Cities getting less than a fair share of transportation stimulus

Measured both in terms of population and share of GDP, cities are getting a lower share of transportation stimulus dollars, according to a new analysis by the New York Times.  Blame provincialism.

“If we’re trying to recover the nation’s economy, we should be focusing where the economy is, which is in these large areas,” said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at theBrookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, which advocates more targeted spending. “But states take this peanut-butter approach, taking the dollars and spreading them around very thinly, rather than taking the dollars and concentrating them where the most complex transportation problems are.”

Being the New York Times, they also have a great graphic to go along with the story.

Oberstar bill increases transportation spending by 38 percent

Autopia has a nice summary of the proposed Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 (STAA?).  Full text here.  Some interesting highlights:

  • $50 billion for 11 high-speed rail corridors
  • “Office of Livability” to promote walking and biking
  • A National Infrastructure Bank to help finance transportation projects
  • More emphasis on reducing carbon emissions

The bill will cost $500 billion and supposedly create or sustain 6 million jobs.  Autopia says there is no discussion of where the money will come from, although increasing the gas tax is an option.  The current gas tax would only generate $236 billion over the life of the bill.  I say they should reexamine LaHood’s idea of a mileage tax.

Waxman ousts Dingell for chairmanship – climate change solved?

Rep. Waxman

A long-time advocate of the US auto industry and sometime climate change-lover John D. Dingell was ousted from the charimanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.  While this is possibly good news for new environmental legislation, it may signal more bad news for the Detroit-based auto industry.  Something big will likely happen given the “change” mantra sweeping Washington, and as this is one important charimanship, according to NYT:

Many lawmakers and lobbyists consider the Energy and Commerce Committee to be the most influential panel in either house of Congress, one that handles, by some estimates, all or parts of two-thirds of the legislation moving through the House. Three committees in the Senate share jurisdiction over bills relating to energy, environment and commerce, all of which pass through the single House committee.

Outside the committee room is a huge NASA photograph of Earth taken from space. Mr. Dingell is fond of pointing to it in answer to questions about his committee’s jurisdiction.

Congress approves Midwest high-speed rail – could it really happen?

Midwest Network from MHSR

It only took an energy crisis, a climate crisis and a horrible train accident, but Congress has finally taken a first step towards providing a real transportation alternative.  The House and Senate have both approved a rail safety bill that includes $680 million a year for five years for high speed rail projects.  This same bill includes safety improvements, and doubles Amtrak’s funding to $13 billion over five years.

Of greatest interest to this Chicago-lover is the possibility of high-speed rail in the Midwest.  Always one to provide the bacon for Minnesota (not to be confused with pork), Congressman Oberstar says that this bill could mean a high-speed connection between Chicago and the Twin Cities in the next five years.  That seems like an awfully ambitious timeline, especially given the last sentence in the story, “…matching funds need to come from state and local sources”.  But, if we get some new, pro-rail leadership in the White House in January (McCain’s position, Obama’s position), perhaps things really could start to happen in less than a decade.

One question for the readers, why is a line from Duluth to the Twin Cities a higher priority than the Chicago-Twin Cities line?  Have they already “stud[ied] the impact” of the Chicago route (I assume this means a EIS process)?  Why is Duluth a viable destination for a train line anyway?