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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Selects Chicago to Receive More Than $153 million in Federal Funding to Reduce Traffic Congestion

CHICAGO - Chicago has been selected to receive more than $153 million in federal funds under a new congestion initiative, announced U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters. The innovative proposal will reduce traffic gridlock through the use of congestion pricing for street parking spaces and faster, more reliable bus service.

"Chicago's plan is ambitious, bold and innovative - just like the city itself," said Peters, noting that the Department is partnering with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). "We support Chicago's leaders because their plan helps to ensure that the city that works doesn't become the city that idles."

Peters explained the federal funds will be used to support Chicago's creation of four pilot routes of a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network. The new BRT routes will have their own dedicated lanes and the buses will be equipped with technology to help speed them through traffic with priority right of way at busy signalized intersections. In addition, the CTA will be able to purchase new and cleaner hybrid engine vehicles, she said.

The use of congestion pricing for the city's metered parking spaces is key to Chicago's bold and ambitious plan, Peters emphasized. Higher street meter rates during the morning and evening rush periods will encourage commuters to take transit downtown instead of driving. And, the new BRT routes will be available for those who don't want to pay more for parking.

"Whether commuting to work, going for a jog or watching kids on the playground, everyone will breathe a little easier thanks to this plan," Peters said.

The federal funding is contingent, in part, on the city and the CTA adopting the necessary legal authorities. Also, the city must successfully move forward on its previously announced plans to privatize its metered parking system and enter into a long-term agreement with a private firm by December 31, 2008.

Today's announcement is a component of the Department's National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network, which encourages the use of innovative and demonstrated strategies that provide efficient and effective relief to traffic gridlock.


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Monday, April 28, 2008

TNB bike/pedestrian path narrowed May 5-8

GIG HARBOR - Next week, Washington State Department of Transportation bridge inspectors will perform a baseline inspection on the new (eastbound) Tacoma Narrows Bridge. To complete the baseline inspection, bridge crews will take a close look at all areas of the bridge, including the bridge truss under the bridge deck. The truck used for the inspection will take up eight feet of the 10-foot-wide bike path, narrowing the path at the truck location between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, May 5-8.

Most of the under-deck inspection work will not require the use of the bicycle/pedestrian path, and will be done using the bridge's "traveler." The traveler is a motorized carriage that travels the length of the truss under the deck, and is specifically designed to provide maintenance and inspection access. However, the outside steel of the south truss is not visible from the traveler. To inspect that area, bridge crews will use an "under bridge inspection truck" that will sit on the bridge's walkway and provide crews access over the pedestrian railing.

Flaggers will help bicyclists and pedestrians navigate around the under bridge inspection truck. If a person in a wheelchair or other such device wants to cross the bridge on the bicycle/pedestrian path, bridge crews will accommodate.

This inspection work will create a comprehensive baseline for comparative purposes over the life of the bridge. As with all major bridge structures on Washington state's highways, bridge crews will repeat the inspection every two years.


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Sunday, April 27, 2008

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Announces $213 Million Grant to Cut Traffic, Improve Transit and Clean the Air in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES - An ambitious plan to cut highway traffic jams and provide better bus transit services in Los Angeles is eligible for more than $213 million in federal Congestion Reduction grants, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters said. The Secretary noted that the grant will allow local leaders to move forward with a plan to use proven transportation solutions like congestion pricing to improve southern California's traffic, economy and air quality.

"The concept is simple but the idea is bold, to make L.A. an easier place to live, a better place to do business and a cleaner place to raise a family," Secretary Peters said. "We want this iconic American city to continue to be known for its epic Hollywood movies, not epic traffic jams."

In announcing the funding in Los Angeles during an event with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Secretary said that the new federal funding would provide the leverage local leaders need to convert up to 85 miles of local HOV highway lanes into more reliable high occupancy toll, or HOT, lanes by the end of 2010.

These roads use electronic tolling technology to allow drivers to pay a fee for access to less-congested lanes. She added that sophisticated sensors will monitor the region's freeways and adjust fares for the lanes based on traffic levels. Secretary Peters said that being able to choose to avoid back ups to experience faster commutes was "a better option than being stuck in traffic and staring at an open lane just to your left."

The Secretary noted that the federal funds would help finance new bus service to run on the HOT lanes. Experience and data show that HOT lanes lead to better traffic on other parallel highway lanes as well, the Secretary also noted. As a result, commuters using any of the highways with HOT lanes will experience faster, more reliable trips.

She also said that the money generated by the new HOT lane tolls would be available for investments in improved transit services throughout the region. "Even if you are one of the few folks who never use a highway, getting around town is still going to get easier with this plan," the Secretary added.

The region has until October 15th to get the legislative authority needed to convert the existing HOV lanes into the new high occupancy toll lanes, the Secretary said. She added that local leaders "have dared to dream big, and with the support of Sacramento and D.C., their vision of a traffic-free L.A. can become a reality."


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Friday, April 25, 2008

Maritime Administration Awards $9.8 Million in Shipyard Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration today announced $9.8 million in grants to 19 small shipyards in the United States.

The grants are part of the new Assistance to Small Shipyards program, set up under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006.

"Small shipyards are vitally important for the health of the maritime industry, and for the economy of the Nation," said Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton.

The purpose of the grants is to make capital and infrastructure improvements that facilitate the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and quality of domestic ship construction, conversion or repair for commercial and federal government use. The grants cover a maximum of 75percent of the estimated cost of improvements. The companies are responsible for the remainder.

The Maritime Administration is the agency in the Department of Transportation dealing with waterborne transportation. Its mission is to improve and strengthen the U.S. marine transportation system, including infrastructure, industry and labor, to meet the economic and security needs of the United States.

Recipients, amounts, and purposes of grants are as follows:

  • Alaska Ship and Drydock of Ketchikan, Alaska, was awarded $615,805 to upgrade its metal equipment, machine shop, and painting equipment.
  • All American Marine, Inc., of Bellingham, Washington, was awarded $285,000 for the acquisition of metal cutting machinery and boat transfer equipment.
  • Brownsville Marine Products, LLC, of Brownsville, Pennsylvania, was awarded $532,226 for hydraulic buggies, winches, mobile crane, jib and overhead cranes.
  • Colonna's Shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia, was awarded $825,000 for a 1,000-ton travelift.
    Conrad Shipyard, LLC, of Morgan City, Louisiana, was awarded $648,648 for welding equipment and a range of tools.
  • Derecktor Shipyards Conn., LLC, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was awarded $863,515 for a welding tank, welding machines, air casters, and hydraulic bender.
  • Duclos Corporation of Somerset, Massachusetts, was awarded $628,300, for railway assembly, upgrading and extending capacity of railway and dock extension.
  • Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, Florida, was awarded $436,274 for metal cutting equipment and a computer system.
  • Everett Shipyard, Inc., of Everett, Washington, was awarded $297,036 for work stations and an overhead crane.
  • Great Lakes Shipyard of Cleveland, Ohio, was awarded $546,000 for an 80-ton mobile crane, a man lift and automated welding equipment.
  • Gulf Marine Repair Corp. of Tampa, Florida, was awarded $487,630 for four cranes, two electric plate rollers, and other manufacturing equipment.
  • Horizon Shipbuilding, Inc., of Bayou La Batre, Alabama, was awarded $277,500 for a computerized plasma cutting table used to cut metal according to ship construction drawings and specifications.
  • Leevac Shipyards, LLC, of Jennings, Louisiana, was awarded $66,068, for software to expand its engineering capability.
  • Master Marine of Bayou La Batre, Alabama, was awarded $450,000 for a travelift.
    Pacific Shipyards International, LLC, of Honolulu, Hawaii, was awarded $869,977 for a water blast system and a mobile crane.
  • R&R Marine Shipbuilding of Port Arthur, Texas, was awarded $400,000 for acquisition and installation of a stiffener fitting gantry, facility electrical upgrades and the cost to install a panel line fabrication facility.
  • Safe Boats of Port Orchard, Washington, was awarded $579,084 for the acquisition and installation of router tables, information technology system upgrades and other machinery and equipment.
  • Todd Shipyards Corporation of Seattle, Washington, was awarded $358,515 to enlarge and renovate their main assembly building.
  • Washburn & Doughty Associates of East Boothbay, Maine, was awarded $633,422 for the acquisition and installation of pipe benders, inverter welding machines, hydraulic press brake, plus other equipment and machinery.


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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Secretary Peters Proposes 25 Percent Increase in Fuel Efficiency Standards Over 5 Years for Passenger Vehicles, Light Trucks

Fuel efficiency standards for both passenger vehicles and light trucks would increase by 4.5 percent per year over the five-year period ending in 2015 - a 25 percent total improvement that exceeds the 3.3 percent baseline proposed by Congress last year - under an ambitious new proposal announced today by U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters.

"This proposal is historically ambitious, yet achievable," Secretary Peters said. "It will help us all breathe a little easier by reducing tailpipe emissions, cutting fuel consumption and making driving a little more affordable."

For passenger cars, the proposal would increase fuel economy from the current 27.5 miles per gallon to 35.7 miles per gallon by 2015. For light trucks, the proposal calls for increases from 23.5 miles per gallon in 2010 to 28.6 miles per gallon in 2015.

All told, the proposal will save nearly 55 billion gallons of fuel and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions estimated at 521 million metric tons. The plan will save America's drivers over $100 billion in fuel costs over the lifetime of the vehicles covered by the rule, Secretary Peters said.

As required by Congress, the proposed rule allows for automakers to earn credits for exceeding Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards. This will serve as an incentive for companies to exceed these goals while giving manufacturers flexibility to meet the standards without compromising their economic vitality. The goal is to save fuel, not endanger jobs, Secretary Peters said.

"Looking at the fuel-efficient technologies already available, it's easy to see a not-too-distant future when cars fueled by something other than gasoline will be readily available and affordable," Secretary Peters said. "Until that time, however, we will continue to do what we can, safely and efficiently, to improve gas mileage and help consumers spend less time and less money at the pump."

Over the last six years, the Administration has twice made changes to the nation's CAFE standards, including the first since 1975 to increase mileage requirements for light trucks. Last year, President Bush called for an energy plan that goes even further by requiring attribute-based fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles.


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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

MAIB publishes MSC Napoli report

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has today published a report following the completion of their investigation into the structural failure of the hull of the MSC Napoli.

Following a complex and wide-ranging investigation, the MAIB found that the failure to the hull in the region of the ship's engine room was due to the vessel's design rather than her material condition or construction. The MAIB concluded that this, along with the ship's speed and her loading, had caused the vessel to break her back as she headed directly into high seas. It has therefore recommended a review of the technical rules used in container ship design.

As part of the on-going investigation the MAIB identified that container ships of similar design could potentially have the same design flaw and have identified that out of 1500 vessels screened, 12 require work to bring them up to acceptable safety standards.

Stephen Meyer, Chief Inspector of the Marine Accidents Investigation Branch, said:

"The MAIB has worked closely with the world's leading classification societies to identify any other vessels that may have the same design flaw as the MSC Napoli. Out of 1500 vessels screened 12 required structural work; until such work can be completed, their safety will be ensured through operational limitations.

I am very pleased that, at the request of the MAIB, the International Chamber of Shipping and the World Shipping Council have already started work on the development of a Code of Best Practice for the container ship industry. This work will take into account the lessons identified by the MAIB investigation and should lead to a much safer industry."

The MAIB has made a series of recommendations to the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) to improve the current technical rules regarding container ship design, and to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the owners of the vessel Zodiac Maritime Agencies Ltd to make the operation of container ships safer.


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Monday, April 21, 2008

Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route

Ministers have appointed Reporters David Gordon and Scott Ferrie to conduct the public local inquiry on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.

A pre-inquiry meeting will be held at 1pm on Tuesday, May 13 in the Gordon Suite at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen.

The pre-inquiry meeting is solely to discuss the administrative arrangements for the inquiry. No discussion will take place concerning the relative merits of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.

With Ministers having accepted the need in principle for the road, the inquiry will focus on the technical and environmental aspects around the choice of route.

The Reporters will consider all evidence prior to making recommendations to Ministers for their consideration. If Ministers decide to proceed with the scheme, it will go before parliament for final approval.

It is likely that the inquiry will start in August 2008. An exact timescale will only be available after the pre-inquiry meeting.

Letters are today being sent to objectors and other interested parties to inform them of their options should they wish to make further representations, including appearing at the inquiry, and the arrangements for the pre-inquiry meeting. The pre-inquiry meeting is also being advertised in the area.


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Friday, April 18, 2008

News Digest

U.S. DOT Seeks Innovative Research Proposals from Small Businesses to Solve Multimodal Transportation Challenges. The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) announced the first of two Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program solicitations for 2008, inviting small businesses to submit innovative research proposals that address high priority national transportation goals. RITA has set a new strategic direction for the program this year, with a heightened emphasis on proposals that would provide cost-effective, multi-modal solutions to the nation’s most pressing transportation challenges in areas such as bridge condition monitoring technology and data collection, hazardous materials tracking and incident response, adaptive traffic signal control, and rail, motorcycle and pedestrian safety research. The SBIR program is administered by RITA's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center on behalf of DOT's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. Proposals are due by June 3, 2008.

U.S. Department of Transportation Approves Continuation of Inland GPS Operations. The U.S. Department of Transportation approved a decision to continue the inland component of the National Differential Global Positioning System (NDGPS), which provides an accurate, highly-reliable, real-time GPS correction signal. The decision is based on the results of the NDGPS user assessment conducted by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). RITA followed the plan announced in the Federal Register notice on NDGPS (72 FR 42219), assessing the current user needs and systems requirements for the inland component of NDGPS. The notice listed 10 factors for consideration. Information was gathered on these 10 factors through public responses to the notice (including responses from state and local governments, the private sector, and the non-profit sector), and through quantification of the mission requirements of other federal agencies using inland NDGPS. Discussions are ongoing regarding the future funding mechanism for inland NDGPS, and will be addressed in future budget submissions. This decision was endorsed by the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee at their meeting of March 20, and publicly announced at the PNT Advisory Committee meeting on March 27.


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Thursday, April 17, 2008

U.S. Transportation Secretary Peters Announces New Measures to Improve Air Travel Experience

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters today announced a series of new aviation measures to strengthen passenger protections, improve consumer choice and reduce congestion, including doubling the limits on compensation airlines must pay flyers bumped from oversold flights and establishing operational improvements to cut delays this summer.

"We are taking steps to improve the travel experience, cut delays and lower fares in one of America’s busiest aviation markets," Secretary Peters said.

The Department today finalized changes to its so-called bumping rule, which doubles the limit on compensation airlines must pay passengers who are involuntarily bumped from their flight. Under the new rule which goes into effect next month, fliers who are involuntarily bumped would receive up to $400 if they are rescheduled to reach their destination within two hours of their original arrival time or four hours for international flights, and up to $800 if they are not rerouted within that timeframe.

The new rule also covers more flights, including those operated with aircraft seating 30 people or more; the current rule covers flights with 60 seats or more. The amount of these payments are determined by the price of the ticket and the length of the delay, and are in addition to the value of the passenger’s ticket, which the flyer can use for alternate transportation or have refunded if not used.

"It's hard to compensate for a missed family occasion or business opportunity, but this rule will ensure flyers are more fairly reimbursed for their inconvenience," Secretary Peters said.

The Secretary also announced new air traffic measures designed to help cut delays this summer. The first involves new and greater flexibility for aircraft to use alternative routes in the sky to avoid severe weather. This includes a new routing alternative that provides an "escape route" into Canadian airspace from the New York metropolitan area so airlines can fly around summer thunderstorms and high winds.

In addition, the FAA will open a second westbound route for aircraft, akin to adding another interstate highway lane in the sky. This would in effect provide a parallel route along a heavily-traveled aviation corridor, helping cut westbound delays from the New York area.

"By making better use of our skies, we are working to limit the impact weather has on travelers on the ground," Secretary Peters said.

The Secretary said the Department also is proposing a new way to manage congestion at New York's LaGuardia Airport. Even though this facility has been capped since 1968, it is still consistently one of the top three most delayed airports in the nation, she said. Under a supplemental rulemaking announced today, the Department is proposing two market-based options that would require a limited number of flights operated by the airlines in a given day, known as slots, to be made available through an auction process.

"This proposal increases choices for passengers and adds competition, which is proven to lower fares. It also cuts delays and funds new aviation capacity projects for the region," Secretary Peters said.

Under the first option, all air carriers would be given up to 20 slots a day for the 10 year life of the rule. Meanwhile, over the next five years, 8 percent of the additional slots currently used by an airline would be made available to any carrier via an auction. An additional 2 percent of the slots would be retired to help cut the record delays at the airport. Proceeds from the auction would be invested in new congestion reduction and capacity improvement initiatives in the New York region.

The second option also gives airlines permanent access to up to 20 slots a day for a 10 year period. Beyond those flights, 20 percent of the slots currently used by the airlines would be made available over the next five years to all airlines through an auction. Under this option, the carriers would retain the net proceeds of the auction.

The Secretary said both options provide financial stability to the airlines operating at LaGuardia by providing them with a defined right to operate at the airport for a decade, something they do not have today. These rights are given in recognition of the significant financial investment the airlines have made in the airport's infrastructure, she said.

"Our plan strikes a sound balance between protecting investments by incumbent carriers and ensuring that all airlines have the ability to fly to New York's LaGuardia," Secretary Peters said. "While the status quo at LaGuardia has led to stagnant service, delays and unnecessarily high fares, open access and competition will help give flyers more choices, fewer delays and lower fares."

Overall, the Secretary said improving the passenger experience is central to the Department's efforts and that she wanted to hear directly from travelers how they are being impacted by problems in the air travel industry. To do so, she has launched a series of Aviation Consumer Forums to hear from consumers and help educate air travelers about their rights and responsibilities. The first DOT-hosted forum is scheduled for tomorrow, April 17, in Miami, to be followed by public meetings in Chicago and San Francisco in the near future.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

DOT Proposes United Airlines for Los Angeles-Mexico Flights

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today proposed to allow United Air Lines to begin new flights between Los Angeles and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.

The service was made available when Frontier Airlines notified the Department that it would cease flying that route after April 13. Frontier was one of three U.S. carriers, along with American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, serving the market. Under the U.S.-Mexico aviation agreement, three U.S. airlines may fly between Los Angeles and San Jose del Cabo. In addition to United, Delta Air Lines and Virgin America applied for the right to serve the route.

In its show-cause order, the Department tentatively found that United's proposal would provide the best service to air travelers. The Department noted that while all the applicants proposed to operate a single daily year-round flight, only United proposed to operate two daily flights during the heavily traveled summer months. The Department noted that United's proposal also would provide valuable connecting benefits that could promote sustained competition and service on the route. United would be required to begin service 90 days following a final decision.

If made final, United's authority will be effective for two years. Delta was tentatively selected as backup carrier in case United is either unable to begin service or, at a minimum, sustain the service it proposed.


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Green light for cleaner, greener fuels

Motorists will be able to fill their tanks with greener fuels when a new initiative comes into force in the UK from tomorrow.

The move is known as the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) and requires 2.5% of all road fuels sold to come from biofuels, rising to 5% by 2010. Motorists will fill their vehicles as normal, but the change is expected to save 2.5million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2010.

It is part of a package of measures being taken to reduce the impact of transport on the environment.

The UK has gone further than any other country to give fuel suppliers a real incentive to produce sustainable biofuels that do not harm the environment. Suppliers are required to produce sustainability reports including information on where their biofuel crops come from and the level of carbon savings they will achieve. The Renewable Fuels Agency will publish these reports and compare the performance of transport fuel suppliers.

Alongside this, a review into the indirect impacts of biofuels has already been announced by Ruth Kelly to ensure that the full economic and environmental impacts of biofuel production are taken into account in the formation of UK policy beyond 2010.

Transport Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said:

"Making it easier for motorists to use greener fuel is an important step towards reducing carbon emissions from transport. It should help save millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide in the coming years.

"But we must do all we can to ensure biofuels are produced sustainably. We know people are concerned about the environmental risks associated with expanding biofuel production and we take those concerns very seriously.

"That is why we want to introduce mandatory standards as soon as possible to guarantee that biofuels don't cause deforestation or food shortages and we are leading international work to do this. In the meantime, we require suppliers to produce sustainability reports, providing an immediate incentive for them to source biofuels responsibly."

Phil Woolas, Minister for the Environment said:

"Emissions from transport need to go down if we are to make serious headway in tackling dangerous climate change and this initiative has the potential to deliver considerable carbon savings.

"Obviously sustainability needs to be at the heart of all biofuel production and it will remain at the forefront of all policy development in this area. We must be able to produce biofuel without causing a negative impact on our natural environment."

The Government has also recently published a body of research as a contribution to the debate on the wider sustainability impacts of biofuels.

The first, a review of work on the environmental sustainability of international biofuels production and use, commissioned by Defra, is an appraisal of the current evidence of the opportunities and threats from biofuel production.

The second considers the possible impact of the RTFO on users of tallow. It suggests that turning tallow into biodiesel does not deliver any net environmental benefits compared to the current uses of tallow.


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Monday, April 14, 2008

Traffic engineers tweak weekend I-5 express lane schedule

SEATTLE - Traffic engineers have officially extended Interstate 5 southbound express lane service by one hour on Saturdays and Sundays. Beginning tomorrow, the I-5 express lanes will regularly close southbound at 1 p.m. and reopen northbound by 2 p.m. on weekends.

While both directions of traffic on I-5 are heavy with approximately 123,000 vehicles traveling northbound and 112,000 vehicles traveling southbound on an average Saturday through Seattle, WSDOT engineers found that southbound traffic has been experiencing a larger percentage of delays in a recent traffic study.

"During peak weekend travel times, we found that southbound I-5 drivers are experiencing longer back-ups and more delays when compared to northbound congestion then dirvers on northbound I-5," said traffic engineer Christina Strand. "This change will more evenly distribute delays experienced by drivers traveling into Seattle on I-5 in both directions."

Extending southbound express lane service until 1 p.m. is nothing new to drivers on Saturdays when the Mariners are in town. On weekend Mariner game days the express lanes usually do not reverse until 1 p.m. to allow game traffic time to get into Seattle. Traffic engineers compared data collected from these weekends with data collected from typical weekends and found out that while northbound drivers experience a spike in congestion when the express lane reversal is delayed until 1 p.m. persistent southbound back-ups are reduced by one hour.

Over the years traffic engineers have continually monitored traffic on I-5 to determine the best schedule for the express lanes. "We will continue to evaluate the current operating schedule of the express lanes to ensure the system is benefiting all drivers." Strand said.


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Friday, April 11, 2008

DOT Proposes to Approve Expanded Transatlantic Alliance

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today proposed to allow Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and four of their international partners in the SkyTeam alliance to combine their existing transatlantic alliances.

In a show-cause order issued today, the Department tentatively decided to grant antitrust immunity and allow the two U.S. carriers, along with Air France, Alitalia, Czech Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, to coordinate their services and act as a single carrier for U.S.-Europe services. Northwest has an existing alliance with KLM, while Delta has an existing alliance with Air France, Alitalia and Czech Airlines.

The Department tentatively concluded that the proposed alliance is in the public interest because it features a proposed new and highly integrated joint venture that will likely produce efficiencies and provide consumers with additional price and service options, such as lower fares and more nonstop and connecting flights. The United States has an Open-Skies Plus aviation agreement with the European Union (EU). Each of the international carriers involved in today’s decision is from an EU member state. The U.S.-EU agreement assures that transatlantic markets remain open to other competitors because U.S. and European airlines are now able to serve any route between the United States and Europe.

As a condition of obtaining antitrust immunity, the Department proposed to require that the carriers implement the immunized alliance within 18 months. The Department stressed that the carriers would remain subject to antitrust laws for domestic service and for international flights that are not covered by the alliance agreement.

Beginning with the Northwest-KLM alliance, which was approved in 1993, the DOT has granted antitrust immunity to a number of international airline alliances where it found that the alliance benefited the public and did not substantially reduce competition.

Delta and Northwest first petitioned the Department to allow the alliance in 2004. After an initial tentative denial, they reapplied in June of last year with a substantially revised agreement.


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Thursday, April 10, 2008

AAIB Bulletin - April 2008



The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) will publish at 00:01 hrs tomorrow, Thursday 10 April (ie at just after midnight tonight), the April 2008 edition of its monthly Bulletin.

Stories of interest in the East of England:

* Southend Airport, Essex - damage on landing when flight returned from Caen, with damage to nose fuselage, landing gear, door and propeller tips

* Stapleford Tawney Airport, Essex (near Epping / Brentwood) - brake pedals disconnected when taxiing for take-off

* Blunts Lane, Potters Crouch, St Albans - fatal accident when microlight struck tree on approach to landing, post-mortem revealed instructor's blood alcohol level was 137 mg / 100 ml


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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bus passengers to be championed by watchdog

Ruth Kelly, Transport Secretary, today announced the creation of the first official national bus passenger champion to actively represent the millions of people who use buses in the towns, villages and cities across England.

Passenger Focus will widen its remit to take on the new role of bus passenger champion.

The decision follows a public consultation on taking forward the measures in the Local Transport Bill to give bus passengers an influential and unified national voice for the first time. The Bill will give local authorities greater powers to improve bus services, making it easier for them to franchise local services and work closely in partnership with bus operators.

Ruth Kelly said:

"Passenger Focus already does a great job representing rail passengers across the country. Now it will also champion the interests of bus users, making sure their voices are heard and influencing the way local bus services operate.

"Buses are an essential means of transport for many people in the East of England, and are increasingly the transport of choice for many others. 183 million bus journeys were made in the East last year, while nearly five billion bus journeys are made across England each year.

"This follows the Government doubling its investment in buses, which now stands at £2.5bn, as well as strengthening the powers available to help councils improve local buses.

"Along with the creation of a national voice for bus passengers, these changes will help bus users everywhere get the service they deserve."


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Monday, April 7, 2008

Community rail - new life for local lines

The rail service on the Severn Beach Line, between Bristol Temple Meads and Severn Beach, has been designated as a Community Rail Service, Rail Minister Tom Harris announced today.

The designated service allows for a more flexible approach to be adopted by the train operating company (First Great Western) working alongside the local Severnside Community Rail Partnership. This enables them to manage the service with greater emphasis on meeting local needs - for example by changing the times of trains or the fares structures. Together they will continue to look for ways to increase patronage and improve the service.

Rail Minister Tom Harris said:

"I am delighted to make this announcement on the day that I meet with representatives of the West of England Partnership to talk about rail issues in their area.

"Designation of the Severn Beach service as a Community Rail Service is good news. It means that local communities can become even more involved in how these services run and ultimately encourage more passengers to use them."

Andrew Haines, Managing Director First Great Western, said:

"This is good news for both passengers and First Great Western. Community Rail Partnerships have the potential to increase passenger numbers, attract external investment and put the railway at the heart of the community it serves. We have already seen beneficial collaborative working on this line and this designation recognises this joint working, and commitment, to develop the line."

Sarah Collins, Partnership Officer of the Severnside Community Rail Partnership, said:

"The official designation of the Severn Beach Line is welcome and will help us to take forward the plans to develop the line."

Notes for Editors

1 The Community Rail Development Strategy looks at innovative ways of operating local branch lines, through a programme of cost management, a drive to increase passenger numbers and direct community involvement via local authorities, community rail partnerships, and other stakeholder groups.

2 To date there have been 23 official designations of lines and services. Rail Minister, Tom Harris, announced two designations yesterday in Manchester:

* South Fylde Line: Preston - Blackpool South designated as a Community Rail Service (part of the route, Blackpool South - Kirkham and Wesham, has also been designated a Community Rail Line)

* Lakes Line: Oxenholme - Windermere designated as a Community Rail Line


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Sunday, April 6, 2008

News Digest

U.S. Department of Transportation Seeks Business Models for Vehicle-Infrastructure Communications Network. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) today issued a Request for Information (RFI) to private industry, state and local governments, and others seeking input on potential business models for the financing and operation of a nationwide communications network between vehicles and the roadway infrastructure. The input and ideas will be used to identify candidate models for the deployment of Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII), which will enable the advancement of crash avoidance technologies in vehicles, real-time traffic information to reduce congestion and improve navigational systems, and other technologies that will improve the safety and efficiency of travel. As part of the VII initiative, RITA will conduct an operational field test of deployment-ready technologies at the November Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress in New York City.


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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Second Railroad Joins FRA Risk Reduction Pilot Program Permitting Confidential Reporting of 'Close Call' Incidents

A second railroad is now participating in a major federal rail safety pilot program designed to allow employees the ability to voluntarily and anonymously report "close call" incidents that could have resulted in an accident but did not, announced Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph H. Boardman.

"This risk-reduction program provides an indispensable opportunity to analyze 'close-call' events to help identify and correct potential safety problems across the industry," said Boardman, adding that the pilot program is a key element of his agency's National Rail Safety Action Plan.

Under a waiver granted by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) this week joins the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) in the Close Call Reporting System Demonstration Pilot Project. Approximately 350 Wisconsin-based CP employees can report 'close call' incidents without fear of sanction or penalty from the railroad or the federal government.

Boardman said that FRA currently requires railroads to routinely report a wide range of accidents and incidents. Even though 'close calls' are not accidents in the technical sense, they are potentially serious nonetheless such as failing to properly test an air brake before leaving a yard, proceeding beyond approved track authority while operating a train in dark (non-signaled) territory and lifting objects that place employees at risk for minor personal injuries, he explained.

The cumulative results of 'close call' reports are being studied to determine areas of potential risk and to develop solutions to prevent and minimize their occurrence in the future, Boardman said. Any reports that require immediate action will be handled promptly. Similar programs already exist in the aviation and mining industries.

In order to participate, the CP, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the United Transportation Union (UTU) each ratified an agreement with the FRA to allow employees to make confidential reports of 'close calls' to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

UP employees at the nation's largest rail yard in North Platte, NE, began reporting 'close calls' in February 2007. FRA is actively working with the Alaska Railroad so that it may become the third railroad in this program. In addition, the Bush Administration has requested $1.2 million in its proposed FY09 budget to operate and expand this pilot program.


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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Process:

The following information is provided as general information. Many District School Boards have policies and procedures in place for dealing with difficult riders, and these take priority over other factors.

If a process is not already in place, the operator, driver, school and District School Board may wish to work on developing a process jointly. Following are some suggestions to consider.

The driver should try to resolve issues on the bus, using positive approaches to promote the principles of safety, order and respect. The process for dealing with unacceptable behavior should be laid out in written form. Drivers should ensure that unacceptable behavior is fully documented. For chronic problems, the following guidelines may help:

First offence:

Verbal warning. The driver warns the student that the behavior is unacceptable and records the warning. A "sample script" might follow this format:

"What are you doing?"

"What are the rules on this bus?"

"What happens when you break the rules?"

"Do you want that to happen?"

"Where do you want to sit, in your own seat or at the front of the bus?"

"What will happen the next time you break the rules?"

If the child avoids answering a question, repeat it calmly. If the child persists in not dealing with you, or if the unacceptable behavior persists, ask:

"Do you want to stay where you are or move to the front of the bus?"

If the student does not comply, follow up with:

"I see you have chosen the front seat."

Require the child to sit in the front seat of the bus. This way of dealing with unacceptable behavior should be time-limited: if the child behaves properly for a set period of time, the child may, at the discretion of the driver, return to his or her own seat, or move back to his or her seat in stages.

Second Offence:

The driver completes a "student behavior report." This report may be found in the back of the logbook, or operators may have developed their own forms.

This form is submitted to the principal of the school for follow-up. It outlines the unacceptable behavior. Once this course of action has been followed, it is important that the bus driver follow through by informing the school. If safety rules are not followed, and the bus driver is distracted, the safety and lives of other children as well as the motoring public is endangered.

Dealing with unacceptable behavior

* document unacceptable behavior. Write down the details: note the circumstances and provide the information to the school authorities, if possible on the day of occurrence. Keep a copy for your records.

* try to be proactive: develop a consistent plan for dealing with unacceptable behavior:

o Have the child write down

+ What they did

+ The school bus rule that was broken

+ How they will deal with the problem in the future

* do not make threats: if you say that a note will be given to the principal, follow through. Inconsistency will result in chaos.

* If it is necessary to eject a student from riding on the school bus, do so only into the hands of the parents, principal or police.

* learning students' names will help to build a relationship and to encourage students to take more responsibility for their behavior.

* If necessary, assign seats to separate students who may misbehave if allowed to interact

* making sure that the bus is clean will encourage good behavior

* do not lose your temper. This compromises your status as a professional.

* Always be consistent.


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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Seat Belt Usage Among Truck Drivers Hits Record Level

DENVER – The number of professional truckers buckling up their seat belts jumped dramatically in 2007 to a record level of 65 percent, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced today during a national conference of state commercial vehicle law enforcement officers.

"Seat belt usage among commercial motor vehicle drivers rose to a new high of 65 percent," said Secretary Peters. "Though we’ve made great strides, we won’t rest until 100 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers wear a seat belt 100 percent of the time."

Currently, 82 percent of passenger vehicle drivers wear seat belts. A survey conducted in 2003 found that only 48 percent of truck drivers used seat belts. In 2006, this figure had improved to 59 percent. The results announced today by Secretary Peters were the findings of the largest and most comprehensive study ever conducted.

Secretary Peters credited the increased seat belt usage in part to the creation of a coalition established by the Department in 2003 with the purpose of increasing seat belt usage among truck drivers. She also credited a 2007 public service announcement the Department produced starring NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace for helping to raise seat belt awareness among truck drivers.


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