By: Evan Lockridge
Trucking Info - A recent report by the Government Accountability Office report on bi-state tolling authorities that control some of the nation’s most heavily travelled routes, could set the stage for federal oversight of these groups, including when it comes to setting toll rates.
The federal watchdog agency says the report, entitled “Interstate Compacts: Transparency and Oversight of Bi-state Tolling Authorities Could be Enhanced,” was performed as bi-state tolling authorities have come under scrutiny for toll increases and other concerns, and it was asked to review their toll-setting decisions and oversight framework.
GAO found these tolling authorities have broad authority to set toll rates and use revenues for a range of purposes, but “a federal statute requiring bridge tolls to be ‘just and reasonable’ has less influence on tolling decisions, in part, because no federal agency has authority to enforce the standard.”
In their most recent toll increases, GAO found the bi-state authorities generally provided the public limited opportunities to learn about and comment on proposed toll rates before they were approved, including one bi-state authority did not hold any public toll hearings, while another provided one day for hearings.
External oversight of the bi-state authorities is limited, as only one of the four authorities has been regularly audited by a state audit entity, according to GAO, and of those that were performed “uncovered areas of concern.”
GAO says does not make recommendations to non-federal entities, but noting “nonetheless the authorities could benefit from greater transparency in public involvement and clearer lines of external oversight.”
For the report, GAO examined practices by the Delaware River and Bay Authority, Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, Delaware River Port Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which together control 16 bridges and two tunnels.
To view this article, click here.
President Woodrow Wilson became the first member of the Lincoln Highway Association. That Detroit-based association, which had just been formally set up the previous July, planned to hold dedication ceremonies nationwide for its efforts on October 31. The group decided to use memberships to further publicize the idea of building a transcontinental route for motor vehicles.
Wilson's interest in the development of highways was anything but casual. He deeply appreciated the benefits of an improved system of roads nationwide, a view he reflected not only by joining the LHA but also when meeting with representatives of the American Association of State Highway Officials on the same day that association was established in 1914 and signing into law in 1916 the act that launched the federal-aid highway program.
The No. 1 membership card (or "contributors ticket") sent to Wilson was signed and dated by the association's secretary A.R. Pardington.
"The holder of this card is a contributor to the funds of the Lincoln Highway Association," read the language included on that card, "whose object is to immediately promote and procure the establishment of a continuous, improved highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, open to lawful traffic of all descriptions without toll charges: and to be of concrete wherever practicable."
Wilson paid five dollars to join the association and the LHA, which arranged for that donation through a member of Congress, widely and eagerly promoted the first person to officially become one of its members. The card and the envelope in which it was sent can now be found in the Smithsonian Institution.
On a more personal level, Wilson very much enjoyed traveling in automobiles and did not let his job as president keep him away from leisurely drives on a regular basis. "No more ardent motorist ever occupied the White House than President Wilson," reported an article that appeared in the September 1916 edition of the periodical Northwestern Motorist. "Mr. Wilson probably has spent an average of two hours a day in an automobile since he became president."
In addition, Wilson's involvement with the LHA went beyond just becoming its first member. In 1916, for example, he agreed to have some photographs of himself taken on the White House grounds for inclusion in a film promoting the coast-to-coast enterprise ("President Movie Actor for Lincoln Highway," announced one newspaper headline).
Transportation TV - America's freight transportation network moved nearly $19 trillion worth of goods in 2011. Freight mobility is critical to America's economy and that's precisely why more than a hundred stakeholders attended the AASHTO and FHWA 5th Biannual Partnership meeting July 31 -- August 2. In this video we provide special coverage of the event which includes comments from USDOT Deputy Sec. John Porcari and an interview with Illinois DOT Sec. Ann Schneider, chair of the National Freight Advisory Committee. Find out what industry leaders say must be done today, to head off major problems in the not too distant future.
Caltrans has scheduled the following freeway lane and ramp closures on the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) and other construction activities on local streets throughout September 2013. Please be advised that these closures and established detour routes are scheduled to change without notice.
1. Full Closure on Imperial Hwy. at I-5: Two of two lanes will be CLOSED in each direction. Crews will continue drilling 80-inch and 100-ft deep in the center median.
Nightly (overnight): Thurs., Sept. 12 to Fri., Sept.13 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Nightly (overnight): Sun., Sept. 15 to Thurs., Sept. 19 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
2. Overnight Full Street Closure of S. Firestone Blvd.: Two of two lanes will continue to be CLOSED at a portion of S. Firestone Blvd. at the former Shoemaker Ave Bridge along southbound I-5. Crews will continue installing falsework for the bridge.
Nightly (overnight): Sun. Sept. 15 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Nightly (overnight): Mon. Sept. 16 to Thurs. Sept. 19 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Nightly (overnight): Sun. Sept. 22 to Sept. 26 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
3. Overnight Full Closure of eastbound Rosecrans Ave.: Two of two eastbound lanes and one of two westbound lanes on Rosecrans Ave. will be CLOSED from east of Bloomfield Ave to west of N. Firestone Blvd. Crews will continue setting in place bridge columns.
Nightly (overnight): Mon. Sept. 16 to Tues. Sept. 17 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
4. Overnight Full Closure of Southbound I-5: Three of three southbound I-5 lanes and two of three northbound I-5 lanes will be CLOSED lanes from San Antonio Blvd. to Carmenita Rd. The southbound I-5 on-ramp and off-ramp will be closed at Rosecrans Ave.
Nightly (overnight): Thurs. Sept. 19 from 11:59 p.m. to 5 a.m.
5. Intermittent Lane Closures at I-5 Under crossings of Rosecrans Ave., Imperial Hwy. and Pioneer Blvd.: One of two lanes will be CLOSED in each direction intermittently.
Mon. through Fri. from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
6. Southbound I-5: Three of three southbound I-5 lanes and two of three northbound I-5 lanes will be CLOSED from San Antonio Blvd. to Carmenita Rd. The southbound I-605 to southbound I-5 connector will be closed.
Nightly (overnight): Sun., Sept. 22 to Tues., Sept. 24 from 11:59 p.m. to 5 a.m.
7. Northbound I-5: Three of three northbound I-5 and two of three southbound I-5 lanes will be CLOSED from Carmenita Rd. to San Antonio Blvd. The westbound SR-91 to northbound I-5 connector will be closed.
Nightly (overnight): Wed., Sept. 25 to Thurs., Sept. 26 from 11:59 p.m. to 5 a.m.
USDOT - The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 0.3 percent in July from June, rising after a one month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released today. The July 2013 index level (114.3) was 20.5 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.
BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in July measured by the Freight TSI (114.3) was the second highest all-time level. The July index was 0.8 percent below the all-time high of 115.2 in December 2011 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000.
The June index was revised to 114.0 from 113.8 in the previous release. The April index was revised to 112.9 from 112.8.
Beginning with the April release, BTS improved procedures and refined the TSI methodology. As a result there have been minor changes in monthly numbers released previously. Documentation will be made available in the near future.
The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments by mode of transportation in tons and ton-miles, which are combined into one index. The index measures the output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight.
Analysis: The increase of 0.3 percent in July freight transportation was driven by increases in rail intermodal and inland water shipments, with small increases in trucking and rail carloads. The slow increase in July after a decrease in June is likely influenced by the decrease in manufacturing output in July.
Trend: The Freight TSI remained above its 2012 range for the seventh month in a row. Beginning with January, every month in 2013 has exceeded the high point of 2012, 112.3 reached in December. The July 2013 level is the highest TSI freight has been in 2013, and is the second highest all-time level exceeded only by December 2011. After dipping to 94.9 in April 2009, the index rose 20.5 percent in the succeeding 51 months.
Index highs and lows: Freight shipments in July 2013 (114.3) were 20.5 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.9). The July 2013 level is down 0.8 percent from the historic peak reached in December 2011 (115.2).
To review the article, click here.
Over the past year, CTA has discussed the many ways that transportation taxes and fees are spent in California. One of the unique projects that your tax dollars are being spent on is an effort to protect one of California’s greatest natural assets: Lake Tahoe. Caltrans helps keep debris out of Lake Tahoe by cleaning hundreds of storm drains around the lake and also in working on the construction of new drainage systems as part of more than dozen water-quality improvement projects to be completed over the next few years. These projects also help protect the integrity of the pavement for the roads that are traveled by motorists. Caltrans District 3 has produced a short video to show the steps they take to protect the lake.
This week Caltrans is implementing a number of closures that will take place through this Friday, September 13 in relation to a $120 million pavement replacement project on the Long Beach Freeway (I-710) from the Los Angeles River Bridge to the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10). If you use the I-710 corridor for your business, please be advised of the closures and potential detours. The project is
installing precast concrete panels as well as concrete slabs in various traffic lanes and locations upgrade the median barrier and construct maintenance pullouts along the route to enhance safety for maintenance crews. The entire maintenance and rehabilitation project is scheduled to completed late 2015. Work also will include widening shoulders and installing fiber optic lines for various traffic management technologies.
By: Robert C. Pitcher
ATA - As an introduction, some indication of what taxes are represented here is in order. As nearly as possible, the rates here include all the taxes imposed on gasoline and diesel fuel at the state or provincial level: motor fuel taxes, sales taxes, gross receipts taxes and petroleum business taxes imposed on fuel suppliers, and environmental clean-up fees (except those that are levied sporadically). Local taxes are included only if a state has a uniform county tax in all its counties. Where a state or province that imposes a sales tax on fuel, or another tax with a variable rate, periodically sets a rate for International Fuel Tax Agreement reporting, that rate is shown. The notes on the right-hand side of the table provide important details.
In this edition, note especially the rate changes in Massachusetts, which are effective July 31, 2013.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened up on Monday night to the public as officials announced that the bridge will withstand future earthquakes and provide assistance in any event of a disaster.
Invited guests gathered at the bridge on Monday to celebrate the completion of the $6.4 billion project. Dignitaries included Lt. Gov., and former mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, Sen. Mark Leno, D – San Francisco, and many more who watched as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom cut through a chain with a blow torch to mark the opening of the bridge.
Speakers discussed the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake which generated the analysis of the safety of all the state’s large bridges. As a result, seismologists indicated that the new span's replacement of the damaged structure on the Bay Bridge was designed to withstand the strongest earthquake estimated to occur in the next 1,500 years.
Although the opening ceremony follows issues that include construction concerns, delay of production, and cost overrun – transportation officials say that the new structure is far safer than the former one.
To read the full Sacramento Bee article, click here.
California isn’t the only state with a seemingly insurmountable infrastructure funding crunch. State governments across the country are getting creative on how to fund the transportation system moving forward. With cars becoming more fuel efficient, and miles driven declining, existing transportation tax revenues across the country are increasingly insufficient even to maintain the transportation infrastructure network. In response, 2013 has turned into a year of action by states stepping up to the plate by offering their own funding alternatives.
The Oregon Legislature passed S.B. 810, a Vehicle Miles Tax hybrid proposal which requires the Oregon Department of Transportation to offer up to 5,000 volunteer motorists an option to pay 1.5 cents per mile state tax rather than the current 30 cents per gallon tax. These volunteers would be refunded for any gas taxes paid. The program will start in 2015 and will offer the state and new and unique stream of transportation funding.
The home state of CTA’s Highway Policy Manager, Arkansas is pushing for increased sales tax revenues in order to pay for transportation. 2013 will be the first year of increased sales tax rates that were passed by Arkansas voters through a 2012 ballot measure. The measure authorized a temporary increase of the state sales tax from 6% to 6.5% in order to fund a bond which will pay for $1.8 billion in highway construction and improvement. The project includes plans to alleviate congestion on existing highways and bridges throughout the state. The tax is set to revert to the previous 6% once all bonds are paid off, which is estimated to take place in 2023.
2013 also saw the first transportation package passed in Virginia in over a generation. Governor Bob McDonnell signed HB 2313, a landmark $4 billion funding measure that is authorized for 2014-2019. The bill gave the go ahead to a number of tax changes including sales taxes, fuel taxes, registration fees, and property taxes. The commonwealth’s 17.5-cent retail fuel tax was eliminated and replaced a with 3.5 percent wholesale gas tax and 6 percent for diesel. The sales tax was increased to 5.3 percent, up from 5 percent. In Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads areas, the sales tax will balloon to 6 percent, with the additional 0.7 percent dedicated to transportation in order to fund the needs of the more urban areas of Virginia. Interestingly, owners of hybrid and electric vehicles will have to pay a special $64 annual registration fee in order to recoup losses from the other tax sources. The bill also puts pressure on local governments to raise property taxes on commercial and industrial entities in order to pay for infrastructure improvements.