The following comments were developed as a response to a questionnaire on needs for the I-64 and I-71 inside the Watterson Expressway
Transportation investment is such a major expense that it should not be undertaken without attempting to address as many of our problems as possible. The fact that transportation is now the #1 emitter of CO2 in this country suggests that solutions well beyond the historic FHWA toolbox be considered here. Indeed, the lines between FHWA and FTA need to be dissolved so that the efficiencies and Environmental Justice aspects of transit systems get serious consideration in all transportation investments.
The narrow mind set and limited toolbox of FHWA cannot encourage the changes necessary to address the challenges of this century.
Analysis of short segments of interstates, as is being done in this instance, prevents the inclusion of the alternatives that could actually create a long term solution to the problems. While lip service to Environmental Justice and Climate concerns is given, it is impossible to address these issues absent a willingness to consider alternatives across the wider system – at the very least from Lexington to Louisville to Carrolton, since commuting across this region is the source of the rush hour only congestion. Congestion in this case should be seen as an incentive to change behavior toward more sustainable alternatives. We just need to provide the alternatives. In the late 1980’s and 1990’s planners were focused on the interaction of Land Use, Transportation, and Air Quality, or “LUTRAC”, This resulted in some of the most successful and environmentally just transportation developments since the horse and buggy. Portland has been quite successful in addressing their considerable growth using the wider toolbox with a broader philosophy.
There should also be a discussion of the financial condition of the Federal Highway Trust Fund which funds this project and the long term maintenance of any improvements. Even before Covid 19 there were serious shortfalls in the Federal Highway Trust Fund and a slowdown in annual VMT growth illustrated by FHWA studies.
The reductions in travel, said Jim Tymon, executive director of AASHTO, “is really going to take cash out of the hands of state DOTs.” The pandemic, analysts say, compound funding problems that have existed for years.
“The trust fund was broken already — there wasn’t enough revenue going in for all the spending,” said Kyle Pomerleau, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “Now, there’s going to be an even further decline in revenue driven by a huge reduction in economic activity.” (1)
New capacity is not justified at this time. All Cost and Benefit analysis should include the environmental and financial impacts of Climate Change, including the cost of our dependency on foreign oil and the impacts of domestic petroleum production from fracking and deep water drilling. Smaller and more efficient vehicles should also be recognized for their role in reducing emissions and lessoning highway wear and tear. Policies that address these concerns are totally lacking and need to be developed if our transportation system is to be sustainable and climate challenges are to be met.
There is no justification to increasing capacity on I-64 or I -71. Doing so is expensive, avoids more sustainable alternatives, and may not be needed as more of the workforce works from home and more young people shun driving altogether. Continuing historic FHWA construction policies will speed the demise of our highway system, and/or result in dramatic increases in fuel taxes. Let’s focus on keeping what we have in good condition while developing sustainable alternatives.
Regarding the road sections under discussion, I can suggest one simple and inexpensive modification that can be made to the West bound exit ramp of 1-64 at Grinstead Drive which would greatly improve safety. I use I-64 frequently, rush hour and at other times. Currently there is a single lane of traffic coming off of I-64 after the tunnel. At rush hour this ramp is often backed up onto the interstate creating a very dangerous situation for those coming through the tunnel in the right lane. Capacity on the ramp could be dramatically increased by having the exit widen immediately to two lanes so that those turning right at the bottom of the ramp can move to the right lane immediately rather than being stuck in the single lane, when there is plenty of room in the right lane further down.
Thank you for your attention.
David Coyte, President
Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation.
203 N. Clifton Ave., Suite B
Louisville, KY 40206
1)www.rollcall.com “Highway Funds Shortfall Deepened by Plunge in Gas Tax”
Passenger Rail News from the Environmental Law & Policy Center
Passenger Rail News
Amtrak hungers for an upscale food hall at [Chicago] Union Station. The railroad wants to add a “bespoke” food hall to the downtown station, which it owns. It is seeking operators to move into space along the building’s Clinton Street side that has been off-limits to the public since a devastating fire in 1980. Amtrak is turning to one of the hottest trends in commercial real estate in hopes of bringing to the landmark building an amenity for travelers and those who live and work nearby. “With all the development that is going on around Union Station, we think a food hall is just a natural for this space,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. https://chicago.suntimes.com/business/2019/8/6/20757487/chicago-union-station-amtrak-upsca le-food-hall
Amtrak matches $750,000 Oregon DOT grant for Northwest rail infrastructure efforts. Building on a $750,000 grant application with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Amtrak declared last week that it would match that contribution to restoring an out-of-service siding in-state. That bit of infrastructure runs between Portland and Salem, Oregon, and would, according to the two organizations, reduce delays in the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor by improving on-time performance. The section has an issue with delays caused by freight train interference. https://transportationtodaynews.com/news/14827-amtrak-matches-750000-oregon-dot-grant-for- northwest-rail-infrastructure-efforts/
THE LATEST IN AMTRAK NOMINATIONS SAGA: Two former congressmen, the head of the Florida Republican Party, and a former White House official aren’t the kind of nominees you might expect to be held up by a GOP senator. But that’s what’s happening with President Donald Trump’s picks for the Amtrak board of directors, who have been blocked, in one case for almost two years, by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)…. Aside from Moran’s concerns, other lawmakers and passenger rail advocates have criticized the nominations of former Reps. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), both of whom voted against funding for Amtrak multiple times. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-transportation/2019/08/08/the-wait-continues- for-amtrak-nominees-466514
“THEY COULD SAVE LIVES”: Google and other tech companies have failed to implement a recommendation by the NTSB to incorporate rail crossing data into their mapping apps, earning the ire of former federal railroad officials, your host reported in a story published over the weekend. The safety agency’s recommendation came after a 2015 crash in which a truck driver using Google Maps accidentally turned onto railroad tracks and got stuck, leading to the crash which killed a train engineer and injured 32 others…. The companies’ failure to act is “tantamount to gross negligence,”former FRA administrator Sarah Feinberg told POLITICO, adding that they could indisputably save lives by taking action. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-transportation/2019/08/12/tech-companies-igno re-ntsbs-plea-on-rail-crossings-467719
Canadian Pacific puts Amtrak expansion on hold in Wisconsin, Illinois. Leave it to the state of Illinois to mess up something Wisconsin wants to accomplish. Actually, the two states are trying to work together to expand Amtrak’s Milwaukee-to-Chicago route, called the Hiawatha line. Wisconsin has $35 million in its 2019-2021 budget to increase the Hiawatha line up to 10 round trips a day. Canadian Pacific, however, will not allow the increase to happen on its tracks until improvements are made, and two of the projects vital to the upgrade have been cancelled in Illinois. https://www.rtands.com/passenger/canadian-pacific-puts-amtrak-expansion-on-hold-in-wiscons in-illinois/
Amtrak and MassDOT testing new ‘Valley Flyer’ train service. Amtrak and MassDOT began test running a new Valley Flyer passenger train service.
The trains will travel on the knowledge corridor making stops across western Mass. https://www.westernmassnews.com/news/amtrak-and-massdot-testing-new-valley-flyer-train-service/article
Environmental Law & Policy Center
All Aboard for the 21st Century!
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was among the dignitaries at Union Station Sunday as he highlighted redevelopment work being undertaken at the historic transportation hub. The proposed project, which would feature a partnership between the city, Amtrak, and other development partners, will bring a variety of new features and attractions to the area around the station, and represents the city’s commitment to creating and maintaining a 21st century transportation infrastructure. “You want a 21st century economy? You have to have a 21st century transportation infrastructure,” Emanuel said. “If you have a middle 20th century mindset, you’ll just run at that speed.” https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/union-station-renovation-creates-thousands-of-jobs-4 98840801.html
The Sherman Minton Rehabilitation Opportunity
Consultants for this project have been selected and they have begun the EIS Process with a couple of public meetings this last week.
Rehabilitating the Sherman Minton is scheduled to begin in late 2021. It will take a two to three years and require frequent lane closures and full shut-downs for periods over that time. The congestion will be a nightmare for everyone. The 65 corridor will take the brunt of the traffic, but the West End, New Albany and downtown Louisville will suffer the worst from congestion and the resulting pollution.
Our impression from the consultants in the Louisville Public Meeting is that they have no real plan to address congestion and cross-river travel beyond creatively moving traffic barriers and hoping for the best. When I suggested implementing a cross-river rail transit system for this project the responses went from neutral to out-right antagonistic.
These are highway men and women who are hired by highway departments to do highways. Our past experience in trying to bring about consideration of rail options has shown a lack of interest in looking outside the curbs.
I imagine that the Kentucky and Indiana Highway Agencies are looking forward to forcing 90,000 more vehicles across the tolled bridges. Their projections for travel on the tolled bridges have fallen way short – having ignored CART’s data and tweaked their own. Forcing 90,000 more trips across the tolled bridges is good for their revenue streams, but it is crappy public policy.
We have two well placed rail bridges that could be used to address some of this congestion and help those who will be most impacted by this project.
We should be looking to utilize them to the fullest. Implementing commuter rail service will allow TARC to maintain cross-river service without being mired in traffic. These bridges are the only options available to make a positive impact during this construction.
The highwaymen will be whining about the cost of implementing this service, But remember that these same guys used the “cost of Congestion” as a major justification for the last Bridges Project. Apparently that argument only works for them.
The other thing to consider is that after two years of study and prep, two to three years of very painful construction, and 90 plus milllion dollars, what will we have? EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE TODAY. We have fallen down the Rabbit Hole.
This project is important and it also offers the only chance we will have for 30 years to implement a modern transportation system. A commuter rail system will not only address the mobility of our aging population but give us a boost towards addressing the climate issues that threaten us all. Rail is 15 times more efficient than cars for moving people, and it is that much safer, too. So let’s leverage all this pain into something that will actually move us forward and help us confront the climate and resource issues that are barreling down on us. That’s good public policy.
Why My Car Remains Unwashed. David Coyte
My car is filthy. I park it under a sappy tree. And we aren’t talking a tad grimy. We are talking filthy black – and it is a white car . I get stares, comments, and attitude.
I love my car. Sporty 4 door, Fun to drive and one of the most efficient gas vehicles on the road. 48 MPG on a recent trip to Minnesota – there, back, and all the travel in between. And I can put a 9′ 2×12 board inside and close the hatchback. This marvelous piece of engineering and efficiency is a 1994 Geo Metro. Eat your hearts out.
“So, why”, you ask, “do you not wash your car.?”
I hate cars. They are filthy, murderous machines to which we are addicted. And they are responsible for a significant part of our world’s resource problems as well as a myriad of negative social and health impacts. As much as I love my car, I refuse to let it lull me into thinking that driving is good for me, or anyone else.
You have a nice car? Lots of pretty things are poisonous. My car is here to remind you that you are driving a malignancy. Just like me.
Midwest Regional Rail Network. Wrap your head around it.
Take-aways from Brugge Event
On June 6th, CART hosted Dr. Doug Brugge of the Tusk University Medical School for a presentation on his work as director of the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH) study.
There is a strong body of research that documents a variety of health problems associated with proximity to major traffic corridors. Ozone precursers, and PM 2.5 particles from vehicle emissions are well documented contributors to health problems. The CAFEH study is looking primarily at the role of Ultra Fine Particulates (UFP’s) that are only slightly larger than individual molecules. These particles are condensed from the gases that leave your tailpipe. CAFEH is actually a series of studies that establishes the health biometrics as well as measuring the particle emissions and individual exposure levels across a number of neighborhoods in the Boston metropolitan area. It is impressively complicated, both technically and logistically. Imagine a long term study that involves multiple blood testing of hundreds of citizens, particle monitoring inside and outside of their homes, particle monitoring from mobile labs that travel the roadways for years gathering data, and an incredible statistical analysis that seeks to adjust exposure to travel habits, work and home, weather conditions, and many other variables.
Most impressive, in the face of these challenges is Dr. Brugge’s commitment to valid science and the search for solutions to these problems.
There are a number of points from Dr. Brugge’s presentation that stand out.
First: Health problems associated with being close to major corridors are indisputable.
Second: Ultra Fine Particulates, unlike Ozone, are worse in the winter months because they are condensates, and things condense more easily in cold conditions. Ozone is created when sunlight interacts with exhaust gases and this occurs in warm months.
Third: Mitigating particulate exposure is difficult. It helps if you are in a building with a central air system with good filtration and sealed windows. It appears much more difficult to protect residences where just opening a door can significantly impact indoor air quality.
Fourth: Vegetative barriers (rows of trees and bushes), and walls, can help reduce particulate exposure for those close to major traffic corridors, but keeping housing and schools farther away is the best solution. California has legislation that requires keeping schools and public housing farther from traffic corridors. Massachusetts is working on similar legislation.
Fifth: Diesel exhaust is many times worse than gasoline, so truck routes are particularly toxic.
Sixth: Investing in electric powered transport –electric rail, private electric vehicles, and light rail transit – is the best way to reduce exhaust toxins of all kinds.
CART would like to thank Dr. Brugge for an enlightening evening and the important work he is doing. We look forward to updates as his research continues.
We would also like to thank the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and JC and Charlotte for their support of this program and our mission.
Coming June 6th
CART’s new bumper sticker!
It is easy to forget that tailpipes put out as much CO2 as Coal Fired power plants – but they do and it is one of the areas in which we can really make a difference. Tail pipe emissions are also a leading cause of Ozone pollution and source for Asthma and other heart and respiratory diseases. CART wants to “Out” the Tailpipe!- to help us remember to drive less, and use and support Transit more. Get one of our new bumper stickers when you become a member.