Saturday, May 7, 2016

Transportation News Round-Up: May 7, 2016

Photo courtesy of DC Fire and EMS

This week in transportation, a CSX freight train derailed, DOT announced a new program to help cities remove divisive infrastructure, and DC Metro unveiled its major maintenance plan. Here are the most important and interesting stories of the past week:

Reuters: U.S. bullet train proposals shun public funds, favor private cash
Anyone who's been following the California high-speed rail project knows it's been plagued by, among other obstacles, funding gaps that could jeopardize future construction segments. The project has relied on public funding this far, including bond sales approved by voters in 2008, Recovery Act funding, and cap-and-trade revenues. This story takes a look at some of America's other high-speed rail projects - in Texas, Nevada, and Minnesota - that have chosen to go private instead, and what the advantages and disadvantages are to that. A blog post I wrote several months ago explored some of the differences and similarities between California's and Texas' projects.

Fresno Bee: High-speed rail plans Madera stop
Speaking of high-speed rail, work on the California project continues, with the California High-Speed Rail Authority announcing last week that the new system will include a connecting station in Madera linking HSR to Amtrak's San Joaquin passenger rail service. Connectivity will be an important part of how HSR interacts with the larger transportation system in California, but there are likely political reasons for this move as well, given Madera's opposition to the system as a "fly-by" city.

Read more here:

CityLab: The U.S. DOT's newest plan to tackle transportation barriers
In order to tackle the challenge of transportation barriers - such as a viaduct cutting through a city - Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced the Every Place Counts Design Challenge. Local governments will work with urban planners, designers, and local residents to identify neighborhoods that face transportation infrastructure-related barriers and compete for special attention from DOT design experts. Having spent a year in Syracuse, NY, where the viaduct has certainly curtailed economic growth in the middle of the city, I think this is an important transportation-related challenge that the federal government should play a greater role in tackling.

WTOP: CSX train derails in Northeast D.C., causing hazardous leak
Early Sunday morning, a CSX train heading from Maryland to North Carolina derailed in Washington, DC, overturning several cars including one that contained a hazardous chemical. Sodium hydroxide is used to make household products such as paper and soap, and Hazmat workers plugged the leak that same morning. It's unclear what caused the derailment, but DC is facing a number of infrastructure challenges and this only serves to re-emphasize that point.

The Hill: Metro to shut down portions of subway in massive repair effort
DC Metro released the details of its massive track work plan, which will take place from June of this year to March 2017. Five stations will be closed at different times throughout that period, with 10 portions of lines utilizing single-tracking for periods of less than one month. Contractors will be brought in to complement the work of Metro crews, which will include replacing insulators, eliminating temporary gauge bars, replacing wooden ties and fixation fasteners, and clearly drains. After a series of embarrassing and dangerous incidents, including tunnel fires, it's clear the work is necessary but we'll have to wait and see how effective it is in mitigating future disasters.

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

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