A Tollway in Dallas and the Absurdity of Building Duplicative Infrastructure

Trinity River Tollway

» Even as Dallas finishes work on a new light rail line, plans for a new highway along a parallel corridor advance.

This summer, Dallas’ Orange Line will be extended five stations northwest of downtown. The light rail service will expand what is already the United States’ longest such network and improve connections between central Dallas, the suburb of Irving, and — in 2014 — Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Yet billions of dollars in new construction have barely increased transit use; just 4.2% of the city’s commuters use public transportation to get to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If there is one city that proves that simply building transit does not attract people to transit, this is it.

Investments in Dallas’ road infrastructure might provide some explanation for the situation. An astonishing seven grade-separated highways extend radially out from the city center in all directions.* This is a

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Milwaukee Officials Advancing Streetcar Project with Goal of Attracting More Federal Funds

Milwaukee Streetcar Proposed Alignment

» Twenty years after first receiving a federal appropriation to construct a rail transit system, Wisconsin’s biggest city may finally move forward.

Today, after decades of conflict over the future of transit for the City of Milwaukee, a public transportation study committee will vote on whether to advance plans for a two-mile streetcar project, bringing Wisconsin closer to its first modern streetcar system than ever before.

Congress awarded the city $289 million in 1991 to promote a new transit system for this city of 600,000 people, but thanks to infighting between local officials over whether to invest in rail or bus services, none of the money was spent on construction, and the federal aid was reduced to $91.5 million in 1999. And yet disagreements between Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett continued, making any kind of progress impossible.

That’s why Congress stepped in last March,

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Wisconsin Moves Ahead with Train Purchase Deal, Intent on Connecting Madison with Milwaukee

» Talgo will establish train manufacturing plant in Milwaukee. But state Republicans suggest they’ll oppose rail expansion if it gets in the way of highway spending.

Despite being a marginal player in the world high-speed rail market, Spanish train manufacturer Talgo is hoping to make a big push for orders in  North America. Thanks to a deal it signed with Wisconsin last year, it’s well on its way: The company has agreed to locate a new U.S. plant in Milwaukee, with plans to deliver 125 mph trains to the state for service to Madison by 2013.

If state Republicans gain power, however, the state’s rail efforts could be short-lived.

Under the leadership of outgoing Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, the Badger State has been one of the country’s leaders in developing improved rail service. The Governor announced last March that he would move forward

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Wisconsin Offers Up Proposal for Rail Expansion

» Governor Jim Doyle proposes using stimulus money for Madison-to-Milwaukee line.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Wisconsin is to apply for $519 million in stimulus funds for the Milwaukee-Madison tin-hsr program, which will reactivate an abandoned freight line between the state’s biggest cities. Wisconsin joins the list of states gearing up for a part of the $8 billion in high-speed rail money that Congress approved last month. New York will ask for funds for a third track between Albany and Buffalo, Illinois is pushing improvements for the line between Chicago and St. Louis, Washington will work to improve the Cascades corridor between Portland and Seattle, and California will of course be angling for a huge percentage of the money for its already partially-funded Los Angeles-to-San Francisco line.

Wisconsin’s first priority will be connecting its two biggest

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Milwaukee Wins Support for Streetcar Proposal - But Also Buses

» Compromise between feuding political forces resolved by U.S. Congress.

I wrote in early February that Milwaukee was studying how to improve its transit options with the Milwaukee Connector study, which would survey public support for a variety of public transportation improvements, including streetcar and bus rapid transit lines. The conflict over which transportation mode to pick had raised a significant dispute between Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, who advocated bus rapid transit, and Mayor Tom Barrett, who wanted streetcars. The city has $91 million in reserves from the federal government, whittled away from a $289 million grant first awarded back in 1991, which it can take advantage of whenever it’s ready.

Now, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl (D) and Representative David Obey (D), who is also the chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, inserted a provision in the omnibus bill requiring 60% of

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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