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Ports-to-Plains Alliance

Thursday
Aug212014

Editorial: The Do Nothing Approach To Transportation Investment: Why do we keep investing the minimum amount while other countries pass us by in quality and breadth of transportation networks?

So as we sit on our hands and wait we must try to imagine what our country will look like in the future.  Recurring congestion today will not magically improve in ten year’s time with no effort to improve. 

Click here for complete article > FutureStructure

August 19, 2014

Our do-nothing Congress has indeed done something – that thing they do best – by kicking the transportation funding can down the road once more.  We now have a bill that grants the Highway Trust Fund some $11 billion over the next 10 months to help fund the country’s roadways and mass transit projects.

The bill has gimmicks (“pension smoothing”) and critics on both sides of the aisle (a better, alternate proposal to the one passed was a bipartisan creation) with calls for increased taxes to fund transportation investment even from the likes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Yet we have more of the same while our roads and bridges erode and become ever-more congested.  Our rail and public transit systems struggle to stay afoot despite times of record ridership.  So why do we do it?  Why do we keep investing the minimum amount while other countries pass us by in quality and breadth of transportation networks?...

Friday
Aug012014

Can you see the can bouncing down the road? Oops, it landed in a pothole, got stuck in traffic or worse yet was in an accident!

This week Congress addressed an immediate, critical need by passing legislation to extend federal surface transportation programs and ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund through May 2015.  Without this short-term fix, the United States Department of Transportation would have to start cutting highway project reimbursements to states and local governments early next week.  Thousands of transportation projects and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country would be at risk.  This is unacceptable.  For this reason, the Ports-to-Plains Alliance strongly supports this short-term fix, but it does so reluctantly.

The main reason for our reluctance is that this short-term fix simply kicks the can down of the road without any real effort to address the long-term structural deficit in the federal Highway Trust Fund.  Congress is once again using ten-year offsets to address the short-term.  Since 2008, Congress has transferred $53.3 billion in General Funds into the Highway Trust Fund using these offsets.  Frankly, it’s a gimmick.  It’s a shell game.  Congress should stop the gimmicks, stop the games. It’s time for a long-term, sustainable fix for the Highway Trust Fund. 

The Highway Trust Fund has been in dire fiscal condition for the past six years as America’s transportation network continues to decline.  The Alliance’s message to Congress is simple: we need more than a short-term fix; we need a long-term fix.  It’s incumbent on the House and Senate, working with the Administration, to develop a long-term and sustainable Highway Trust Fund solution that supports future transportation capital investments.  Anything less does a great disservice to the tens of millions of American motorists, businesses, and workers who rely on the transportation network every day.   Congress should continue working to develop a long-term funding solution and a long-term reauthorization bill.   And it should do so sooner rather than later.  It should act in 2014 if at all possible.

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance invites you to join in telling Congress it is time to return to a long term, user based funded transportation policy. Add your name to a letter to Congress asking that it reauthorizes federal transportation programs (MAP-21) for five or six years in accordance with Ports-to-Plains Alliance priorities, and provides the user-fee-based, sustainable revenues for the Highway Trust Fund necessary to support the higher levels of investment needed to modernize America’s national transportation network, including rural freight / energy / agricultural corridors like Ports-to-Plains, Heartland Expressway, and Theodore Roosevelt Expressway.

See the Federal Priorities of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance for MAP-21 Implementation and Reauthorization at http://www.portstoplains.com/images/advocacy/transportation-advocacy/2014policypaper_lores.pdf.

Add your name to the Letter to Congress at http://www.portstoplains.com/index.php/advocacy/transportation/tell-congress-to-address-transportation-funding.

Wednesday
Jul302014

Transportation funding becomes last-minute political football in D.C.

If both chambers don’t agree, states could have problems paying for current and planned construction projects. Think of this as a fiscal cliff for transportation work. It comes when lackluster federal funding on infrastructure is already costing Texans billions each year in increased fuel prices, car maintenance and lost time.

Click here for complete article > Dallas Morning News

July 30, 2014

Congress plans to take five weeks off starting Friday, but a last-minute showdown is brewing between the U.S. House and Senate over transportation funding. The House passed a short-term bill that would fund the Highway Trust Fund earlier this month.

The Senate was expected to essentially sign off. Instead, Senators yesterday overwhelmingly cut a controversial funding portion of the bill (leaving a $2 billion shortfall) that would keep the fund solvent only through December and not May, like the House wants. Both options only serve to buy Congress a little time — after November’s mid-terms — to come up with a long-term solution.

CNN’s Lisa Desjardins has a good account of what went down yesterday. She reports:

Senators then sent the changed bill back to the House, setting up a likely ping pong volley between the two chambers. Earlier Tuesday Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, drew a hard line.

“I just want to make this clear,” Boehner said, “if the Senate sends a highway bill over here with (the Wyden-Hatch version), we’re going to strip it out and put the House-passed provisions back in and send it back to the Senate.”…

Wednesday
Jul302014

U.S. Senate shortens transport extension, sets up clash with House

The vote raises the stakes for Congress as a twin deadline looms on Friday for a reduction in payments to states from the Highway Trust Fund and the start of a five-week summer recess for lawmakers.

Click here for complete article > Reuters

July 29, 2014

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved an $8.1 billion extension of federal funding for transportation projects through the end of 2014, setting up a clash with the House of Representatives just days ahead of cutbacks in money for road, bridge and transit construction.

The Democratic-controlled Senate had been considering a House-passed measure for a longer-term extension through May 2015, but reduced the amount of money with the aim of forcing Congress to approve a long-term transport funding bill during its post-election "lame duck" session in November.

The final bill, which also stripped the main funding mechanism in the House-passed measure, revenue from pension accounting changes, passed by a strong bipartisan vote of 79-18…

Friday
Jul252014

Senate agrees on $11B highway funding measure

The largest chunk of the money, $6.4 billion, results from allowing employers to defer payments to their employee pension plans. Funding pension plans normally results in a tax savings for companies, and deferring those payments means they will pay more in taxes and increase federal revenue. Critics say the idea is a gimmick since the pension changes cost the government money in the years beyond the 10-year window in which legislation is officially scored for its impact on the budget.

Click here for complete article > Associated Press/Star Telegram

July 23, 2014

The Senate agreed Wednesday on an $11 billion measure to temporarily fix a multibillion-dollar shortfall in federal highway and transit programs, setting up a vote next week on several alternatives.

But senators will likely end up simply adopting a measure that passed the GOP-controlled House by a sweeping bipartisan vote last week, which would send it directly to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The House bill would provide enough money to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund solvent through May 2015. The fund pays for transportation programs nationwide. The money would come from pension law changes, customs fees and a fund to repair leaking underground fuel storage tanks…

Tuesday
Jul222014

Transportation funding still driving blind

Click here for complete article > Houston Chronicle

July 16, 2014

Tuesday’s approval of a short-term transportation funding fix and the seemingly inevitable march of it from the U.S. House to the Senate to the president’s desk staves off the spending crisis Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx warned about.

Officials are cheering it as a victory. Like what House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, told Reuters.

 “If Congress fails to act, thousands of transportation projects across the country and hundreds of thousands of construction jobs will be at risk,” Shuster said. “This legislation provides much needed certainty and stability for the states.”

That certainty and stability lasts until May. The reality is transportation planners need a longer time period than that...

Monday
Jul212014

Theodore Roosevelt Expressway: Bids in to finish Highway 85 four-lane, bridge

North Dakota continues to move forward on the expansion of US Highway 85, Theodore Roosevelt Expressway.  The final 12 miles of the total of 42 miles between Watford City and Williston will soon be under construction with this bid opening. The 30 mile section will be complete this fall. North Dakota Department of Transportation has also released an RFP to complete environmental and preliminary engineering on U.S. Highway 85 from Watford City to Interstate 94, about 64 miles. Proposals are due July 30, 2014.

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An initial 30 miles of four-lane divided highway, starting from Watford City going west, will be complete this fall after two years of construction.

All together, the highway widening and bridge replacement will cost approximately $300 million.

Click here for complete article > Bismarck Tribune

July 16, 2014

The final costs of a significant improvement in the oil patch came clear Tuesday when the state Department of Transportation opened bids on the remaining four-lane of U.S. Highway 85 and a new Missouri River bridge south of Williston.

The bids were for the remaining 12 miles of four-lane between north Alexander and Williston and the wider bridge crossing.

Four bridge bids were opened. The apparent low bid of $66.3 million submitted by the Texas Johnson Brothers Corp. was about $1 million higher than the engineer's estimate. The apparent high bid, of nearly $79 million, was submitted by the Wisconsin-based Lunda Construction Co. The new bridge will be built in 2016…

Thursday
Jul172014

Texas Transportation Commission Identifies West Texas Priority Projects To Reduce Congestion, Improve Mobility

Additional Ports-to-Plains  projects totaling almost $100 million have bee approved by the Texas Transportation Commission.  Projects are:

  • US 87/Ports to Plains Corridor initiatives US 87 UPRR Underpass Reconstruction in Dalhart to increase low clearance, Dallam County
  • Lamesa Southern Cross Connector from SH 349 to US 87 to relieve downtown congestion and provide improved corridor connectivity, Dawson County
  • US 87 Big Spring Bypass to relieve downtown congestion and provide improved corridor connectivity, Howard County

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Projects in Howard, Dawson counties to address connectivity

In support of efforts to improve mobility across the Lone Star State, the Texas Transportation Commission has identified priority projects in West Texas that address safety, congestion and connectivity.

Funding has been prioritized for the Lamesa Southern Cross Connector from SH 349 to US 87 in Dawson County, as well as the US 87 Big Spring Bypass in Howard County. Both projects, which are located on the Ports to Plains Corridor, will address downtown congestion and improve mobility.

“Identifying these projects as priorities demonstrates the understanding that rural Texas has been, and continues to be, a vital piece of our state’s transportation puzzle,” said Commissioner Fred Underwood, Texas Transportation Commission. “These projects will allow citizens to have greater connectivity and safer roadways. I’m pleased to see them both moving forward.”

These projects represent the Commission’s priorities for the Unified Transportation Program, and will be included in future updates to the UTP based on updated financial forecasts. The projects also will be subject to further public involvement.

For media inquiries, contact TxDOT Media Relations at MediaRelations@txdot.gov or (512) 463-8700.

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Texas Department of Transportation

The Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining 80,000 miles of road and for supporting aviation, rail, and public transportation across the state.TxDOT and its 11,000 employees are committed to working with others to provide safe and reliable transportation solutions for Texas by maintaining a safe system, addressing congestion, connecting Texas communities, and being a Best in Class state agency. Find out more at www.txdot.gov. “Like” us on Facebook,www.facebook.com/txdot ; and follow us on Twitter,www.twitter.com/txdot.