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News & Updates

State and Regional Updates

PLANNING

Florida Gulf Coast Island Leaders Want Better Communication in Area Traffic Study

  • For Tom Freiwald, chairman of the Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force, one word sums up his feelings regarding the progress of the Sarasota/Manatee Barrier Islands Traffic Study. Frustration. “The communication has been disappointing,” Freiwald said, speaking on behalf of the task force. “We hope we will not continue to be disappointed.” The long-awaited study, which is a $942,000 project of the Florida Department of Transportation, is an examination of how to improve the flow of traffic to, from and on Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island and Lido Key.

MPOs

Minnesota Governor: New Chairwoman of Met Council Must ‘Bring People Together’

  • New Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Alene Tchourumoff will need to grapple with political divisions over regional services like transit and try to unite people across the region, Gov. Mark Dayton said at her swearing-in ceremony Monday in St. Paul. Dayton appointed Tchourumoff last month to replace Adam Duininck, who left to take a position at a regional carpenters’ union. She takes over the leadership post at a time when transit funding is uncertain and the Republican-led Legislature has tried to restructure the 50-year-old regional planning agency.

Napa Transportation Leaders Agree, Disagree with Grand Jury Findings

  • A call by the grand jury to sharpen the congestion-busting vision for local roads received a polite, mixed response from the Napa Valley Transportation Authority. The grand jury in June issued a report on the Authority’s 25-year Vision 2040 transportation plan. The NVTA Board of Directors last week agreed with some grand jury points and disagreed with others.

SANDAG’s Free Roadside Service Program Gets Upgrade

  • New efforts are underway to enhance free roadside services for motorists who need assistance on San Diego County freeways. San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is making improvements to the 511 Freeway Service Patrol (FSP) program. During the weekday morning and evening commutes, 23 tow truck operators drive up and town San Diego County freeways, actively looking for stranded drivers.

ALTERNATE TRANSPORTATION

OpenStreetsPGH Brings Cyclists, Pedestrians to Pittsburgh Roadways

  • The last OpenStreetsPGH of the summer tolled through Pittsburgh on Sunday. After popping up in the South Side and West End earlier this year, the popular event took over the streets of the Strip District and Lawrenceville from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today. Bike Pittsburgh, which organizes the event, estimates 25,000 people will participate, taking advantage of closed thoroughfares to walk, jog, bike and skate freely through the neighborhoods.

Permian Basin MPO Hopes to Aid Cyclists

  • Area cyclists have struggled with increased traffic on the State Highway 191 service roads, but a possible solution for intercity bike travel is in the very early stages. The Permian Basin Metropolitan Planning Organization is mostly known for programming funding for roads used by motor vehicles; however, a decision made at Monday’s policy board meeting extends its focus to bicyclists, as well. Board members gave  MPO staff the go-ahead to apply for $17,258 in supplemental funding from the State Planning and Research program. The money will be put toward a study for an intercity bike route. The study would examine the area’s cycling needs and potential routes between Midland and Odessa.

Columbia County, New York Officials Ask Who Will Maintain State’s New Albany-Hudson Electric Trail

  • A proposed new Hudson River Valley Greenway rail-trail, part of the planned Empire State system, could have major regional implications for Columbia County and Greene County in the future. Local Columbia County officials have mixed initial feelings about a rail-trail the state announced it will create, that will run through the county, with the question of who will maintain the trail still up in the air.

TRANSIT

Transit Deserts Are a Drag on Jobs, Health

  • As any commuter who has experienced unreliable service or lives miles away from a bus stop will tell you, sometimes public transit isn’t really a viable option, even in major cities. In our car-loving society, where 85 percent of Americans use a car to get to work, people who cannot access transportation are excluded from their own communities and trapped inside “transit deserts.” This term describes areas in a city where demand for transit is high but supply is low. Lack of transit has harmful effects on those who rely on public transit – generally, people who are too young, too old, too poor or have disabilities that don’t allow them to drive.

Central Ohio Transit Authority NextGen Transportation Plan Includes Driverless Vehicle Pilot Program

  • COTA’s board of directors now has a blueprint for providing public transportation through 2050. Within eight years, the $7.45 billion NextGen plan adopted Wednesday also proposes a pilot program to use driverless vehicles for part of the service. The NextGen plan is aimed to guide COTA as it attempts to provide public transportation more quickly to more people. Between 500,000 and 1 million more residents are expected to call central Ohio home by 2050, when 300,000 more jobs also will be created. The goal over the next 30 years is to help people travel between home and areas where large numbers of jobs are located while leaving more cars at home during peak commute times.

FREIGHT

Road Builders Propose Funding Package Built Around New Fees on Freight

  • One of the most active advocacy groups for transportation infrastructure investments is calling on Congress to build a new long-term funding package around new types of fees on freight movements on the nation’s highway system. In a July 17 letter to Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., American Road & Transportation Builders Association President Pete Ruane urged lawmakers to include dedicated revenues to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund for the long term.

Charleston Ports Officials Look to Barges as Way to Reduce Truck Traffic on Local Highways

  • Barges will one day move cargo between Wando Welch Terminal and a new rail yard in North Charleston under a plan the State Ports Authority is developing to help reduce truck traffic on local highways. The authority has applied to the federal Department of Transportation for a marine highway designation that would let barges haul hundreds of cargo boxes at a time along the Wando and Cooper rivers. The maritime agency expects to know by the end of this year whether it has been approved for that designation.

RAIL

Senate Panel Restores Funds for Amtrak Long-Distance Trains

  • The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development on Tuesday approved a fiscal-year 2018 appropriations bill that would provide funding for Amtrak’s long-distance routes. The proposal slots $1.6 billion for the national intercity passenger railroad’s Northeast Corridor and national network. The funds would enable Amtrak to continue service for all current routes, according to a press release issued by the subcommittee.

Infrastructure Bank Possible Option for Funding US-Canada High-Speed Rail

  • Washington state is exploring whether Canada’s new infrastructure bank could help finance a multibillion-dollar proposal for high-speed rail between Vancouver and the U.S. northwest. The Trudeau government’s soon-to-be-launched, $35-billion infrastructure bank will seek to use public funds as leverage to attract billions more in private investment for major infrastructure projects, such as bridges, transit systems and rail lines.

ROADWAYS

Texas DOT Reconsiders Plan for US 183 Toll Lanes

  • The U.S. 183 North toll project, which aims to add two toll lanes to each side of the highway north of MoPac Boulevard, has been thrown into flux and potentially delayed – part of the collateral damage from growing anti-toll sentiment among the state’s leaders. Officials said some alternatives are being examined, such as building the 8-mile expansion project with no tolls, adding only segments of free lanes or perhaps creating high-occupancy-vehicle lanes. These talks come just weeks before authorities had planned to start lining up a contractor to do the final design and construction.

NTSB: More Speed Cameras Needed to Cut Road Deaths

  • A U.S. safety watchdog called for broader use of traffic cameras to catch speeding drivers, as it said driving too fast is an under-reported cause of traffic fatalities. Inconsistent reporting by law enforcement causes the factor to go under-reported, according to a summary of a National Transportation Safety Board report set for release Tuesday. That masks the full scope of speeding’s role in deadly crashes for policy makers and police trying to combat the more than 30,000 annual U.S. traffic fatalities, according to the report.

FUNDING

Minnesota Poll: State Should Bear More Transportation Costs

  • As counties and states discuss how best to fund transportation, area readers believe Minnesota should bear more of the brunt of transportation costs, according to a Free Press member poll. Out of 226 total respondents, 178 – almost 79 percent – believe the state should bear transportation costs. Only 48 respondents believed counties should bear the brunt of the costs. As Minnesota has grappled with how best to pay for transportation infrastructure over the past few years, counties have stepped up across the state by raising sales taxes to cover more costs.