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Your Weekly Planning & MPO Updates

Texas House Passes Bill to Create Revolving Loan Fund for Ports

  • Senate Bill 28, which creates a revolving loan fund to help ports deepen and widen their ship channels, was passed by the Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday. It passed the Texas Senate in late March and will now be sent to Gov. Greg Abbott. The bill will authorize a revolving loan fund for ship channel improvement projects that have been authorized by Congress. Such projects are expensive, and they generally require a port authority or state agency to pay 35 to 50 percent of the costs, according to a November report from the Senate Select Committee on Texas Ports.


New Utah Task Force Digs Into Possible Transportation Reform

  • A new state transportation task force was launched Tuesday, seeking how to finance billions of dollars needed for future projects – and how best to govern transportation agencies, including the controversial Utah Transit Authority. The Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force faces some daunting challenges, including UTA reporting that it lacks sufficient funds for now-planned transit projects – and big tax increases may be needed to pursue them. Also, the task force heard that booming population growth likely will exceed the state’s capacity to handle transportation needs in traditional ways, so transit and newer live-and-work-in-the-same-area developments may become more important.


Austin Is Hoping Comprehensive Planning Will Lead to Expanded Transit

  • Austin’s one lonely commuter rail line connects downtown with the northern suburbs. In recent years, the city has placed two light-rail proposals before voters – and both have failed. The latest, in 2014, “went down in flames,” according to one newspaper. But planners are back at their sketchpads, the Austin Monitor reports. Last week, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors heard the first results of a “rebooted” effort to fund high-capacity transit.

Forget Flying Cars: We Need Floating Ones

  • In May, New York City made a splash when city officials launched the first new public inter-borough ferry service since the Fulton Ferry between Brooklyn and Manhattan docked for the last time in 1924. By 2018, 20 newly built passenger- and bicycle-only vessels will operate among all the boroughs via 22 landings along 6 routes-except Staten Island, which is already linked by ferry to Manhattan.

Big Cities Struggling to Connect with Great Lakes

  • Cleveland, which sits on Lake Erie, has big plans for its waterfront. But the city faces some major obstacles – like highways and railroad tracks. The question for Cleveland and many other Great Lakes cities is: How do you retrofit an old industrial giant?


Long-Term Transportation Plans Revealed in Greenville, South Carolina

  • The Greenville-Pickens Area Transportation Study, GPATS, held one of several transportation meetings at Greenville County Square Tuesday evening. The meeting was a follow up to public hearings GPATS held in the Fall for their Horizon 2040 project. “We got all the public coming out first saying here’s our needs first, then we validated that with the hard data, and now we’re coming back out again to say how are we doing,” said Keith Brockington, the Greenville County Transportation Planning Manager.

Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle MPO Chief: Safety, Security Top Transportation Survey

  • More than 250 people already have completed an online survey about long-range transportation planning in Washington County and parts of West Virginia. Matt Mullenax, executive director of the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization, or HEPMPO, said he is pleased with the number of responses, which will help identify projects for future funding.


Hillsborough MPO Vision Zero Explores Pop-Up Solutions to Protect Local Pedestrians, Cyclists

  • The distinct metal clink and pressurized hiss of aerosol paint cans in action filled the air during the most recent Vision Zero Hillsborough workshop this spring, as more than 40 volunteers teamed up to create a bright green bike lane along the Bullard Parkway Bridge in Temple Terrace using temporary, non-toxic roadway-approved spray paint. The Hillsborough MPO arranged the bridge painting project in collaboration with the City of Temple Terrace to stage a proactive, participatory demonstration of the ‘Paint Saves Lives’ Action Track – a cornerstone of the Vision Zero initiative to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist traffic death on Hillsborough streets.

‘Data Bike’ Pinpoints Trouble Spots on Central Iowa Trails

  • One lucky intern will have the best summer job ever: cycling central Iowa’s 600 miles of paved trails on a tricked-out “data bike.” Using a 360-degree camera that sticks out like an antenna from the lime-green electric cargo bike, and a phone app that picks up vibrations caused by imperfections in the pavement, the rider will catalog trouble spots. It’s part of the Des Moines Metropolitan Planning Organization’s effort to measure the health of recreational trails and arm the agencies that maintain them with valuable data to aid budgeting decisions and respond more quickly to damage.


Freight Intermodal Connectors Study

  • Freight intermodal connectors are roads that provide the “last mile” connection between major intermodal freight facilities (e.g., ports, airports, intermodal rail yards) and the National Highway System (NHS). Although the officially designated network of NHS intermodal connectors accounts for less than one percent of total NHS mileage, these roads are critical for the timely and reliable movement of freight. It is therefore important to understand the use, condition, and performance of the nation’s intermodal connectors since they have a direct impact on efficient goods movement and economic health.


Trump Administration Delays Greenhouse Gas Measurement Rule for Highways

  • The Trump administration is delaying enforcement of an Obama administration regulation that would have required state and local officials to measure greenhouse gas emissions related to the use of specific highways. The greenhouse gas reporting requirement was part of a regulation establishing new performance measurement standards for federally funded highways that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) put into place days before former President Barack Obama left office. Some of the performance measure regulation will take force, but the FHWA said in a Federal Register notice due for publication Friday that it would delay other parts for a year while officials decide whether they want to rescind or revise them.


Belgium Extends Commuter Benefits to All Electric Bicycles

  • Belgium on Thursday extended commuter tax benefits for cyclists traveling to work on any electric bicycles. Employers in Belgium can currently reward staff if they come to work on a bicycle, paying them for every kilometer they cycle, in an effort to promote environmentalism and a healthier lifestyle. Commuters can get 23 cents ($0.26) per km cycled between their home and their place of work. The new law covers electric bicycles that can reach up to 45 km per hour (28 mph). Those limited to 25 kmh were previously covered.


A Data-Driven Crash-Prediction Tool Every City Can Use

  • Two years ago, New York City partnered with data scientists at Datakind and Microsoft to build the “holy grail” of road safety engineers: a software platform capable of predicting and quantifying the outcome of any given engineering intervention. Would a bulb-out at 7th and 39th reduce crashes? By 10 percent, 27 percent, 62 percent? How about a pedestrian crosswalk signal? The model turned out to be overly ambitious for the small number of crash-prevention features currently on New York streets, and the amount of data the city has on them. But officials did come away with a tool that should prove useful as the city pursues its goal of zeroing out all crashes: a traffic “exposure” model, which uses AI to estimate the volume of cars coursing any road, at any time.

App Challenges South Florida Commuters to Find New Routes

  • Ashley Love commutes via Tri-Rail roughly an hour each way from his home in West Palm Beach to where he works at the Publix Warehouse in Deerfield Beach. “[The train] is always late,” he said. “On weekends, I have to leave three hours early.” Love is likely among the South Florida commuters being challenged by the Florida Department of Transportation throughout the month of May to try an alternative mode of transportation to get to and from work. While the month is almost over, time still remains for commuters to weigh in on what is being called the South Florida Commuter Challenge.