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Ports-to-Plains Alliance

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.

Wednesday
Jul162014

Congress Must Patch the Highway Trust Fund and Find the Fortitude to Raise the Federal Motor Fuels Tax Now!

The following piece was written by Chris Cornell, Business Development Manager for Reece Albert, Inc.  Chris Cornell is an Advisory Board member of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance.  His message is spot on and is true, not just for the 11th Congressional District in Texas, but all along the Ports-to-Plains Corridor. Be it Bakken, Eagle Ford, Niobrara, or other energy producing areas, the same facts are true.

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All US citizens, rural and urban, deserve a safe and reliable surface transportation infrastructure. Efficient surface transportation drives growth in our state and national economies, and allows for citizens to travel for work and play without putting their lives at risk. As the HTF runs out of funds this month, Congress continues to ignore the beauty and simplicity of the motor fuels tax which built a surface transportation system that was the envy of the world.

The US rank is sliding as other countries realize the value and importance of properly funding surface transportation systems. Meanwhile, Congress has turned its back on the legacies of Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton who each supported increasing motor fuel taxes to keep surface transportation funded in a way that allows for safe and efficient travel and growing commercial activity. As the US Chamber of Commerce and the truckers in this country call for increasing the motor fuels tax, Congress is pursuing a short term funding patch; paid for with fuzzy math over a ten year period. While a patch may be the only short term fix, Congress should be gathering support for an increase in the motor fuels tax to restore the US position as a world leader in efficient transportation and job creation.

The 11th District of Texas is ground zero for the booming Permian Basin oil and gas production activities. Our District deserves a surface transportation network that safely and effectively supports domestic energy production. Far too many lives have been lost due to unsafe roadway conditions. Congressman Conaway should be keenly aware of the strains on the surface transportation system in the 11th District, the sharp increase in fatalities, and the overwhelming need for highway repair and expansion. Congressman Conaway should strongly support the users of the highways in the 11th District, and their willingness to pay more at the pump to improve the safety and efficiency of the highways which are delivering energy independence, commerce, and families every day.

Join me in encouraging Congressman Conaway to support this proven funding system, which is both fair and equitable to all. It is derived from the users that depend on the surface transportation system for their livelihood, safety, and security. A short-term fix followed by a sustainable long-term solution to fund the HTF is critical in keeping the economy of West Texas and the rest of the country moving forward.

Wednesday
Jul162014

Good news, bad news on the Highway Trust Fund

This article was prior to Congress acting on another short-term… kick the can down the road… fix to the Highway Trust Fund using offsets.  As the article states: “it’ll invite another dumb debate a year from now (actually by next May… after borrowing another $10.8 billion to be paid back over another ten years.  BTW… only 18 months have been “offset” from the borrowing of $18 billion the last time."

Add your name to the Ports-to-Plains Alliance letter telling Congress to pass a long-term fix by September 31, 2014, or as soon thereafter as possible that accomplishes the following:

  • Reauthorizes Federal transportation programs (MAP-21) for five or six years in accordance 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 the America’s national transportation network, including rural freight / energy / agricultural corridors like Ports-to-Plains, Heartland Expressway, and Theodore Roosevelt Expressway.

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In the end, something will probably be worked out. It’ll be ugly and inelegant; it’ll be fiscally irresponsible; and it’ll invite another dumb debate a year from now, but it probably won’t cause 700,000 layoffs in early August.

Click here for complete article > MSNBC

July 14, 2014

Congress has just a few weeks remaining until the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money. To put it mildly, that would be extraordinarily bad for the economy – the Highway Trust Fund finances nearly all federally-supported transportation infrastructure in the United States. If the fund is exhausted, 700,000 workers would no longer have a job and infrastructure projects nationwide would be abandoned – before they’re done.

 Indeed, there’s some evidence congressional delays have already undermined the economy, preventing the start of some construction projects that couldn’t begin because local officials weren’t sure if Capitol Hill would act on the highway bill before the deadline or not.

 The good news is, Congress wants to restore Highway Trust Fund resources, preventing a disaster. The bad news is, lawmakers disagree about literally every other facet of the debate….