Small increases in rainfall could cause big problems for road networks

There is a lot we still don’t know about how climate change will affect transportation networks and how to make infrastructure more resilient, but new research sheds some light on these questions. A model developed to study the impacts of floods on road networks indicates that even small, localized increases in rainfall could cause widespread disruptions and road outages.

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.

Transferring ownership: Some states look to reduce their roadway inventory

State DOTs looking for ways to decrease spending for the short and long term are giving serious consideration to transferring ownership of state-owned roads to the local governments through which these roads run. This would also give cities more flexibility in design, but mechanisms for executing these transfers, cost sharing agreements, and financial plans must be worked out.

High demand creates challenges for rail service in Washington state

Increased coal shipments to Washington State ports could significantly intensify congestion on both roads and rail lines. Two recent reports by Parametrix and the Sightline Institute discuss the impacts of increased shipments of fossil fuels (particularly coal) from Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota to ports in the Pacific Northwest.

Glass roads?

“There’s 25,000 square miles of road surfaces, parking lots and driveways in the lower 48 states. If we covered that with solar panels with just 15 percent efficiency, we’d produce three times more electricity than …