Congestion Reduction

A new report says Chicago could reduce congestion and increase mobility by building a $12 billion, 275-mile regional network of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes among other infrastructure projects. The report comes just as several HOT lane projects prepare to come online in other parts of the country, as some toll road projects suffer growing pains, and as new data shows all-electronic tolling may now cost less to collect than fuel taxes. Here are some updates on recent developments.

Ultimately the support of Georgia’s Republican governor, Atlanta’s Democratic mayor, and the local and state chambers of commerce wasn’t enough to convince Atlanta-area voters to vote for a one percent sales tax increase to fund a list of regionally chosen transportation projects. Neither were the Atlanta metro region’s notorious traffic congestion and less than comprehensive transit system. Nor the claims by public officials that there was no “plan B” or better option forthcoming for funding the region’s transportation needs. Instead, it was an unlikely alliance on the “No” side that was able to claim victory for sending the Atlanta region’s Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) down to defeat in Tuesday’s Georgia primary election.

Even as programs that fund bike and pedestrian infrastructure such as Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets and Transportation Enhancements have been targeted for elimination at the federal level, states and localities are demonstrating a continued commitment to them, reflecting the public's desire to have transportation options, leisure opportunities and communities that are healthier and safer. But the infrastructure needs are great, the funding is insufficient and projects are being increasingly scrutinized. 

Before I depart for the holidays, I thought I would leave you transportation policy fans with a few things to read on those iPads and Kindle Fires you may find under the tree Sunday morning. In what has become an annual tradition, it’s time to clear out the CSG Transportation inbox so we can start fresh in the New Year. There are lots of items below on many of the issues we cover regularly here on the blog including: state...

For those not off to Grandmother’s house just yet, here are a few recent transportation-related stories, links and reports for your post-tryptophan coma reading pleasure. There are items on surface transportation authorization, traffic congestion, the economic impact of infrastructure investment and transportation finance.

Congress this week beat a couple of looming deadlines and voted to extend authority for the Federal Aviation Administration and the nation’s surface transportation programs. Meanwhile, some are resisting President Obama’s call for the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank as part of his American Jobs Act.

This week, President Obama banks again on infrastructure investment to stimulate the nation’s economy. Also, a key Senate committee approves a four-month extension of surface transportation programs as a House Appropriations subcommittee passes a 2012 transportation budget that cuts overall spending and Administration-favored programs. There are also items this week on congestion reduction, sprawl and smart growth.

The chances that the federal gas tax, which is set to expire Sept. 30, could be extended improved a bit this week as Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, announced he won’t oppose an extension. Also this week, New York’s Governor gives a boost to bike and pedestrian infrastructure, Georgia prepares for next year’s regional referenda on transportation project funding, and Seattle gives a thumbs up to a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Plus, items of note on transportation spending as stimulus, tolling and public-private partnerships, high-speed rail, public transportation, the 2012 presidential election and mileage-based user fees.

A new report from the bipartisan Building America’s Future Educational Fund says the United States needs to invest at least $200 billion a year in infrastructure, including transportation, energy, water and broadband internet. But that could be difficult, especially if some who want to get rid of the federal gas tax get their way. Also this week: Kentucky follows in Missouri’s footsteps in installing a new traffic interchange designed to decrease congestion and crashes in less time and for less money than other kinds of interchanges. Plus, items of note on tolling, public-private partnerships, mileage-based user fees in Europe and bridge work in Massachusetts and Missouri.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $48 billion to states for transportation infrastructure projects. States achieved significant successes in 2010 in  meeting deadlines associated with the legislation, starting and completing projects on time and under budget, creating jobs and doing it all with little fraud or waste. Still, some questions have been raised about whether the stimulus could have had a greater impact, which types of projects were funded and which states received the most funding. Despite its political unpopularity in 2010, the Recovery Act proved its worth to state transportation officials around the country.