Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 26

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.

America Fast Forward moves closer to becoming reality (L.A. Streetsblog)

Led by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a bipartisan group of Senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee has laid out some key tenants for the federal transportation bill that the committee is presently drafting. Of particular interest to Metro, the plan calls for a ten-fold expansion of the TIFIA loan program to $1 billion per year. The program would be renamed — wait for it — America Fast Forward and would help metro areas with local transportation taxes to leverage those funds. This is precisely what Metro hopes to do with its 30/10 Initiative. It needs to be said, however, that it is still relatively early in the legislative process and a lot could change. But it’s encouraging news nonetheless.

Facing up to end of ‘easy oil’ (Wall Street Journal)

As easy-to-access oil dries up, oil producing countries and oil companies are going to increasingly extreme lengths to extract oil. In Saudi Arabia, Chevron has won a contract to extract the country’s reserves of thick-as-molasses heavy oil using steam to make the oil less viscous. Chevron says that as long as the price of a barrel of oil stays above $60-70 — today it’s around $100 — they can make a profit, even with the more costly process. Interesting to note: The article makes no mention of the effects of burning oil on global climate change.

California’s high-speed rail won’t go nowhere (Miller-McCune)

While critics have derided the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s choice to begin construction in the Central Valley, writer Michael Scott Moore makes the case that it’s the perfect location to start. That stretch of track is comparatively “uncomplicated” compared to building HSR through urban communities and would bring construction jobs to counties that dearly need them. To support his argument, Moore looks to Germany’s experience in the early day of its HSR program and draws some interesting parallels. For instance, who knew that first tracks there were laid between Hamm and Gütersloh, combined population of 300,000 people?

U.S. rejects proposed changes to bullet-train project (Los Angeles Times)

On a related note, U.S. Department of Transportation officials have rebuffed a proposal suggested by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office to delay the start of construction and change the location of the first segment. According to Undersecretary Ray Kienitz, the $3 billion in federal funding for the project requires a 2012 groundbreaking and U.S. DOT lacks the administrative power to change that, only Congress could.