To reduce congestion in Austin, TxDOT proposes doubling down on highway lanes. In addition to safety upgrades, a recent proposal calls for two non-tolled managed lanes in each direction along the I-35 Capital Express Central project area. The proposal would increase the number of current lanes through downtown Austin from 12 to 20 in some areas.

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City of Austin. Photo by Carlos Alfonso on Unsplash

In realty, the addition of 8 more traffic lanes is unlikely to reduce congestion. Not only does “induced demand” not work, but the city is rapidly growing.

From 2010 to 2019, Austin’s population has grown 22% and ranks among the highest of mid-size metro areas. The region has been able to attract major investments from tech companies like Google and Apple, positioning it for continued growth. …

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) estimates there are 6.1 million lead‐containing service lines present in community water systems (2016 study).

Drinking lead contaminated water can cause numerous problems: birth defects, development and learning disabilities among children, and cardiovascular and kidney diseases among adults. And these are just some of the problems. High profile contaminated water cases have been brought to national attention in Flint, MI and Newark, NJ, but this is not an isolated problem and needs greater national attention.

Overall, the general response has been to monitor and limit lead contamination in water, but significant reinvestment to replace these service lines is needed. Some states and localities have started to move forward on their own, but greater federal funding and oversight is needed. …

Often when thinking about infrastructure investment images of new bridges, train halls, or massive highway interchanges are envisioned. But an often-overlooked aspect for many are basic infrastructure assets or the kinds of things that keeps the lights on and in a state-of-good-repair.

State-of-good-repair is where a backlog of projects are concentrated for governments across the country. These needed investments are significant and likely exceed over a trillion dollars, but there is no easy way to quantify the cost.

The State of California has taken on the task of estimating its deferred maintenance. In the state’s 2019–2020 budget, the administration identified “a total state infrastructure deferred maintenance need of about $70 billion.” …

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Austin, TX. Photo by Megan Markham on Unsplash

Transit measures were on the ballot across the country this Election Day and varied from approving new capital campaigns to renewing funding sources. Overall, it was a positive night with a notable defeat in Portland, OR that setback a major light rail extension project in a growing and congested part of the metro area.

Hopefully, Portland can find another path forward. Continued investment in light-rail promotes economic growth, creates a valuable public asset, and connects people to new opportunities. Everyone benefits with more connections between our cities, towns, and institutions.

Here is an overview of some notable victories and defeats so…

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Photo by Ramapasha Laksono on Unsplash

One of the greatest transit planning tragedies in the U.S. was the demise of its streetcar system found across the country in the early 20th century. An article in Vox discusses its downfall and panned it well:

The real problem was that once cars appeared on the road, they could drive on streetcar tracks — and the streetcars could no longer operate efficiently.

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Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal. Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

Improving rail service could transform parts of the country and turn local economies into regional ones. More investment could transform the Northeast, provide better connections between Pittsburgh and Chicago, and alleviate some of the burden on the U.S. air transportation network. But let’s look specifically at the northeast and improving rail.

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) connects Washington, DC to Boston and is the U.S.’s most heavily traveled rail line. It also shares the tracks with commuter rail, has to comply with different state and local laws, and traverse through some of the oldest and narrowest passageways in the country. …

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Photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels

I have watched, like many, numerous weeks devoted to infrastructure go by without any meaningful action from Washington. As the New York Times put it: “Infrastructure Week” is less a date on the calendar than it is a “Groundhog Day”-style fever dream doomed to be repeated.

The lack of investment in the decaying foundation of the United States spreads throughout all areas of the country. Eroding lead pipes contaminates drinking water, bridges and tunnels carrying millions of commuters are at risk of collapse, and past planning decisions have been detrimental to economic growth and social equity. …


Timothy Little

State and Local Government Finance Professional | Cities, Transit, Infrastructure, Economics, Demographic Change. Opinions are my own.

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