Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 30

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’s Interstate Highway System celebrates 55 years (USDOT Welcome to the Fast Lane blog)

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s blog has a nice write-up on the roughly 47,000-mile highway system that was signed into law by President Eisenhower 55 years ago yesterday. LaHood points out how much traffic the system carries — about 24 percent of the nation’s highway total — and how it did what it intended to do, which is link cities of 50,000 or more. Of course, much has also been written about some of the unintended consequences that the highway system introduced into urban areas. Top of the list would be paving the way to sprawling suburbs and building literal barriers between urban neighborhoods.

Congressman defies critics of Florida commuter rail project (New York Times)

Interesting article on Rep. John Mica’s support for a commuter rail project in Orlando that ranks at the bottom of the list for cost-effectiveness on the Federal Transit Administration’s list of projects in the final design phase. Low projected ridership is the problem due to the train not stopping at Disneyworld or the Orlando Airport, two big traffic generators.

But Mica defends this project, saying it’s $1.2-billion cost is cheaper than building a new freeway lane of similar length. Other critics point to the fact that the freight carrier CSX would enjoy numerous benefits on the public dime and that the railroad has long been a donor to Mica’s campaigns. It’s also worth noting that Mica, a Republican, chairs the House’s transportation committee and he has been very receptive to elements of the America Fast Forward plan to accelerate the construction of transit projects around the U.S.

California should take the lead on cutting emissions (Sacramento Bee)

This op-ed piece by two officials from the Safe Climate Campaign argues that California should impose stricter emission standards on vehicles for the years 2017 to 2025. The Obama Administration is set to announce those standards soon and the auto industry is trying to keep them very modest. The Safe Climate Campaign believes that California could influence that debate with stricter standards — or sit back and suffer lesser air quality under a weaker national standard. Smart piece. Wonky but important topic.