Articles of Interest
I-95 Closure Illustrates National Concern
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Statement by John Horsley, AASHTO Executive Director
The closing of a stretch of Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania this week demonstrates once again the tremendous unmet transportation needs facing the country.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation ordered a two-mile section of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia closed on Tuesday after a large crack was found in a support pillar in the viaduct carrying the interstate. The section of Intestate 95 carries 180,000 vehicles a day.
We commend PennDOT for its quick action to close the interstate and start repairs that allowed the highway to reopen today. PennDOT worked closely with the City of Philadelphia to set up detours during the closure.
This event illustrates the enormous need nationwide for additional investment in transportation infrastructure. According to the National Bridge Investment Analysis System (NBIAS), the investment backlog for bridge repair is estimated to be at least $32.1 billion (in 2004 dollars.)
We must invest in building and maintaining sound, safe and environmentally sensitive highways and bridges or be willing to face more inconvenience, increased traffic congestion, lost time and productivity.
This story posted Thursday, March 20, 2008
Another federal economic stimulus bill should provide infrastructure investment, Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials told members of the AASHTO Standing Committee on Rail Transportation (SCORT) meeting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
"Transportation doesn't have anything to do with [political] parties," Brown said. "Jobs, jobs, jobs are a stimulus."
Last month, Congress passed and the president signed a $168 billion economic stimulus package giving taxpayers rebates between $600 and $1,200. Some in Congress wanted to include infrastructure spending in the package, but were unsuccessful.
Brown said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wants to include infrastructure spending in any other economic stimulus package Congress considers. She said states have identified projects that are ready for implementation in 60 to 90 days and are awaiting federal financial commitments.
Brown urged SCORT members to talk to their state leaders and members of Congress, urging them to include transportation investments in an economic stimulus bill.
The eight-term representative from the Jacksonville area emphasized the need for multi-modal approaches to relieving congestion and keeping the U.S. economy competitive with foreign nations and trading blocks.
Jacksonville's port is increasing its facilities to handle more cargo. That will result in increased tractor-trailer flow through neighborhoods around the port, she said. A better solution would be transfer cargo onto rail cars at the port and then later onto tractor-trailers at inland truck transfer stations.
Boosting transportation infrastructure funding in upcoming legislation will be a primary goal of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Brown said. The $286.4 billion Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users expires Sept. 30, 2009.
"This is a good time for transit," she said, adding that committee members want to provide states and private industry with incentives to develop high-speed rail projects. She also said committee members will be attempting to reauthorize Amtrak and expand the passenger rail network instead of funding the carrier through annual appropriations.
She said the U.S. needs to invest in freight and intercity passenger rail. The European Union and China are using their resources to connect cities and regions by rail, which cuts down on vehicle fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. Another green rail initiative would be to double track lines to increase capacity.
A steady federal transportation revenue stream remains an obstacle. "That's something we've [Congress] got to address," Brown said. "We can't just be relying on the gasoline tax." The highway account of the Highway Trust Fund is predicted to reach a $3.2 billion deficit in Fiscal Year 2009. She said the U.S. should follow European examples and expand tolling, congestion pricing and public-private partnerships to augment fuel-tax revenues.
Brown also told SCORT members that earmarks are part of the political process and aid in bringing needed federal dollars for projects in member districts.
This story posted Tuesday, March 11, 2008
By John Horsley, AASHTO Executive DirectorIt is time to correct a grave misunderstanding that stands in the way of the creation of more than 750,000 jobs across America. As Congress considered action on how to stimulate the nation's faltering economy, Administration officials voiced their mistaken belief that investment in the nation's highways could not be spent fast enough to be of much immediate help.
State governors and state transportation directors know better. At the request of members of Congress, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in January asked our member departments of transportation to identify projects that could be underway within 90 days. The response was overwhelming, with 47 states and the District of Columbia reporting more than three thousand "ready to go" projects totaling some $18 billion.
The conventional wisdom that highway projects take too long to create jobs needed in a hurry fails to recognize that not every project is a multimillion dollar interchange or bridge reconstruction. Years of underinvestment in highways have left a substantial backlog of projects such as pavement resurfacing that can render our roads safer and smoother. Those projects create good jobs in the hard-hit construction industry and stimulate the economy both with paychecks and the purchase of materials. They also make lasting improvements to our transportation network that is critical to every segment of our economy.
Senator Kent Conrad, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has announced that he wants to include $35 billion for infrastructure spending in the budget resolution to be marked up this week. Congress must seize this opportunity to improve the quality of life in America, by creating thousands of jobs, boosting our economy and fixing our crumbling roads.
John Horsley is the Executive Director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO.)
(Members of Congress requested the following information from AASHTO, which was used to support their efforts to obtain funding for highway projects in the first stimulus package; however such funding was not included in the final bill.)
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is the "Voice of Transportation" representing members in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. AASHTO is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association serving as a catalyst for excellence in transportation through its policy development activities on critical issues such the Stimulus Plan, now being debated in Congress.
This story posted Monday, March 03, 2008