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Old January 27th, 2009, 08:56 PM   #3801
Majestic
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Oh, ok. I wonder how much of these PT funds are going to be spent for new projects and how much for improvements into existing infrastructure.

I think that investing into PT at this point isn't going to change anything unless Americans totally change their car-oriented lifestyles, which is not going to happen any soon. I mean, who in his sane mind would change his car-commute to a train or bus with current low gas prices and poor PT coverage?
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Old January 27th, 2009, 08:58 PM   #3802
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I mean, who in his sane mind would change his car-commute to a train or bus with current low gas prices and poor PT coverage?
Translate that to the Netherlands.

Who in his sane mind would change his car-commute to a train or bus with current high gas prices and extensive PT coverage.

Answer is still: nearly nobody.
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Old January 27th, 2009, 09:06 PM   #3803
J N Winkler
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What do you guys think of the stimulus package concerning roadways? 30 billion out of 825 billion. I don't know, I mean 30 billion is a LOT of money, but is it really that much for a country of 300 million people? I always compare it to a country where I have most data from (the Netherlands).

* U.S. stimulus package 30 billion for 300 million people, hence 100 dollar per capita

* NL 2009 road investment: 3.5 billion for 16 million people, hence ~220 dollar per capita

Now, the Netherlands are quite underinvested when it comes to road-infrastructure.
First, the figure I have heard is $122 billion for transportation (all modes). The only context in which I have heard a figure as low as $30 billion is in the context of a smaller emergency stimulus package which was being talked about soon after the election and which seems to have gotten folded into this larger package which includes provision for green energy, HVAC upgrades in government buildings, digitization of medical records, etc.

But let us assume that the amount dedicated to roads is really as low as $30 billion, and speak in terms of apples-to-apples comparisons. The US typically reauthorizes federal transportation funding every six years, with the last such legislation (SAFETEA-LU) coming in with a $250 billion pricetag. Most of this funding comes from the federal excise tax on motor fuels, which rakes in something like $35-40 billion annually. The federal government (and most, but not all, states) dedicates motor fuel tax revenues to transportation purposes, with the vast majority of the federal share going into the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund. (A small proportion of the revenues are diverted to a Mass Transit Account in the HTF, which is used to finance capital improvements to transit networks.)

So a $30 billion stimulus package is actually slightly less than one year's worth of federal spending on highway improvement across all program categories, ranging from bridge replacement to Interstate Maintenance (IM funds) to new capital construction on the National Highway System (NH funds). The really crucial point here is the timeframe in which the $30 billion would have to be spent. There is a lot of emphasis right now on what are called "shovel-ready" projects; there doesn't seem to be an agreed definition at the moment, but I am assuming that term refers to projects for which a state DOT has plans on the shelf, right-of-way already purchased, and environmental approvals already in place, but cannot proceed with advertising because there would be no funds to pay the contractor after the contract was awarded.

The talk right now is that the stimulus package will have a requirement that a certain percentage of the total allocated to transportation (maybe the $30 billion?) go to "shovel-ready" projects for which a contract can be awarded within 120 or 180 days. This would include a mix of resurfacing/rehabilitation/restoration/reconstruction contracts and some new capital construction. The main benefit of $30 billion of stimulus money would be to allow many state DOTs to make up for the "missing year" of 2008, when a large number of contracts were progressed to ready-to-let state but not advertised, removed from lettings soon after advertising, or not awarded, all because of the funding problems state DOTs faced due to falling gasoline tax revenues.

In general, highway transportation in the US is underfunded. This happens because state legislators think it is political suicide to raise their state gas taxes, and Congress assumes that an increase in the federal gas tax will never get past the White House. In the past ten years a large (and increasing) number of state DOTs have tried to deal with the funding shortfalls by using bonds to finance highway improvements, tolls for new roads, design-build procurement methods to save money on shorter project delivery cycles, etc.

But after a few years of heavy construction inflation between 2003 and 2008, it is now generally seen that the limits of those techniques have been reached, and either the gas tax will have to go up (at both federal and state level) or new revenue sources (possibly allocations from general funds?) will have to be found. But there is no consensus on what constitutes an optimum increase. In the past I have advocated a tripling of the gasoline tax at both state and federal level, and last year a blue-ribbon commission on transportation funding sent a report to USDOT with a similar recommendation. But others suggest that the tax would be adequate if it were merely increased by 50%, or doubled.

I am betting on a tax increase eventually, but not in the short term because the current policy focus is pumping enough loose money into the economy (including consumers' pockets) to keep it out of a deflationary tailspin. In my view the current situation is a replay of the late 1940's and early 1950's, when various states tried building turnpikes and eventually realized that it would be necessary to have free Interstates, funded from motor fuel taxation, in order to meet rising traffic demand.

I am not too familiar with the Netherlands, but I am going to bet that its policy on investment in road infrastructure is similar to Britain's. In other words, British and Dutch policymakers are deliberately starving their respective road systems of investment, in order to (1) limit traffic growth, and (2) progress to a situation where active traffic management and road pricing is used to limit traffic to levels which the existing network can accommodate efficiently. In the end I think this is likely to prove just as troublesome and possibly also as environmentally damaging as the American approach of building out of congestion, but at least in Britain policymakers have reached the conclusion that building themselves out of congestion is neither feasible nor likely ever to be politically acceptable, and are proceeding accordingly.

There is a final point. A comparison of road spending in the US and the Netherlands is unlikely to be illuminating on an unadjusted per-head basis, because unit costs for construction materials are likely to be higher in the Netherlands, and there is also the question of whether construction budgets and estimates include VAT.

Last edited by J N Winkler; January 27th, 2009 at 09:11 PM.
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Old January 27th, 2009, 09:14 PM   #3804
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Originally Posted by J N Winkler View Post

I am not too familiar with the Netherlands, but I am going to bet that its policy on investment in road infrastructure is similar to Britain's. In other words, British and Dutch policymakers are deliberately starving their respective road systems of investment, in order to (1) limit traffic growth, and (2) progress to a situation where active traffic management and road pricing is used to limit traffic to levels which the existing network can accommodate efficiently. In the end I think this is likely to prove just as troublesome and possibly also as environmentally damaging as the American approach of building out of congestion, but at least in Britain policymakers have reached the conclusion that building themselves out of congestion is neither feasible nor likely ever to be politically acceptable, and are proceeding accordingly.
That sounds about right.
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Old January 27th, 2009, 10:45 PM   #3805
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Who in his sane mind would change his car-commute to a train or bus with current high gas prices and extensive PT coverage.

Answer is still: nearly nobody.
That's not exactly true- this past fall, with gas prices rising, transit agencies all across the US witnessed increases in usage. Of course many Americans had no transit options to turn to, but for those who did- many made the switch.
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Old January 27th, 2009, 10:47 PM   #3806
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That's not exactly true- this past fall, with gas prices rising, transit agencies all across the US witnessed increases in usage. Of course many Americans had no transit options to turn to, but for those who did- many made the switch.
That is true.

However, the transit vs car ratio is still far from balanced. Remember, 1% of the people choosing transit instead of the car means 10% more transit users.

Besides that, the historic records are also partially explainable due to the fact the U.S. continue to break population records, hence more potential travellers.
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Old January 27th, 2009, 10:56 PM   #3807
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WOW thanks a lot, I was still looking for some states

Edit: @ Below, mix-up at the servers
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Old January 27th, 2009, 10:57 PM   #3808
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Traffic counts for states
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Old January 28th, 2009, 04:46 AM   #3809
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When you consider the size of the two countries compared to the relative investments the stimulus package comes out even smaller compared to 'normal' spending. By the way, the Economist magazine has expressed its fears a couple of times now that these extra-budgetary earmarks will lead to more 'bridges to nowhere'.
Of course, the Economist was completely ******* silent when it came to the far more wasteful spending that occurs in the Department of Defense. What a bunch of ******* hypocrites.

God forbid that the government might spend some money to help the country and ordinary people.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 04:52 AM   #3810
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Maybe people realize that being stuck in traffic sucks and that building more roads is expensive and not a way to reduce congestion.

Maybe people realize that autocentric development, enabled by highways, causes air pollution, promotes wastefully inefficient development patterns, discourages exercise and social interaction, and destroys the environment.

Maybe THIS is why we should continue to fund mass transit.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 06:40 AM   #3811
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Ah, near Green River. What a scenery
yeah..was there less than a month ago..actually stopped at the local pizza hut for lunch..

one of the coolest spots on the trans-continental drive.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 12:27 PM   #3812
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Originally Posted by hoosier View Post
Maybe people realize that being stuck in traffic sucks and that building more roads is expensive and not a way to reduce congestion.

Maybe people realize that autocentric development, enabled by highways, causes air pollution, promotes wastefully inefficient development patterns, discourages exercise and social interaction, and destroys the environment.

Maybe THIS is why we should continue to fund mass transit.
I don't know, some areas stopped building freeways completely and that didn't hesitate them to grow... places like Los Angeles, Tucson, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Las Vegas etc. have pretty undersized networks, as in; large areas of their urban area is not covered by freeways.

And besides that, who's gonna pay for all these fancy transit infrastructures? A passenger mile for transit is much more expensive to realize than for roads, look at the excessive spending for transit by the MTA in the greater New York region for instance. The problem is transit travellers don't pay anywhere near the real costs of their travel, and the more transit users, the bigger this problem is.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 01:49 PM   #3813
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And besides that, who's gonna pay for all these fancy transit infrastructures? A passenger mile for transit is much more expensive to realize than for roads, look at the excessive spending for transit by the MTA in the greater New York region for instance. The problem is transit travellers don't pay anywhere near the real costs of their travel, and the more transit users, the bigger this problem is.
I feel that places with good, well-used public transit systems should completely fund it through higher taxes, and abolish fares altogether.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 05:38 PM   #3814
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I was thinking about Atlanta, and decided to check it out better on Google Earth. The city's urbanized area is just massive. It generally sprawls 30 miles from the city center in all directions, with some areas being as far as 50 miles from downtown (Gainesville).

I was wondering, since the suburbanization of Atlanta didn't really stop at the perimeter (I-285), isn't there a need for a second, much larger beltway? I measured it on Google Earth, and came out with this. Remember, some areas would still be outside this second beltway, especially in the north.
[IMG]http://i39.************/2yoep0l.jpg[/IMG]
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Old January 28th, 2009, 06:07 PM   #3815
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There was once a proposal for such an outer ring around Atlanta, but it was NIMBYed to death years ago.



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Old January 28th, 2009, 06:28 PM   #3816
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Dear Lord, let us fix our bridges that are about to fall down before we build new highways to connect all the Targets and Home Depots, please
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Old January 28th, 2009, 06:49 PM   #3817
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I don't think suburbanization in Georgia is gonna wait until the bridges are fixed though...

mumbles something about taxes that should be higher to fix everything...
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Old January 28th, 2009, 08:15 PM   #3818
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No, but construction of a 120 mile 985 should.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 08:33 PM   #3819
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No, but construction of a 120 mile 985 should.
I don't think so.

If you want to allow a big increase of population, you should invest in infrastructure. If you want to allow suburbs that are car-dependent, you should invest in road infrastructure.

Anyhow,

the 2009 ASCE reportcard is out:
reportcard 2009

Quote:
The Report Card is an assessment by professional engineers of the nation's status in 15 categories of infrastructure. In 2009, all signs point to an infrastructure that is poorly maintained, unable to meet current and future demands, and in some cases, unsafe. Since the last Report Card in 2005, the grades have not improved. ASCE estimates the nation still stands at a D average. Deteriorating conditions and inflation have added hundreds of billions to the total cost of repairs and needed upgrades. ASCE's current estimate is $2.2 trillion, up from $1.6 trillion in 2005.
2200 billion dollars!
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Old January 28th, 2009, 08:50 PM   #3820
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If the choice is between making sure bridges don't fall into rivers while people are driving across them or building a brand new highway to make Johnny SUV's ride a bit easier to his Sam's Club I know what choice I would make. That report card is the reason why. We are no longer in a position (we really haven't been for years) to debate whether we in America should fix the old highways or put up new ones. The choice has been made for us.
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