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Vote Yes for Transportation Wisconsin
After more than three years, the coalition formerly known as Finding Forward, has reached a major milestone. The issue of constitutionally protecting the transportation fund will be before the voters on the November 2014 ballot. But there is still work to be done.
The job now is to educate the voters on the issue and make them familiar with how the measure will appear on the ballot. To do this, the coalition has transitioned to a more consumer-friendly, action-oriented name – Vote Yes for Transportation.
Vote YES has launched a new website, www.VoteYesforTransportation.com, and began spreading the word by making presentations to groups and organizations across the state. Stay tuned for more on Vote YES.
Vote Yes for Transportation is a statewide referendum group working toward approval of a constitutional amendment to protect transportation funding. The group is registered with the Government Accountability Board.
In Business Wisconsin Blog
Lots of Agreement, Little Action on Transportation Funding
The old adage that politics makes strange bedfellows seems to be less and less appropriate these days. On most major issues, especially those that require revenue or affect the level of government spending, it is hard to discover even a hint of flirting going on.
So what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on with a recent letter sent by 17 governors (12 Democrats and five Republicans) to Congress urging it to approve a long-term revenue solution for the nation’s transportation fund? By the way, Gov. Walker was one of the 17 signatories.
Among other things, the letter states, “We are very concerned, however, that the reauthorization [referring to the previous transportation funding bill] did not provide a long-term revenue solution to address the growing shortfall between revenue going in the Highway Trust Fund and the amount necessary even to maintain current federal investment levels for these programs.” The letter then warns, “If remedial action is not taken in a timely manner, the consequences would harm the economy of every state.”
Speaking of fraternizing with the enemy, how many joint statements have you seen lately from big business and big labor? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO are not exactly simpatico on health care reform or tax reform or regulatory reform or … but they are in agreement on the need to increase revenues for the nation’s transportation fund.
When AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donahoe appeared together before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Trumka joked that the joint appearance “does not mean that hell has frozen over or that unicorns are now roaming the land.”
Trumka continued, “The fact is, while there are many policy areas where we have sharp differences, we both realize that our country needs to step up our investment in America for business as well as working Americans to succeed.”
President Obama continues to exhort Congress to provide more funding for our nation’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, and transit systems. In fact, his recently appointed secretary of transportation, Anthony Foxx, has put a graph on the homepage of his department’s website demonstrating how quickly the fund responsible for highways and transit systems will run out of money if something isn’t done:
“Starting today, we’re going to post on our website exactly how much money the Highway Trust Fund has left, and update that number every month until the fund runs out, or until it can sustain itself,” Foxx said. “This is a number we share with Congress. But the American people need to know it too, because they are the ones who use America’s transportation system — and they are the ones who will travel slower and less safely if it isn’t funded.”
The current reauthorization, referred to as MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), is set to expire at the end of September, which is what all of these warnings and … well … agreement are about.
It will be interesting to see how the president and Congress choose to resolve their apparent agreement.
$100 Billion Needed for 6-Year Surface Transportation Bill
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Highway Trust Fund would require an additional $100 billion in revenue – either new taxes or transfers from the General Fund – to cover a six-year surface transportation bill at baseline levels.
Transportation Weekly sums it up this way: “In a nutshell, the problem is still revenues. CBO projects FY 2015 Highway Trust Fund tax revenues plus interest to total $39 billion, and ten years from now, in FY 2024, CBO projects that those receipts will total....$39 billion. While at the same time spending from the Trust Fund increases slightly each year due to the inflation adjustments assumed in the baseline.”
In another piece of good news the CBO confirmed what Secretary Foxx and USDOT highlighted in the graph above – the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund will likely run out of cash on a day-to-day basis before the expiration of MAP-21 on September 30th.
Wisconsin Transit Week is March 3-9
Calling all Wisconsin transit riders to show your support and have some fun while on the road. During the week of March 3-9, officially proclaimed Wisconsin Transit Week by the state’s governor, transit riders will be encouraged to tell their stories, including why they choose to ride instead of drive.
Bus systems and other forms of public transit provide many benefits to people throughout Wisconsin. For instance:
- In Wisconsin, 48% of riders use public transit to get to work and another 23% for education.
- Public transportation provides an affordable, and for many, necessary alternative to driving allowing them get to work, access health care, do their shopping, and visit family and friends.
- By 2035, an estimated 20% of the population will be over 65 years old. Providing mobility options is critical for older Americans.
- Time on the bus can be used to read, work, or interact with others via social media or texting – things you should never do while driving.
“Public transit can play an important role in connecting employees to jobs, career opportunities and job training. As the Wisconsin economy continues to pick up steam, we need to make sure all aspects of the transportation system - including public transportation - are working efficiently to keep the Wisconsin economy growing,” says TDA Executive Director Craig Thompson.
Local transit agencies are partnering with the Transportation Development Association to give the people of Wisconsin a voice. To join the conversation, go to www.witransitweek.com and use #WITransit on Twitter. To facilitate the conversation, a new question will be posed each day.
Whether you are a user of public transit or not, take time during the week of March 3-9 to show your support for transit in Wisconsin by sending a short tweet with #WITransit.
Interesting News Coverage
Minnesota.CBSLocal.com, February 18, 2014 – “Group wants $750M a year for Minn. roads, transit”
APNews.co, February 18, 2014 – “Canceled! Airlines scrap record number of flights”
Delawareonline.com, February 17. 2014 – “ Proposed gas tax contains hikes for inflation”
The Hill.com, February 12, 2014 – “Business, labor groups push for gas tax hike”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 13, 2014 – “Legislature should allow creation of regional transit authorities”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 13, 2014 – “Mitchell International Airport director Bateman to retire”
Bloomberg.com, February 10, 2014 – “Miles tax discussed by Shuster to pay for roads”
Transportation in the News
National Counties Association – NACo has released a brand-new report and interactive that provides a detailed analysis of county transportation funding sources, challenges and solutions across the 48 states with county governments. Counties face a number of challenges, including the rising cost of transportation projects, increasing traffic volumes, and revenue generation limitations.
Moody’s Downgrades GARVEE bonds again – Moody's Investors Service has downgraded 17 standalone GARVEE bond ratings by one notch. The action affects 16 ratings of GARVEEs secured solely by a pledge of federal highway aid and 1 rating of mass transit aid GARVEEs. The rationale for the downgrade is the general unpredictability of federal transportation aid due to threatened debt ceiling expirations, government shutdowns, and the potential of depletion of the Highway Trust Fund balance later this year. This is not the first time Moody’s has downgraded GARVEE bonds. A similar downgrade was issued in November of 2012.
V2V Technology – The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced today that it will begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles. This technology would improve safety by allowing vehicles to "talk" to each other and ultimately avoid many crashes altogether by exchanging basic safety data, such as speed and position, ten times per second.
"Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we've already seen with safety belts and air bags," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry."
Fuel Standards for Heavy Trucks - President Obama has announced he is directing the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop tighter fuel-efficiency and green house standards for heavy vehicles model year 2018 and beyond. The new requirement will be in addition to the standards imposed three years ago for heavier vehicles for model years 2014-2018, which were meant to reduce fuel usage and emissions by 10-20 percent.
The administration has not said how much additional fuel economy/reductions in emissions is expected with these news standards. EPA and DOT should issue an initial notice of proposed rule-making by March 15, 2015.
3M Traffic Safety Celebrates 75 Years
This year, 3M Traffic Safety and Security is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and honoring its legacy of improving traffic safety with comprehensive systems and high performance materials. To mark this milestone, 3M Traffic Safety and Security will host an anniversary celebration on Monday, February 24 at the American Traffic Safety Services Association’s (ATSSA) 44th annual Construction & Traffic Expo in San Antonio.
Ever since the first traffic sign covered with reflective sheeting was installed on a Minnesota street in 1939, 3M innovations have been making roadways around the world safer.
As part of the Contractor-Engineer Conference held in Madison on January 21, WisDOT announced its annual Construction Awards to recognize private contractors for outstanding work in several categories:
- The Excellence in Grading Award went to H. James and Sons of Fennimore for work on the WIS 26 Milton Bypass Project in Rock County. The $25.5 million project included construction of a four-lane divided median roadway to freeway standards.
- The Excellence in Asphalt Paving Award went to Payne and Dolan, Inc. of Waukesha for work on a five-mile section of I-39 in Dane County. The $7.4 million project resurfaced one of the state's busiest interstate corridors.
- The Excellence in Concrete Paving Award went to Vinton Construction Company of Manitowoc for work on a 1.5-mile segment of Main Street in the village of Little Chute in Outagamie County. The $3.7 million urban reconstruction project involved complete reconstruction of the roadway.
- The Excellence in Small Structures Award went to Ruzic Construction of Neillsville and Mattison Contractors of Knapp, WI for their work on the Hay Creek Bridge along WIS 40 in Elk Mound. The $380,000 project represents construction of the first Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil integrated bridge system in Wisconsin.
- The Excellence in Large Structures Award went to Edward Kraemer and Sons of Plain, WI for work on the Fish Hatchery Road Interchange with US 12 (Madison Beltline). The $3.3 million project involved widening the interchange to eight lanes, and raising it to provide adequate clearance for Beltline traffic. The construction firm also received a Special Recognition Award for the first-ever use of self-propelled modular transporters as part of the Rawson Avenue Bridge project in Milwaukee County.
- Another Special Recognition Award went to Hoffman Construction Company of Black River Falls for grading work associated with the US 41/WIS 29 Interchange in Brown County. The work included relocation of a creek and construction of a 110-acre wetland mitigation site.
Transportation Improvement Conference
March 4-5, 2014 in the Wisconsin Dells
The American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation are partnering for the seventh consecutive year to present the 2014 Transportation Improvement Conference. This year’s theme is “Inspire, Innovate, Deliver: Partners in Getting There.” The conference brings together the department and consulting engineering community for two days of transportation-related professional development programming and networking opportunities.
Professional development hour (PDH) credits will be awarded for sessions attended. Full conference attendance is eligible for an estimated 6.5 PDH credits. This includes 1 PDH credit of ethics continuing education. ACEC WI is listed as an approved provider of continuing education programs for professional engineers by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Credits awarded at the 2014 Transportation Improvement Conference are eligible for Wisconsin continuing education credit.
Conference details and registration materials are available.
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