Posts tagged with "Department of Transportation":

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A Michigan facility is the nation’s epicenter for testing self-driving cars

The race is on to develop connected and automated vehicles (CAV) that are viable and affordable. The road to this goal is not a simple one, though. While Silicon Valley is working on the software side of the challenge, the U.S. government is looking back to the place where it all began: Michigan. Specifically, Willow Run in Ypsilanti Township.

Willow Run was a B-52 manufacturing plant during World War II. Today, the site is in the middle of a transition that will make it the epicenter of automated-vehicle research. Willow Run is now home to the American Center for Mobility (ACM), and it has been designated as the first national CAV proving grounds by the Department of Transportation.

At over 500 acres, the center includes a variety of environments designed to simulate real-world situations. These include a 2.5-mile highway loop, a 700-foot-long curved tunnel, two double overpasses, and multiple intersections and roundabouts. Matched with Michigan’s varied and sometimes extreme weather, the center provides everything needed to put new autonomous testing technologies through their paces.

The first task of the facility will be to help establish voluntary standards for CAVs, infrastructure, and autonomous technologies. Along with the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and SAE International, the center will work to identify the most immediately needed guidelines for safe automated transportation. The center is also working with the University of Michigan’s Mcity, a smaller research facility with its own proving ground. Mcity’s position within the greater university allows researchers access to the school’s engineers, public policy experts, and law, business, social sciences, and urban planning faculty.

As a public-private partnership, the center is also working with companies like Toyota and AT&T. Toyota, which already does automated research at Mcity, recently invested $5 million into the center. AT&T is providing a dedicated LTE cellular network needed for the communication side of the CAV equation.

“As we move forward with the development of autonomous cars, we must remember that not all test miles are created equal,” said Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute, at the announcement of the Toyota-ACM collaboration. “The road to creating a car as safe, or safer, than a human driver will require billions of test miles including simulation, real-world driving on public roads, and closed-course testing where we can expose our systems to extreme circumstances and conditions. The new ACM closed-course facility is a significant step forward in this journey and will accelerate our ability to help prevent crashes and save lives.”

According to the World Economic Forum, 10 percent of vehicles in the U.S. will be driverless by 2026. Before that can happen, new hardware and software will have to be developed to overcome issues of trust, cost, efficiency, and safety. The U.S. government is counting on Michigan’s automotive brain trust to solve these issues and move the country back into the lead position in the automotive industry.

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President Trump renews calls for $1 trillion infrastructure plan

Speaking at the U.S. Department of Transportation, President Donald Trump has iterated his eagerness to swiftly implement a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. "One of the biggest obstacles to creating this new and desperately-needed infrastructure—and that is the painfully slow, costly and time-consuming process for getting permits and approvals to build," he said at the department last week. Trump wants the speed up the approval process of improving highways are other U.S. infrastructure. According to the World Economic Forum's Competitiveness Report for 2015-2016, the U.S. ranks 11th globally for infrastructure, yet is third overall for economic competitiveness. The report also stated that the of "most problematic factors for doing business" in the U.S., inadequate supply of infrastructure was the source of 5.2 percent of the problems. Over the course of a decade, The White House proposes spending $200 billion of federal money as part of the trillion-dollar public-private partnership. The President also said how the White House is pressing on with "massive permit reform," forming a new council that will supposedly streamline and eliminate red tape when dealing with infrastructure projects. "This Council will also improve transparency by creating a new online dashboard allowing everyone to easily track major projects through every stage of the approval process," Trump said, as reported by Reuters. He continued, adding that any federal agency that "consistently delays projects by missing deadlines will face tough, new penalties. We will hold the bureaucracy accountable." Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is also reaching out the public for comment and advice for other changes the Trump administration can make to reduce delays in infrastructure approval. On that note, Trump, according to Reuters, cited the infrastructure of old and reminded everyone of his taste for Keynesian-style economics. It took "four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge and five years to build the Hoover Dam—but today it can take 10 years just to get the approvals and permits needed to build a major infrastructure project," he lambasted. The President, meanwhile, displayed his distaste for the "16 different approvals involving ten different federal agencies being governed by 26 different statutes," needed when applying for infrastructure permits.
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Columbus wins $50 million “Smart City” competition

Columbus, Ohio has been named the winner of the Department of Transportation’s $50 million “Smart City” grant. Columbus was up against San Francisco, Portland, Austin, Pittsburgh, and Denver for the prize. Each city was asked to demonstrate how new technologies can improve urban transportation. Columbus’s application was based on improving access to jobs for low-income residents with shared cars and autonomous buses. The proposal included multimodal phone apps, electric vehicle charging stations, self-driving buses, and $90 million in pledges from Columbus companies. The city will enact its plans over the next four years, and a non-profit board will oversee the allocation of funds https://youtu.be/mdkTlBtbYpcv Columbus plans to focus much of its prize money on the Linden neighborhood, an underserved part of the city. Linden has the worst access to jobs, medical services, and transit in all of Columbus. By providing new technologies and integrating other existing services, such as Uber and car sharing, the city hopes to increase resident’s access to amenities. The original $40 million DOT grant was increased by $10 million from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. Other cities have stated that they intend to continue to move forward with the plans they used to apply the grant. For instance, Kansas City is hoping to continue the public private partnerships developed during the competition. The DOT has also hinted at consolation prizes for the five other cities, but has not release details.
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Nashville plans elevated greenway above Interstate 440

Nashville, Tennessee is planning a 7-mile elevated pedestrian and bicycle greenway. The $40.2 million dollar project would run along Interstate 440. Located in the state-owned right of way, the greenway would link area parks and possibly link to another new greenway near the Fairgrounds Nashville. The exact design and location of the greenway has yet to be determined. Early imagery of the project shows it immediately alongside and rising above the interstate. To fund the project, Metro Nashville has applied for a $30 million grant from the Federal government. The grant would come from the Department of Transportation’s Tiger Grant program which is expected to release $500 million for similar projects this year. Tiger Grants are specifically designated for alternative transportation infrastructure. Nashville already has over 80 miles of greenway bike and pedestrian paths. Most of these are located along waterways and natural areas. This new path, integrated into the freeway system, would be decidedly different given its location next to an interstate.  
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21 Winners Chosen for Federal Transit-Oriented Development Planning Grants

Twenty one planning projects have been awarded over $19 million between them by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in a bid to boost transportation infrastructure funding. According to the two federal agencies, "public transportation doesn’t just move people; it moves communities." A post on the DOT website goes on to say: "And we believe that when communities invest in new transit options, they can connect their citizens to jobs, education and opportunity. However, creating that connection to opportunity doesn't happen by accident. It takes planning." The aim of the project is to "help communities plan for housing, jobs and services centered around transit lines" which will hopefully enable cities to grow economically with transport links connecting workers and tourists. "Our goal at FTA is to help these and other communities make the most of their investment in new transit services and harness greater benefits for residents." As America's population looks set to grow by a quarter in the next three decades, there will be greater demand for travel options between "home and work, school, the doctor, shopping, and recreation–all while maintaining a good quality of life." Here are examples of other projects selected:
  • The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh will receive $1.2 million to encourage transit-oriented development along a corridor connecting downtown Pittsburgh to neighborhoods on the east side of the city. The redevelopment authority, along with the Port Authority of Allegheny County and local partners, has begun initial planning and environmental review of a bus rapid transit project proposed for the corridor.
  • The Sacramento Area Council of Governments will receive approximately $1.1 million to work with local partners to develop a toolkit of policy and regulatory changes to encourage transit-oriented development in the areas surrounding the planned Downtown Riverfront Streetcar project.
  • GoTriangle (formerly Triangle Transit) in Durham, NC, will receive approximately $1.7 million to support efforts to implement transit-oriented development along the Durham-Orange Light Rail project, a light rail line the agency is developing between Durham and Chapel Hill.
A  complete list of the winners and their grants is available on the FTA website.
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New round of TIGER Grants goes out to cities and states

The federal Department of Transportation has issued its latest round of its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants for cities and states around the country. The grant program was created in 2009 through President Obama’s economic stimulus package and has since provided $3.5 billion to 270 projects. While the DOT has not officially announced the recipients of these new grants, which total $600 million, multiple politicians have been touting the money heading to their districts. Here are some of the projects we know about so far. In New York, Senator Chuck Schumer and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the New York City Department of Transportation will receive $25 million for its Vision Zero agenda to reduce pedestrian fatalities. According to the city, the money will fund 13 projects aimed at traffic calming, safety improvements in school zones, new public spaces, and “pedestrian and bike connections to employment centers.” Specifically, the money will be used to extend the Brooklyn Greenway and make 4th Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn safer to pedestrians. In Philadelphia, $2.5 million has been awarded to support the city’s effort to create a bus rapid transit system along Roosevelt Boulevard. “Planned developments on Roosevelt Boulevard include modifications to provide safe pedestrian crossings, transit access, and effective separation of express traffic from local traffic accessing neighborhood destinations,” Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey said in a statement. In Virginia, U.S. Senator Mark Warner announced that nearly $25 million has been allocated for a bus rapid transit system in the city of Richmond. The Times Dispatch reported that for this project to happen, the federal money must be matched with about $17 million from the Department of Rail and Public Transportation and another $8 million from Henrico County and the City of Richmond. In St. Louis, $10 million will go towards a new Metrolink station in the city’s emerging Cortex innovation district. The funding will cover almost all of the $13 million project which is expected to be complete in 2017. On the other side of the state, in Kansas City, $1.2 million has been awarded for the Mid-America Regional Council’s Workforce Connex planning to study to better connect the city’s workers with public transit.
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Obama Selects Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx As Next DOT Secretary

White House officials revealed on Sunday that Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Anthony Foxx will be named President Barack Obama’s next Secretary of the Department of Transportation, replacing outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood. The Charlotte Observer reported that Foxx rose to prominence last year when his city hosted the Democratic National Convention, and has garnered continued attention for his efforts to tackle Charlotte’s transportation challenges, from expanding the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, to extending the city’s light-rail system, and brining street cars to the city-center. The 42-year old Mayor was first elected in 2009, then re-elected in 2011 with 70 percent of the vote. Earlier this month Foxx announced that he would be leaving office at the end of the year to spend more time with his family, though now it appears those plans have changed. If his nomination is confirmed, Foxx will assume his position July 4th.
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Boulevard 41 Could Provide Pedestrian-Friendly Connection Between Broadway and Bryant Park

In New York these days, pedestrian plazas keep sprouting up in different pockets around Midtown Manhattan, an area known more for its heavily trafficked avenues and streets than its pedestrian-friendly corridors. And now, The New York Times reported that business owners along West 41st Street are pushing for their block, stretching from Broadway to Bryant Park, to be transformed into a tree-lined plaza, dotted with tables and seats. The street will stay open to traffic, but parking would be eliminated to make room for the promenade connecting Bryant Park with Snøhetta's now-under-construction revamp of the Times Square pedestrian plaza. Wally Rubin, District Manager of Community Board 5, told AN that the transportation and environment committee voted last Thursday to recommend approval of the plan, dubbed “Boulevard 41,” which will then go in front of the full board for a final vote on April 11th. If the Department of Transportation then green lights the proposal, the plaza could open as soon as this summer.
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Report: NTSB Chair Front Runner For Next Secretary of Transportation

usdot_logo_01 With Ray LaHood out as President Obama's Secretary of Transportation, observers have been speculating on who might take the nation's top transportation post. According to The Hill blog, the latest front-runner is standing National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Deborah Hersman, replacing LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has said he wants to focus on his remaining time in office. Hersman has said she is not interested in the job, and according to the Hill, the NTSB responded in a statement, "Chairman Hersman’s full attention is focused on the important work of running the NTSB."  [Via Planetizen.]