Transportation Thursdays

Congress is in session.

Congress Looks to Continue Progress on Surface Transportation Bill
With Congress back in Washington after the holiday recess, transportation leaders are hoping to make progress on surface transportation legislation. According to Bloomberg reporting, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said that he hopes his committee will be done drafting their surface transportation bill by end of January and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair John Barrasso (R-WY), said his panel’s highway bill (S. 2302) could come to the floor soon after. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he and his staff are working to finalize a set of transportation pay-fors that could enable Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring a rewrite of highway and transit programs to the Senate floor soon after the impeachment trial of President Trump is concluded. “We’re still talking at the staff level about putting together a package that will raise $113 billion,” Grassley said last month. The $113 billion in extra pay-fors would augment existing federal excise taxes that support surface transportation programs. In its entirety, Barrasso’s bill would authorize $287 billion of spending.

Self-Driving Legislation Unlikely to Move With Surface Transportation Bill
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has said that new automated vehicle legislation is likely to move independently of a surface transportation bill. Currently, several portions of a self-driving bill are being circulated that raise concerns about how the legislation will handle safety provisions and local preemption. A time frame for a complete, draft bill has not yet been provided. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) who cosponsored the original AV Start Act (S.1885) has said that he does not yet know when another comprehensive self-driving bill will be introduced. 

Trump Administration Proposes Significant Changes to NEPA
The Trump administration today released a plan to revamp the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the 50-year-old environmental law which requires in-depth analysis of projects that could have major environmental effects, including climate change impacts. In an effort to speed federal review, the proposal would change NEPA so that federal agencies would not have to consider “cumulative effects” of a project’s impacts, raising concerns among some that the climate impacts of infrastructure projects, such as highways or oil and gas pipelines, will not be considered as part of the NEPA review. The proposal would significantly expand the use of categorical exclusions under NEPA and limit preparation of full environmental reviews when they are warranted to under two years and few than 200 pages. Under the administration’s proposal, project sponsors (including private companies) would be allowed to participate in the preparation of environmental documents, under agency supervision. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking can be found here. Comments will be due to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which oversees NEPA, sixty days after publication in the Federal Record, which is expected tomorrow.

U.S. Department of Transportation Releases “Inclusive Design Challenge” Request for Information (RFI)
The U.S. Department of Transportation has published a Request for Information (RFI) for the Inclusive Design Challenge. “The Department will award $5 million to aid the development of innovative new solutions that increase the availability and accessibility and reduce the cost of technologies of light-duty passenger vehicles,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The Inclusive Design Challenge will solicit solutions addressing obstacles faced by persons with physical, sensory, and/or cognitive disabilities.  The goal of the Inclusive Design Challenge is to inspire inclusive designs for automated vehicles (AVs) as they are developed, as well as to increase access to the conventional vehicles of today.

Chao Announces Next Iteration of Automated Vehicle Guidance
In a keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao outlined guidance developed with the White House on how more than 30 federal departments and agencies will promote unified federal rules on self-driving cars. This is the fourth iteration of this document (AV 4.0)  and seeks, in the absence of Congressional legislation on the matter, to unify the federal approach to the testing and implementation of AVs.

Federal Railroad Administration: New Blocked Crossing Portal
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has established a new webpage allowing the public and law enforcement to report blocked highway-rail grade crossings. Blocked crossings occur when stopped trains impede the flow of motor vehicle or pedestrian traffic at railroad tracks for extended periods of time. Communities have long dealt with the issue of blocked crossings, and FRA is now seeking broad public input to understand the scope of the problem and engage with affected parties to identify potential solutions. The new FRA Blocked Crossing website requests specific information from users reporting blocked crossings—including date, time, location, and duration. FRA will use the information collected to gain a more complete picture of the location, duration, and impact of blocked crossings.

SANDAG Breaks Ground on Two Key Urban Bikeways
Construction is set to start on two key GO by BIKE projects in San Diego that will create more than 6.5 miles of bike and pedestrian infrastructure in the city’s urban neighborhoods. In September 2013, the SANDAG Board of Directors approved a $200 million Regional Bike Plan Early Action Program (EAP) to dramatically expand the bike network throughout the San Diego region. The Bike EAP comprises 40 projects that total about 77 miles of new bikeways – all designed to enhance neighborhood connections to schools, shopping centers, and parks, as well as transit stations and other major regional destinations. The Georgia – Meade and Landis Bikeways are the first urban bikeways to break ground as part of the larger set of North Park | Mid-City Bikeways projects and are anticipated to be completed in spring 2022.

Rust Belt Region Banks On Becoming Hub For Electric Vehicles
The closing of the GM plant in Youngstown, Ohio was a blow to a city still recovering from the decline of the Steel Industry. Despite the closure of the plant the region is setting out to become a research and production hub for electric vehicles to boost their economy. GM announced in early December it will form a joint venture and hire more than 1,100 people at a new vehicle battery cell plant. The plant GM shut down in March has been sold to a newly formed company that intends to begin making electric trucks by late 2020. The Youngstown area is already home to an electric battery testing lab and business incubators. Youngstown State University is also breaking ground on an advanced manufacturing technology center and wants to play a part in training students to work in the electric vehicle industry.

Cuomo Announces Major Penn Station Track Expansion
Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has proposed a significant expansion of Penn Station by the addition of eight new tracks. The plan would require the state take over the block south of Penn Station, adding 40 percent to the train station’s current capacity. Cuomo’s plan would add 125,000 square feet and eight new tracks to the 21 existing ones. The proposal relies on the state buying or using eminent domain to force the sale of a city block’s worth of land in the heart of Midtown. The block includes businesses, residences and land owned by the Archdiocese of New York and Amtrak. Last year, a provision was inserted into the state budget to declare Penn Station a threat to public safety and pave the way for a state authority to use eminent domain to further its redevelopment.

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Transportation Planner
Posted 1/9/2020
Northern Middlesex Council of Governments, Lowell, MA

Executive Director
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Green River Area Development District, Owensboro, KY

Chief Financial Officer
Posted 1/6/2020
Wasatch Front Regional Council, Salt Lake City, UT

Transportation Engineer III (Proposition 400 Programs)
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Maricopa Association of Governments, Phoenix, AZ

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San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, San Luis Obispo, CA

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MOD Webinar #3: Mobility on Demand: Current Practices in MOD Planning and Implementation
Wednesday, January 22, 2020, 1:00 PM
The Mobility on Demand (MOD) Research Program is a joint U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) initiative, co-led by the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The MOD Research Program supports State and local public agencies as they navigate the dynamic, evolving landscape of personal mobility and integrated multimodal transportation networks. USDOT uses the term MOD to represent its vision for future mobility. MOD envisions a safe, reliable, and carefree mobility ecosystem that supports complete trips for all, for both personalized mobility and goods delivery.

Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (PTASP) Bus Workshops
Tuesday, January 28, and Wednesday, January 29
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will host two one-day Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (PTASP) Bus Workshops on January 28 and 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Each one-day workshop will focus on the requirements for agencies to comply with the PTASP regulation (49 C.F.R. Part 673). Additionally, the workshops will discuss how to begin creating Agency Safety Plans, including the identification of key stakeholders to coordinate Agency Safety Plan development. If you would like to register for a PTASP Bus Workshop click here.


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