Infrastructure

Rebuilding and Renewing America

America 2050 has launched a "Rebuilding and Renewing America" campaign in response to the serious challenges of repairing the nation's deteriorating, inadequate infrastructure systems and building capacity for sustainable population and economic growth in the future.
We are calling on the federal government to develop a National Infrastructure Investment Plan that identifies investments in integrated systems of roads, rails, and ports, electricity transmission and the "smart grid," broadband communications, and water infrastructure to help America compete in the global economy and transition our fossil-fuel dependent economy to a low-carbon future.

In the absence of federal action, America 2050's national committee of civic, business, and community leaders are beginning to develop the components of the National Infrastructure Investment Plan and recommendations to reform outdated and ineffective federal transportation, energy and water policies.

From 2008-2009, America 2050 is hosting a series of megaregion forums around the country to build support for a national infrastructure investment plan and indentify key infrastructure priorities in the 11 megaregions around the country.

Our goal for shaping the infrastructure investment plan is to promote a "triple bottom line" strategy for infrastructure development in the United States. This concept refers to using environmental sustainability and social equity measures as the other important "bottom lines" to consider in weighing investment decisions in addition to financial return on investment. This is a cross-cutting theme for all our discussions and activities.

Coupled with the articulation of guiding principles and criteria for federal investment, such as the triple bottom line, the national infrastructure investment plan will shape the different pieces of legislation, providing the bold and compelling vision that is currently needed to catalyze change. 

Recent Entries

usdot.jpgThe MAP-21 Reauthorization Roundup is a collection of news stories regarding the reauthorization of the surface transportation legislation, MAP-21, which expires on October 1st, 2014. This roundup of articles is especially salient due to the ongoing crisis regarding the Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to run dry this year (see the U.S. DOT's Highway Trust Fund Ticker).


MAP-21 Reauthorization Roundup

US chamber of commerce backs gas tax hike to fund highways
The Columbian | Laura Litvan | February 12

US business, labor leaders urge congress to raise gas tax
Chicago Tribune | Eric Beech | February 12

Understanding the highway trust fund and the perils of inaction
Center for American Progress | Kevin DeGood | February 20

Foxx: highway trust fund 'on track to bounce checks before FY 2015
Better Roads | Amanda Bayhi | February 21

The national infrastructure bank: a cure-all for america's woes?
Georgetown Public Policy Review | Dennis Lytton | February 26

Obama proposes $302 billion, 4-year reauthorization bill, announces availability of $600 million in TIGER grants
Better Roads | Amanda Bayhi | February 26

Camp proposal would fund transportation, waterways infrastructure
E&E Daily | Nick Juliano and Annie Snider | February 27

Obama budget seeks new spending, new taxes to boost economy, tame debt

Washington Post | Zachary Goldfarb | March 4

Transportation reauthorization funding mechanism may be settled
Planetizen | Irvin Dawid | March 6

Funding shortage could delay U.S. road, rail projects this summer
Reuters | Elvina Nawaguna | March 12

Photo: MTA / Kevin Ortiz

The New Haven Line needs such substantial repair work that at the current pace of investment it will take two decades to restore the line to full operating capacity, a new study by Regional Plan Association found. An analysis by RPA determined that $3.6 billion will be needed beyond what is currently budgeted to modernize the rail line, the busiest in the U.S.

Infrastructure on the 60-mile stretch of track between New York and Connecticut has been allowed to deteriorate, largely due to decades of underinvestment in critical repairs and upgrades. Delaying the repair work significantly raises the risk of unplanned outages and limits the line’s capacity to accommodate growing ridership. 

The New Haven Line carries 125,000 passengers every day on the Metro-North commuter line and on Amtrak trains between Boston and New York and plays a vital role in the economic life of the Northeast. The line's owners, the states of Connecticut and New York, have made significant progress improving the rail infrastructure they inherited in the 1970s in poor physical condition, despite major funding constraints. But funding shortfalls have forced both states to defer long overdue capital investment necessary to protect the line's operations and passengers.

The age-related problems that plague the line can be felt by passengers nearly every day. Five movable rail bridges, all well beyond their replacement age, get stuck open several times a week, delaying train traffic and causing ripple effects up and down the line. This year, the line suffered two major outages, including a derailment and collision in May that injured 76 people and an electrical outage in September that disrupted service on the line for more than two weeks.

RPA’s study, Getting Back on Track: Unlocking the Full Potential of the New Haven Line, documents the key issues affecting the rail line and outlines critical capital investments necessary for the line to function as a reliable, four-track railroad. RPA researchers found that an additional $3.6 billion is needed to repair or replace aging and obsolete infrastructure, beyond the $1 billion already budgeted by the state of Connecticut for this work.

“The New Haven Line supports the biggest and most diverse economy in the country, yet this crucial piece of infrastructure is no longer up to the task,” said RPA President Robert D. Yaro. “If we don’t maintain our vital infrastructure, we will be subjecting a generation of commuters and long-distance travelers to relentless, disruptive repair work and jeopardizing the growth and prosperity of our region,” he said. 

Expediting construction would mean disruptions to service in the short term, but would get the line back to its full, four-track capacity far sooner. This would allow the line to accommodate anticipated population growth and economic development along the New York-to-New Haven corridor. The upgrades also are crucial to accommodating passengers transferring from the region’s branch lines, including from the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter line, which is expected to begin service in 2016.

The study outlines an emergency action plan for the rail line to address major needed improvements, including: upgrades to power and signal systems; repairs to tracks and station platforms; and rehabilitation or replacement of the five movable bridges that are a source of continued service disruptions.

The full study can be viewed here: http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Getting-Back-on-Track.pdf

Rail freight traffic is expanding throughout North America, particularly to serve ocean ports. Assuring that transportation infrastructure capacity keeps up with demand is important for global trade competitiveness and national economic security.

A key growth area is in the Great Lakes Megaregion, where an industrial heartland route links Montreal, Toronto, Detroit/Windsor and Chicago. About 60% of Port of Montreal container traffic moves inland by rail, mostly to and from markets in Ontario and the U.S. Midwest - a corridor hampered by a bottleneck at the Detroit River, the world's busiest commercial border crossing. A century-old rail tunnel between Detroit and Windsor handles more than 400,000 rail cars each year. The Port of Montreal is doubling container-handling capacity by 2020. The current tunnel can't handle 9' 6" double-stacked container rail cars or Auto-Max vehicle carriers, the most efficient rail shipping modes.

The Continental Rail Gateway (CRG), formed in June 2010, unites Canadian Pacific the Windsor Port Authority and the Borealis Infrastructure investment firm in a replacement rail tunnel venture. The public-private partnership owns the existing tunnel and rail corridor. Project funding calls for $200 million from the partners and $200 million from government sources in each country.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has published a state-by-state breakdown of the number of American jobs that would be lost if Congress fails to reauthorize the surface transportation bill that includes new revenues for the Highway Trust Fund, which will be depleted by FY2015. The bottom line is that 3,000,000 jobs nationwide are at stake if a stable funding solution for federal transportation programs is not found.

htf-shortfalls.png

The latest CBO estimates (above) show that the Highway Trust Fund will end fiscal year 2015 with a negative balance. CBO writes that since 2008, "Congress has avoided such shortfalls by transferring $41 billion from the general fund of the Treasury to the Highway Trust Fund. An additional transfer of $12.6 billion is authorized for 2014. If lawmakers chose to continue such transfers, they would have to transfer an additional $14 billion to prevent a projected shortfall in 2015." 

They go on to say that bringing the HTF into balance "would require cutting the authority to obligate funds in [2015] from about $51 billion projected under current law to about $4 billion, raising the taxes on motor fuels by about 10 cents per gallon, or undertaking some combination of those options."

The current surface transportation bill, MAP-21, expires in September 2014. Please take a moment to tell your elected representatives to find a long-term, stable funding solution for transportation programs to protect the American economy before it's too late.

The American Road & Transit Builders Association (ARTBA) has a toll free action hotline that you can call to find tell Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund.


Download the CBO's latest "Status of the Highway Trust Fund"   


Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure convened in New York City on Friday for a hearing about the importance of the Northeast Corridor. The hearing took place in the Farley Post Office, home of the future Moynihan Station. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), chair of the Railroads Subcommittee, wielded the gavel while Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chair of the full committee, participated along with Ranking Member Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The witnesses included the President and CEO of Amtrak, Joe Boardman; Commissioner of New York State Department of Transportation, Joan McDonald; President of Drexel University, John Fry; and President of Regional Plan Association (RPA) and Chair of the Northeast Alliance for Rail (NEAR), Bob Yaro.

The impetus for the hearing is that the current federal rail bill, PRIIA, expires this fall and Congress will begin negotiating the next bill this summer. The next federal rail bill will authorize a five to six years worth of appropriations for the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak, and hence capital improvements to the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The FRA's High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Program is a potential source of future funding for NEC improvements. After Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funds in 2011, nearly $1 billion was redirected to the Northeast. Amtrak's federal funding for capital improvements is also largely dedicated to the NEC, where nearly 40% of their capital budget is spent.

In his testimony before the Committee, Bob Yaro outlined the main components of an improvement program that can be authorized in the reauthorization of the rail bill. RPA calls this program, "NEC Now." The NEC Now proposal addresses the corridor's highest-priority infrastructure needs: to remove bottlenecks, increase capacity, improve reliability and reduce travel times along the entire corridor. It also proposes funding for the construction of an Acela Express train optimization program which, along with other NEC Now projects, would cut trip times between New York and Philadelphia to well under an hour.

Download RPA's NEC Now Legislative Proposal & Infrastructure Program.

Download Bob Yaro's testimony as prepared.


Amtrak recovers more of its operating expenses from ticket revenue than any other railroad in the nation.
Amtrak recently sent its fiscal year 2014 budget to Congress, which outlined the incredible progress the railroad has made in recent years. Amtrak makes critical connections across the country, moving nearly one million people on commuter and intercity rail services each day, and breaking annual ridership records in nine out of the last ten years. In March 2013, Amtrak moved more passenger than any other month in its history and is on pace to break another all-time annual ridership record. Amtrak has also become more efficient and self-sufficient, covering 88% of its operating costs with ticket fares and other non-federal revenue. In 2012, ticket sales reached a record $2 billion. However, Amtrak continues to need financial support from the federal government, particularly for capital expenses to maintain aging infrastructure concentrated on the Northeast Corridor and upgrade its fleet of trains.

In 2014, Amtrak is requesting $373 million for operating support, more than 20% less than Congress appropriated last year and 34% less than was appropriated in 2010. On the capital side of the ledger, Amtrak is requesting just over $2 billion.

We need your help to send the message to Washington that Americans want a strong national passenger rail network. Please take a moment to call or write your representatives in Congress and ask them to fully fund Amtrak's budget request. Visit www.govtrack.us/congress/members to find contact information for your elected officials. Then, make a call or write an email asking them to sign on to a letter of support for Amtrak's budget request that is being circulated by Senator Frank Lautenberg. 

The independent, nonpartisan, federal watchdog agency, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), gave the California high-speed rail project passing marks in an audit released last Friday. The report found that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has produced "reasonable" ridership and revenue forecasts in its Revised 2012 Business Plan, while also pointing out that the project's cost estimates could be improved and that future funding for the project remains uncertain. Jeff Morales, CEO of the Authority, called the GAO's report, "an important validation from a highly respected government watchdog." "This is a very good, very strong, report card." Dan Richard, board chairman of the Authority said. "It's not straight A's, but we will aspire to improve in the areas where the GAO tells us we can do much better."

The Authority's business plan forecast that annual ridership will grow to between 16 million and 27 million by 2030, depending on various future conditions, such as the price of fuel. The plan's high ridership scenario assumes a fuel price of $6.11 and the low scenario assumes a price of $2.60 in 2030. Fares for high-speed rail are assumed to be 83% of San Francisco-Los Angeles airfare in 2009. The plan also projected that the high-speed rail system would generate annual revenues of between $1 billion and $1.8 billion in 2030 and proved that no public operating subsidies will be required under any scenario.

Read the GAO report.

The Federal Railroad Administration is currently managing a comprehensive planning effort to define, evaluate and prioritize future levels of investment in the Northeast Corridor (NEC) through 2040. This effort, launched in February 2012, called NEC FUTURE, will produce a Service Development Plan that articulates the overall scope, alternatives and approach for proposed improvements, and a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement that evaluates and identifies ways to address broad, corridor-wide environmental impacts due to these improvements. This process is a federally-required step before major construction to overhaul the corridor's aging, unreliable, and congested infrastructure can begin.

But, before the FRA could analyze the impacts of the multitude of visions for improved NEC rail service, first it needed to narrow down the alternative visions to a reasonable number by weeding out the alternatives that are clearly inferior to others. So far, they've winnowed the list down to 15 alternative visions. Earlier this week, the FRA published its new "Preliminary Alternatives" report, which contains descriptions of these 15 different visions of the NEC, ranging from mundane to ambitious. The FRA hopes to carry around 8 or 9 alternatives forward to the Tier 1 EIS process to be weighed against the "no action" alternative (essentially doing the bare minimum to keep the corridor operating safely). The FRA's goal is to have established a final preferred alternative by mid-2015.