Transportation & Infrastructure

Federal Highway Trust Fund Hits Pothole

Wall Street Journal: “With money running low in the Highway Trust Fund, the main source of federal cash to build and maintain roads and transit systems, the Transportation Department has indicated it may need to delay reimbursing states for construction costs starting this summer unless Congress moves to replenish the account. While lawmakers almost universally agree the federal government should play a role in keeping the highway system funded, there is no consensus on how to do that.”

“In the absence of congressional action, the balance in the trust fund’s highway account will fall to $2 billion by Sept. 30, and its mass-transit account to only $1 billion.”

“That would force the Transportation Department to start delaying payments to states as soon as August to keep the accounts’ balances above zero, as required by law.”

The delay could cost up to 700,000 jobs immediately.

“Currently, most of the trust fund’s revenue comes from the 18.4-cents-per- gallon tax on gasoline and the 24.4-cents-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel. While those levels haven’t been raised since 1993, many House Republicans have said they don’t want to increase the taxes.”

How Lawmakers Made Your Commute Worse

Eric Jaffe shows how lawmakers’ recent decision to break parity on subsidized commuter benefits hurts all commuters.

“The decision is terrible for both sides — transit riders obviously lose, but so do drivers, since the incentive for a single-occupancy commute will increase traffic … In fact the few brief years of benefit equality were the exception, not the rule:”

“Here’s why subsidized benefits, in particular, are so important.” There’s no incentive for employers to make up the shortfall:

“So if the goal is to relieve pressure from urban transportation networks, federal commuter-benefit policy is failing our cities. And network pressure is indeed at stake. Transit benefits can account for 5 to 25 percent of system ridership and 5 to 40 percent of revenue.”

Federal Subpoenas Issued in NJ Bridgegate Scandal

Politico: “The U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey has subpoenaed Gov. Chris Christie’s reelection campaign and the state Republican party for documents related to the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, a lawyer for the two groups confirmed Thursday.”

“The subpoenas indicate the growing seriousness of the controversy for Christie, a potential 2016 GOP presidential contender who has seen his poll numbers sink as the lane closures and subsequent allegations of political retribution have gained public attention.”

The 11 Most Dangerous States for Drivers

Highway safety report. (Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety)

 

Washington Post: “The states were ranked based on adoption of the 15 safety laws considered optimal by the rating organization. The laws included those restricting driver text messaging; requiring booster seats for children or helmets for all motorcycle riders; and allowing officers to ticket individuals sitting either in the front or the back for not wearing a seat belt without another offense having first taken place. There were also seven regulations related to teen driving and another three related to impaired driving.”

New Jersey Bridge Scandal Intensifies

The recent scandal surrounding the Fort Lee, New Jersey, traffic lane closures is morphing into a larger investigation.

According to the Washington Post, N.J. State Assembly Democrats will launch a special investigative committee, to “question more members of the Christie administration about the bridge closures.”

“It will look into a wide variety of issues related to the closures and Gov. Chris Christie’s staff,” an aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal decisions. “There is a need to focus on a broad array of issues and the Assembly is going to dedicate itself to finding the truth beyond the usual committee process.”

Assemblyman John Wisniewski: “The evidence that has come out in recent weeks makes clear that this now goes above and beyond a transportation issue and goes into the highest ranks of the executive branch … A concerted and focused investigation with increased resources is now needed.”

U.S. Attorney To Investigate Christie Bridge Scandal

The New York Times reports that “the United States attorney for New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman, [has] opened an inquiry” into allegations that aides to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie created a traffic snarl on the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retribution.

“The matter was referred to the [U.S. attorney’s] office by the inspector general for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge.”

Are We Ready for Amazon Prime Air?

Amazon.com is testing delivering packages using drones, CEO Jeff Bezos told 60 Minutes.

USA Today: “The idea would be to deliver packages as quickly as possible using the small, unmanned aircraft, through a service the company is calling Prime Air… The goal of the new delivery system is to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less, the world’s largest Internet retailer said. Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take ‘some number of years’ as Amazon develops the technology further and waits for the Federal Aviation Administration to come up with rules and regulations, the company added.”

CNN: “Those FAA rules could come as soon as 2015. The type of flights Bezos proposed are currently not allowed. Unlike some other drones currently used, these would be autonomous — they would fly without a pilot.”

A video of how the service will work has a package being taken from the warehouse floor and on to the front steps of the customer’s home just a half hour after pressing the order button.

Interestingly enough, Amazon already sells a drone you can fly yourself. However, it still comes to you the old fashioned way — in a delivery truck.