Saturday, February 27, 2016

Transportation News Round-Up: February 27, 2016

This week in transportation, the US Department of Transportation announced new TIGER grants, the Tesla Supercharger Highway expanded, and Google continued building up its new smart cities effort. Here are the stories I found most important or interesting this week:

The Hill: Feds to award $500M in transportation grants
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced over the weekend that it will award $500 million for infrastructure construction projects across the country as part of the 2016 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. TIGER grants, first established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ("the Recovery Act"), are competitively awarded and can be used to rebuild a deficient bridge, make a train station more handicap accessible, and anything else that helps our transportation infrastructure help the economy.

Transportation Topics: More states consider tolls to finance infrastructure
As the gas tax becomes a less and less adequate revenue stream for investing in infrastructure projects, states are increasingly looking for other funding mechanisms. Several are considering introducing (or, in Connecticut's case, reintroducing) tolls as a way to raise money off drivers to help pay for roads. Different states' tolls will work differently: Rhode Island's will be truck-only, while other states like Arizona and Illinois are considering them just for freight-heavy highways. The money quote, which speaks to state governments' desperation for infrastructure funding: "When people's hopes for [a federal fuel-tax hike in] the FAST Act weren't realized, that moved the focus back on the states... Tolling is no one's first option."

Atlas Obscura: America's massive new transportation infrastructure system is hiding in plain sight
This piece explores the rise of electric vehicles and supercharging stations that allow EV drivers to travel further and recharge more quickly. Tesla's so-called "Supercharger Highway," according to Atlas Obscura, would be a game-changer for the EV industry, as right now you can only drive your EV so far from home before it needs to be recharged. In fact, the company says that by the end of the year, there will be enough stations that you will be able to drive your electric car through every state in the continental US.

Wired: Google's city-fixing "Sidewalk Labs" is finally getting to work
Google has a new project, "Sidewalk Labs," which aims to bring city planners and technologists together to solve urban issues from congestion to housing to energy use. The idea is that bringing private- and public-sector entities together will harness the unique strengths of both: the private sector's flexibility and efficiency, and the public sector's commitment to helping all of its constituents, not just the most tech-savvy. Its first project, LinkNYC, will replace old phone kiosks with free WIFI, including touch screens that allow for local calls and internet browsing.

GreenBiz: Green infrastructure grows like a weed
This excerpt from GreenBiz's 2016 State of Green Business Report highlights opportunities and challenges in the area of low-carbon infrastructure, be it transportation, energy, water, or other kinds. The issue is framed as both a climate change necessity and economic opportunity. As the report says, "Readying the world economy for the climate change challenge can be seen as a major investment opportunity... This includes low-carbon transport, such as railways and urban metros, and low-emission buildings, both new constructions and retrofitted existing buildings."

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

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