Transportation

The proposed transit system would dedicated bus lanes
Wake County / Go Triangle

With all the attention given to this election, it's almost unfathomable to imagine a voter who does not know the options at the top of the ticket. However, this election has more than a few down ticket races as well.

In fact, an average Wake County voter could fill in nearly 40 bubbles on the election ballot this year, enough to dull even the sharpest No. 2 pencil.

Anthony Foxx
Bz3rk, Creative Commons

U.S. Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx is pushing for a federal highway policy that meets the country's transportation needs while considering the impacts on communities.

An image of a CSX train
Flickr upload bot / Wiki Creative Commons

Opposition to a proposed CSX transportation hub in Johnston County is growing. CSX announced plans for an intermodal cargo center last week.

Image of Marshall Brain, creator of howstuffworks.com and a professor at N.C. State
N.C. State University

North Carolina State University professor Marshall Brain grew up in southern California with a father who was a computer scientist at NASA during the agency's heyday.

Brain watched his father work on lunar excursion modules for the Apollo missions and later, major train systems in San Francisco and Atlanta.

In his spare time, he helped Marshall build a bubble machine out of spare parts. It was an enchanting childhood, and it is no wonder that Marshall was a curious boy who developed a love for all things mechanical. 

A picture of a Triangle Transit bus.
Traingle Transit

Wake County has unveiled four options for its new transit plan.

The choices are divided between rapid rail and bus plans. One option in each category concentrates on frequent service for limited routes. The other option of each would expand coverage while sacrificing frequency. 

Traffic jam
epSos via Flickr, Creative Commons

New emissions rules for one category of cars and light trucks take effect today in North Carolina. 

The state Division of Motor Vehicles in conjunction with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has created an exemption for emissions inspections. 

Tom Mather works for the state Division of Air Quality.  He says annual emissions inspections will no longer be required for newer vehicles.

"It applies as long as your car has less than 70,000 miles and is in the first three model years."

A picture of a pothole.
NCDOT

State road crews are working to repair potholes that were caused by another icy winter. The North Carolina Department of Transportation is asking residents to report potholes so they can be repaired quickly.

NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott says potholes are bad for vehicles, threatening tires and alignment, and they make for dangerous driving conditions.

An artist's rendering of a light rail stop.
GoTriangle / Triangle Transit

Triangle Transit will present its latest plans this week for a stretch of the light rail line that would connect Orange and Durham Counties.

The organization hosts public meetings in Chapel Hill Wednesday and Durham on Thursday to focus on the stretch of light rail line connecting UNC Hospitals with the Duke and VA hospitals. Spokesman Brad Schulz says the plan addresses local communities' locations, zoning and environmental concerns.

Janet Cowell
nctreasurer.com

North Carolina’s 2015 Debt Affordability Study shows the state is ready to begin issuing debt again and making big investments.

State Treasurer Janet Cowell says the Debt Affordability Study shows the General Fund has the capacity to take on $700 million a year and Transportation debt capacity is $1 billion.

bendertj / Flickr Creative Commons

The Chapel Hill Transit system needs about $80 million in revenue to keep up with growth over the next ten years. 

That's according to a report presented to the town council this week.  It says the bus network will need to reduce service, start leasing buses, or consider more revenue from three different sources:

  1. Taxes from Chapel Hill and Carrboro
  2. Fees from students at UNC-Chapel Hill
  3. Charging passengers. 

The service is currently free for riders. 

The four Democratic winners pose with Congressman David Price
Reema Khrais

After sweeping all four open seats, Democrats now have full control of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

“It looks like we did it. The people of Wake County have chosen to move forward,” said John Burns, a business lawyer from Raleigh. He unseated Coble.

Democrats Matt Calabria, Sig Hutchinson, John Burns and Jessica Holmes each captured about 55 percent of the vote, defeating Commissioners Joe Bryant, Paul Coble, Phil Matthews and Rich Gianni.

Pat McCrory spoke about his 25-year plan for Transportation at Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem on Wednesday.
Jeff Tiberii

Governor Pat McCrory wants the state legislature to approve more than $1 billion in bonds as part of his long-term transportation plan. Money from that bond measure would fund road, rail, port and airport projects across the state. He plans to ask the General Assembly to borrow more than one billion dollars in January, to fund parts of 21 projects.

a banner for try transit month
gotriangle.org

Triangle Transit agencies in Chapel Hill, Durham, Cary and Raleigh are participating in a campaign this month to encourage commuters to ride the bus. The organization says leaving your car at home can save you time and money - not to mention the stress of driving in traffic. Some area buses have also upgraded their Wi-Fi to 4G.

"Changing your commute can add an hour to your schedule or you can get work done by using the Internet Wi-Fi that's on some of the buses," said Triangle Transit's Lauren Parker.

A picture of a man charging an electric car.
David Dodge / Green Energy Futures via Creative Commons

Eight different auto manufacturers and 15 different utility companies are teaming up with the Electric Power Research Institute to test technology that will allow them to determine when electric cars can recharge.

A map of the Strategic Transportation Investments proposed projects.
NCDOT

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has ranked 3,100 proposed transportation projects. They're all vying for a chunk of the $15 billion expected to be allocated in the 2015 Transportation Improvement Program.

NCDOT's Chief Deputy Secretary Nick Tennyson said the department prioritized projects that would alleviate serious, ongoing traffic congestion. For that reason, many of the higher ranked projects are in the Triangle and Charlotte areas.

Interstate 40 traffic
Dave DeWitt

North Carolina's Department of Transportation is considering taxing drivers by the mile to help pay for road construction and upgrades. As cars become more efficient, the gas tax is becoming a less effective revenue source.

The department's Funding and Appropriations Strategies committee – or FAST – has been meeting with leaders and researchers across the state to hear concerns about population growth and potential solutions for insufficient infrastructure.

NC State researchers suggested a revenue model using annual odometer checks or GPS technology to tax motorists.

Dixie Highway Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900 to 1930
uncpress.unc.edu / UNC Press

    

Before the 20th century, Southern roads were little more than rubble and dirt. Traveling from county to county was difficult and state to state was near impossible. The Dixie Highway, constructed in 1915, shifted control and funding of road regulations from local government to state and federal authorities. 

Triangle Transit Authority

The Federal Transit Authority (FTA) has given the green-light to begin the first steps of a 17-mile light rail project connecting Durham and Orange Counties.

The decision authorizes Triangle Transit to begin development on the project, by studying the potential environmental impact of two proposed rail routes.

Triangle Transit has put together this video "fly-through" of the proposed light rail route:

Erika dashes on to the 36-seat passenger bus. She's exasperated, but remarkably well put together. She's young, and afraid.

"Prescott... I'm late," she says, her hand gripping a rail for balance.

"... No you're not." He replies. "With the GoLive Real-Time Arrival System, you'll never be late for the bus again!"

"No..." she says. "I mean... I'm late."

Also, Prescott has an identical twin, Sebastian, who might be the father.

SELC's Derb Carter (left) and NC DOT's Tony Tata in the WUNC Durham Studios for The State of Things. Engineer Robin Copley adjusts the microphones.
Carol Jackson / WUNC

The North Carolina Department of Transportation closed the Bonner Bridge last week, leaving Hatteras residents with few options for transportation to and from the mainland. In the wake of the closing, politicians have accused environmentalists of delaying construction of a replacement bridge. Activists say the blame is misplaced and the Department’s delays are at fault. 

A 14-mile light rail line is part of Triangle Transit's proposal for Wake County.
Triangle Transit Authority

Commissioners in Wake County are holding their first public discussion about a plan for expanded bus and light rail services.

The board meets Tuesday morning with three transit experts from outside the state.  It's the county's first public meeting about the plan, which Triangle Transit Authority presented in 2011.  Commissioners have declined to bring it up for discussion since then. 

Commissioner Paul Coble says he wants a second opinion.

N.C. Department of Transportation
Dave DeWitt

The State Board of Transportation reiterated on Thursday its decision to lower local governments' voice on spending state transportation dollars.

The 19-member board voted unanimously to split localites' input on projects with the analysis of state transportation engineers who oversee the department's 14 divisions, said chairman Ned Curran. 

“I just can’t accept that one party has better knowledge than the division engineer because this is what division engineers do for a living,” Curran said.

A law proposed and passed by the state legislature this year, called the Strategic Mobility Formula, said the Department of Transportation's analysis would account for 70 percent of the decision on regional projects and 50 percent on local projects. Local input -- including views from metropolitan planning organizations and elected officials -- would account for the remaining 30 and 50 percent.

A plane lands at Piedmont Triad International Airport.
redlegs21 via Flickr, Creative Commons

Researchers at Duke University are developing radio wave scanners that could dramatically increase the speed at which travelers are checked at security points in airports.

The scanners, which researchers say could be tested in as soon as 12 months for airport use, were one of the developing technologies that scientists showed three North Carolina congressmen in a tour yesterday of laboratories at Duke’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

Two local residents, Ivin Scurlock, 41,  and Alexandra Simou, 40, lost their lives in a hit-and-run incident near Southern Village last month.  North Carolina has one of the worst rates for bicycle and pedestrian fatalities in the country.  

classroom
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

Wake County voters have overwhelmingly passed an $810-million school bond referendum. 

The final margin wasn't even close. Wake voters approved of the new school bond by 16 percentage points. It was a big win for bond supporters, including Democrats and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. Some Republicans had worked to defeat the bond, but they were greatly outspent during the campaign.

The money that will come from the ten percent increase in property taxes will be used to build 16 new schools and renovate dozens of others.

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