Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Feb. 1

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 Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

House GOP transportation bill at odds with Boxer’s (San Francisco Chronicle)

And let the fun begin — as Congress again attempts to pass a multiyear spending bill for the first time since 2005. A bill should have been passed in 2009 but politics has gotten in the way. Excerpt:

The House bill, by contrast, sets the stage for gridlock on multiple levels, including proposals to expand oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, increase the length and weight of trucks allowed on U.S. highways, and give Congress authority to approve construction of the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

California Sen. Boxer helped write the Senate version of the bill, which is only for two years and $109 billion and steers clear of some of the most controversial elements such as drilling in ANWR and the Keystone pipeline. The House Republican’s bill would also open up the California coats for drilling and kill some pedestrian and cycling programs.

This is a process worth watching as Metro is hoping that the final bill includes at least some of the agency’s proposed America Fast Forward program that would use federal loans and financing to help accelerate the building of transportation projects.

If — emphasis on ‘if’ — the multiyear federal transportation spending bills make it through the Congressional gauntlet without earmarks, there still are ways to steer dollars to California. The last bill in 2005 had 6,371 earmarks, including hundreds that directed more than $2 billion to the Golden State. This time around, funding formulas and other language could give California projects a leg up in competitions for federal dollars.

New online tool puts transportation facts and figures at your fingertips (Primary Resources)

Good post at the Metro Library’s blog about a new federal online tool from the U.S. Department of Transportation that allows users to easily compare state statistics on transportation — everything from safety to infrastructure and more. Only one issue: you have to have Microsoft Silverlight to use it. Hmm.