Transportation Briefs

 Transportation Round-Up Compiled by GPPF Vice President Benita Dodd

Misguided, misinformed and missing: Committee meetings are almost ways more interesting than full board meetings, if you’re willing to sit and sift through the banter. Last week’s State Transportation Board committee meetings are case in point.

– In a Legislative Committee discussion about pending metal theft legislation, it was revealed that the state Department of Transportation has had $30,000 worth of steel grates stolen, as well as 20,000 feet of wire – the kind used in wiring traffic lights, for example.
– Then came a discussion about privatizing the state’s aviation services and the four King Air 90 aircraft the Georgia Aviation Authority currently uses for passenger flights. The Governor’s budget recommendation would eliminate 21 positions and the funds would be redirected to a charter contract managed by a newly structured Georgia Aviation Authority. Representatives of state aviation defended their existence: “We’re not here to make money,” promised a spokesman. “The charter guys are out to make money,” adding, “You’ll never find a more experienced crew.” Unlike most Georgians (who consider cost), one State Transportation Board member commented: “I don’t want to fly with someone just because they’ve got the best price. I think these guys need to convince them (the Legislature) we need them.” Missing: private air company representatives to counter the arguments. Cost-benefit analysis will tell.
– The Legislative Committee also discussed whether to participate in a federal pilot project allowing heavier trucks with six axles and 97,000-lb gross weight onto Georgia roads. One opposing board member commented that, “Eighty percent of accidents are caused by trucks … It’s a safety issue.” Missing: trucking industry representatives to correct the misinformation. In fact, about 92 percent of all fatal crashes do not involve commercial trucks; about 4.5 percent of all fatal crashes involve a truck but the crash was not caused by the truck or driver and about 3.5 percent of fatal crashes are blamed on the truck or driver. In other words, trucks represent about 7 percent of the vehicles on the road yet cause the wreck less than half the time. Unfortunately, the odds are against passenger vehicles in wrecks that do involve a truck. (Thanks to Ed Crowell of Georgia Motor Trucking Association providing the federal statistics on crashes.)

HOT lanes research: It was too early to include Georgia’s new I-85 High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes in the Government Accountability Office’s report released last week, but the 60-page report offered some interesting results from HOT lane projects around the nation. Though lukewarm in general, specifics were promising. It noted that, “The 14 congestion pricing projects that have current and complete evaluations generally show that pricing can help reduce congestion, although other results are mixed, and not all possible relevant impacts have been assessed.” The report warned about equity concerns that need to be examined, income equity and geographical equity among them. It notes that since the first U.S. congestion pricing project opened in 1995, 19 project sponsors have 41 pricing projects in operation or under construction. About 400 miles of priced highway lanes including nearly 150 miles on the New Jersey Turnpike are in operation today with current tolls varying from 25 cents to $14.
Among the findings:
Passenger throughput on I-95 in Miami increased 42 percent between 2008 and 2010 on the HOT lanes, a result the evaluation attributed to an increase in toll-paying solo drivers, transit ridership and the addition of two HOT lanes.
– A survey of Seattle residents found public support for tolling the SR 520 bridge grew substantially if a portion of the toll revenue was dedicated to transit, even if tolls had to be significantly higher to pay for transit service.
– A 2000 evaluation of the SR 91 project in Orange County, Calif., estimated that vehicle throughput increased 21 percent on the entire roadway.
– Evaluations for SR 91 in Orange County, I-394 in Minneapolis, SR 167 in Seattle and I-15 in San Diego found that drivers liked having the option of using the HOT lanes and thus were supportive of them.
Read more here:

Quote of Note
(via Bob Poole of the Reason Foundation): “Taking rail capacity from freight to provide rail capacity for passengers is not the answer to America’s urban congestion problems, as it will only shift thousands of trucks onto the highways.” – James Young, CEO, Union Pacific Railroad, quoted in Mark Szakonyi’s, “Freight Carriers Seek to Derail Amtrak Fines,” Journal of Commerce, Sept. 5, 2011.