Wednesday, July 16, 2014
US House Passes Short-Term Transportation Bill
The US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted 367 to 55 on a short-term extension of federal highway funding that is set to run out at the end of the month. The Republican-backed measure keeps transportation projects running through May 31, 2015 without tackling any of the controversial policy issues, such as how to deal with tolling and taxing, that have tied up consideration of a multi-year funding plan. At a speech in McLean, Virginia on Tuesday, President Obama said he would sign the House bill, but he pressured Congress to adopt his "Grow America" initiative that imposes tolls and raises taxes to increase spending on transit projects (view details). "The good news is there are bipartisan bills in both the House and the Senate that would help with a short-term fix," Obama said. "And I support that. At the very least, Congress should be keeping people on the job who are already there right now. But all this does is set us up for the same crisis a few months from now." House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) rejected the idea that the House is avoiding the policy issues advocated by the White House. "If the president has a plan for a longer term highway bill, he ought to get the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass it and then we'll take a look at it," Boehner said at his Tuesday press conference. "Until then, giving speeches about a long-term highway bill is frankly just more rhetoric. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan), author of the House measure, says the House and Senate just cannot agree on taxes right now. "A long-term solution would be my preference, and an important feature of my tax reform discussion draft would provide enough revenue to maintain the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund for eight years," Camp said Tuesday. "In the meantime, I hope all members of Congress can work on a longer-term solution by the end of May next year. This will not be an easy task, so it is important that Congress has time to have a deliberative, open debate about bipartisan solutions rather than trying to hit Americans, who are already paying more for gas, with a gas tax hike." The conservative Heritage Foundation wants more reform than House Republicans have put on the table. In particular, the organization wants to start by shutting down the $819 million Transportation Alternatives Program that pays for trails, bicycle paths and landscaping instead of maintenance and infrastructure building. Heritage is also calling for an end to the process of sending gas tax dollars from the states to Washington and then back to the states -- with strings attached. "The states know their transportation priorities better than Washington does," Heritage analyst Emily J. Goff argues in a highway funding issue brief. "Congress should take the cue, start stepping aside in certain areas, and let the states assume more control."
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Florida To Ticket Drivers Who Do Not Crawl Past Garbage Trucks
Florida drivers who fail to slam on the brakes to drive past a garbage truck or the cable guy at 5 MPH will receive a $154 ticket and three points under new rules that took effect July 1. The legislature expanded the state's "Move Over" statute which the Florida Highway Patrol used to generate $1.3 million in revenue last year. Previous version of the law only applied to emergency vehicles such as police cars, fire trucks and ambulances with their lights flashing. The new law applies to vehicles that do not necessarily have flashing lights, including sanitation vehicles and "a utility service vehicle [that] is performing a task related to the provision of utility services on the roadside." Drivers who come upon a dump truck or utility vehicle must first determine whether it is simply parked, or performing some function on the side of the road. If that vehicle "bears an emblem that is visible from the roadway and clearly identifies that the vehicle belongs to or is under contract with a person, entity, cooperative, board, commission, district, or unit of local government that provides electric, natural gas, water, wastewater, cable, telephone, garbage, refuse, recycling or communications services," then the driver must make an immediate lane change away from the vehicle on a multi-lane road. If the nearby lane is occupied, or it is a two-lane road, the driver must hit the brakes and scrub off 20 MPH of speed before passing the vehicle. On most neighborhood roads, this means crawling past at no more than 5 MPH, the pace of a brisk walk. Troopers have been taking advantage of motorist confusion over the law by setting up sting operations, pulling motorists over onto the shoulder for the purpose of issuing "move over" tickets that put motorists on the side of the road at risk, as there is no requirement to slow down for ordinary passenger vehicles. According to Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles statistics, 6809 crashes were caused by improper lane changing or failure to maintain one's lane in 2012. Lane departures were seven times more likely to be the primary cause an accident than exceeding the posted speed limit.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Missouri Puts Transportation Funding Measure On Ballot
Voters in the Show Me State will be asked next month whether they support a $5 billion sales tax hike to pay for the Missouri Department of Transportation's wish list of spending priorities, including road maintenance as well as a long list of projects unrelated to driving. The funding language will be added to the state constitution if a simple majority of voters approve it on the August 5 primary election ballot. The proposal would raise the state's sales tax by 0.75 percent for the next ten years, mandating that the funds be spent only on transportation. Although the ballot language highlights the money going to "state and local highways, bridges and transportation projects" it does not clearly point out that the list of priorities includes nature trails, trolleys, bus terminals, bicycle lanes and airports. If it passes, the tax would automatically appear again on the ballot for reauthorization by a majority vote in the year 2024 and every ten years thereafter. According to the state funding priority list, the majority of funds would go toward resurfacing and repairing bridges and roads, but very little extra capacity would be added to the road network. In the central region, for instance, Jefferson City would add lanes to Route 53 for $17 million. Route 50 would receive new lanes from California to Tipton at a cost of $91 million. Route 63 would see extra lanes in Rolla for $11 million. In the central region, every transit project would receive $5.4 million to expand service hours. On top of this, Boone County would receive $10.5 million will add two hours to bus service hours. At a cost of $8 million, Jefferson City will get four more bus hours, and the Amtrak station will get $5 million for renovations. Another $5 million would improve Amtrak rail service in Osage. Kansas City would spend $124 million on streetcars, and $24 million on bicycle paths, and $35 million for other bicycle projects. Buses would receive $85 million. St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay (D) praised the tax hike plan precisely because it would lavish millions on his city's non-motoring priorities. "For the first time ever, the state would support major funding not just for highways and bridges but also for special transportation needs and opportunities in cities like ours," Slay wrote. If the measure is approved, toll roads would be banned from Missouri for ten years or more. "The state highways and transportation commission shall not authorize, own or operate a toll highway or toll bridge on a state highway or bridge while the sales and use tax authorized by this section is in effect," Proposition 7 states. "A county or municipality shall not authorize, own or operate a toll highway or toll bridge on any highway or bridge under its jurisdiction while the sales and use tax authorized by this section is in effect." A copy of the ballot measure is available in a 1.8mb PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Proposition 7 (State of Missouri, 7/13/2014)
Sunday, July 13, 2014
France, UAE: Speed Cameras Painted and burned.
In Condezaygues, France, vigilantes disabled a speed camera on Tuesday. According to Sud Ouest, the camera lens was covered with green spraypaint marking the third time it has been disabled this year. On Monday, a speed camera in Canapville was covered in white and black spraypaint, and a giant peace symbol was painted on the side, Le Pays d'Auge reported. Fire was the tool used in Daoulas on Monday at around 1am in destroying the speed camera on the RN165, Le Telegramme reported. According to The National, a 24-year-old man set fire to a speed camera in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. Police arrived quickly at Khalifa bin Zayed Road in Fujairah and were able to catch a suspect near the scene.
Friday, July 11, 2014
Ohio Lawsuit Accuses Speed Camera Company Of Exploitation
A former candidate for city council in East Cleveland, Ohio is suing speed camera vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for $5 million. Vidah Saeed filed suit in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas last month accusing the Arizona-based firm of depriving her of her constitutional rights. "The defendant American Traffic Solutions Inc's street cameras have deprived me of my pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the following ways," Saeed wrote. "I'm in fear of a man-made device capturing my image falsely, creating unnecessary mental and emotional distress that can contribute to paranoia or wandering thoughts... I don't feel that I, my family, and the community in which I chose to live are treated equally and fairly as citizens of the United States as not all areas have the street light cameras." ATS issued Saeed a ticket demanding that she pay $100 after her car was photographed at the intersection of Hayden Avenue and Mayfair Avenue where she says there are two different speed limits just before and after the camera location, creating a speed trap. "Defendant American Traffic Solutions Inc seems to be engaging in a discriminatory practice," Saeed argued. "The practice of placing these cameras in strategic poor communities such as East Cleveland to potentially drain them of their own resources is a discriminatory practice." Saeed argued the cameras bring ridicule on her city, scare away business, diminish property values and make it a less safe place to live by taking jobs away from police officers. A number of court challenges to speed cameras in Ohio are on hold pending the resolution of cases before the state Supreme Court. A class action suit against Garfield Heights was formally placed on hold last month pending a decision on the class action lawsuit Lycan v. Cleveland (view appellate case), which seeks refunds for tickets issued in a program that has already been ruled unlawful. In oral arguments last month, several justices were openly skeptical of claims made by the city of Toledo and by Redflex regarding the legality of the ticketing operation.