Archive for the ‘infrastructure’ Category

New From the GAO

September 20, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies

Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Reports

1. Coast Guard: Portfolio Management Approach Needed to Improve Major Acquisition Outcomes. GAO-12-918, September 20.
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2. Prepositioned Materiel and Equipment: DOD Would Benefit from Developing Strategic Guidance and Improving Joint Oversight. GAO-12-916R, September 20.

+ Testimonies

1. Department of Homeland Security: Continued Progress Made Improving and Integrating Management Areas, but More Work Remains, by David C. Maurer, director, homeland security and justice issues, before the House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-12-1041T, September 20.

2. Critical Infrastructure Protection: Summary of DHS Actions to Better Manage Its Chemical Security Program, by Stephen L. Caldwell, director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Homeland Security, House Committee on Appropriations. GAO-12-1044T, September 20.
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3. Coast Guard: Mission Performance Challenged by the Declining Condition and Rising Costs of its Legacy Vessel Fleet, by Stephen L. Caldwell, director, homeland security and justice issues, before the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. GAO-12-934T, September 20.

New From the GAO

September 13, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies

Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Reports

1. Airport Noise Grants: FAA Needs to Better Ensure Project Eligibility and Improve Strategic Goal and Performance Measures. GAO-12-890, September 12.
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2. Asset Forfeiture Programs: Justice and Treasury Should Determine Costs and Benefits of Potential Consolidation. GAO-12-972, September 12.
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3. Aviation Safety: Additional FAA Efforts Could Enhance Safety Risk Management. GAO-12-898, September 12.
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4. Bureau of Prisons: Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff, and Infrastructure. GAO-12-743, September 12.
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5. Critical Infrastructure: DHS Needs to Refocus Its Efforts to Lead the Government Facilities Sector. GAO-12-852, August 20.
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6. Department of Homeland Security: Oversight and Coordination of Research and Development Should Be Strengthened. GAO-12-837, September 12.
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7. Federal Disaster Assistance: Improved Criteria Needed to Assess a Jurisdiction’s Capability to Respond and Recover on Its Own. GAO-12-838, September 12.
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8. Iraq and Afghanistan: Agencies Are Taking Steps to Improve Data on Contracting but Need to Standardize Reporting. GAO-12-977R, September 12.

9. Military Training: DOD Met Annual Reporting Requirements and Improved Its Sustainable Ranges Report. GAO-12-879R, September 12.

10. Millennium Challenge Corporation: Results of Transportation Infrastructure Projects in Seven Countries. GAO-12-631, September 12.
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11. Nonproliferation: Agencies Could Improve Information Sharing and End-Use Monitoring on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Exports. GAO-12-536, July 30.
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+ Testimonies

1. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Observations on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Oversight of Safety, Security, and Project Management, by Mark Gaffigan, managing director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-12-912T, September 12.
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2. Next Generation Air Transportation System: FAA Faces Implementation Challenges, by Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Aviation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. GAO-12-1011T, September 12.
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3. Operational Contract Support: Sustained DOD Leadership Needed to Better Prepare for Future Contingencies, by Timothy J. DiNapoli, acting director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the House Committee on Armed Services. GAO-12-1026T, September 12.
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New From the GAO

September 11, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies

Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Reports

1. Anthrax: DHS Faces Challenges in Validating Methods for Sample Collections and Analysis. GAO-12-488, July 31.
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2. Nuclear Nonproliferation: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Security of Radiological Sources at U.S. Medical Facilities. GAO-12-925, September 10.
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Podcast –

3. Federal Real Property Security: Interagency Security Committee Should Implement a Lessons-Learned Process. GAO-12-901, September 10.
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4. Veterans’ Reemployment Rights: Department of Labor and Office of Special Counsel Need to Take Additional Steps to Ensure Demonstration Project Data Integrity. GAO-12-860R, September 10.

+ Testimonies

1. Critical Infrastructure Protection: DHS Is Taking Action to Better Manage Its Chemical Security Program, but It Is Too Early to Assess Results, by Cathleen A. Berrick, managing director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-12-567T, September 11.
Highlights –

2. Maritime Security: Progress and Challenges 10 Years after the Maritime Transportation Security Act, by Stephen L. Caldwell, director, homeland Security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. GAO-12-1009T, September 11.
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3. Aviation Security: 9/11 Anniversary Observations on TSA’s Progress and Challenges in Strengthening Aviation Security, by Stephen M. Lord, director, homeland security and justice issues, before the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-12-1024T, September 11.
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CRS — Weather-Related Power Outages and Electric System Resiliency

September 6, 2012 Comments off

Weather-Related Power Outages and Electric System Resiliency (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

High winds, especially when combined with precipitation from seasonal storms, can cause damage to electricity utility systems, resulting in service interruptions to large numbers of electricity customers. While most such power outages are caused by damage from trees and tree limbs falling on local electricity distribution lines and poles, major power outages tend to be caused by damage to electricity transmission lines which carry bulk power long distances. Depending on the severity of the storm and resulting impairment, power outages can last a few hours or extend to periods of several days, and have real economic effects. Power outages can impact businesses (primarily through lost orders and damage to perishable goods and inventories), and manufacturers (mainly through downtime and lost production, or equipment damage). Data from various studies lead to cost estimates from storm-related outages to the U.S. economy at between $20 billion and $55 billion annually. Data also suggest the trend of outages from weather-related events is increasing.

Suggested solutions for reducing impacts from weather-related outages include improved treetrimming schedules to keep rights-of-way clear, placing distribution and some transmission lines underground, implementing Smart Grid improvements to enhance power system operations and control, inclusion of more distributed generation, and changing utility maintenance practices and metrics to focus on power system reliability. However, most of these potential solutions come with high costs which must be balanced against the perceived benefits.

A number of options exist for Congress to consider which could help reduce storm-related outages. These range from improving the quality of data on storm-related outages, to a greater strategic investment in the U.S. electricity grid. Congress could empower a federal agency to develop standards for the consistent reporting of power outage data. While responsibility for the reliability of the bulk electric system is under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (as per the Energy Policy Act of 2005), no central responsibility exists for the reliability of distribution systems. One possible option could be to bring distribution systems under the Electric Reliability Organization for reliability purposes. Recovery after storm-related outages might be enhanced by a federal role in formalizing the review or coordination of electric utility mutual assistance agreements (MAAs). This would not necessarily mean federal approval of MAAs, but may help in the cooperative coordination of additional federal and state resources, especially in a wide, multi-state weather event. While there has been much discussion of transmission system inadequacies and inefficiencies, many distribution systems are in dire need of upgrades or repairs. The cost of upgrading the U.S. grid to meet future uses is expected to be high, with the American Society of Civil Engineers estimating a need of $673 billion by 2020. While the federal government recently made funding available of almost $16 billion for specific Smart Grid projects and new transmission lines under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, there has not been a comprehensive effort to study the needs, set goals, and provide targeted funding for modernization of the U.S. grid as part of a long-term national energy strategy. Such an effort would also require decisions about the appropriate roles of government and the private sector.

Power delivery systems are most vulnerable to storms and extreme weather events. Improving the overall condition and efficiency of the power delivery system can only serve to improve the resiliency of the system, and help hasten recovery from weather-related outages. Ultimately, however, electric utilities are responsible for this infrastructure. They are in the business of selling electricity, and they cannot sell electricity if their power delivery systems are out of service.

An Ecological Approach to Integrating Conservation and Highway Planning, Volume 2

September 2, 2012 Comments off

An Ecological Approach to Integrating Conservation and Highway Planning, Volume 2

Source:  Transportation Research Board
TRB’s second Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP 2) Report S2-C06-RW-2: An Ecological Approach to Integrating Conservation and Highway Planning, Volume 2 is designed to help transportation and environmental professionals apply ecological principles early in the planning and programming process of highway capacity improvements to inform later environmental reviews and permitting. Ecological principles consider cumulative landscape, water resources, and habitat impacts of planned infrastructure actions, as well as the localized impacts.
The report introduces the integrated ecological framework, a nine-step process for use in early stages of highway planning when there are greater opportunities for avoiding or minimizing potential environmental impacts and for planning future mitigation strategies.
Information developed as part of the project that produced SHRP 2 Report S2-C06-RW-2 is included on the on the Transportation for Communities: Advancing Projects through Partnerships website.
This publication is only available in electronic format.

Public-Sector Aviation: Graduate Research Award Papers, 2010-2011

July 30, 2012 Comments off

Public-Sector Aviation: Graduate Research Award Papers, 2010-2011

Source: Transportation Research Board

TRB’s Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 2266 consists of 10 graduate research award papers that examine the interaction of high-speed rail and aviation; prediction of potential cracking of airfield rigid pavements; predictors of home-based trips for the Atlanta, Georgia airport; and dynamic airspace configuration.

This issue of the TRR also explores transitioning the U.S. air transportation system to higher fuel costs; transportation systems planning for high-speed rail; sustainable paving material for airfields; airline frequency competition in airport congestion pricing; risk assessment of bird–aircraft strikes at commercial airport; and analysis of taxiway aircraft traffic.

The Graduate Research Award Program in Public-Sector Aviation Issues is managed by TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program and sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration. The program is designed to encourage applied research on airport and related aviation system issues and to foster the next generation of aviation community leaders.

Getting Infrastructure Going: A New Approach

July 25, 2012 Comments off

Getting Infrastructure Going: A New Approach

Source:  Regional Plan Association
Big infrastructure projects take years or even decades to complete. Too often, that’s because planning work gets bogged down in protracted environmental reviews. But new research by Regional Plan Association has identified ways environmental analysis could be completed more quickly, without sacrificing environmental protections.
In “Getting Infrastructure Going: Expediting the Environmental Review Process,” RPA finds that the National Environmental Policy Act adopted in 1970 still provides a strong regulatory framework for protecting the environment. But misguided implementation of the law contributes to lengthy delays in delivering big infrastructure projects.
Stretching out projects far longer than initially projected drives up costs and delays improvements to vital infrastructure, from repair of aging roads and bridges to construction of new rail lines to the expansion of key shipping facilities. As projects take longer to complete, their costs rise. The uncertainty discourages private investors and erodes public confidence in government’s ability to use infrastructure funding wisely.
In the more than 40 years since NEPA’s adoption, the practice of carrying out environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects has significantly lengthened project delivery times. For example, in 2011, the average time it took to complete an environmental impact statement on a highway project was more than eight years, compared with two years in the 1970s.
The study describes how inconsistent policies among myriad government agencies contribute to delays. Some environmental reviews are longer and more complex than necessary, in part as a defense against the risk of future litigation. An absence of consensus from the outset over the nature or scope of projects also leads to logjams, as stakeholders seek to modify project goals during the environmental review process.

Tracking State Transportation Dollars

July 18, 2012 Comments off

Tracking State Transportation Dollars

Source: Tri-State Transportation Campaign

How are states spending their transportation dollars? Select a project type or project types using the map filters and see how each state compares. (In some cases, selecting multiple project types may make category percentages exceed 100%.) Scroll over a state to learn more about its transportation priorities. All percentages are rounded.

Ways of funding transportation projects vary across the 50 states. For example, in addition to federal funds, states may utilize public authorities, public-private partnerships, and infrastructure banks as means to develop and maintain roads, bridges, and transit. This project examines each state’s use of federal transportation dollars as reported to the federal government through the state’s statewide transportation improvement program. State and local contributions to the federal funds are included in the state analysis if the state included this information in its statewide transportation improvement program.

Walking and Cycling in Western Europe and the United States: Trends, Policies, and Lessons

July 18, 2012 Comments off

Walking and Cycling in Western Europe and the United States: Trends, Policies, and Lessons

Source: Transportation Research Board

A featured article in the May-June 2012 issue of the TR News provides an overview of cycling and walking trends and policies in Western Europe and draws lessons for programs that might succeed in the United States. Highlights include improvements in the transportation infrastructure, with a focus on safety; traffic calming in residential neighborhoods; coordinating walking and cycling with public transport; compact, mixed-use development; and other importable, foundational features.

Infrastructure 100

July 16, 2012 Comments off

Infrastructure 100

Source: KPMG

Presenting the Infrastructure 100 – report on the most exciting infrastructure projects from around the world, as selected by independent judging panels due to their scale, complexity, innovation and impact on society.

KPMG’s Global Infrastructure practice, in conjunction with Infrastructure Journal, is pleased to present the Infrastructure 100 – a showcase of the most interesting infrastructure projects from around the world.

Of those 100 projects – all shortlisted for their scale, complexity, innovation and impact on society – 10 have been highlighted by the independent judging panels as notable projects in different infrastructure sectors.

They are:

  • Water – The Venice MOSE Flood Barrier, Italy;
  • Power – Green Power Express, USA;
  • Oil & Gas – Project Mthombo oil refinery, South Africa;
  • Renewable energy – Incheon Tidal Power Project, South Korea;
  • Rail – TAV high speed rail link, Brazil;
  • Roads – Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge;
  • Other transport – Panama Canal extension, Panama;
  • Healthcare – CRCHUM P3 research centre, Canada;
  • Education – King Abdullah University of Science & Technology, Saudi Arabia;
  • Other Social Infrastructure – Greater Manchester Waste, UK.

The projects considered are at different stages of development. However, the judges were consistently impressed by the ambition which these projects demonstrate. They address major social concerns in a bold manner, despite huge engineering challenges.

Neighborhood Crime and Transit Station Access Mode Choice

July 11, 2012 Comments off

Neighborhood Crime and Transit Station Access Mode Choice

Source: Transportation Research Board

There are considerable environmental and public health benefits if people choose to walk, bicycle, or ride transit, instead of drive. Threats posed by possible criminal activity in a person’s home neighborhood can play a major role in their decision to drive, take transit, walk or ride a bicycle, even over short distances. The findings of Phase 2 of this research suggest that walking and bicycling trips–often shorter distance trips than auto or transit trips–are particularly sensitive to neighborhood crime levels. Transit trips, on the other hand, appear to respond to neighborhood crime levels in a similar way to auto trips, wherein high crime neighborhoods appear to encourage transit mode choice. However, follow-up analysis performed for Phase 2 found that (though based on a small sample size) transit access trips (walking, bicycling or driving to a transit station) are sensitive to neighborhood crimes as well, wherein high crime neighborhoods discourage walking and bicycling transit access trips and encourage driving.

New From the GAO

July 10, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony

Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Reports

1. Highway Projects: Some Federal and State Practices to Expedite Completion Show Promise. GAO-12-593, June 6.
Highlights –

Related Product

Highway Projects: Survey of State Departments of Transportation (GAO-12-637SP, June 2012), an E-supplement to GAO-12-593. GAO-12-637SP, June 6.

2. Iraq: U.S. Assistance to Iraq’s Minority Groups in Response to Congressional Directives. GAO-12-834, July 10.
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+ Testimony

1. Delphi Bankruptcy: Termination of Delphi Pension Plans, by A. Nicole Clowers, director, financial markets and community investment issues, before the Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-12-909T, July 10.
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Traffic Forecasts Ignoring Induced Demand: a Shaky Fundament for Cost-Benefit Analyses

July 8, 2012 Comments off

Traffic Forecasts Ignoring Induced Demand: a Shaky Fundament for Cost-Benefit Analyses
Source: European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research

Although the phenomenon of induced traffic has been theorized for more than 60 years and is now widely accepted among transport researchers, the traffic-generating effects of road capacity expansion are still often neglected in transport modelling. Such omission can lead to serious bias in the assessments of environmental impacts as well as the economic viability of proposed road projects, especially in situations where there is a latent demand for more road capacity. This has been illustrated in the present paper by an assessment of travel time savings, environmental impacts and the economic performance of a proposed road project in Copenhagen with and without short-term induced traffic included in the transport model. The available transport model was not able to include long-term induced traffic resulting from changes in land use and in the level of service of public transport. Even though the model calculations included only a part of the induced traffic, the difference in cost-benefit results compared to the model excluding all induced traffic was substantial. The results show lower travel time savings, more adverse environmental impacts and a considerably lower benefit-cost ratio when induced traffic is partly accounted for than when it is ignored. By exaggerating the economic benefits of road capacity increase and underestimating its negative effects, omission of induced traffic can result in over-allocation of public money on road construction and correspondingly less focus on other ways of dealing with congestion and environmental problems in urban areas.

See: Study of the Day: Planners Miscalculate Benefits of New Roads (The Atlantic: Cities)

Climate Change and Infrastructure, Urban Systems, and Vulnterabilities: Technical Report to the U.S. Department of Energy in Support of the National Climate Assessment

July 5, 2012 Comments off

Climate Change and Infrastructure, Urban Systems, and Vulnterabilities: Technical Report to the U.S. Department of Energy in Support of the National Climate Assessment (PDF)
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

This Technical Report on “Climate Change and Infrastructure, Urban Systems, and Vulnerabilities” has been prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in support of the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA). Prepared on an accelerated schedule to fit time requirements for the NCA, it is a summary of the currently existing knowledge base on its topic, nested within a broader framing of issues and questions that need further attention in the longer run.

The report arrives at a number of “assessment findings,” each associated with an evaluation of the level of consensus on that issue within the expert community, the volume of evidence available to support that judgment, and the section of the report that provides an explanation for the finding.

Cross-sectoral issues related to infrastructures and urban systems have not received a great deal of attention to date in research literatures in general and climate change assessments in particular. As a result, this technical report is breaking new ground as a component of climate change vulnerability and impact assessments in the U.S., which means that some of its assessment findings are rather speculative, more in the nature of propositions for further study than specific conclusions that are offered with a high level of confidence and research support. But it is a start in addressing questions that are of interest to many policymakers and stakeholders.

A central theme of the report is that vulnerabilities and impacts are issues beyond physical infrastructures themselves. The concern is with the value of services provided by infrastructures, where the true consequences of impacts and disruptions involve not only the costs associated with the clean-up, repair, and/or replacement of affected infrastructures but also economic, social, and environmental effects as supply chains are disrupted, e

New From the GAO

June 27, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony

Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Reports

1. Recovery Act: Tax Debtors Have Received FHA Mortgage Insurance and First-Time Homebuyer Credits. GAO-12-592, May 29.
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2. Management Report: Improvements Needed in Controls over the Preparation of the U.S. Consolidated Financial Statements. GAO-12-529, June 27.
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3. Millennium Challenge Corporation: Georgia and Benin Transportation Infrastructure Projects Varied in Quality and May Not Be Sustainable. GAO-12-630, June 27.
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4. Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellites: Changing Requirements, Technical Issues, and Looming Data Gaps Require Focused Attention. GAO-12-604, June 15.
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5. Geostationary Weather Satellites: Design Progress Made, but Schedule Uncertainty Needs to be Addressed. GAO-12-576, June 26.
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6. Kachemak Bay Ferry: Federally Funded Ferry Was Constructed with Limited Oversight and Faces Future Operating Challenges. GAO-12-559, June 11.
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7. Planning and Flexibility Are Key to Effectively Deploying Broadband Conduit through Federal Highway Projects. GAO-12-687R, June 27.

8. National Mediation Board Mandates in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. GAO-12-835R, June 27.

+ Testimony

1. Environmental Satellites: Focused Attention Needed to Mitigate Program Risks, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and Investigations and Oversight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-12-841T, June 27

Annual Energy Outlook 2012

June 25, 2012 Comments off

Annual Energy Outlook 2012

Source: Energy Information Administration

From press release:

The Annual Energy Outlook 2012 (only available .PDF file format until later this week) includes many cases that provide alternative projections of energy markets under a variety of different assumptions. Detailed model results through 2035 are available in an interactive table browser along with extensive analysis of energy issues, regulations, and legislation in the complete report.

  • The regularly completed alternative side cases examine high and low assumptions for:
  • Macroeconomic growth
  • World oil prices
  • Utility and end-use technology advancements
  • Fossil fuel technology costs
  • Coal prices
  • Nuclear technology
  • Renewable technology
  • Oil and gas resources

Additional alternative side cases examine several specific energy issues, including the impact of extended and expanded tax credit and efficiency programs; the potential energy impacts of higher vehicle fuel efficiency; the potential of natural gas as fuel for heavy-duty vehicles; the changing environment for fuel use in electricity generation; U.S. crude oil and natural gas resource uncertainty; and the potential impact of minimum pipeline throughput constraints on Alaska North Slope oil production.

Also included are reviews of particular legislation and regulation topics such as state air emissions regulations, state renewable energy requirements and Federal emissions regulations, as well as comparisons to energy projections from others.

Road Traffic Noise and Incident Myocardial Infarction: A Prospective Cohort Study

June 21, 2012 Comments off

Road Traffic Noise and Incident Myocardial Infarction: A Prospective Cohort Study
Source: PLoS ONE


Both road traffic noise and ambient air pollution have been associated with risk for ischemic heart disease, but only few inconsistent studies include both exposures.


In a population-based cohort of 57 053 people aged 50 to 64 years at enrolment in 1993–1997, we identified 1600 cases of first-ever MI between enrolment and 2006. The mean follow-up time was 9.8 years. Exposure to road traffic noise and air pollution from 1988 to 2006 was estimated for all cohort members from residential address history. Associations between exposure to road traffic noise and incident MI were analysed in a Cox regression model with adjustment for air pollution (NOx) and other potential confounders: age, sex, education, lifestyle confounders, railway and airport noise.


We found that residential exposure to road traffic noise (Lden) was significantly associated with MI, with an incidence rate ratio IRR of 1.12 per 10 dB for both of the two exposure windows: yearly exposure at the time of diagnosis (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.02–1.22) and 5-years time-weighted mean (95% CI: 1.02–1.23) preceding the diagnosis. Visualizing of the results using restricted cubic splines showed a linear dose-response relationship.


Exposure to long-term residential road traffic noise was associated with a higher risk for MI, in a dose-dependent manner.

Use of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) by State Departments of Transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organizations

June 21, 2012 Comments off

Use of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) by State Departments of Transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Source: Transportation Research Board

TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 434: Use of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) by State Departments of Transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organizations describes ways that transportation planners are using the PUMS data.

The report is designed to serve as a reference for transportation planners who may be able to exploit these data. Census microdata are the confidential records of specific individuals and housing units from whom Decennial Census or American Community Survey responses have been obtained.

The U.S. Census Bureau also draws a sample from the full set of microdata and makes these sampled records available in the PUMS data products, so that users can develop their own tabulations.

These data are being used by state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations for studies, such as analyses of the commuting characteristics of population subgroups, and for supporting travel demand model and land use models.

Methodology for Determining the Economic Development Impacts of Transit Projects

June 21, 2012 Comments off

Methodology for Determining the Economic Development Impacts of Transit Projects

Source: Transportation Research Board

TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Web-Only Document 56: Methodology for Determining the Economic Development Impacts of Transit Projects explores development of a method for transit agencies to assess whether and under what circumstances transit investments have economic benefits that are in addition to land development stimulated by travel time savings.

As part of the project a spreadsheet tool was developed that may be used to help estimate the agglomeration-related economic benefits of rail investments in the forms of new systems or additions to existing systems.

CRS — Drought in the United States: Causes and Issues for Congress

June 19, 2012 Comments off

Drought in the United States: Causes and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Drought is a natural hazard with potentially significant societal, economic, and environmental consequences. Public policy issues related to drought range from how to identify and measure drought to how best to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate drought impacts, and who should bear such costs. This report provides information relevant to drought policy discussions by describing the physical causes of drought, drought history in the United States, examples of regional drought conditions, and policy challenges related to drought.

What is drought? Drought is commonly defined as a lack of precipitation over an extended period of time, usually a season or more, relative to some long-term average condition. While the technology and science to predict droughts have improved, regional predictions remain limited to a few months in advance. History suggests that severe and extended droughts are inevitable and part of natural climate cycles.

What causes drought? The physical conditions causing drought in the United States are increasingly understood to be linked to sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Studies indicate that cooler-than-average SSTs have been connected to the severe western drought in the first decade of the 21 st century, severe droughts of the late 19 th century, and precolonial North American “megadroughts.” The 2011 severe drought in Texas is thought to be linked to La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean.

What is the future of drought in the United States? The prospect of extended droughts and more arid baseline conditions in parts of the United States could suggest new challenges to federal water projects, which were constructed largely on the basis of 20 th century climate conditions. Some studies suggest that the American West may be transitioning to a more arid climate, possibly resulting from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, raising concerns that the region may become more prone to extreme drought it was in the 20 th century. Some models of future climate conditions also predict greater fluctuations in wet and dry years.

California’s 2007-2009 drought exacerbated ongoing tensions among competing water uses. While drought is most common in California and the Southwest, drought also can exacerbate water tensions in other regions. For example, the 2007-2008 drought in the Southeast heightened a long-standing dispute in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River (ACF) basin. Both California and the ACF are again experiencing drought conditions, as are the Rio Grande and Upper Colorado River basins.

What are some drought policy challenges? Although the impacts of drought can be significant nationally as well as regionally, comprehensive national drought policy does not exist. Developing such a policy would represent a significant challenge because of split federal and non-federal responsibilities, the existing patchwork of federal drought programs, and differences in regional conditions and risks. While a comprehensive national policy has not been enacted, Congress has considered and acted upon some of the recommendations issued by the National Drought Policy Commission in 2000. In coming years, Congress may review how federal agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation respond to droughts. Congress may also assess other federal programs or choose to reassess the National Drought Policy Commission’s recommendations.


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