Saturday, September 24, 2016

Transportation News Round-Up: September 24, 2016

This week in transportation, the Obama Administration released draft regulations for autonomous vehicles, Connecticut continued debating a proposed high-speed rail route through the state, and Louisiana considered raising its gas tax to fund infrastructure projects. Here are the most important and interesting transportation stories from the past week:

New York Times: Coming Soon, Economists Hope: Big Spending on Roads, Bridges and Ports
"Infrastructure spending, unlike many other forms of government outlays, holds the power to give the economy a sustained lift for decades down the line. First comes the addition of jobs — particularly the kinds of higher-wage blue-collar jobs that have been lost in recent years — and spending on products like concrete and steel to build new roads and repair worn-out bridges. After that initial jolt, the economy would continue to reap the important but harder-to-measure benefits of fewer delays, faster internet connections and more reliable power."

The Hill: Feds set to unveil self-driving car guidelines 
"The policy plan outlined by the administration on Monday evening does not include stringent requirements, but instead offers a more flexible approach for automakers and tech companies pursuing the emerging technology, according to a fact sheet released in advance by the White House. Officials said they were striving to strike the right balance between innovation and safety in crafting the framework for driverless cars, which they praised for their ability to save lives, improve mobility and reduce traffic and fuel use."

Chicago Tribune: Acela fight splits hedge-fund Connecticut, old-money enclaves 
"'There's no way you could ever achieve high-speed, world-class service with the right-of-way we have today,' [Commuter Action Group founder Jim] Cameron, a frequent Acela passenger, said by telephone. 'This train is like a Ferrari driving on a dirt path.'"

Greater Baton Rouge Business Report: State infrastructure task force considers doubling Louisiana’s fuel tax 
"A member of the Governor’s Task Force for Transportation Infrastructure Investment says an increase in the state fuel tax could be a viable way to finance Louisiana’s future infrastructure needs as well as certain designated 'megaprojects.' Ken Naquin, secretary/CEO of Louisiana Associated General Contractors, says doubling the current state tax rate of 20 cents to 40 cents per gallon could generate up to $600 million per year. The task force, of which Naquin is a member, expects to deliver its funding plan at the beginning of the year. The fuel tax increase is one proposal being considered by the task force, but is not 'set in stone,' he says."

WBUR: The Gas Tax Is So 20th Century. Here Are Two New Ones That Should Replace It
"But the idea of replacing the gas tax with a VMT tax has its share of critics, especially in environmental circles. Although the statutory purpose of the gas tax is to fund the transportation system, it also functions as a pollution tax. Instituting a VMT tax and eliminating the gas tax would lower the incentive to buy a fuel-efficient hybrid or electric vehicle. At a time when the state is working hard to reduce carbon emissions, it doesn’t make sense to treat a Nissan Leaf the same as a Chevy Suburban."

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

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