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News & Notes

In wake of Ohio River bridge closure, NBC Nightly News examines the sorry state of U.S. bridges [Transportation for America]

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Over the weekend, NBC Nightly News ran a sharp piece on our country’s structurally deficient bridges, focusing on the data in the T4 America bridge report.

At least one person somewhere in the U.S. is driving over a structurally deficient bridge, according to T4 America director James Corless in a report on the woeful condition of our nation’s bridges on NBC Nightly News Sunday evening.

Brought into the national spotlight because of the recent closure of a highly-trafficked interstate bridge over the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky and the President’s scheduled appearance at a Cincinnati-area bridge this Thursday, more national media outlets (and Americans and their leaders in Congress, one would hope) are paying attention to the real-life impacts of underinvestment in infrastructure.


Debunking the Cul-de-Sac [The Atlantic Cities]

This is where it’s most apparent – from an airplane window – that American ideas about how to live and build communities have changed dramatically over time. For decades, families fled the dense urban grid for newer types of neighborhoods that felt safer, more private, even pastoral. Through their research, Garrick and colleague Wesley Marshall are now making the argument that we got it all wrong: We’ve really been designing communities that make us drive more, make us less safe, keep us disconnected from one another, and that may even make us less healthy.


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News & Notes

Public Seating Beyond Parks and Playgrounds [Urban Design Week]

We’ve all been there: exhausted, hot, annoyed, and just looking for a seat! With over eight million people calling New York City home, finding a place to sit outside of parks and playgrounds can be a bigger challenge than one might imagine. Megan in Clinton Hill wishes there were places to sit in public space besides in parks: free, public resting spots on every block for a coffee, lunch, and conversation. Ultimately, she wants the city to be “more free and open to all! Not limited to only people who eat at outdoor cafes, etc.”

More and more this is how I feel about Downcity. You can sit at Grant’s Lot, and you can sit at the tables at Burnside Park, that’s about it.


The 1950s Called, and They Want Their Transportation Bill Back [AltTransport]

What costs $230 billion and shortchanges pedestrian and bicycle safety and already cash-strapped urban transit systems? If you guessed the new transportation reauthorization proposal from the GOP-led House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, you’d be right.


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Mayor Taveras’ Budget Address

Update: Video of the Mayor’s budget address.


Press Release from Mayor Taveras’ office regarding tonight’s budget address (See below prepared text of the Mayor’s Address):

Mayor Taveras Delivers Fiscal Year 2012 Budget to City Council

Shared sacrifice is major theme of Mayor’s first budget submission

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Angel Taveras today delivered his proposed 2012 budget to the Providence City Council. The budget reflects the many difficult decisions the City faces to address a ‘Category 5′ fiscal emergency and to restore financial stability to Rhode Island’s Capital City.

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News & Notes

Seniors and the City [Governing]

Have you ever thought the walk signs at street corners weren’t long enough? Probably not. But if you’re over 65 years old, it may be a different matter. What seems like a reasonable amount of time to cross a street is more like an Olympic sprint for the elderly. It’s one of numerous issues that have grown in importance as our population not only ages but becomes increasingly concentrated in cities.

In 2006, just 11 percent of the global population was over the age of 60, but the number is expected to double by 2050, according to the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, the number of people living in cities continues to rise. In North America, 81 percent of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and is expected to reach 87 percent by 2030.


Gridlock Sam: Too Big to Fall [Blueprint America]

…as pointed out in a new book, Too Big to Fall by Barry LePatner, there are tens of thousands of fracture critical bridges in the United States and nearly 8,000 are structurally deficient, which is a recipe for disaster.

Using the tragic collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis as a starting point, Barry LePatner lays out how our nation has neglected a majority of our 6,000 spans. LePatner presents a complete, well-researched story about the nation’s transportation infrastructure. This book is a must read for anyone in engineering, construction, architecture, and planning. Frankly, it is a must read for any American who is concerned about the continuing strength of our economy and our quality of life.

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News & Notes

Actually, Highway Builders, Roads Don’t Pay For Themselves [DC.Streetsblog]

You’ve heard it a thousand times from the highway lobby: Roads pay for themselves through “user fees” — a.k.a. gas taxes and tolls — whereas transit is a drain on the taxpayer. They use this argument to push for new roads, instead of transit, as fiscally prudent investments.

The myth of the self-financed road meets its match today in the form of a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group: “Do Roads Pay For Themselves?” The answer is a resounding “no.” All told, the authors calculate that road construction has sucked $600 billion out of America’s public purse since the dawn of the interstate system.

Pedestrian-Only Shopping Streets Make Communities More Livable [Planetizen]

Pedestrian-oriented shopping streets can be key to making communities more livable, particularly when they are well designed, managed and strategically connected to networks of public transit, pedestrian paths and bike routes, says planning consultant Luis Rodriguez.

Smaller Cities Becoming Hotbeds for High-Tech Growth [Area Development]

By utilizing the strengths of existing business as well as government and academia, smaller cities are becoming hotbeds for the biotech, IT, renewable energy technologies, aerospace/defense, digital media, and a host of other high-tech endeavors.

Editor’s Choice: The Ten Best Opinion Pieces of 2010 [Next American City]

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News & Notes

Apartments, stores planned on Loyola Avenue near Superdome [The Times-Picayune]

Spurred by the future Loyola Avenue streetcar line, a local development firm plans to transform a sea of downtown [New Orleans] parking lots into 450 apartments and 125,000 square feet of shops and restaurants that it calls the South Market District.

Jewelry District, this is your fuiture.

In Quest for Revenue, Cities Turning to PILOTs [CitiWire]

“PILOTs can provide crucial revenue for certain municipalities, and are one way to make nonprofits pay for the public services they consume,” Kenyon and Langley say. “However, PILOTs are often haphazard, secretive, and calculated in an ad hoc manner that results in widely varying payments among similar nonprofits. In addition, a municipality’s attempt to collect PILOTs can prompt a battle with nonprofits and lead to years of contentious, costly, and unproductive litigation.”

Moving an Interstate highway [Let's Go KC]

In recent months a movement has started to relocate I-35 from Downtown to the West Bottoms, undoing one of the city’s worst 1950s-era highway mistakes. MoDOT is planning to rehab the aging section between the state line and Downtown Loop, and several neighborhoods have seized the opportunity to broaden the conversation to include the idea of moving the freeway instead of rebuilding it.

Been there, done that.

No Free Parking [Physics Central]

Next time you’re searching for a parking space and someone grabs a spot from right in front of you, it might seem like the last space left on Earth, but ponder this: there are at least 500 million empty spaces in the United States at any given time.

The researchers extrapolated on a rule of thumb used by urban planners that claims eight parking spaces exist for every one car. The group says that there is little science to support this scenario, but the result would be a whopping 2 billion parking spaces. If all of those spots were consolidated into a single location they would cover an area the size of Massachusetts. The most likely scenario calls for about half that area in parking spaces.

seattle: quick notes on “rapid ride” [Human Transit]

Looks to be a lot like RIPTA’s proposed Rapid Bus [.pdf] service.

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News & Notes

Next American City: Who’s Scared of a Transit Bridge?

Next spring, Portland will begin building its first bridge over the Willamette River in 37 years. The Willamette River Transit Bridge – which will link a future Oregon Health & Science University campus on the west side of the river with a museum and opera house on the east – will be 71 feet wide and feature 14-foot-wide paths on both sides for bicycles and pedestrians. The bridge’s middle will provide space for public-transit vehicles but no private cars


The Transport Politic: As a New Congress Sets Up Shop, Questions About the Future of Transportation Funding


Grist: Cafes will be popping up on the streets of New York

Pop-up Cafes provide outdoor public seating in the curb lane during the warm months and promote local businesses. Such cafes are popular in Europe, where narrow sidewalks prevent sidewalk cafes, and have recently been established in California and Canada.

In the summer of 2010, DOT partnered with two Lower Manhattan restaurants to pilot the city’s first Pop-up Cafe. Building on this success, DOT is expanding the Program in 2011 by partnering with restaurants or cafes in up to 12 locations throughout the five boroughs.

Two words: Atwells. Avenue.


DC Streetsblog: The Power of the Pursestrings Shifts to a Livability Denier in the House

…flying under the radar is another big shift with potentially enormous consequences. The Transportation and HUD subcommittee on Appropriations is getting a new master too. And livability advocates are alarmed.

Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) made it onto the League of American Bicyclists’ Trash Talk list this spring when he said every biker is “one less person paying into the transportation trust fund.”


DC Streetsblog: Our Stagnant Gas Tax Rate Is Making the Deficit Worse

Despite the anti-tax rhetoric of this round of elections, there’s been a little flurry of support for raising the gas tax lately. Two senators just proposed bumping it by 25 cents to replenish the highway trust fund. And the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform included a gas tax hike in its proposal for reducing the deficit by $3.8 trillion.

Also…

They also proposed eliminating the tax deduction for mortgage interest payments – or at least restricting the tax breaks so that second homes, expensive homes, and home equity loans weren’t eligible.

The mortgage tax break is a sprawl-inducer, encouraging people to buy “more house” for their money. Besides, home ownership rates are higher in the suburbs, since urbanites are more likely to rent. By removing the tax break, as the deficit commission recommends, they would require people to pay the full cost of the house they buy – and stop subsidizing the choice to live in the suburbs instead of cities.

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News & Notes

A team of scientists from the University of Rhode Island (URI) has recently published an article describing a self-healing concrete that would be inexpensive to produce. Such concrete could help reduce structure repair costs, lower cement-production carbon emissions, and even save lives, as it will help design safer buildings. [The Future of Things]

Markets Investing In Neighborhood Health — Shop Here
Two corner stores on the Southside of Providence will get a healthy store “makeover” this week thanks to the Providence Healthy Corner Store Initiative (PHCSI), a new initiative that unites Rhode Island farmers, corner store owners, and community residents to increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain items, low-salt and low-sugar canned goods, and healthier snacks available in Providence neighborhoods. [Providence Daily Dose]

Paul Krugman: America Goes Dark [The New York Times]

Traffic reduction: An urgent public health priority
Traffic is the leading cause of death among children worldwide and the leading cause of death among 1-34 year olds in the United States. So, why isn’t traffic considered the top threat to public health by the CDC, WHO and federal, state and local governments? [Greater Greater Washington]

The WPA’s legacy in Rhode Island [WPRI Blog]

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News & Notes

Preserving modernism in Boston: making the case [Boston.com]

Andrew Knee: Milwaukee – A Walker’s Paradise [UrbanOut]
“And the latest venture is a broad swath of land called the Park East, where a freeway was recently torn down and the street-grid was reassembled.”

Sound wall made of vegetation to be studied by ODOT as alternative to concrete wall [Cleveland.com]
I’m thinking of Route 195 in the Gano Street area.

London Opens Bike “Superhighways” [GOOD]

Worst. Intersection. Ever. [Car-Free in PVD]

Sen. Kerry docks yacht in R.I., saves on taxes [MSNBC]
Yes, the story has gone national. The Senator’s people claim the boat is in Newport for “for long-term maintenance, upkeep and charter purposes.” Whatever, I just like the headline telling rich people to come to Rhode Island for our low taxes. Bring your yachts and spend some money while your here.

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News & Notes

State of Maine on board with high-speed rail; upgrade work on the popular Downeaster begins [FastLane USDOT]

Too hot to cook? A few heat-wave recipes [Projo Subterranean Homepage News]

Hours extended for Providence water parks all week [ProJo]

Forecast for the Future’s Cities: Hot! [The City Fix]

Gas taxes give us a break at the pump [USA Today]
“Holiday drivers will pay less than ever at the pump for upkeep of the nation’s roads — just $19 in gas taxes for every 1,000 miles driven, a USA TODAY analysis finds. That’s a new low in inflation-adjusted dollars, half what drivers paid in 1975.”

St. Louis’ Mayor Slay signs ‘Complete Streets’ bill, with promise of bikeable, walkable city [St. Louis Today]

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