On March 19. 2013 the American Society of Civil Engineers released the 2013 update to their National Infrastructure Report Card. The report card assesses the condition of America’s infrastructure in 16 categories. The overall grade was a D+ which is an improvement over the 2009 assessment which had an overall grade of D. The major areas of improvement were the rail system and the highway bridge system. The rail systems benefitted from significant private investment in the rail freight system and an improvement in the number of users of the passenger rail system. The highway bridge system improved slightly because of a general change in the State Department of Transportation’s programs to favor maintenance of existing facilities over expansion of the roadway system. The Bridges category received a C+ grade, In Pennsylvania, PennDOT has made a major effort to address structurally deficient bridges over the last five years. Unfortunately, because of the age of Pennsylvania’s bridges each year many additional bridges fall into the structurally deficient category. Currently 25% of Pennsylvania’s bridges are structurally deficient; that’s right, one in four bridges are structurally not able to carry their design load.
As part of the report card release, ASCE held their legislative Fly-in. Pete Terry was proud to be one of eight representatives from Pennsylvania who met with Representatives and Senators from across the State. The main focus of the visits was to share the updated Report Card findings, discuss the next Transportation Funding Bill (MAP 21, the current bill, will expire in September 2014) and to discuss the Water Resources Development Act which provides funding for dam safety, harbor improvements, and improvements to the system of inland waterways. In general, is seems that our federal legislators are beginning to understand the value of infrastructure to creating jobs, competitiveness, and our standard of living. The current fiscal constraints and a reluctance to increase user fees continues to hold back support for increased funding. ASCE indicated three key solutions to increasing our infrastructures grades; (1) Increase leadership on the state and federal levels in infrastructure renewal, (2) Promote sustainability and resilience in the design and maintenance of our infrastructure, and (3) Develop and fund plans to coordinate all transportation modes and their funding.
To see the 2009 Report Card please visit http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/
The last week of January is a great time to get out of Pennsylvania and visit somewhere warm. Maggie and I caught a flight out of Lehigh Valley International Airport at 6AM on a 12 degree Saturday morning. We found ourselves on St. John at 3PM that afternoon (include one hour for the time zone change). The weather was in the low 80s and the humidity was about 80%. What a great getaway. The trip included the puddle jumper from Allentown to Philly, a 747 to St. Thomas, and a 50 minute ferry boat ride to St. John.
St. John is a very different world. They drive on the wrong side of the road but the steering wheel is still on the correct side. The roads are narrow and generally very curvy and steep. About 70% of the island is a US National Park. The rest of the island seems to be packed together and I understand there is a moratorium on new building. You can rebuild on existing foundations but nothing new. Most of the island is filled with hills and deep valleys. What areas of the island that are not US National Park are filled with vacation houses and the services to support them.
Parking is a problem on the island. The number of cars on the island is limited and I was surprised that there were very few mopeds or motorcycles. While the harbors were crowded with expensive boats, the cars on the island were pretty plain. The native people on the island lived clearly at the lower end of the economic spectrum. There were lots of weekly visitors, but there were also a lot of what I perceived as the super-rich.
The beaches and water and mountains are definnitely some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. We decided not to rent a car and had no trouble getting around with the taxis and shuttles. It was a wonderful get-away. For a few photos paste this link into your browser.
Pete Terry was one of the presenters at a pre-conference session of the Penn State Transportation and Safety Conference (http://www.outreach.psu.edu/programs/transportation/registration.html). The Session focused on the 2010 Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) and how PennDOT is implementing it into their Highway Occupancy Permit requirements. As a member of the TRB Highway Capacity and Quality of Service committee Pete presented a “national” perspective of the manual and its new capabilities and limitations. One presenter focused on the importance of identifying which HCM analysis a specific project would require at the TIS Scoping meeting and the specific software programs which PennDOT will allow for the different types of analysis. Another presenter focused on the importance of proper data collection (determine traffic demand not traffic passing through intersection) and the use of multiple time periods to capture the effect of the queue of vehicles from unmet demand.
The conference was officially kicked-off with PA Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch peaking before a lunch crowd of over 250 about the changes PennDOT has made in their maintenance program and about the prospects for increased funding for transportation on the State level. Lunch was actually held so that he could complete his remarks and then travel back to Harrisburg to meet with the Governor to discuss funding options. He indicated that all funding sources identified in the Transportation Funding Coalition Study from 2011 (ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/pdf/TFAC/TFAC%20Executive%20Summary.pdf) are being discussed and that action may be taken in the Spring of 2013. Benchmark encourages you to read the report and contact your state senators and representatives to tell them how important fixing and maintaining our infrastructure is to you to promote transportation safety and economic opportunity.