getting in the way.”

While it is obviously too early to know the effect of the Administration’s new efforts to streamline the permitting process, it’s assertion that regulations, not funding, are the real problem in infrastructure ignores the true infrastructure challenges we face. A 2012 Congressional Research Service report questioned the degree to which the NEPA compliance process is a significant source of delay, noting “causes of delay that have been identified are more often tied to local/state and project-specific factors, primarily local/state agency priorities, project funding levels, local opposition to a project, project complexity, or late changes in project scope.” A 2016 report prepared for the U.S. Treasury on proposed major infrastructure projects stated, “A review of the 40 transportation and water infrastructure projects…suggests that they face four major challenges to completion: (a) limited public resources, (b) significantly increased capital costs, (c) extended program and project review and permitting processes, and (d) lack of consensus among multiple public and private sector entities. A lack of public funding is by far the most common factor hindering the completion of transportation and water infrastructure projects.”

ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card graded the nation’s infrastructure a D+ and estimates that $4.59 trillion in infrastructure investment will be necessary from federal, state, local, and private sources between 2016 and 2025 to reach a state of good repair and earn a grade of B. However, only just $2.5 trillion is likely to be invested, leaving a $2.0 trillion funding gap. The investment gap led ASCE to make the first key solution of the Report Card increased investment; no amount of streamlining and expediting alone will close the infrastructure investment gap and solve our infrastructure challenges. The Report Card also recommends streamlining the permitting and approval process, but the goals of such changes should to be provide greater clarity to regulatory requirements, bring priority projects to reality more quickly, and secure cost savings. Attempts to shorten the permitting and approval process should not come at the expense of public health, public safety, and the environment.

While we should continue to strive for an efficient and effective federal approval process, addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs requires investing real money in our communities.

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