It is expected that U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) will introduce legislation on December 4 to fund U.S. transportation infrastructure in the nation now and into the future, reported the United Transportation Union.
The two bills will establish a series of pilot projects to further study the application of a vehicle-miles-traveled fee and establish a 15-cents-per-gallon increase to the federal gas tax.
"Increased vehicle-fuel efficiency allows for increased demands on our transportation system without contributing as much to its maintenance. An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office based on current driving patterns demonstrates the newest fuel economy standards for automobiles will result in a 21 percent reduction in Highway Trust Fund revenue by 2040," Blumenauer said.
He pointed to already significant funding challenges and said that Congress has transferred $55 billion in general fund revenues to the Highway Trust Fund to avoid bankruptcy since 2009. When the current authorization expires, the Highway Trust Fund will require almost $15 billion a year in addition to existing gas tax receipts, merely to maintain 2009 funding levels.
"Our failure to adequately fund transportation infrastructure imposes huge costs on American citizens and businesses. Last year, congestion cost urban Americans $87.2 billion a year in time wasted sitting in traffic and higher transportation costs have pushed logistics costs to nearly 10 percent of our gross domestic product. A recent analysis by the American Society of Civil Engineers suggests that the cost of our declining transportation system could result in the loss of 876,000 jobs by 2020. Until we tie our transportation revenues to our transportation demands, this situation will worsen."
The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission noted that a vehicle-miles-traveled charge is the "the most promising alternative revenue measure" to the existing gas tax, while the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission reported that "a charge for each mile driven . . . has emerged as the consensus choice for the future." Both commissions found that this system was efficient at raising revenue.
A number of states, including Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, Iowa, Texas and New York have tested pilot projects where they charged drivers for the number of miles they traveled rather than the fuel they consumed. The tests have proved convenient for drivers, demonstrated strong protections for personal privacy and have been easily administrable, he says.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) has awarded a contract for General Engineering Consultant (GEC) support services for the next phase of the rail project.
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (SCVTA) has completed the Alum Rock Fish Passage, a mitigation effort for the Mission Warren Area Improvements Project, a support project for the Bay Area Rapid Transit Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension.
Three Massachusetts transportation agencies, managing three different projects, worked closely together to save a total of more than $4.1 million while completing the work and limiting disruptions to subway service for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Blue Line Orient Heights Station.
Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, along with representatives of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), Union Pacific, Amtrak and contractor OCCI, Inc., officially opened a new Union Pacific $28-million 1,200-foot railroad bridge across the Osage River, ahead of schedule and under budget.
The Sound Transit Board of Directors identified a preferred alternative to extend light rail from the Northgate mall area in Seattle, Wash., north to Lynnwood in Snohomish County. The preferred route will mostly run adjacent to I-5 with stations in the Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood areas.
All blasting operations for Phase 1 of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Second Avenue Subway Project are complete.
A University of Texas, Arlington (UT Arlington), feasibility study of high-speed rail in Texas shows that trips between most city pairs that use existing Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) right-of-way can be made in less than two hours, making it competitive with air travel and superior to highway driving.
Pacific Imperial Railroad (PIR), which runs freight services on the Desert Line, servicing the Tijuana-Tecate region of Baja California, Mexico and eastern San Diego County, has named David Rohal President of the company, effective December 1.
Gross & Janes Co. has begun construction of a new $2.2-million crosstie production and borate treatment facility in Camden, Ark. The new facility will replace an existing Gross & Janes crosstie plant and also consolidate production from two other company plants in Taylor, Ark., and Carthage, Texas.
When fully operational after its scheduled completion in March 2014, the plant will employ 15 people and have the capacity to produce 600,000 crossties annually.
"The Camden location was chosen for its logistical advantages in serving three of our largest railroad clients, including Union Pacific, BNSF and Kansas City Southern," said Mike Pourney, president and CEO of Gross & Janes. "In addition, the surrounding area in southern Arkansas has some of the best oak timber in the country. This area is also home to some of our most productive sawmills."
Most crossties processed at the new Camden facility will be Gross & Janes' borate pre-treated crossties called Tuff-Tie. This crosstie is treated with borate using a non-pressurized process prior to drying and shipping to the customer for creosote treatment. The company notes that this two-step treatment process eliminates the cost of pressurized application of borate at the time of creosote application, while also offsetting the amount of oil-based creosote needed for tie protection.
When the new Camden facility opens, the Carthage plant will remain open as a railcar loading facility and the Taylor plant will close.