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FDOT signs on with Google-Owned Waze for Traffic Problems

The Fuse Joplin – May 20, 2014

Florida transportation officials recently shook hands with Waze, the Google-owned Smartphone application used for navigation and outsmarting traffic problems. The partnership marks a significant merge between the app and government authorities interested in providing faster commutes and transportation services.

Waze provides drivers real-time service to avoid congestion and provide numerous different detour routes, thereby reducing overall traffic problems in the area. The Google navigation app provides options and alternatives to reach destinations more quickly using feedback and data provided by drivers and traffic conditions. The data is uniformly collected regarding road pileups, hazards, and construction to redefine directions en route.

Waze and FDOT will exchange their licensing power to provide sufficient data to each other to improve travel. The informational data includes weather emergencies, closures and openings of bridges, traffic incidents, road closures, congestion, accidents, and alternative segment travel times.

Gas-Tax Buying Power Hits All-Time Low in Some States, Study says

Bloomberg News – May 19, 2014

The gasoline tax’s purchasing power has fallen to historic lows in 10 states because the levy is so low and has not been raised in so long, according to a new study. This has occurred in Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. The rate has not been adjusted for more than 10 years in twenty four states and sixteen states have gone more than two decades without an adjustment, said the report released earlier this month by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington think tank.

The buying power of each state’s gasoline tax was measured using inflation factors and compared the states’ current gas tax rates with the average rate levied in each state since its gasoline tax was first implemented.

“For example, while the 2-cent gas tax that Delaware levied in 1924 may sound extremely low to today’s drivers, in the context of the 1924 economy, it was actually higher than the [23-cent] tax rate Delaware levies today,” the report said. A 2-cent tax in 1924 was roughly equivalent to a 27.8 cent tax today, according to the report.

“Raising the gas tax in these states could reverse the long-running decline in their value brought about by inflation,” the study said.

Certain states’ tax rates have “been allowed to stagnate” so long that to recover the levy’s purchasing power, the states would need to approve significant increases just the bring the tax to its previous value.

For example, South Carolina would need to triple its 16-cent gasoline tax to get close to recovering what it lost in buying power, the study said.

The institute has plans to look at state diesel taxes in the future.

“We’re still working on compiling a full history of every state’s gasoline and diesel tax rates,” said Carl Davis, the senior policy analyst who handles fuel-tax issues at the institute. “Once that happens, we’ll be in a better position to do these kinds of analyses for diesel fuel tax as well.”

While it is nice to have yet another Washington think-tank take a stand on fuel tax, they are stating the obvious to us in the industry. It however confirms the degree of difficulty state lawmakers face in raising the per gallon tax rate. Those states which have managed to have built-in inflationary increases, should count their good fortune. JN

FDOT Blames Federal Government for Matthews Bridge Collision, says Court Filing

Florida Times-Union - May 19, 2014

The federal government is responsible for several errors which resulted in a towed Navy cargo ship striking the Matthews Bridge last September, and should pay for the $4.1 million repair, Florida transportation officials claim in a filing in naval court last month.

The state reported that the height of the USNS 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin, which struck the center span of the bridge on Sept. 26, was more than 5 feet taller than officially documented. The state also alleged that the vertical clearance listed for the bridge, which the federal government generated and published, is also incorrect.

“Although the United States has attempted to place road blocks and otherwise impede the State’s ability to independently establish the true height of the Martin, other evidence shows that the Martin was at least five feet and seven inches taller than it was actually listed,” according to the claim. “The United States is also responsible for the alleged error as to the vertical clearance of the [Matthews] Bridge.”

In the filing, the state demands to be repaid the $4.1 million repair costs by the U.S. Navy and two of its subcontractors, Patriot Contract Services and Moran Towing Corporation. An attorney representing the parties said they have not responded to the claim and declined further comment.

FDOT spokesman Dick Kane said both parties will meet for mediation and a settlement conference in August.

Bridge hits, unfortunately, are not entirely uncommon to transportation agencies. When it happens, everyone pays in terms of delay, inconvenience, and detours, but ultimately someone needs to pay for the repairs. While there are always two sides to the story, the entity who hits the bridge usually pays, which makes this story unusual. JN

Voters to Decide on Missouri’s $5 Billion Road Plan

Land Line Magazine – May 15, 2014

Voters in Missouri will soon decide on a $5.4 billion transportation improvement plan. The House approved a scaled-back plan to generate about $534 million annually in new revenue for roads and other transportation work with a three-fourths-cent general sales tax for the next decade.

The Senate previously passed House Joint Resolution 68 with a 22-10 vote after cutting one-fourth cent from a previous version. The most recent House approval on May 14 cleared the way for the proposed constitutional amendment to be part of the November general election vote. Gov. Jay Nixon has the authority to move up the date for voters to decide on the tax question.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Dave Nichols released a statement on Wednesday applauding lawmakers for giving voters the opportunity to boost the state’s economy and the safety of public driving by making transportation improvements.

“We are working with planning partners around the state and representatives from every mode of transportation to determine how this new revenue could best improve our total transportation system,” Nichols said. “We are ready to deliver the projects and services that Missourians expect and deserve.”

Nichols has said that the state’s construction budget for roads and bridges has fallen to $685 million this year, from about $1.3 billion annually in 2010.

If voters approve the tax measure, it would begin Jan. 1, 2015. About $480 million each year would go toward highways, transit, ports, airports and pedestrian paths. Cities and counties would split the remaining $54 million annually for local projects.