Tag Archives | Stimulus

News & Notes

seattle-times-bridge The Seattle Times: ‘Miracles’: 3 survive I-5 collapse

A chunk of Interstate 5 collapsed into the Skagit River near Mount Vernon on Thursday evening, dumping two vehicles into the icy waters and creating a gaping hole in Washington state’s major north-south artery.

Rescuers pulled three people with minor injuries from the water after the collapse, which authorities say began when a semitruck with an oversized load struck a steel beam at around 7 p.m.

That caused a massive piece of the northern side of the bridge to wobble, and then fall into the water, taking with it a gold pickup, its travel trailer and an orange SUV.

But actually, our infrastructure crisis is a myth…

Bloomberg: The Myth of the Falling Bridge

Maybe it’s going too far to say, “The U.S. is doing just fine, thank you very much.” The nation would benefit from reordering its infrastructure priorities — away from new highways, for example, where we are already overbuilt and usage is falling for the first extended period on record. And we’d do well to take advantage of low interest rates and idle construction resources to knock out all of our future infrastructure needs.

But the idea that the U.S. has an infrastructure crisis? No. A broad, permanent increase in spending is unwarranted.

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News & Notes

DC Streetsblog: Obama Takes Another Swing at $50 Billion in Infrastructure Spending

President Obama is pressing for infrastructure investment again as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. The president kicked off talks calling for an end to the debt ceiling, the extension of middle-class tax cuts, and $50 billion in infrastructure spending — a proposal that first arose last year as part of his ultimately unsuccessful American Jobs Act.

The Wall Street Journal called the President’s proposals “a particularly expansive version of the White House’s wish list” and “a potential starting point for negotiations.”

See also: Our favorite Obama quote from 2009

The Atlantic Cities: 10 Techniques for Making Cities More Walkable

In Jeff Speck’s excellent new book, Walkable City, he suggests that there are ten keys to creating walkability. Most of them also have something to do with redressing the deleterious effects caused by our allowing cars to dominate urban spaces for decades. I don’t necessarily agree with every detail, and my own list might differ in some ways that reflect my own experience and values. But it’s a heck of a good menu to get city leaders and thinkers started in making their communities more hospitable to walkers.

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News & Notes

Could cities’ problems be solved by urban acupuncture? [The Guardian]

“Urban acupuncture is a surgical and selective intervention into the urban environment,” said Los Angeles architect and professor John Southern in an interview, “instead of large scale projects that involve not only thousands of acres, but investment and infrastructure that municipalities can no longer provide.”

Urban Green Space Key in Improving Air Quality [The City Fix]

Trees on a street in Seoul

Photo (cc) erasmusa

A new study out of the University of Kent in the UK found that a 10 percent increase in urban tree coverage in mid-size cities, like Leicester, can absorb about 12 percent of carbon emissions, contributing to cleaner air. The study is yet another addition to the argument that any sound urban planning or transit policy to improve air quality must be supplemented with green spaces.

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Interest-free Loans Available to Improve Home Energy Efficiency

Photo (cc) Tracy O

February 28, 2011

Interest-free Loans Available to Improve Home Energy Efficiency

Loans up to $9,500 are available for families to implement energy assessment recommendations

PROVIDENCE – Mayor Angel Taveras today announced a new interest-free Residential Energy Efficiency Loan program to help eligible Providence residents make energy efficiency improvements and reduce energy bills in their homes.

Eligible applicants can use the loans to upgrade, replace, or purchase recommended high-efficiency furnaces, boilers, central air conditioning and water heating systems, as well as insulation, programmable thermostats, and select Energy Star appliances and electronics.

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Night Shift

Just as I was getting annoyed again that work had stalled here again, a night crew is at work busily removing the brick pavers from Dean Street at Atwells.

Night Work

Night Work

Night Work

Night Work

Night Work

It’s a little loud, but I’m glad work’s happening.


RIPTA to unveil new hybrid buses and trolley buses on October 4th

A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at Kennedy Plaza on Monday, October 4th at 11am to intriduce RIPTA’s new hybrid buses and hybrid trolley buses.

The new hybrid diesel Gillig buses and trolleys are powered by clean diesel hybrid electrical propulsion systems that reduce emissions, save fuel and are smoother and quieter than conventional buses. This not only reduces air pollution, but noise pollution as well, thus improving the environment for Rhode Islanders.

New Classic Hybrid Trolleys

The red and gold trolleys, which each seat approximately 30 passengers, will replace existing trolleys on the Gold and Green LINK lines in Providence. Each trolley, manufactured by Gillig Bus in partnership with Cable Car Classics, costs $696,959.50. Federal Transit Administration Grants funded the base cost of the trolley, while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) covered the incremental cost of the Hybrid Propulsion System. A 20% local match was provided by State General Obligation Bonds. The trolley includes Gillig heavy-duty reliability and ADA accessibility wrapped up in the appeal of old fashioned trolley charm.

RIPTA trolleys in Providence serve Route 91 (Gold Line) six days a week and Route 92 (Green Line) seven days a week all year round.

New Gillig BRT Hybrid Buses

Photo from Mountain Metropolitan Transit

All fifty-three brand new 2010 Gillig BRT hybrid 40′ foot buses will have joined the RIPTA fleet by March 2011. The hybrid bus weighs 39,600 lbs and comfortably seats forty passengers. This model features many improvements including new stainless steel bike racks for easer bicycle loading, new soft seating, and improved KONI shock absorbers for a better ride. The bus’s engine, a new Cummins ISL 2007 EPA Emission engine, meets all current EPA requirements. In addition, the front doors can now load wheelchairs and the wheelchair ramp has been redesigned to reduce maintenance.

Funded by various Federal Transit Administration Grants, Rhode Island Bonds, and American Recovery & Reinvestment Act Grants, each 2010 Gillig BRT hybrid bus costs $625,085.

These new buses and trolleys are part of RIPTA’s normal fleet replacement plan to maintain their fleet in top condition. Replacement of CNG trolleys and diesel buses to a hybrid system will yield approximately a 20% savings on fuel for RIPTA.

The new buses and trolley buses will be joining the fleet in stages through March of next year.


Dean Street, finally, maybe

Dean Street

The cynic in me has to wonder if the fact that this project started a year ago, has been stagnant all summer, and just got back into gear this week, has anything to do with when the Primary Elections happened.

Literally, all summer we’ve had half done sidewalks, lights that are up but not working, and pothole nation at the Atwells area of Dean Street. The traffic lights went up at the end of June and the only work that has happened all summer since then until this week has been, someone came out and mowed the weeds that had grown in the landscape pits.

Dean Street

So hopefully the street will finally be paved, and maybe we’ll have sidewalks before winter and it is time for me to start ranting about snow removal again.


RIPTA Kennedy Plaza Info Kiosks RFP

Image from Greater Kennedy Plaza

From Greater Kennedy Plaza:

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) has pledged the use of federal stimulus funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to design, construct, and install information kiosks on the perimeter of Burnside Park and the corner of Exchange Terrace and Kennedy Plaza by RIPTA’s bus stop Q that will help bolster GKP’s accessibility and vitality for transit riders and other pedestrians. The immediate goals of the information kiosks are to enhance the GKP area and provide more access to transit and other information for pedestrians. For more information please click here.

This link may or may not go straight to a .pdf of the RFP.


News & Notes

President proposes new jobs, renewed infrastructure

It doesn’t do anybody any good when so many hardworking Americans have been idled, yet so much of America needs rebuilding. That’s why I am announcing a new plan for rebuilding and modernizing America’s roads and rails and runways for the long term.

Over the next six years we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads–enough to circle the world six times. We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways–enough to stretch coast to coast. We’re going to restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next-generation air-traffic control system to reduce flight-times and delays for American travelers.

We used to have the best infrastructure in the world. We can have it again. We’re going to make it happen. This will create jobs and make our economy run better over the long haul.

[USDOT Fastlane Blog]

HafenCity: A Case Study on Future-Adaptive Urban Development

Hamburg…will allow flooding, but designed a major new part of the city to be resilient to high water, with water-proof parking garages, a network of emergency pedestrian walkways 20 feet above the street, and no residential units at ground level. Even the parks in this new Harbor City district are designed to withstand battering by waves and storm surge, either by floating as the waters rise, or by incorporating lots of hard surfaces that only need to be washed off when the waters recede.


Car Capacity Is Not Sacred

It may well be that in today’s political climate, the only way cycling and pedestrian advocates will get the infrastructure they want is if they assure the masses that car travel will not be impacted in any way. But the trouble is, that position suppresses the reality that cars are in fundamental conflict with walking, biking, and transit.


World Trade Center Complex Is Rising Rapidly

Two years ago, it was difficult to imagine how the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site of the trade center and is building most of it, could ever finish the eight-acre memorial in time for the 10th anniversary of the attack, on Sept. 11, 2011. Today, it is difficult to imagine what would stop them (though, given the site’s tortured history, the possibility shouldn’t be completely dismissed).

[The New York Times]


News & Notes

Wind farm challenged in R.I. Supreme Court

Three entities have asked the Rhode Island Supreme Court to overturn the approval of the Block Island wind farm contract.

Attorney General Patrick Lynch, the Conservation Law Foundation and large industrial concerns Toray Plastics and Polytop Corp. argue that the state Public Utilities Commission approval of the Power Purchase Agreement reached between Deepwater Wind and National Grid was legally flawed on several levels.

[The Block Island Times]

America’s Ten Dead Cities: From Detroit To New Orleans

What this list does not take into account is the suburbanization of America and the fact that many of the sunbelt cities that have taken top spots in population are largely suburban in nature. Never-the-less it is interesting to look at where cities were, what contributed to their downfall, and consider how they should re-invent themselves for the 21st century.

[24/7 Wall Street]

Relocating Route 195: Cost more than double

“The people here hadn’t done these big projects before,” said Robert A Shawver, the DOT’s assistant director for financial planning. “We learned a lot and we’re improving. I think you can see from our managing our other projects that we’re doing well.”

Emphasis added. I mean… really.

[The Providence Journal]

How the Stimulus Is Changing America

The State of the Interstate

Now, officials are contemplating taking I-10 down, as part of a national trend in which dismantling freeways is favored as a cheaper option than rehabilitation. But resistance to change runs deep in New Orleans. A proud sense of tradition, racial polarity, corruption and a history of inequitable large-scale redevelopment projects such as the construction of I-10 make many residents distrustful of any big changes | including, paradoxically, the dismantling of I-10.

According to the city’s master plan, dismantling the interstate would add only eight minutes to commute times. The existing I-610 acts as a bypass and Claiborne Avenue, still operational beneath I-10, is four lanes wide. Dense street grids, experts say, handle heavy traffic better than highways by providing routes off of main roadways at more frequent intervals | at blocks rather than at half-mile exits.

Think of the traffic queuing to get on Route 10 at Cranston Street, then think if there were a more permeable grid for that traffic to flow through.

[Next American City]

Portland streetcar success has fueled interest elsewhere
[USA Today]


Sidewalk work

Sidewalk work on Atwells Avenue
Photo by Jef Nickerson

Sidewalk work has been taking place the last few weeks up and down Atwells Avenue. Replacing loose/missing bricks and laying stamped concrete at parking lot ramps.

The city got stimulus money for sidewalk repairs, are repairs taking place in your neighborhood?


John attends a White Sox game

America 2050:

Sometime in the not too distant future, John wakes up in suburban Chicago on a Saturday morning and heads to a White Sox game…in Detroit. Join him on a 300 mile journey to Detroit’s Comerica Park as he experiences the transportation options of the future: a neighborhood electric car share program, smart phone ticketing, high-speed rail, and connecting light rail. This clip is brought to you by America 2050 as part of its “A Better Tomorrow” project to visualize America’s future communities and transportation systems.



Photo (cc) Daniel Case

RIDOT is getting $1.2 million from the stimulus to study a third track at Kingston Station. The third track would provide a siding, allowing MBTA commuter rail trains to serve the station while highspeed Acela trains are able to move through without stopping.

However, though we are getting stimulus love for Kingston Station, New England gets the shaft on the $8 billion federal high speed rail stimulus porgram. New England is getting under $200 million dollars or about 2% of the total funds.

Massachusetts really lost out, no money for New Bedford/Fall River commuter rail, no money for the “inland route” which would have upgrade tracks between Boston and Springfield and improved service on the Worcester commuter rail line, and no money for the $1.9 billion north/south rail link in Downtown Boston (that last one is no surprise, no one wants to open the PR pandora’s box of spending more federal money in the Central Artery corridor post-Big Dig).

New England did get money to move forward on improvements in the New Haven – Hartford – Springfield – Vermont corridor, and to expand Amtrak’s Downeaster service north from Portland to Brunswick, Maine.


Metro Transit Study


Providence Mayor David Cicilline speaks at the event introducing the Metropolitan Providence Transit Enhancement Study. Photo by Jef Nickerson

The time for us to make investment in transit is right now.

Today, RIPTA released their long awaited Metropolitan Providence Transit Enhancement Study, which looks to improve transit within the Rhode Island urban core centered on Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Warwick, East Providence, Cranston, and North Providence. While the proposal to build a streetcar network in the capital city is getting the most attention, the report actually outlines many initiatives to improve transportation within the metro core.

Video of the Mayor’s speech

New buses

RIPTA’s General Manager, Al Moscola says the agency is waiting on delivery of 24 “clean diesel” buses (same style as the last batch of new buses) and 10 hybrid trolleybuses (to replace existing LINK trolleys). RIPTA also plans to order 63 “BRT Style” hybrid buses this month

Improve RIPTA’s current services

The streetcars, though flashy, and fun, and cool (and expensive) will only be a small part of our future transit system. Now and in the future, buses will be the work horses of our public transit system. RIPTA sees the need for more buses, more frequent service, more service at night and on weekends, and additional lines in new service areas. RIPTA hopes to deliver on those needs, “RIPTA aims to provide a ten percent increase to existing bus service to strengthen corridors that already enjoy high ridership and levels of service.”

In order to offer expansions of service where they are most needed throughout the state, RIPTA plans to conduct a service analysis to identify potential improvements to routes and services throughout the state, determine how to provide the most cost-effective service possible, and develop a plan to prioritize the expansion of service as finances permit.

Provide Additional Bus Service

Introducing, Rapid Bus


Los Angeles Metro Rapid bus. Photo (cc) Metro Library and Archive

A new concept for RIPTA is Rapid Bus . Rapid Bus will function much like a BRT line, except it will not feature BRT’s separate bus lanes (at initially it won’t).

Rapid Bus offers the opportunity to enhance existing bus service to provide faster and more reliable service, a higher level of passenger comfort and amenities, and a distinctive service identity. Rapid Bus transit enhancements include: frequent service, simple routes, limited stops, queue jump lanes, unique identities, distinctive stop facilities, specially branded vehicles, transit signal priority, and real-time arrival information. These features work together to make service fast, reliable, convenient, comfortable and clearly identifiable – characteristics all associated with rail or Bus Rapid Transit service but without the major capital investment and in locations where dedicated lanes are not possible.

RIPTA’s first Rapid Bus line will combine the current Route 11 Broad Street with the current Route 99 North Main Street and Pawtucket. These two routes will be combined to provide continual service through Providence with one distinctive brand applied to the new route. These two routes in their current form serve 10,000 riders per day. Future enhancements to this route may include the reconstruction of North Main Street to provide true BRT service with designated bus lanes in that area.

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Maddow, Rep. Defazio (D-OR) discuss infrastructure jobs

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rep. Defazio joins Rachel at about the 4:40 mark in the video above. Defazio points to stimulus spending on infrastructure is producing the most jobs and urges that more stimulus go to infrastructure to attack our infrastructure crisis and create jobs.

Related is the Paul Krugman New York Times Op-Ed mentioned in the video. Krugman calls for more direct federal aid to state and municipal governments to help them balance their budgets and hopeful avoid layoffs in areas such as education and public safety (RI could certainly use some help). Krugman also calls for a mini-WPA, federal money pumped directly into job creating public works projects.


Dean Street update

I posted about the work on the sidewalks on Dean Street last month. I had intended to head over to Planning to take a look at the plans for the street rebuild, but never got around to it. However, as work has progressed, one of my primary questions has been answered. The intersection of Federal and Dean is being improved:


There was some planning done by RIDOT back in 2003 about the Dean-Cahir-Stewart corridor (report here ). Part of that planning was the redesign of the Federal Street and Dean Street intersection (see image above).

The current configuration of the intersection sees 6 streets coming together with little in the way of traffic controls and large gaps for pedestrians to cross. The new configuration has eastbound Federal Street traffic terminating at a T intersection with Kenyon Street, then Kenyon Street intersecting at a right angle with Dean Street, continuing across to Federal Street.

In the 2003 proposal, there was a right turn lane from Dean Street southbound onto Federal Street westbound. This is not being built. Though motorist would probably prefer it over having to now make two rights to get onto Federal Street, as a pedestrian I prefer it this way. In the current configuration, pedestrians on the west side of Dean Street have to cross approximately 85 feet of Federal and Kenyon Streets travel lanes, with traffic coming and going from various directions through that 85 feet. This new configuration will greatly reduce the amount of space pedestrians need to cross and the multitude of directions that traffic moves through.

It will also make more sense to drivers, currently Kenyon and Federal both have stop signs, but it is not clear which street has priority approaching Dean Street. I’ve been in cars with many drivers unfamiliar with the intersection who are quite intimidated by it. The new configuration shows drivers that Federal must stop at Kenyon, turn left, then stop at Dean before proceeding.

Dean Street at Federal Street

Dean Street at Federal Street

Dean Street at Federal Street

Dean Street at Federal Street

This new configuration should prove to make the intersection make much more sense for both drivers and pedestrians, making both safer in traversing it.


Kennedy Plaza repaving underway

Kennedy Plaza Repaving Project

The Kennedy Plaza repaving project is underway and set to run through Thanksgiving. As a result of the project, all buses are moved out of the busways and relocated to various areas around the plaza area.


If you regularly travel by bus or need to make a transfer in the Plaza, check the graphic to see where your bus is now. The information center in the plaza will remain open during the project and RIPTA has staff stationed around the area to help people find their buses.

Kennedy Plaza Repaving Project

Kennedy Plaza Repaving Project

Kennedy Plaza Repaving Project

Kennedy Plaza Repaving Project

Photos by Jef Nickerson

RIPTA: Kennedy Plaza Paving Project October 31-November 26, 2009
Greater City Providence: In other stimulus news, get ready for Kennedy Plaza chaos