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Financing U.S. Transportation Infrastructure in the 21st Century

May 27, 2015 Comments off

Financing U.S. Transportation Infrastructure in the 21st Century
Source: Brookings Institution

The nation’s transportation infrastructure, it is widely agreed, is eroding and in need of investment. Most policymakers recognize the merits of investing in the system, such as gains in productivity, global competitiveness, and job creation. Low public borrowing rates have also created an attractive climate for increased public investment. However, government leaders have failed to agree on which investments to make and how to pay for them. In order to break this logjam, this paper proposes two tracks of solutions, some of which can be implemented quickly, and others can be executed over the longer term. In the short term, we propose improvement and expansion of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act lending program, reauthorization of Build America Bonds, better utilization of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and reform of the federal gas tax. Over the longer term, we recommend investing in research to improve user fee technology and using federal incentives to encourage states to adopt standardized and innovative user fee technology, fostering cooperation in pooled procurement among states and municipalities, and developing and implementing a broad national strategy to guide infrastructure investment in the United States.

Release: Urban sprawl costs US economy more than $1 trillion per year

May 5, 2015 Comments off

Release: Urban sprawl costs US economy more than $1 trillion per year
Source: Global Commission on the Economy and Climate/Victoria Transport Policy Institute

Urban sprawl costs the American economy more than US$1 trillion annually, according to a new study by the New Climate Economy. These costs include greater spending on infrastructure, public service delivery and transportation. The study finds that Americans living in sprawled communities directly bear an astounding $625 billion in extra costs. In addition, all residents and businesses, regardless of where they are located, bear an extra $400 billion in external costs. Correcting this problem provides an opportunity to increase economic productivity, improve public health and protect the environment. The report identifies specific smarter growth policies that can lead to healthier, safer and wealthier communities in both developed and developing countries.

The Status of the Highway Trust Fund and the Budgetary Treatment of Federal Financing Instruments

May 1, 2015 Comments off

The Status of the Highway Trust Fund and the Budgetary Treatment of Federal Financing Instruments
Source: Congressional Budget Office

Presentation by Sarah Puro, an analyst in CBO’s Budget Analysis Division, to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association.

NIST Releases Draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Public Review

April 27, 2015 Comments off

NIST Releases Draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Public Review
Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today issued a draft guide to help communities plan for and act to keep windstorms, floods, earthquakes, sea-level rise, industrial mishaps and other hazards from inflicting disastrous consequences.

NIST is requesting public feedback on the draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure, which Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May unveiled during a workshop at Texas Southern University in Houston today.

The official first version of the guide will be released this fall and updated periodically as new building standards and research results become available and as communities gain experience using the guide and recommend improvements.

CRS — Water Resource Issues in the 114th Congress (February 11, 2015)

April 22, 2015 Comments off

Water Resource Issues in the 114th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The 114th Congress faces many water resource development, management, and protection issues. Congressional actions shape reinvestment in aging federal infrastructure (e.g., dams, locks, and levees) and federal and nonfederal investment in new infrastructure, such as water supply augmentation, hydropower projects, navigation improvements, and efforts to restore aquatic ecosystems. These issues often arise at the regional or local levels but frequently have a federal connection. Ongoing issues include competition over water, drought and flood responses and policies, competitiveness and efficiency of U.S. harbors and waterways, and innovative and alternative financing approaches. The 114th Congress also may continue oversight of operations of federal infrastructure during drought and low-flow conditions, past large-scale flooding issues (e.g., Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, Missouri and Mississippi River floods), and balancing hydropower generation, recreational use, and protection of threatened and endangered species. In addition to oversight, each Congress also provides appropriations for major federal water resource agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation).

CRS — Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments (April 1, 2015)

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada and shale oil produced in North Dakota and Montana to a market hub in Nebraska for further delivery to Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline would consist of 875 miles of 36-inch pipe with the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels per day. Because it would cross the Canadian-U.S. border, Keystone XL requires a Presidential Permit from the State Department based on a determination that the pipeline would “serve the national interest.” To make its national interest determination (NID), the department considers potential effects on energy security; environmental and cultural resources; the economy; foreign policy, and other factors. Effects on environmental and cultural resources are determined by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NID process also provides for public comment and requires the State Department to consult with specific federal agencies.

Quadrennial Energy Review

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Quadrennial Energy Review
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

On January 9, 2014, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the administration to conduct a Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). As described in the President’s Climate Action Plan,this first-ever review focuses on energy infrastructure and identifies the threats, risks, and opportunities for U.S. energy and climate security, enabling the federal government to translate policy goals into a set of integrated actions.

The United States has one of the most advanced energy systems in the world, supplying the reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean power and fuels that underpin every facet of the Nation’s economy and way of life. The energy transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure — defined here as the infrastructure that links energy supplies, energy carriers, or energy by-products to intermediate and end users — is large, complex, and interdependent. It includes approximately 2.6 million miles of interstate and intrastate pipelines; 414 natural gas storage facilities; 330 ports handling crude petroleum and refined petroleum products; and more than 140,000 miles of railways that handle crude petroleum, refined petroleum products, LNG and coal. The electrical component of the Nation’s TS&D infrastructure links more than 19,000 individual generators with a capacity of a megawatt or more (sited at over 7,000 operational power plants), with over 642,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and 6.3 million miles of distribution lines

The first installment of the QER examines how to modernize our nation’s energy infrastructure to promote economic competitiveness, energy security and environmental responsibility, and is focused on energy transmission, storage, and distribution (TS&D), the networks of pipelines, wires, storage, waterways, railroads, and other facilities that form the backbone of our energy system. The QER seeks to identify vulnerabilities in the system and proposes major policy recommendations and investments to replace, expand, and modernize infrastructure where appropriate.

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