Category Archive: Transportation
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I’m Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I’m Robert Siegel. Seaports up and down the Atlantic Coast are engaged in a race. In 2014, when expansion of the Panama Canal is complete, a new generation of super large cargo ships will begin calling on the East Coast. Miami, Savannah, New York and other cities are vying for the new business and the race is to deepen their ports and expand their facilities to accommodate these new ships.
But as NPR’s Greg Allen reports from Miami, some of the cities are running into significant challenges.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: In Miami, dredging is a hot topic. Plans are underway to deepen the port to 50 feet. Some see it as a great business opportunity. To others, it’s a threat to the environment. The CEO of Miami’s port, Bill Johnson, is one of those who’s excited.
BILL JOHNSON: We are the only port south of Norfolk, Virginia, the only port south of Virginia that has full approval from the U.S. Congress to go to that depth. It is the game changer.
ALLEN: After 2014 when expansion of the Panama Canal is complete, ports on the gulf and the East Coast will see more so-called post-Panamax vessels: ships that carry two or three times the load of standard freighters. Miami expects to be ready if it gets the green light to begin dredging its port, but it recently hit a snag.
Environmental groups concerned about how the dredging would affect Biscayne Bay filed a petition with state regulators that, for now, has put the project on hold.
DAN KIPNIS: We’re going to lose the bait. We won’t survive it.
ALLEN: Dan Kipnis is a former charter boat captain, now an environmental activist who’s long worked on Biscayne Bay. He grew up here on nearby Palm Island and was active in efforts in the ’70s and ’80s to restore the health of the bay. Today, the water is cleaner than in decades past and the bay is a busy place.
Along with the cargo ships, it’s one of the world’s busiest ports for cruise ships. There are also sail boats, kayaks and jet skis and Kipnis says excellent fishing.
KIPNIS: I will catch you groupers that weigh 12 pounds and hog snappers and Spanish mackerel and it’s just amazing the amount of life we’ve got here, forgetting crabs and shrimp and all that.
ALLEN: Kipnis has joined with Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper and the Tropical Audubon Society in asking Florida to make sure the port dredging project won’t damage the bay.
In most ports, dredging means digging and pumping mud, sand and other material from the bottom of a river or a bay, but in Miami, the bottom of Biscayne Bay isn’t mud, but limestone. To make the shipping channel wider and deeper, the Army Corps of Engineers wants to conduct nearly two years of underwater blasting.
Kipnis is worried about the amount of sediment the dredging will put into the bay’s crystal clear water.
KIPNIS: If you lift all the silt up year in and year out for two years and get it in suspension, you’re going to kill the grass beds. When you kill the grass beds, there’s no filtration. There’s nothing to hold the sediment that’s there down any more.
JOHNSON: So we’re not about killing manatees. We’re not about polluting the bay. We’re about doing things that are right and working to ensure that it’s done right.
ALLEN: At a recent port presentation, CEO Bill Johnson said he’s willing to work with environmental groups and make sure the dredging is done in a way that addresses their concerns.
Miami is not the only city where port dredging plans are controversial. In Georgia, a plan to dredge Savannah’s port has riled up both environmentalists and politicians. Environmental groups are concerned about some of the same sediment issues raised in Miami.
Regulators in South Carolina, just across the Savannah River, at first moved to block the dredging, but then South Carolina governor Nikki Haley intervened. In part because of her help, Georgia was able to negotiate a deal with South Carolina regulators that allows the dredging to go forward, but some in the state felt that Haley was unfairly helping the competition.
South Carolina is working to expand Charleston and its other ports to accommodate the new post-Panamax ships. At a news conference, Haley said there will be enough business for ports in both states.
GOVERNOR NIKKI HALEY: Those Panamax ships are coming through Charleston and it is going to be so vibrant and so strong that the overflow is going to go to Jasper and Jasper is going to be a great port. Without question, the ports are the best thing we’ve got going. It’s an opportunity waiting to happen.
ALLEN: That’s the message you can hear in New Orleans, Baltimore and other ports along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. So far, only one port, Norfolk, is deep enough to accommodate the new super large ships.
By 2014, a handful of other cities hope to be ready, but there’s a lot of work to be done before then. In New York, the port is deep enough, but there’s another problem. It’s the Bayonne Bridge, which is currently too low to allow the new container-laden ships to pass. To fix that, the Port Authority is planning to raise the bridge by 64 feet, a job that will take more than $1 billion and five years to complete.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
In case you missed it from the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization E-Newsletter…
The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) is seeking the participation of commuters travelling to/from all military installations in Hampton Roads in a transportation survey.
The HRTPO is collecting information about the commuting experience of military personnel (active-duty, civilians, contractors, reservists and others) travelling to/from the region’s military bases. The survey was developed by the HRTPO, in concert with the Commands from the region’s military installations and various transportation stakeholders. It is designed to identify and determine the challenges local military personnel and military-related commuters routinely face during their daily commutes.
The survey can be found on the homepage of the HRTPO’s website (http://www.hrtpo.org) and takes about 5-10 minutes to complete, depending upon web connection speeds. Click on the HRTPO Military Commuter Survey button below, or visit, http://www.hrtpo.org/MilitaryCommuterSurvey.asp
Survey collection is currently underway and will be open to military commuters from November 8, 2011 until February 20, 2012. The survey results will be summarized and passed on to the HRTPO board, local transit agencies, local governments, VDOT, and other decision-makers in an effort to improve military travel in our region.
Join the Hampton Roads Global Commerce Council (HRGCC) and special guest speaker Joe Dorto, President and CEO of Virginia International Terminals, for the Annual State of the Port Address.
WHERE: Town Point Club, World Trade Center (101 W. Main Street, 3rd floor), Norfolk, VA
WHEN: Wednesday, January 18, 2012; 11:30 a.m. registration, 12:00 p.m. luncheon
NOTE: Online registration is not available because of the limited number of seats remaining available — please email email@example.com to reserve seats now.
The Hampton Roads Global Commerce Council (HRGCC), previously known as the Hampton Roads Foreign Commerce Club, is a non-profit organization founded in Hampton Roads in the early 1950s by local business leaders who were engaged in international commerce.
HRGCC is dedicated to promoting the international commerce of the United States in general, and that of the port of Hampton Roads in particular. The Council’s primary mission is to bring together and serve the industries in Hampton Roads associated with national and international commerce, particularly the trucking, shipping, rail and air transport industries, through education, information-sharing, and networking opportunities. The Council meets these goals through a variety of breakfast, luncheon, and after-work meetings where members and guests have an opportunity to hear from and meet political, industry, and community leaders, as well as the Annual “State of the Port” Address given in January by the President of Virginia International Terminals, scholarships, and the Commerce Builder Award. For more information on HRGCC, visit t www.hrgcc.org.
Speaking to more than 700 hundred industry and transportation agency professionals during the 2011 Governor’s Transportation Conference in Norfolk, Governor Bob McDonnell outlined his transportation policy and funding plans for the upcoming 2012 General Assembly Session. The governor called for changes in laws governing the allocation of future surpluses to transportation, dedicating portions of revenue growth attributable to transportation infrastructure projects to transportation, increasing the portion of sales tax dedicated to transportation, the establishment of an Interstate 85 Connector Economic Development and Promotion Zone to encourage businesses to invest in Virginia and ship through Virginia ports, and the advancement of Virginia’s commercial space flight programs. The governor’s new proposals follow the successful passage of his 2011 transportation agenda, which put the most new funding into roads and rail in the state in 25 years.
“Transportation and economic development and prosperity are inextricably linked,” said Governor McDonnell. “Whether it’s the infrastructure needed to move people and goods, or certain transportation-related industries poised for major growth and job creation, we must continue to make progress in improving our transportation networks if Virginia is to remain economically competitive. During my administration, we have made much progress, but we still have much more to do. That is why I am following up on last year’s historic $4 billion transportation funding package with an aggressive transportation program to continue to get Virginia out of gridlock and spur our economic recovery through job creation, forward-thinking investments, and promotion of Virginia’s resources to attract additional private-sector development.”
By Bob Chase, president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, for a publication of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, The Virginia Newsletter-November 2011
When a politician proclaims, “We must learn to live within our means,” heads often nod in accord. Who can disagree with such an obvious statement, particularly in these difficult economic times? But relying only on the limited resources currently in Virginia’s transportation program translates literally into learning to live with poorly maintained and inadequate roads and more congestion.
It’s been nearly 25 years since Virginia last invested new, long-term funds in transportation. Ronald Reagan was president, the average cost of a new home was $92,000, the average new car $10,000, postage stamps were 24 cents and gasoline was 89 cents per gallon. Since then Virginia has added more than 1.5 million licensed drivers, 2 million people and 2.9 million registered vehicles, but no new long-term transportation dollars.
The central question is whether Virginia can afford to continue to operate its transportation system on limited existing revenue streams and still be considered the best place to do business and raise a family. Or will retaining its attractiveness require investing additional resources that are available statewide and within its regional economies to improve its transportation network? The facts show that living within our existing transportation system will cost Virginia its economic competitiveness.
|For Virginia to have the transportation network it needs, all Virginians must start paying their fair share. Fiscal responsibility is recognizing a fiscal crisis and addressing it in a responsible manner. There are no magic bullets, no pain-free solutions. But there are solutions.|
Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has entered into a comprehensive agreement with Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) to build a new Midtown Tunnel, rehabilitate the existing Midtown Tunnel as well as the Downtown Tunnels, and extend the Martin Luther King Freeway.
“Virginia is recognized as a national leader in leveraging limited public dollars to attract significant private-sector investment and innovation, making complex transportation projects possible,” said Governor McDonnell. “By partnering with the private sector, Virginia can advance construction of a second Midtown Tunnel and make other improvements that are critical to the mobility, safety and the economy of the Hampton Roads region.”
The comprehensive agreement has been under negotiation for almost five months between VDOT, ERC and the new Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships (OTP3). ERC is a joint venture between Skanska Infrastructure Development and Macquarie Group. The agreement was signed by VDOT Commissioner Greg Whirley under Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act. It authorizes construction to begin in 2012, pending financial close early next year.
“The Midtown Tunnel project has been at the top of the region’s priorities for many years,” said Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton. “The state’s use of a public-private partnership structure will enable VDOT to attract approximately $1.7 billion in private investment to a project that yields tangible long-term benefits to the region and the state.”
Under the comprehensive agreement VDOT will maintain ownership of the infrastructure and will oversee ERC’s activities. ERC will finance, build, operate and maintain the facilities for a 58-year concession period. ERC will also assume risk of delivering the project on a performance-based, fixed-price, fixed-date contract, protecting users and taxpayers from cost overruns and delays.
“Building a new Midtown Tunnel and the MLK Extension will increase capacity and provide for a more systematic flow of traffic, saving the average round-trip user about 30 minutes a day once the project is completed,” said Whirley. “Other benefits include additional evacuation capacity as well as the creation of hundreds of jobs in Hampton Roads.”
The key components of the project include:
- Doubling the capacity of the Midtown Tunnel by building an additional two-lane tunnel near the existing one under the Elizabeth River
- Increasing transit service between Portsmouth and Norfolk
- Rehabilitating the existing Midtown Tunnel and both of the Downtown Tunnels
- Extending the Martin Luther King Freeway from London Boulevard to I-264, with an interchange at High Street
- Modifying the interchange at Brambleton Avenue/Hampton Boulevard in Norfolk
Financing and tolls:
- The comprehensive agreement was signed for a value of $2.1 billion. This includes total project costs such as financing, designing, building, maintaining and operating the tunnels and the MLK extension.
- VDOT’s contribution is $362 million specifically designated to lower the tolls. VDOT’s contribution is reduced due to lower interest rates.
- ERC will provide financing through a $422 million TIFIA loan, and approximately $1.3 billion through equity, debt and revenue from operations.
- Project will be financed through tolls, initially ranging from $1.59 to $1.84 per car for the tunnels and $.50 for the Martin Luther King Freeway extension for tunnel users and $1 for non-tunnel users.
- Tolls will be collected electronically using E-ZPass, eliminating the need for toll booths.
“Signing of the comprehensive agreement represents a significant milestone for the project and brings us one step closer to the delivery of these much-needed transportation improvements,” said Christopher Leslie, Chief Executive Officer, Macquarie Infrastructure Partners. “I’m pleased with the strong partnership formed between VDOT and ERC to design and deliver a quality project for the communities of Hampton Roads. We look forward to achieving financial close early in 2012.”
“Our partnership with the Commonwealth will deliver this nationally significant project responsibly, economically, and expeditiously,” said Karl Reichelt, Executive Vice President of Skanska Infrastructure Development, co-developer of ERC. “And importantly, it will improve quality of life for the region by opening new channels for economic development, travel and enhanced safety response.”
“The Federal Government’s Role in Virginia’s Economic Prosperity” is the theme of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce‘s 2nd Annual Economic Summit slated for Thursday, December 1, 2011, at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner. More than 500 of Virginia’s business and government leaders will assemble to discuss the role that the federal government plays in our state’s economic prosperity.
- Former Virginia Governor George Allen on “Policy Presentation on the Federal Government’s Role in Virginia’s Economic Prosperity”
- Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, on “The Future of US Defense Spending”
- Dr. Stephen Fuller, Director, Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, on “Current Economic Impact of Federal Spending & A Look to the Future”
- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on “The Future of Transportation Funding in America”
- Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine on “Policy Presentation on the Federal Government’s Role in Virginia’s Economic Prosperity”
From December 7 to 9, 2011, the Norfolk Waterside Marriott will host the annual Governor’s Transportation Conference.
This event will truly be a “who’s who” of the Virginia transportation industry with representatives from all modes – road, rail, air and marine – in attendance. With Norfolk as the host city, the Virginia Port Authority is playing a significant role in this event.
The preliminary agenda includes:
- A River Tour of APMT Terminals, the Midtown Tunnel, and Jordan Bridge Projects aboard the “Carrie B”
- “RIDE the TIDE!” – Norfolk Light Rail Tour
- Opening Remarks by The Honorable Sean T. Connaughton, Secretary of Transportation, Commonwealth of Virginia
- Opening Guest Speaker, Victor M. Mendez, Federal Highway Administrator
- Panel: Projects of Statewide and Regional Significance moderated by Secretary Connaughton
- Panel: Launching the Future from Virginia’s Commercial Spaceport (MARS) moderated by Dr. Billie M. Reed, Executive Director, Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority
For more information and to register, visit http://www.vatransconf.org