Friday, February 27, 2009

Highway Users Bewildered by Administration's Transportation Budget Proposal

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For attribution to Greg Cohen, President & CEO of The American Highway Users Alliance:

"Apparently, the staff at US Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Office of Management and Budget have not been listening to President Obama and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

"Throughout his campaign and during his inauguration speech, President Obama promoted investment in 'roads and bridges' to keep our country moving. During his confirmation hearing, Secretary LaHood opposed the tolling of existing, toll-free roads. Yet the authors of the Transportation Department's 2010 budget framework must have been out of the office when their bosses were speaking.

"The President's strong support for roads and bridges serves him well. Despite the controversy over the Economic Recovery package, 94% of Americans supported the President's call to increase infrastructure investments. Roads and bridges rank #2 in importance among infrastructure priorities for the American people. And while Congress only provided 3.6% of the Economic Recovery funds for roads and bridges, the President's consistent promotion of highway infrastructure made his views crystal clear.

"Yet the 2010 budget framework for DOT includes no mention of roads, repeals the 87-year old contracting mechanism that guarantees funds for multi-year projects, and mentions 'road pricing' (tolls) as an option for states to deal with the meager funding levels.

"Given all of the stated support for roads and bridges, The Highway Users are mystified by the treatment of highway funding in the FY10 budget framework," said Greg Cohen, President & CEO of The Highway Users.

The budget framework raises four red flags:
1. The proposal implies that the 87-year old budgetary mechanism known as
"contract authority" be deleted from the budget. Without contract
authority, multi-year highway projects cannot be fully-funded.
2. There is no mention of President Obama's support for roads and bridges
anywhere in DOT's budget framework.
3. "Road pricing" is discussed as an option in the budget framework,
despite Secretary LaHood's opposition to tolling existing roads.
4. There is no room in the budget for any substantial increase in highway
funding, despite the President's recent call for investment levels that
would rival the funding for construction of the Interstate Highway
System.


Cohen stated, "Until these issues are resolved, the American Highway Users Alliance will remain deeply concerned about the FY2010 budget framework. We look forward to improvements in the final budget request and sincerely hope that the President and Secretary of Transportation continue to exhibit leadership in promoting roads, bridges, and mobility in the 2010 budget."

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DOT Adviser Applauds Rep. Blumenauer's Plan to Link Transportation Finance, Investment and Climate Change Initiatives

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Environmental Defense Fund applauds U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) for launching a debate today about how new transportation finance measures can work together with climate change initiatives to shape sustainable transportation reforms.

Congressman Blumenauer's 10-year "National Plan to Reinvest in America" envisions a transition from the current federal gas tax revenue system of transportation financing to road-use fees (based on vehicle miles traveled), revenue generated from selling carbon credits, and other new funding sources. Collectively, these revenue sources could raise much of the $100 billion a year that may be needed to fix and improve transportation infrastructure over the next decade, more than double the current funding level provided by federal gas tax revenues, which continue to decline as people drive less and use more fuel efficient vehicles.

The Blumenauer plan explores a 10-year strategy for transportation infrastructure funding, which reflects the growing consensus that the United States needs to implement a new transportation revenue system or face serious budget shortfalls. Recent studies have shown that under-investment in transportation and dependence on the federal gas tax to be key causes of poor transportation system performance that cost drivers $78 billion a year in congestion-related costs and contribute to rising greenhouse gas emissions.

"Congressman Blumenauer understands that the old way of funding our transportation infrastructure is a dead end in the new economy," said Michael Replogle, a civil engineer, transportation director for Environmental Defense Fund and an adviser to the U.S. Department of Transportation on intelligent transportation systems. "This plan shows that Congressman Blumenauer understands that any solution to climate change and the problems facing our economy depend on investing in and improving our transportation infrastructure."

"Key elements of this plan -- such as road-use fees, a carbon cap, and carbon auctions generating revenues that can be dedicated in part to transportation -- can help finance a shift to cleaner infrastructure and expanded travel choices for Americans who are stuck in traffic without any alternatives to driving," added Replogle. "It is crucial that new revenue measures send appropriate incentives to travelers and system managers to make wise stewardship and consumer choices."

"However, a key factor determining whether transportation contributes to cutting greenhouse gases will be how revenue is spent, not just how it's raised," Replogle concluded. "We look forward to working with Congressman Blumenauer and other congressional leaders to make sure we are raising and spending revenue on transportation in ways that maximize opportunities to cut both congestion and greenhouse gas emissions."

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Majority of People Killed in Teen Crashes are Passengers and Other Drivers - Not Teen Drivers

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The majority of people killed in teen driver crashes continue to be people other than teen drivers themselves, according to an updated analysis of 10 years of crash data by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The analysis shows that about one-third of people killed in crashes involving drivers ages 15 to 17 are teen drivers themselves. Nearly two-thirds are passengers, occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.

"For every teen driver killed in a crash, almost twice as many other people die, which underscores the link between teen driver safety and the safety of everyone on the road," said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet.

Nationally, between 1998 and 2007, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers killed 28,138 people, of whom 10,388 (36.9%) were teen drivers themselves. The remaining 17,750 (63.1%) deaths included 8,829 passengers of the teen drivers, 6,858 occupants of other vehicles operated by adult drivers, and 2,063 non-motorists and others. A previous analysis in 2006 found that between 1995 and 2004, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers claimed the lives of 30,917 people, of whom 36.2 percent were teen drivers themselves and 63.6 percent were others.

"Young drivers face an array of potentially deadly challenges at the wheel," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "Parents and teens need to understand the serious responsibility of driving and the risks and consequences involved."

AAA points to the drop in both teen driver deaths and the larger drop in deaths of others during the last decade as evidence that improving teen driver safety benefits all road users.

"During the last decade, as states improved their teen licensing systems and AAA has helped parents get more involved, we have seen reductions in teen driver deaths and even larger reductions in the number of other people killed," said Darbelnet. "Clearly, measures put into place to save teen drivers help us all."

AAA continues to call for comprehensive graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems that let new teen drivers gain experience under less-risky conditions. States with comprehensive GDL systems have been shown to reduce deaths among 16-year-old drivers by 38 percent. Forty-nine state GDL systems fall short of AAA guidelines.

AAA also encourages parents to play the leading role in developing their teen driver through regular dialogue, selecting a quality driving school, using a parent-teen driving agreement, extensive practice driving, and choosing a safe vehicle for their teen.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Statement from Governor Sonny Perdue Regarding Decision by the State Transportation Board to Dismiss Commissioner Evans

Governor Sonny Perdue issued the following statement today regarding the decision by the State Transportation Board to dismiss Georgia DOT Commissioner Gena Evans:

“Sadly, today the State Transportation Board proved that a majority of its members are more concerned with personal vendettas and politics than delivering value to citizens in transportation. While I am not privileged to the reasons behind their decision, I believe they have fired a competent Commissioner for no reason other than her commitment to put the needs of Georgia’s citizens ahead of board members’ personal agendas of spending taxpayer dollars on their individual projects. The Lt. Governor, Speaker and I are committed to creating a transportation system that allows the citizens to hold us accountable for moving Georgia where we need to go in transportation.”
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Reforming Georgia’s Transportation System

By: Governor Sonny Perdue, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and Speaker Glenn Richardson

Over the last six years, Georgia has invested heavily in transportation improvements, yet commuters are still stuck in traffic and economic development corridors still have not been expanded. As frustrating as it is to acknowledge, we have not achieved the value that we believe Georgians deserve because of a lack of focus, transparency and accountability at the Department of Transportation.

We share a commitment to do better. As the three people most accountable to Georgians, we announced a proposal this week that would completely transform the way we think about delivering transportation solutions in our state and dramatically improve the way transportation projects are planned, constructed and maintained.

The basic premise of this proposal is simple – transportation policy decisions should be made in a strategic manner by people who are representing the best interests of the entire state. And the decisions these people make should be executed in a manner that provides for transparency and accountability to the legislature and the people of Georgia.

The current structure of the DOT fails both of these. By relying on a board that represents congressional districts elected every few years by caucuses of legislators, the existing structure encourages parochial thinking and insulates the agency from those who are elected to serve our citizens. And the fact that this unaccountable board maintains sole discretion over a dedicated funding stream of over $2 billion provides very little transparency to the governor, the legislature and the people of this state that the money they receive is spent in an efficient and strategic manner.

Citizens and legislators alike have expressed their frustration with a lack of progress in transportation in Georgia, and a tangled web of bureaucracy that makes it virtually impossible to hold anyone accountable.

The proposal we have jointly developed will end that confusion. Combining the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and the State Road and Tollway Authority into the State Transportation Authority will create a lead organization responsible for implementing a clear, understandable plan to address Georgia’s statewide needs.

We are committed to standing up a system of transportation project delivery that is more transparent and more accountable. And it demands that a statewide, strategic plan is developed and a mechanism for budget appropriation, which is voted upon by every citizen’s state representative and senator, to ensure that plan is implemented.

But most of all, it places the burden of meeting our state’s transportation needs in the hands of those elected by and responsible to the people of Georgia. Given that responsibility, we are willing to continue to be accountable to the people of Georgia for the results.
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The Georgia 20/20 Statewide Transportation Act Gets Its Second Unanimous Vote Passes House Transportation Committee

Today the Georgia 20/20 Statewide Transportation Act, HB 277, and the accompanying Constitutional Amendment, HR 206, sponsored by House Transportation Chairman Vance Smith Jr. (R-Pine Mountain), passed the House Transportation Committee without a single dissenting vote. The 20/20 Act also passed subcommittee unanimously.

“The Georgia 20/20 Statewide Transportation Act took another important step forward today passing the House Transportation Committee with broad support,” said Rep. Vance Smith, Jr. “This legislation addresses real transportation needs, not just in one part of the state, but for all of Georgia. I look forward to bringing the 20/20 Act before the full House for my colleagues’ consideration.”

The 20/20 Act now goes before the House Rules Committee where it will be eligible for assignment to the debate calendar and a vote by the full House of Representatives.

Representative Vance Smith, Jr. represents the citizens of District 129, which includes portions of Harris, Troup and Muscogee counties. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and currently serves as Chairman of the Transportation Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Economic Development & Tourism, and Rules committees.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

State Rep. Bobby Parham Elected to Transportation Board

State Representative Bobby Parham, D-Milledgeville, was elected Thursday to the State Transportation Board by a caucus of state representatives and senators from the 12th Congressional District. He will fill the remaining four years of the term of retiring Board member Raybon Anderson.

Representative Parham is one of the Georgia General Assembly’s most revered members, having served in the House of Representatives for 18 terms, covering the past 36 years. Prior to that tenure, he served on the Baldwin County Commission for six years.

“I really didn’t make up my mind to run until this morning,” Rep. Parham said. “I’ve always been interested in improving transportation; I recall coming to the Department as a county commissioner to see what assistance we might get for Baldwin County. I just decided that I can do more, not just for my county or legislative district, but for the entire 12th Congressional District and all of Georgia by serving on the Transportation Board. I’m thankful to my colleagues from the 12th District for the confidence they’ve shown in me. I’m going to work hard to justify that confidence.”

Representative Parham, a pharmacist who serves on the Rules, Appropriations and Motor Vehicles committees, will resign from the House and begin his Board tenure immediately.
The Georgia Department of Transportation is governed by the State Transportation Board. Its 13 members, representing each of the state’s congressional districts, exercise general control and supervision of the Department. Each member serves a five-year term and the terms are staggered. Board members are elected by the state representatives and senators whose legislative districts fall within all or part of the congressional district.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is committed to providing a safe, seamless and sustainable transportation system that supports Georgia’s economy and is sensitive to both its citizens and its environment. For general information on the Georgia DOT, please visit our Web site (www.dot.ga.gov).
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Friday, February 6, 2009

Georgia Tech Students Keep Watchful Eye on 14th Street Bridge Project

Dr. Jochen Teizer, assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), and his students are monitoring construction of the 14th Street Bridge in Midtown, Atlanta. The team has placed cameras on the Marriott Hotel and the resulting images are being posted to a Web page. This allows Teizer’s students to analyze the construction progress and look for more efficient techniques to be used in future construction projects.

Dr. Teizer, an expert in construction engineering and management, heads the Real-time Automated Project Information and Decision Systems Laboratory in CEE. The project is being supported by the construction monitoring company OxBlue.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Coweta County - Lane Closures at State Rte. 34 at Interstate 85

The Georgia Department of Transportation announces lane closures on State Route 34 at Interstate 85(Exit 47) beginning Monday, February 2, nightly through Thursday, February 5. The closures are subject to change based on weather conditions.

State Route 34 at I-85 (Exit 47) East and Westbound Lane Closures
Monday, February 2, nightly through Thursday, February 5
Near mileposts 15 - 16
TIME: 7 p.m. – 7 a.m.
1 lane closed; 1 lane in each direction remains open to traffic

The scheduled completion date for this project is December 31, 2009. Motorists should expect shoulder and lane closures on a continuing basis and are advised to use extra caution in construction work zones.

Speed limits have been reduced and will be strictly enforced. Message boards, signs, barricades, barrels and cones will be utilized to alert and channel motorists through the area.