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Vol. 11, No. 2 - March/April 2000

A Transportation Agenda for the 21st Century
A National Dialogue on Transportation Operations

Optimizing performance of the existing transportation system should be a "core mission" of the Federal Highway Administration in the 21st century. That is the view of Christine M. Johnson, the highway agency's Program Manager for Operations, and the new policy's prime architect and advocate. Achieving this reorientation will require concerted action on two fronts: communicating an "operations vision" that will challenge the imagination of the transportation community in the same way that the goal of constructing the Interstate highway system inspired an earlier generation; and creating a technical and political constituency ("a new family of stakeholders" in Johnson's words) that will be willing to support and carry out this new vision. To advance this agenda, FHWA has enlisted the assistance of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the support of a prestigious steering committee, chaired by Frank Francois, recently retired executive director of AASHTO.% The committee is currently drafting a series of issue papers for presentation at an ITE conference in Irvine, California on April 2-5, 2000. What do the steering committee members themselves think of the "Operations" initiative? We talked to a number of them about their expectations.

Congestion Continues to Worsen... And Still, Americans Would Rather Drive
Traffic congestion once again dominates newspaper headlines. Two major studies - the 1999 Annual Mobility Report published by the Texas Transportation Institute and a report by the American Highway Users Alliance, "Unclogging America's Arteries" - paint a disturbing picture. Americans are spending more time and money caught in rush-hour traffic. Highway delays have increased 150 percent since 1970. Drivers sit stalled in traffic for more than 100 million hours a year. Seventy percent of urban freeways are clogged during the morning rush, compared with 55 percent in 1983. And still, despite all the frustrations, Americans would rather drive. In a recent article, Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for The Boston Globe explains why.

Carpool Lanes - Are They Achieving Their Goals?
In the last issue, we noted that public sentiment is turning against HOV lanes, and we pointed to various initiatives in the California legislature as evidence of this disenchantment. Since then, a report by the influential nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst's Office has added fuel to the HOV debate. The controversy has spilled over to Washington State, where a public initiative to abolish carpool lanes is expected to be on the November ballot, and bills to open carpool lanes to all motorists in off-peak hours have been filed in the state Legislature.

SR 91 Express Lanes: A Road to Riches?
The recent unraveling of a deal to sell the privately-built SR91 Express Lanes facility in Orange County to a non-profit entity for a huge profit has been a subject of much controversy. To critics of privatization the incident has revealed the depths of potential problems with private roads. But to advocates of privatization, the incident has merely confirmed what they had been saying for some time: the U.S. tax code must be revised to level the playing field between public and private toll financing.

"Dead On Arrival"
In a now familiar scenario, the Clinton Administration has sent its transportation budget request for Fiscal Year 2001 to Capitol Hill, only to have it declared "dead on arrival" by both Congressional Republicans and Democrats

The Auto Industry on the Threshold of Revolutionary Change
The Internet is ushering in a new wave of automotive innovation. Just as the high compression gasoline engine fueled expansion of the auto industry in the 1950s, and the advent of the microprocessor chip enhanced engine performance in the 1980s, the Internet and telematics, may become the enabling technologies of the motor vehicle of the early 21st century.

 



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