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State and Regional Updates

Minnesota DOT’s ‘Rethinking I-94’ Study Aims for Improvements

  • If you drive I-94, you know the sometimes frustrating trip. Which is why the Minnesota Department of Transportation recently started a long-term study on how to improve the portion of 94 that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul. “So from Broadway in north Minneapolis to Highway 61 on the east side of St. Paul,” said Brian Isaacson, MnDOT’s I-94 project director. “It’s an important piece of how the cities function together.”

Texas DOT Strategizes the Future of Statewide Cargo Shipping

  • Texas’ population is doubling and the Department of Transportation predicts by 2040, 3.8 billion tons of freight will be moved through Texas on a yearly basis. Thursday members of TxDOT met with stakeholders in San Antonio to discuss the state’s plan to move goods on Texas roadways. By listening to business owners, truck drivers and other stakeholders, TxDOT will identify congested areas and make recommendations on areas to improve.

PLANNING

Southwestern Pennsylvania Transportation Wish List Includes More Buses, New Connector

  • To improve Southwestern Pennsylvania’s competitiveness and quality of life for 2.5 million residents, public transportation must be improved, particularly along busy corridors connecting Pittsburgh with adjacent counties. In Westmoreland County, buses should be prioritized on Route 30, and the long-postponed Laurel Valley Connector should be built. Those are among 50 “ideas to explore” outlined Tuesday at Westmoreland County Community College from a report on future transportation needs in the 10-county region.

A Look at the Future of Charleston, South Carolina’s Transportation System

  • From the long stretches of highways that run out of town to the scenic bridges and narrow lanes that crisscross the city, streets are meant to connect us. But in recent years, as the Charleston area has swelled and the roadways have become more and more choked, the question of combating congestion has become divisive. Cyclists dart frantically in between encroaching traffic. Drivers stare in frustration at the seemingly unending row of brake lights ahead. Buses lurch along in a constant circuit, yet never make it to some parts of town. This is the current state of transportation in Charleston. But it doesn’t have to be our future. All across the Lowcountry, efforts are underway to plan for how best to meet tomorrow’s transportation needs.

San Francisco’s Traffic Planners Weren’t Expecting Rise of Uber, Lyft

  • Hard to believe, but San Francisco’s transit wonks were caught completely off guard by the ride-hailing revolution that now floods the city with thousands of cars daily. In fact, when the city was drawing up its transportation “Major Strategic Plan” back in 2012, planners thought “ride shares” meant car pooling. So as the Municipal Transportation Agency drew up a blueprint for more bus- and bike-only lanes – and less space for cars – it was blind to the wave of Uber and Lyft cars that was about to inundate the streets.

Northwest Arkansas Cities Approach Transportation Plans in Their Own Way

  • Cities can solve 5 o’clock traffic jams on their own or with local help, but figuring out where those cars will idle decades from now is best left to the big consultants, experts say. The experience and mathematical know-how of national consultants help cities see where transportation problems are likely to occur in the future, so they can plan for rather than react to them. Planning staff generally have a finger on the pulse of what ails a city transportation-wise, and it wouldn’t make sense to hire an outside consultant to reinforce what they already know, said Eric Damian Kelly, professor of urban planning at Ball State University. However, the tools national consultants usually haev, including advanced software and expertise in analysis of volumes of data, simply aren’t available to most cities, Kelly said.

MPOs

Wasatch Front Regional Council’s Transportation Plan Reflects Northern Utah’s Exploding Population

  • The director of Northern Utah’s transportation planning arm says the region has reached a “tipping point” when it comes to traffic congestion. Wasatch Front Regional Council Executive Director Andrew Gruber says Northern Utah’s population has doubled during the past three decades and is expected to double again in the next 30 years – sobering numbers that spell an end to the days of simply putting pavement down to make more room on the roads. Gruber says municipalities must work together, coordinating road and transit projects with smart land use practices and economic development considerations to get the most value out of transportation funds.

The Bay County TPO Is Where Road Projects Start

  • If there’s a traffic problem that needs attention, or a road that needs to be widened, getting that done starts with a group called the Transportation Planning Organization. The decisions the TPO is making now will set the agenda for road projects around the area for the next 5 to 10 years. Buildings are being torn down and local shops are closing to make way for the Highway 390 widening project connecting Highway 77 in Lynn Haven to 23rd Street in Panama City. It’s being widened from two lanes to six lanes.

SANDAG Reform Bill Wins Backing of San Diego City Council

San Diego City Council members on Tuesday voted narrowly to support a bill in the state legislature that would make changes to the county’s transportation agencies. AB 805, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, passed the Assembly last month, mostly on party lines, and is currently being reviewed by the Senate. It would make several changes to North County Transit District and the Metropolitan Transit System, which operate the Sprinter, Coaster, bus and trolley systems, and the San Diego Association of Governments, which plans and funds transportation countywide.

ALTERNATE TRANSPORTATION

Seattle DOT to Make Thousands Off of New Bikeshare Permits

  • Private bike share companies have been gearing up to race into Seattle ever since Pronto failed. The city will fire the starter’s pistol on July 7, after which thousands of new bikes will descend upon Seattle’s streets and sidewalks. As a result, the Seattle Department of Transportation stands to take in hundreds of thousands of dollars in permitting fees.

Bike, Pedestrian Groups Seek to Enhance I-35 Underpasses Between Waco and Baylor

  • The widening of Interstate 35 through Waco is meant to be a boon for freeway drivers. But pedestrian and cycling advocates see it as an opportunity to stitch downtown and the Baylor University area back together. Leaders of Waco Walks and the Waco Bicycle Club have been meeting with transportation officials to discuss eleventh-hour design tweaks to the three downtown underpasses that could make them more inviting to walkers and bikers moving between downtown and campus.

FREIGHT

Railroads Adding More Cars to Trains in Effort to Trim Costs, Raises Safety Concerns

  • The train that moved through downtown Council Bluffs late last month on a bright Saturday morning didn’t seem extraordinary at first glance – just another Union Pacific freighter with different types of cargo and railcars slowly crossing the railroad tracks in a town crisscrossed with railroad tracks. But it was notable in one respect: It was 142 cars long. And for a manifest train = the industry term for trains with mixed cargoes and car types – it was 45 percent longer than the average Union Pacific manifest train in 2016. The extra length was no accident. Trains are getting longer, as the nation’s freight railroads seek out greater efficiency – lower expenses mean higher profits – by grouping more railcars into fewer trains.

FUNDING

Study Supports Tax Based on How Far You Drive Instead of Per-Gallon of Gas

  • Times is money, but taxing based on distance could be a better payoff for funding roads, according to fresh research, led in part by a University of Houston economist. A federal tax on vehicle miles traveled, as opposed to a per-gallon tax on gasoline, could raise money for the Highway Trust Fund and improve society, to the tune of a 20 percent increase in social welfare, concluded the Brookings Institution’s Clifford Winston, the University of Arizona’s Ashley Langer, and the University of Houston’s Vikram Maheshri, in a study published in the Journal of Public Economics.

RAIL

USDOT Leaves Group Overseeing Hudson River Tunnel, Portal Bridge Projects

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation has withdrawn from the group overseeing the Gateway Program, the massive regional project that aims to double rail capacity between New York and New Jersey. Billed as the largest and most important transit project in the northeast, the $23.9 billion Gateway Program aims to dig a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, expand Penn Station and build new bridges to better connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City.

OTHER

Hillsborough and Pinellas Officials Can’t Even Agree They Agreed to Meet

  • Tampa Bay political leaders often tout taking a regional approach to solve the area’s most pressing issues. But the challenge has been getting Hillsborough County and Pinellas County leaders together on the same page. Or in this case, in the same room. Pinellas County Commission Chairwoman Janet Long has been jockeying behind the scenes to schedule a joint meeting of both county commissions to discuss transportation and infrastructure problems – issues that cross county lines. But Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill sent a letter to Long this month saying it’s too soon for elected leaders of both counties to meet.

New Network Launches for Vermont Climate Economy Businesses

  • The Vermont Climate Economy Business Network, a new initiative coordinated by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, launched this month with a networking event at Main Street Landing in Burlington. The organization is an effort to build community and collaboration among businesses whose products and services aim to reduce, mitigate or prepare for the impacts of climate change.