Transportation headlines, Monday, July 25

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the library’s blog.

Should the feds tighten ozone standards? (NPR)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to tighten the standard for how much ozone is allowed to be in the air — even though many areas, including So Cal, are regularly out of compliance. Business is fighting having the standard drop to what scientists say would be healthier because it would expensive to comply. The Obama White House will make the call and financial considerations are in play because of the weak economy, experts say. Ground level ozone, btw, is formed when hydrocarbons (gas, oil, etc.) evaporate and causes harm to the lungs.

On a related note, the U.S. EPA is also expected this week to announce mileage standards for heavy duty trucks, which have never had mileage standards before. Trucks are huge consumers of fuel, are big polluters and are all over the road in So Cal because we’re such a big shipping center.

California bullet train’s moment of truth (San Francisco Chronicle)

The big question: with Congress unable — actually unwilling is the more accurate term — to agree on any kind of federal budget, where will federal money allotted for California’s high-speed rail project come from? The short answer is no one knows. Money from private investors has yet to materialize and the state bond that got the project rolling is only for $9.5 billion. The project’s current cost estimate is $43 billion to connect Anaheim to San Francisco with a new estimate due in the fall. If the price-tag goes up, then what?

Let me repeat: THEN WHAT?

Santa Monica explores bike sharing program (NRDC Switchboard blog)

The city has already done a good job of installing bike lanes on many streets, even when it means taking a lane from (GASP!) car traffic. Now Santa Monica is looking into a bike sharing program that puts bike rental stations around town so that people can rent a bike for a one-way trip. Such programs are quite popular in Europe and have been catching on in the U.S. and it would be cool to see how they would fare in a city with good bike infrastructure.

4 replies

  1. It also doesn’t help that CA is broke because we pay more into the federal system than we get back.

    It’s time to fix the tax code. Californian taxpayers should not be paying for off shore oil rig projects in the Gulf of Mexico, keeping the Interstate running in North Dakota, or helping build bridges to nowhere in Alaska.

    How about a huge trade offer with Japan? Japan desperately needs rare earth minerals to produce hybrid vehicles and other high tech applications. While China currently are the largest producers of rare earth minerals in the world, CA also has tons of them sitting at Molycorps’ Mountain Pass mines that yet to be tapped. Japan wants rare earths, we want high speed rail, Japan and CA are both earthquake country, Japan has the knowledge to build HSR, we have knowledge in IT infrastructure, there’s a lot of synergetic business deals that can benefit both sides of the Pacific.

  2. Steve,

    Serious question here. The 30/10 plan (and America Fast Forward more generally) requires the establishment of something like a national infrastructure bank in order to get the federal government to front LA the money to build rail sooner rather than later. With our fiscal crisis and political paralysis it just doesn’t seem like that will ever happen (even if small pieces of the AFF plan are in the transportation bill).

    Why is Villaraigosa wasting his time begging and pleading with Congress when he could be looking outside the country? Is there anything legally barring Los Angeles from engaging in exactly the same deal, i.e. China fronts us the money instead of the U.S.? It doesn’t seem like this would be terribly difficult. Same goes with HSR.

    Best,
    Jeremy

    • Hi Jeremy;

      That’s a very good question. I don’t know the answer off-hand. A couple of thoughts:

      1. Even though only some of AFF is in the current outlines for the bills, it’s still a good step in the right direction. It just wouldn’t provide enough dollars to accelerate plans in the way that Metro wants. As pessimistic as I am over the national budget situation, I actually am somewhat optimistic about this getting through Congress because it is, in part, about job and right now both sides of the aisle need a score on that front. (I’ll have a somewhat related post later today).

      2. Metro is looking at public-private partnerships as a way to help fund several projects. I don’t believe there is a constraint as to where the money comes from on the private side — so many of the big funds are multinational anyway I’m not sure it’s possible from a practical standpoint to limit where the money comes from. I do think the situation with lending directly from other countries is that they may not offer the kind of loan deal to make it worth anyone’s while.

      All that said, I’ll ask our govt affair staff about this and if it’s being done anywhere else.

      Thanks for reading and writing,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. Thanks for the response Steve. I am also heartened by the positive response to America Fast Forward. It will be good to hear the answer to whether there are any legal barriers to asking for the loan from, say, China. As far as other countries not offering the kind of loan deal to make it worth LA’s while, I don’t really see it being offered from the U.S. either. Might as well try.