I’m not sure that we ever posted the new EPA sustainability policy on clean water and drinking water infrastructure, but it is something that we link to on our Regional Water Infrastructure page and tend to mention often in our presentations.
It’s noteworthy that the policy places a tremendous focus on long-term planning approaches and sustainability. This is very similar to RenewLV’s own water and wastewater policy, and we are pleased to be aligned with the EPA’s standards.
Check out the policy here. What are your thoughts on this document?
Even though NJ Governor Chris Christie put the kibosh on the ARC tunnel project that would have provided a much-needed transit connection between New Jersey and New York, reports are rumbling that Amtrak is ready to come in and revive the project. Gothamist picked up the story that was reported by Fox NY –
Amtrak Vice President Al Engel says they’re talking to NJ Transit about teaming up and finishing the tunnel themselves, and using it for a high-speed rail. However, they stress there is nothing set in stone, so there’s still plenty of time for the abandoned construction space to get turned into an elite street art collection.
There’s that Gothamist humor!
But in all seriousness, is Amtrak trying to establish itself as the transit savior of our time? I also heard rumors (that may or may not be substantiated) that the company is interested in bringing HSR through the Lehigh Valley. Intriguing indeed.
What are your thoughts on Amtrak’s interest in the ARC project?
For more on RenewLV’s work on transportation, visit our Sustainable Transportation Initiative page.
As the special session on Pennsylvania’s transportation funding crisis continues, it is seeming more and more unlikely that anything will happen in terms of passing meaningful legislation that will fill the gap. But local media outlets are not accepting this approach; just today the Express Times published its opinion on the matter, urging legislators to take action.
And rightfully so. Businesses depend on the state of our essential infrastructure. As we continue working on reviving the economy, we must take care of our transportation network to ensure that commerce continues successfully and workers are able to travel to their jobs. According to the article, “As difficult as this economy is for everyone, waiting until roads and bridges become unusable will be a heavy, heavy anchor on any recovery, creating giant replacement costs.”
But what solution should be implemented? The Times suggests that “[a]ll ideas should be on the table; a minimal raise in fuel taxes (four cents per gallon is Rendell’s suggestion) would at least get bridge and highway rehab work going on some level.” Surprisingly, the tax-averse Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce has even gone on record as a supporter of a gas-tax raise. Maybe it’s time to start looking into this option…
John Micek at Capitol Ideas has a good write-up about today’s Rendell presser, at which the PA governor once again underscored the need to fully fund the state’s transportation needs now. His solution for finding revenue? Micek writes:
As he has before, Rendell proposed a tax on the profits of oil companies. Levied at 8 percent, he said it would raise $576 million a year. The Democratic governor, who leaves office in January, also said he wants to impose inflation-adjusted fees on motor vehicle license and registration fees, raising about $434 million.
This year, Rendell and lawmakers must find a way to fill a $472 million transportation funding gap created when the federal government shot down the state’s application to convert Interstate 80 in northern Pennsylvania into a toll road.
A transportation study commission had previously said the state needs to raise $1.7 billion a year to meet its existing transportation and mass-transit funding needs. Rendell said today that figure had been adjusted upward to more than $3 billion a year.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the governor’s plan will have much traction in this legislative session, as the looming elections have many legislators scared to pass any revenue-increasing measures (aka ‘taxes’). Given fear of raising taxes, what will happen to our transportation network this year? Predictions?
And since we’re on the topic of taxes, I want to remind all of you that RenewLV’s next brown-bag session on the topic of municipal finance in Pennsylania is this Friday, August 27, 12pm (noon) to 1:30 pm at the Sigal Museum in Easton. Gerry Cross of the Pennsylvania Economy League, Central Division, will give a brief overview of the state’s municipal finance system as well as a briefing on the various municipal consolidation bills that are being discussed currently in Harrisburg. Click here for more information.
It is my pleasure to announce that the next Renew Lehigh Valley brown-bag session will be held on Friday, August 27th from 12pm (noon) to 1:15 at the Sigal Museum, new home of the Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society [342 Northampton Street in Easton, map].
The topic for this session is Municipal Finance. Gerald Cross, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League, Central Division, will be discussing Pennsylvania’s current system of municipal finance and the major structural challenges that this system poses for older core communities, especially cities and boroughs. As this was a central topic of focus at the recent Building One PA Summit in Lancaster, we will make sure to provide a report from that event at this brown-bag session.
The session is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. There will be NO FEE to enter the museum. It will be held in the 2nd Floor Conference Room at the museum. Upon checking in at the admissions desk, you will be directed upstairs. Metered street parking is available throughout Easton. A public parking garage is located on 27 South Third St. [map]
Bring a lunch (perhaps from one of the downtown dining establishments), come check out the Sigal Museum and join us for a lively discussion on the 27th. RenewLV will be recording this session and making the podcast available to listen on our website and on iTunes. Check out past brown-bag session recordings on RenewLV’s Multimedia page.
If you would like additional information, or have any questions about the event, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 484.893.1062.
Hope to see you on the 27th.
At yesterday’s American Infrastructure at a Crossroads event, held at Central Pennsylvania College, the discussion focused not only on the kind of infrastructure we typically think of — roads and bridges, rail, water/wastewater — but also on the slightly atypical — web infrastructure. It was all with an eye toward encouraging state and federal legislators to prioritize infrastructure spending. The panel was made up of experts from various fields, including engineering, labor, and environment. And — surprise, surprise — the Director of Google Pittburgh was there representing the web infrastructure perspective.
US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood delivered his message via satellite, as he had a meeting in Washington that day also on the topic of infrastructure. Sec. LaHood stressed that the American public’s desire to see high-speed rail lines established across the nation will be fueling the administration’s agenda to bring rail to all major cities over the next decade. When the discussion turned to the establishement of regional passenger rail networks within Pennsylvania, Sec. LaHood stressed the public to keep contacting their legislators in order to encourage them to make passenger rail a top priority.
Though a majority of the discussion centered on transportation infrastructure, some mention was made on the importance of upgrading our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure. Dick Gephardt, speaking on the panel, acknowledged that much of our water infrastructure had not been upgraded for decades and that the systems are reaching the end of, or are exceeding, their life expectancy. This is not new information to those that have been working on this issue or following it closely in the news. It is almost on a weekly basis now that we hear about a pipe bursting or about contamination of a local stream by wastewater overflow.
Overall, the mood was hopeful, with leaders and experts encouraging the audience to continue contacting state and federal legislators and telling them that infrastructure spending should be a priority. This is especially important in Pennsylvania, as we are looking at a significant gap in our transportation funding (as part of Act 44). Governor Rendell warned that the funding gap would have a crippling effect on the Commonwealth’s essential transportation network, and that the state’s economy depended on this network.
The only disappointment I took away from the event was the insufficient coverage that sustainable design received in the discussions. Livable communities were briefly mentioned by Sec. LaHood at the beginning, but there was little or no talk of walking or bicycling infrastructure throughout the entire session. As Matt Zieger poignantly stated on his Twitter, “It’s a simple equation…if people live more closely together, infrastructure costs are lower! (less miles of road/pipe/wire/fiber).”
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @renewlv to catch up on all of our coverage of yesterday’s event.
Yet more proof that public transportation has very real and significant positive impacts on the health of a population. A study conducted in Charlotte, NC by the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the RAND Corporation has “found that construction of a light-rail system (LRT) resulted in increased physical activity (walking) and subsequent weight loss by people served by the LRT.”
So you’re telling me that the availability of a reliable and convenient alternative to driving encourages people to become less dependent on their cars, and, subsequently to walk more? And that this is good for our health? Surely this is something that we knew already — yet, for some reason, public policies on transportation rarely account for these benefits and the potential long-term cost-savings. Indeed, lead investigator on the study, John M. MacDonald of the University of Pennsylvania, stated that we need to focus on the public policy implications of these findings:
Public policy investments in transit should consider potential increases in physical activity as part of the broader set of cost-benefit calculations of transit systems. Land-use planning and travel choice have a clear impact on health outcomes.
It is incredibly important to note this last point — the effect of land-use planning on overall quality of life. It’s no secret that well-planned transportation networks rely on effective land-use planning strategies (ones that put people before cars). This is part of the reason why RenewLV’s Sustainable Transporation Initiative has a strong focus on regional land-use planning. It seems appropriate then to make the connection between the overall health of a population and the design of a community (i.e. the presence of sidewalks, bike lanes, etc.).
Unfortunately, many transportation policies still favor the the building of new roads rather than creating robust public transit systems. I believe that there should be a balance struck in funding roads and transit — one that can be advocated for by public health professionals. Perhaps creating stronger ties between transportation and public health can encourage this.
What do you think?
If you follow the news in the Lehigh Valley closely, you’re aware of the uphill battle that has been the Bethlehem Skate Park. The project has hit so many snags along the way — including a possible cut in funding by the Bethlehem City Council, a move that didn’t happen thanks to the successful rallying of local skateboarders via social media (what a great organizing tool, no?) — but all of that is in the past as opening day of the park draws near.
The blog for Homebase, a local skateboard shop, has pictures of the park, as well as some details regarding the grand opening on July 16th. Here are some teaser pictures:
This park has tremendous potential for attracting tourism into the region and the city. And it will be a great recreational area for the young people in the region. Visit their blog to see the rest of the pictures and get full details on opening day.
Sadly, I will be out of town at the Building One Pennsylvania summit on the 16th and will have to miss the grand opening, but if any of you are unable to attend the summit in Lancaster, I suggest you head over to this event at 4pm.
The mood at last night’s Building One PA event in Allentown was hopeful. Community members gathered to watch “The New Metropolis” documentary, which, among other things, highlighted the crucial link between urban revitalization and comprehensive regional planning. The discussion that followed also focused on the need to plan better on a regional level.
The documentary recounted the history of urban sprawl, starting with government policies put into place after World War II. These policies encouraged new developments on cheap farmlands with the aid of state and federal subsidies. Now, many decades later, these original communities are struggling with keeping up with finances, as new developments keep popping up in the outlying areas. Urban planning leaders in the film called for a better, more coordinated approach to planning, with Myron Orefield stating that “regional land-use policies–tied to infrastructure planning– are the key to smart growth.”
The discussion that followed among the panelists and audience members brought out some good commentary about what needs to be done to encourage reinvestment in our older communities. Mayor Pawlowski of Allentown stressed that policy changes have to be implemented on the statewide level. Current policies tend to favor new developments over efforts to rebuild aging infrastructure in older communities, which places an unfair burden on these communities. The panel encouraged community members to organize in their respective municipalities and keep working with RenewLV to find effective solutions to these issues.
This discussion will continue at the greater Building One Pennsylvania summit, taking place in Lancaster on July 16th. We encourage any interested residents and workers of the Lehigh Valley to attend this event on the 16th. Click here to register. To keep up to date on matters related to regional collaboration and urban revitalization, make sure to sign up for RenewLV’s e-mail list on our Join Us page.
I came across this post today in the blogosphere and thought it was interesting enough to share on here. Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling reported on the curently-underway Car-Free Diet Challenge being administered by Arlington County Commuter Services (Arlington, VA).
The premise: two individuals, skeptical of car commuting, undertake a 30 day car-free challenge. The individuals use a car-free calculator throughout the process to account for money savings, weight loss, and even CO2 reductions.
The official Challenge website and blog will provide periodical video updates of the two participants — and you can already check out the first video.
Would any of you in the Lehigh Valley undertake a car-free challenge? The transportation network in Arlington is much more robust than here in the Lehigh Valley, as there is ready access to a subway/light-rail system there. In turn, this makes it easier to commute within the greater Northern Virginia/Washington DC region. But I imagine that many of those who live and work within the Valley’s cities could undertake such a challenge. I would need a better bicycle and a stronger will in order to get over Wyandotte hill five days a week.
Post your thoughts on this challenge below.
(PS: If you didn’t get a chance to attend RenewLV’s Regional Transportation Forum on April 19th, the video of the forum can be viewed on the WLVT/PBS39 website.)