Who pays for roads? Users, but only partly

Subsidies are common across transportation modes, but it’s useful to have the numbers. A recent report by the Tax Foundations, updated data on the portion of roads paid for by travelers and shippers—fuel tax, tolls, and other user fees—by state. The figures range from 12 percent in Alaska to 76 percent in Hawaii, based on fiscal 2014 figures. The report does not give a national figure, but a previous version estimated user fees cover just 50 percent of road costs.

High-speed rail pushes on without federal funding

Xpress West, the high-speed rail developer that had been seeking federal loans and private investors to support its plan to build a high-speed rail line from Southern California to Las Vegas, has formed a partnership with China Railway International USA to move the project forward. China Railway International will provide $100 million initially and officials say construction could begin in fall 2016. A proposed extension via the High Desert Corridor, linking Xpress West’s Victorville station with Palmdale, 60 miles to the west, will connect the Xpress West line to Las Vegas with the existing Metrolink commuter rail service, as well as the California High Speed Rail system.

FHWA: We are not a barrier to safer, slower, innovative road design

On August 20 the Federal Highway Administration posted a new page on its website. The title, Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding, Design, and Environmental Review: Addressing Common Misconceptions, belies the importance of the clarifications FHWA is trying to make. The page addresses more than bicycle and pedestrian matters. It points out that federal funding or rules do not prohibit good road design for all modes, even if it varies from the standards used for decades.

California transportation secretary advocates for life-cycle approach

California’s longstanding principle of relying on locally generated funds and suballocated state fuel taxes to improve the state highway system poses a principal-agent problem: Local funders have every incentive to fund expansions while leaving costly owner-operator responsibilities, including eventual reconstruction, to an increasingly cash-strapped state DOT. This month Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly published an op-ed urging a life-cycle approach that prioritizes system preservation.

UC/UCLA report: Changes needed to align transportation spending and policy goals

A new report outlines steps that federal, state, and local decision makers can take to bring California’s transportation spending in line with its environmental and energy goals. The paper came out of a one-day session that involved leaders from business, academic, and policy sectors, including high-level staff from the California DOT (Caltrans) and the California State Transportation Agency.

Should bike sharing be self-supporting?

Are bike sharing programs part of the city transportation system, or are they businesses disconnected from city services? That seems to be the question raised most recently in response to the financial problems of New York City’s Citibike, the largest and most prominent bike sharing system in North America.

Should bike sharing be self-supporting?

Are bike sharing programs part of the city transportation system, or are they businesses disconnected from city services? That seems to be the question raised most recently in response to the financial problems of New York City’s Citibike, the largest and most prominent bike sharing system in North America.

Shifting the transit-funding paradigm: Transit finance grows up

Development of creative financing and new revenue sources for transportation projects remains a hot topic in transportation circles. Public-private partnerships exist in highway transportation, often using tolls as the revenue source to attract private investment. Transit P3s, however, remain behind the curve in development of policies and best practices. A P3 proposed for the Purple Line light rail in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, illustrates new opportunities for funding a major capital transit investment with a combination of public and private funding.

PennDOT begins posting bridge weight limits in light of failure of transportation funding

In late June, as the Pennsylvania legislature debated whether or not to raise the wholesale gas tax, PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch warned that he would likely have to place weight restrictions on bridges across the state in order to extend their useful life if additional funding was not allocated. Some may have thought this was just a bargaining point, but now 1,000 bridges across the state have been posted with reduced weight limits.