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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FHWA Administrator Reviews Highway Trust Fund With State Officials

WASHINGTON – Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez told state highway officials today what to expect if the highway trust fund falls short in the coming weeks during a "no surprises" discussion.

"Unless we shore up the trust fund, we will have no other choice than to pay the states less frequently for road and bridge repairs," Mendez said in a conference call with lead officials from 38 states and the District of Columbia. Mendez added that payments, currently made on a daily basis, could be made weekly or twice a month, depending upon the availability of funds.

The highway trust fund, which provides states about $40 billion each year for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects administered by the states, often fluctuates and is expected to drop by the end of August. A shortfall would not shut down the Federal-Aid Highway Program, nor would it prevent states from using federal dollars for highway projects. However, it would affect how quickly FHWA reimburses states.

Department of Transportation officials continue to work closely with Congress to prevent disruptions in payments to the states.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reassessing the Richardson Grove Highway Project: A Consideration of the Consequences and Alternatives



The current broad public discussion concerning the Richardson Grove Highway Project (RGOPP) provides an unprecedented opportunity for North Coast communities to seek federal funding for the development of alternative transportation modalities, powered by non-fossil fuels, to meet the economic and ecological needs of our community. Short-sea shipping, for example, could serve coastal communities and help develop our Port in an appropriate way. Our academic, technical, labor, non-profit, business and government resources could collaborate on alternative initiatives that would avoid the need for disturbing Richardson Grove, a project that relies on anachronistic transport modalities and will foster uncontrollable and unwanted development.

Humboldt County will suffer significant adverse impacts if the Richardson Grove road project is approved. The project is too big, too consequential, and too transformative to be pushed through by CalTrans and the County Economic Development Department without the fully informed consent of the citizenry.

We believe that this project’s impacts on traffic through the county, its likely economic downsides, its risks to old growth redwood habitat, and its preclusion of better alternatives are matters of grave public concern that are trivialized by supporters of the RGOPP.

The Richardson Grove Project is linked to two other STAA truck access bottlenecks, one over Highway 299 at Buckhorn Summit, and the other along Highways 199/197 in Del Norte County along the Middle Fork Smith River. STAA truck traffic will then facilitate interstate and interregional commerce, as well as the unexamined potential for sprawl development along these routes as large franchise operations benefit from the efficient delivery systems. The risk to local businesses remains unevaluated but is clearly significant. Richardson Grove is critical Marbled Murrelet habitat, yet population demographics are unknown, and Caltrans proposes to survey for the endangered seabird only after the project. Analogously, the consequences of redwood root compaction and other disturbances related to the Project on the vitality of 28-30 ancient redwood trees are unknown.

Caltrans has narrowly construed the purpose of the Project to allow STAA access through the Grove, rather than to facilitate the movement of goods into and out of the County. Consequently, no feasible, reasonable alternatives are, or can be, considered.

However, approval of the project is not inevitable.

Rest of Article

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Blue Green Alliance Leads Array of Labor, Environmental Organizations in Opposition to Bigger Trucks

Labor Unions, National Environmental Groups Endorse McGovern, Lautenberg Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 19, 2009) The Blue Green Alliance, along with an array of labor unions and environmental organizations, said today that they oppose allowing heavier and longer trucks, including huge triple-trailer trucks, on the nation's highways. The coalition said they will work to pass a bill that would extend the "freeze" on truck size and weight to the entire National Highway System (NHS).

Joining the Blue Green Alliance in opposition to bigger trucks and in support of the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act (H.R. 1618, S. 779) are the Sierra Club, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Laborers' International Union of North America, Environment America, Communications Workers of America and the Service Employees International Union.

"The facts are clear: heavier trucks would be dirtier and would unnecessarily contribute to air pollution and global warming," said David Foster, Executive Director of the Blue Green Alliance. "The Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act will help prevent truck weights and lengths from increasing while taking action to improve the environment and make America more energy secure."

These national labor and environmental organizations are working to debunk the arguments of major corporate interests claiming bigger trucks would mean fewer trucks on the road and reduced fuel use. The Teamsters and the Sierra Club said bigger trucks will mean greater challenges for truck drivers and motorists, more fuel squandered and more pollution and global warming emissions.

Today, laws limiting triple trailers and other so-called "longer combination vehicles" apply only to the 46,000 mile Interstate Highway system. The Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act would apply this standard to the full 160,000 mile NHS, which would save millions of gallons of fuel and billions of taxpayer dollars because limiting truck weight would reduce wear and tear on infrastructure, mainly bridges.

In addition to wrecking roads and bridges, allowing heavier and longer trucks would mean more fuel consumption and a move away from energy efficiency at a time when reducing fuel use and global warming emissions is a national imperative.

"We need to make transportation choices that cut back on fuel waste and reduce emissions, or we will all pay a steep price," said Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. "Bigger trucks would mean more fuel wasted and more global warming emissions at a time when all Americans are realizing we need to go in the exact opposite direction. "

"This is about highway safety and protecting our environment," said James P. Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. "Teamsters are the safest drivers on the road and know the risks of bigger trucks. Heavier or longer trucks are harder to handle, putting lives at risk, damaging the highway infrastructure and consuming more fuel."

Read the letter signed by labor and environmental groups supporting SHIPA or visit

The Blue Green Alliance is a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy. Launched in 2006, the Blue Green Alliance now unites more than six million people in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy.

Groups organize against bigger trucks

By Jill Dunn, July 6, 2009

An alliance of labor and environmental groups is campaigning for a bill that would freeze truck size and weight on the National Highway System.

The Blue Green Alliance is comprised of the Sierra Club, Teamsters union, Natural Resources Defense Council, Laborers’ International Union of North America, Environment America, Communications Workers of America and the Service Employees International Union.

They support the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act, or H.R. 1618 and S. 779. The House bill was referred to committee March 20 and has 91 co-sponsors and the Senate bill was referred to committee April 1 and has 3 co-sponsors.

The alliance and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association support the current limit of 80,000 pounds and 53-foot limits for tractor-trailer rigs on interstate highways of the National Highway System.

The NHS covers about 160,000 miles of highway, while interstates represent 44,000 miles.

The American Trucking Associations, the National Private Truck Council and some shipping organizations favor expanding these limits. They support the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2009, or H.R. 1799, which was referred to committee March 30 and has 26 co-sponsors.

That legislation would allow trucks a maximum gross weight of 97,000 pounds, provided the vehicle has at least six axles, including a tridem axle group with a weight limit of 51,000 pounds. Axle weight increases of up to 2,000 pounds would be authorized at the state's option.

The Truck Safety Coalition also formed to battle against relaxing current limits. That coalition is comprised of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers.

More information on the alliance is available at