Saturday, October 15, 2016

Transportation News Round-Up: October 15, 2016

Photo courtesy of  the NTSB.
This week in transportation, transportation groups urged the presidential candidates to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent, New Jersey lawmakers agreed to raise the gas tax, and DC Metro revealed proposals for filling its budget gap. Here are the week's most important and interesting transportation stories:

Transportation Topics: Transportation groups urge Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump to ensure long-term highway funding
Several groups - including the American Trucking Association, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - penned a letter to the two major presidential nominees urging them to prioritize the long-term sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund. They wrote, "We believe that an infrastructure package needs to include, as a foundation, additional sustainable revenue to ensure the permanent solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. The additional revenue sources must be long-term, reliable, dedicated and focused on the users and beneficiaries of our transportation network to support the increased investment provided under your infrastructure proposal."

CBS News: Is your state next to raise its gas tax?
As cars become more fuel-efficient and the gas tax becomes less adequate for financing road maintenance, several states have considered raising the gas tax rate to make up the difference. CBS News reports, "New Jersey is poised to become the 19th state since 2013 to raise or reform its gasoline tax if, as expected, Republican Governor Chris Christie approves the just-approved 23-cent hike. More than a dozen states have considered similar moves over the past few months as they scramble to fix their crumbling transportation infrastructure."

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report following a NJ Transit train accelerating into a station and injuring over 100 commuters. The Post reports, "The release of the report this week comes as troubling new details have begun to emerge about the transit agency’s safety record. According to a report by the Associated Press, NJ Transit has had more accidents and paid more fines for safety violations than any other commuter rail system in the U.S. AP’s analysis also found that between January 2011 and July 2016, human behavior was a factor in 57 percent of NJ Transit’s accidents."

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has pushed back a decision on consultants to design a train station in downtown Fresno, even as the city continues developing a master plan for the downtown area surrounding the station. The Bee writes, "The agency’s board, at its meeting Tuesday in Sacramento, had been slated to consider issuing a request for qualifications from architectural and engineering firms to compete for a six-year contract for up to $11 million to the winning team later this year. But the issue was removed from the agenda because 'some board members have questions and (our) staff will work with them to further elucidate on them,' board chairman Dan Richard said."

DC Metro is facing fare hikes, service cuts, and staffing reductions in response to a large budget gap due to increasing maintenance costs and decreasing ridership resulting in lower revenues. WAMU reports, "Under the category of 'extreme options,' fares would increase by 35 percent across all modes (rail, bus, paratransit), and service would be reduced by 20 to 25 percent... The 'extreme options' are meant to illustrate the severity of Metro’s yawning operating budget deficit, exacerbated by plummeting ridership and rising labor costs."

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

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