How should we pay for roads, rails and other components of the United States' infrastructure going forward? I'll be attending the International Transport Forum May 22-24 in Leipzig, Germany, and the focus of the get-together is how the developed and developing nations of the world should pay for the improvements they need to ensure their people can get around (preferably without harming each country's natural resources).
In the U.S., motor fuels taxes clearly aren't sufficient to keep up with population and job growth (not at the current tax rates, at least). So there are other options, including raising taxes, building more toll roads, private development of roads, etc.
Or there's the do-nothing option - just let the infrastructure decay, and let our grandchildren deal with it.
Before I head over to Germany to cover this event, along with journalists from China, New Zealand and a couple dozen other places, I'd like to cobble together your thoughts on the broad topic. To join the conversation, post a comment to this blog or send an emal to email@example.com.
One particularly heart-tugging image seen in some highway work zones is an orange sign bearing the message: "Please slow down. My dad works here."
"We want the public to crank up their awareness," said Lonny Haschel, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman.
Haschel joined officials from the North Texas Tollway Authority and Texas Department of Transportation on Tuesday at a work zone site along Interstate 20. Speaking on a newly built bridge over the interstate, the group called for motorists to bear greater responsibility for their actions on the road.
"There is over $11 billion in construction in the North Texas area, with more on the way," said Brian Barth, Fort Worth deputy district engineer for the state transportation department. "Your daily commute to work and school is changing on a daily basis and we need every driver to stay alert."
Work zone fatalities have fallen 39 percent during the past decade, said Elizabeth Mow, tollway authority assistant executive director of infrastructure.
Still, last year 134 people were killed statewide in work zone crashes.
"We need the public's help to complete the picture," Mow said.
Speeding and driver inattention are the leading causes of work zone fatalities, Haschel said.
Distractions such as talking or texting on a mobile device are also a major problem, Barth said.
National Work Zone Safety Awareness week is this week. The groups chose Tuesday's site for their press conference because it is part of the Chisholm Trail Parkway project, a 28-mile toll road from downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne that is scheduled to open next year.
The Chisholm Trail Parkway project has created work zones across a swath of southwestern Tarrant County, crossing Interstate 30, I-20, Hulen Street and Texas 183 (Southwest Boulevard).
Posted at 01:20 PM in 35W NORTH OF FW, 35W SOUTH OF FW, 377 (Denton Highway), I-20, I-30, Loop 820, Southwest Parkway/121T/Chisholm Trail, TX 114, TX 121, TX 183, Current Affairs, Driving, Mobile phones, cell phones, texting, talking and driving, Toll Roads, Traffic, Travel, Your morning commute | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Do you know anyone who commutes 60, or even 90 miles each way? Star-Telegram colleague Steve Campbell found several examples in this report on the latest Census figures.
GRAND PRAIRIE - The nation's top highway chief is backing the effort to ban texting while driving in Texas.
“As somebody who grew up in Texas, I hope someday Texas will pass a law to restrict texting while driving,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, a native Texan, who on Friday visited the President George Bush Turnpike western extension project in Grand Prairie. “I know it’s controversial, but from a safety standpoint, it’s very crucial to our efforts nationwide.”
Mendez grew up in El Paso, where he attended Jefferson High School and the University of Texas at El Paso. He went to graduate school at Arizona State University, and began a career at that state's transportation department before becoming one of the high-ranking executives at the U.S. Transportation Department in 2009.
The Texas Legislature in 2011 approved a statewide ban on texting while driving, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it. But lawmakers are giving it another try during the current session. A House committee this week heard testimony from many people who had lost loved ones to a crash involving distracted driving.
Mendez has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace his boss - outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood - and move into President Obama's cabinet. When asked after Friday's event if he had been asked to serve as transportation secretary, Mendez said, "There are a lot of these rumors out there about who's next. Let's just let the president make his decision."
Mendez was in the Dallas Fort Worth area to celebrate the completion of the 11-mile western extension of the President George Bush Turnpike. The project was a collaboration between the federal government, Texas Department of Transportation and North Texas Tollway Authority.
The western extension, formerly known as Texas 161 toll road, opened up a crucial new north-south connection for Metroplex motorists, providing sorely needed relief for traffic on Texas 360 in Arlington.
Phil Wilson, Texas Department of Transportation executive director, said the use of a $400 million federal transportation loan, backed by a $20 million infusion in Recovery Act funds, made it possible to build the Bush Turnpike western extension project at a time when traditional funds weren't adequate.
"It really is a model for the rest of the United States," Wilson told about 100 people who gathered to celebrate the project completion. Wilson singled out the efforts of Michael Morris, transportation director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.
"No one else has done it like Michael and Clay," he said.
AUSTIN – Some of the best transportation thinkers in Texas and across the United States are being upstaged this week by a car that drives itself.
About 1,400 people are attending the eighth annual Texas Transportation Forum through Tuesday in Austin. But while those experts meet in Hilton conference rooms and grapple with tough issues such as how to handle an increase in freight-hauling trucks on the roads, or how to pay for highways under a tightened state budget, it’s the Google “self-driving car” parked outside the downtown Austin hotel’s entrance that’s getting the most hubbub.
“It would probably do a better job driving than we do,” quipped Linda Thomas of Longview (pictured above), who on Monday afternoon took turns shooting snapshots of the Google car with her husband, Charles.
The car is among a fleet of about 10 vehicles developed during the past eight years by researchers at Google and Stanford University. Google representatives said that on Tuesday they plan to take the car, a Lexus hybrid, for a spin on Austin-area roads, including infamously congested Interstate 35.
Lawmakers and selected other state officials will be offered demonstration rides in the car, as part of Google’s effort to get the public sector more comfortable with an automobile that needs no driver. Although Texas and most other states don’t have laws specifically banning self-driving cars, only three states – Nevada, California and Florida – have passed laws specifically allowing them.
Officials said it’s too early to say whether Texas lawmakers would be asked to consider such as law during the ongoing legislative session.
Typically, a person sits in the driver’s seat, but the car does its own acceleration, braking and steering and can even change lanes. It “sees” the road using laser technology, and has a maximum speed of about 85 mph, although Google officials assured onlookers Monday that the vehicle wouldn’t be pushed to its limits during the Texas demos.
A member of the Google team will sit in the driver’s seat during demonstrations, although that person won’t operate the car controls unless there’s an emergency, one company official said.
On Tuesday, Google product manager Anthony Levandowski is scheduled to take part in a panel discusssion about how transportation is reshaping transportation options.
Glen Hiemstra, a futurist and author of several books on long-term trends, told forum attendees on Monday that the self-driving car technology is advancing quickly. Just three or four years ago, he said, Google’s small fleet of test cars could only travel a few city blocks, but now they can traverse California highways and even San Francisco’s famously curvy and steep Lombard Street. “I think it’s going to be one of the more significant developments in the next 10 to 15 years,” he said.
The forum is hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation. Guest speakers include elected officials, industry leaders and cutting-edge scientists and researchers.
On Monday, the impact of increased shipments through the Panama Canal, which is undergoing a $5.2 billion expansion, was a featured topic. Experts disagree whether the expansion will increase container shipments to Texas, with many predicting that Los Angeles ports will still be preferred.
But Silvia Marucci, a senior specialist with the Panama Canal Authority, said the expansion will make it much easier for natural gas companies in Fort Worth’s Barnett Shale and many other shale plays to export their products through Texas gulf ports.
“The development of the shale plays in the United States has taken us all by surprise,” she said during a panel discussion. “We expect to see the major trade routes develo from the U.S. Gulf to Asia, The Panama Canal is becoming part of the energy supply chain.”
Kudos to my colleague Susan Schrock for updating the effort to bring mass transit to Arlington.
BTW, the photo at right is of the Mavs Mobile, an electric shuttle used to ferry passengers from the fledgling College Park District to the E. H. Hereford University Center. It's not necessarily the type of vehicle that will be used in the pilot project getting passengers to and from CentrePort Station in the Trinity Railway Express line ... although, why not?
For more info on the Mavs Mobile, go here.
An unidentified prankster in California has hacked into an electronic roadside sign three nights in a row and replaced serious road condition messages with words such as "Caution Loose Gorilla!" and "Smoke Weed Everyday," according to a Sacramento Bee story.