transportation

Auto
2:28 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Canadian railway strike could affect U.S. automakers

Ian Britton creative commons

A strike by Canadian railway workers threatens to slow or shut down production at some U.S. auto plants.

5,000 Canadian Pacific Railway workers walked off the job early Wednesday because of a dispute with management over a new contract.

Large numbers of finished vehicles and auto parts come to U.S. factories via Canadian Pacific.

Ford and General Motors say they don't expect the strike to affect production - at this time.

Chrysler says it is actively working to mitigate any impact to its operations through alternative shipment methods, such as trucks.

The longer the strike goes, the greater the chance it could affect the U.S. auto industry.  The Canadian Labor Ministry says it has the authority to intervene and will do that if the two sides haven't reached a deal by Monday.

Transportation
1:36 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Owner of coal-burning S.S. Badger seeks 5-year reprieve from EPA rules

This could be the final season for the old Lake Michigan car ferry - the S.S. Badger.
Bill McChesney Flickr

The Lake Michigan car ferry S.S. Badger started what could be its final sailing season today.

The historic ship burns coal as its fuel and dumps the leftover coal ash into Lake Michigan.

The EPA has said the ship needs to stop this practice. They've given the owners until the end of this year to come up with a solution, but the owners want more time.

Dave Alexander of MLive reported on a press conference held by the ship's owners this morning:

Before the 9:15 a.m. departure from its Ludington dock for the four-hour trip across a lumpy Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wis., Lake Michigan Carferry co-owner Bob Manglitz announced his company has made application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to continue its coal ash dumping practices another five years.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported on legislation in the U.S. House that "would allow the Badger to continue to dump coal ash because it's been nominated as a national historic landmark." She reports environmental groups are fighting against the designation.

Transportation
3:36 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

Fixing Michigan's roads

Road construction along I94 in Jackson County, Michigan (file photo)
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Time is running out for Congress to pass a new federal transportation funding bill.

The last funding bill expired in 2009.   Congress has passed a series of extensions of the old law since then.  

A coalition of Michigan environmental groups and unions say the ongoing delay is hurting state roads.

Mark Schauer is the head of the BlueGreen Alliance.   The former Michigan congressman says the state’s roads are deteriorating, in part, because Congress can’t agree on a new six year federal transportation spending plan.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one that had to replace a tire as a result of hitting a huge pothole," says Schauer.

Michigan Congressmen Dave Camp and Fred Upton are on the special House-Senate conference committee working on the transportation bill. A spokeswoman for the committee says discussions continue with hopes of reaching an agreement before the deadline at the end of next month. 

Transportation
9:35 am
Tue May 15, 2012

Gateway Project: Thousands of trucks moving off streets in southwest Detroit

MDOT tweets "Keeping US-bound trucks off local streets is whole point of the #Gateway project - and it's starting today. #MDOT"
MDOT

As part of the work on the "Gateway Project," the Michigan Department of Transportation opened an access road that will move truck traffic coming from Canada over the Ambassador Bridge directly on to nearby highways.

Prior to the road opening, trucks had to drive on secondary streets in southwest Detroit to get to the highways.

The Detroit Free Press reports the road opened yesterday, and a ceremony for the opening is planned for today.

The Detroit News reports the opening comes 5 days ahead of schedule, but because of the legal battles around the Gateway Project, the road opening is really years behind schedule.

In actuality, the opening of the access road comes about four years behind schedule because of protracted legal battles between MDOT and the Detroit International Bridge Co. over the $230 million Gateway Project.

When completely finished, the project will remove up to 10,000 trucks a day from secondary streets in southwest Detroit and move them directly to and from the Ambassador Bridge plaza to nearby freeways.

The project was supposed to be a partnership between MDOT and the Detroit International Bridge Company, but a judge found the DIBC to be in civil contempt of court after the company didn't follow the judge's orders to complete the project.

On March 8, the judge ordered the DIBC to cede control of its portion of the project and ordered MDOT to complete the remaining work.

MDOT says 95 percent of the new truck route is completed, and about 20 percent of the overall project is completed. When will it be finished? MDOT says their goal is to be done with the project "within a year and hopefully much sooner."

Here's MDOT's take on the overall project:

Transportation
10:46 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Detroit Metro Airport lands good ranking in "Best and Worst" list

Travel and Leisure magazine

You gotta give them a lot of clicks to find the ranking on their page (can someone say pageviews!), but once you finally get there, you'll see that readers of Travel and Leisure ranked Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) as the 3rd best airport in the country.

Detroit’s airport is at the top of its game, ranked No. 1 in terminal cleanliness, design, location, lounges, and business centers. It came in third for service and staff communication and fourth in baggage handling. As Delta’s second largest hub and the carrier’s primary gateway for Asia, that’s no mean feat. The airport fell short only when it came to public transportation options—not surprising considering you’ve landed in the Motor City.

Viable public transport to Detroit Metro has always been a problem. Some are making attempts to improve the situation.

Just recently, the public transportation system in Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, announced a partnership with a private company, Michigan Flyer, to provide cheaper transit to the airport.

Twelve bucks will get you from A2 to DTW. That's better than a typical $40 to $50 cab ride.

The best airport named by readers was Minneapolis (MSP)... the worst was New York's LaGuardia (LGA) - JFK and Newark airports also ranked poorly.

Sound about right to you?

Economy
1:51 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

More private backing for light rail plan in Detroit

An artists rendition of the "Foxtown/Stadium" stop for the proposed light rail project in Detroit.
screen grab from YouTube video

Back in December, it seemed a 3-mile light rail project in Detroit along Woodward Avenue was put on the scrap heap when U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood raised doubts that Detroit could pay the operating costs for the proposed line.

In discussions, Detroit Mayor Bing, Gov. Snyder, and LaHood opted for a rapid bus system instead.

But as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek has been reporting, private investors who were backing the light rail project pushed back on the bus idea.

Now the Detroit Free Press reports the M-1 Rail Group says they'll put up the money to run the system for the first 10 years.

The M-1 Rail Group outlined the details in a report it has sent to the federal government. The group of private investors and philanthropic groups behind the effort said they would commit to paying the estimated $5.1 million annual cost of operating the Woodward rail line through 2025.

After the first ten years, the group says they would donate the system "to the appropriate agency, such as a regional transit authority that Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature are working to create for southeast Michigan..."

Changing Gears
11:39 am
Fri April 20, 2012

On Earth Day, turning the Motor City into "Cycle City"

The Tigers' mascot, Paws, with cyclists who rode to Opening Day 2012.
courtesy Detroit Tigers

Let’s face it: Detroit’s reputation as the Motor City is unshakeable. But it’s gaining ground as a city for cyclists.

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Politics
3:18 pm
Sat March 31, 2012

3 unpaid parking tickets could stop drivers

Flickr user alicegop

Here's another reason to pay your parking tickets: Your driver's license could be blocked.

A Michigan law kicking in on May 16 says three unpaid parking tickets can prevent renewal of a license. The current threshold is six.

Local governments notify the secretary of state when someone has too many unpaid parking tickets, although some communities are more aggressive than others. Birmingham in suburban Detroit turns unpaid tickets over to a collection agency.

Politics
11:29 am
Thu March 8, 2012

Judge: Bridge owner loses control of construction

Flickr
The Ambassador Bridge Jim Wallace

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has ordered the company that controls the Ambassador Bridge to surrender control of its portion of a project on the U.S. side of the international crossing to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards ordered Thursday that an account be set up to fund the work.

A next court hearing is March 22.

The Detroit International Bridge Co. has said it's making progress on its share of the $230 million Gateway Project and pledged to complete the work.

In January, Edwards put 84-year-old billionaire Manuel "Matty" Moroun and his top executive, Dan Stamper, in jail for contempt of court for failing to follow orders on the project, which includes connecting the bridge with Canada to area interstates.

They were released by the Michigan appeals court.

Transportation
5:26 pm
Sun March 4, 2012

Campaign targets distracted drivers

Flickr user poka0059

Organizers of a new campaign want to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving. The project is called "Remembering Ally: Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign." It was named in honor of Ally Zimmerman. She was sixteen when she was killed by a distracted driver.

Jim Santilli is executive director of the Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan. He says one simple mistake made by a distracted driver can change the lives of many people.

On Tuesday TIA will hold a conference at Zimmerman’s former high school in Romeo. The speakers will include members of her family as well as government and safety officials. A new, graphic video that details what happens in a car crash will also be shown.

The campaign is geared toward teens and young adults, but Santilli says older adults are also guilty of distracted driving.

Politics
10:20 am
Wed February 22, 2012

Detroit's public transit system gets new leader

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit's problematic public transportation system is getting a new leader.

The office of Mayor Dave Bing said in a statement Tuesday night that Ron Freeland would serve as the Detroit Department of Transportation's CEO. Freeland has worked as an executive with other transportation systems in the U.S.

Word of the appointment comes as Detroit considers ending early-morning bus service as part of an effort to cut about $11 million in costs. The city says some other bus routes could be eliminated. Public hearings on the proposal are planned.

The mayor on Wednesday also planned to show off new city buses at an event on the city's east side. The mayor's office says the new, more fuel-efficient buses are part of the city's newest fleet that began arriving Jan. 30.

Transportation
4:49 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Obama budget has $14.7 million for Grand Rapids transit

Grand Rapids bus.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he's recommending $14.7 million in federal aid to build a 9.6-mile bus rapid transit line in Grand Rapids.

LaHood said in a statement Tuesday that the line will offer fast and efficient access to the western Michigan city's central business district and relieve congestion.

LaHood says the project is part of President Barack Obama's budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The budget sent to Congress on Monday includes $2.2 billion in funding for 29 major rail and bus
rapid transit projects in 15 states.

LaHood says the budget would fund the Grand Rapids Interurban Transit partnership for a new Silver Line BRT system. It would run along Division Avenue from the Grand Rapids central business
district to 60th Street at Division Avenue.

Politics
4:18 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Lawmakers working to replace Michigan's gas tax with a sales tax increase

Paying less at the pump, but more in the store. Michigan voters may decide whether to replace the state's gas tax with an increase in the sales tax this fall.
user orinzebest Flickr

Voters may soon decide whether Michigan should scrap the 19-cents-per-gallon tax on gas at the pump in favor of a sales tax increase of 1 percent.

The change would help generate more money for transportation funding.

A proposal to put the question to voters is gaining momentum with some legislative leaders.

That change would require a constitutional amendment and put the question to voters on the ballot.

Republican state Senator Howard Walker sponsored the measure. He said if taxpayers are asked to pay more to fix the state’s roads, they should have a voice.

Read more
Transportation
2:17 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Amtrak gets green light for higher train speeds in Michigan and Indiana

At one point, Amtrak trains were ordered to speeds of 25 m.p.h. on parts of the Wolverine line.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

Maximum train speeds on Amtrak's Wolverine and Blue Water lines can increase to 110 m.p.h. on an 80 mile stretch of track between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana.

Amtrak and MDOT officials say the higher speed is the fastest allowed outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak's Acela Express train, which travels between Boston and Washington D.C., can reach speeds up to 150 m.p.h.

Approval was given after successful testing of a "positive train control safety system" installed on the tracks.

From an Amtrak and MDOT press release:

Read more
Politics
5:38 pm
Thu February 2, 2012

Finding money for our roads

Peter Ito flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is looking for more money to support transportation costs in Michigan. That includes more than $1 billion to fix roads and bridges.

We talk to Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

 

Commentary
11:04 am
Wed February 1, 2012

Moroun Buying Lansing

Most people remember Upton Sinclair, the crusading twentieth century writer, as the author of the novel, The Jungle, which exposed conditions in the food packing industry in Chicago. If you haven’t read it, it’s enough to make a butcher become a vegan for a week.

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Politics
11:21 am
Tue January 31, 2012

3 unpaid parking tickets in Michigan could cause license renewal problems

Instead of 6, now 3 unpaid parking tickets might cause you problems at the Secretary of State's office.
Benny Mazur Flickr

Six unpaid tickets triggers sanctions at the Secretary of State's office.

Now that might change to three. From the Associated Press:

The state Legislature has approved a bill that would make it tougher and more expensive for motorists who pile up unpaid parking tickets to get their driver's licenses renewed.

The Senate passed a bill by a 27-11 vote Tuesday that would lower the number of unpaid tickets needed to prompt sanctions from the Secretary of State's office. The bill already has passed the House so it's on the way to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Motorists now are blocked from getting or renewing their driver's licenses if they have six or more unresolved parking violations. That number would drop to three unpaid parking tickets under the bill.

The AP reports in 2018, the law would expire and go back to six unpaid tickets needed for sanctions.

Commentary
11:12 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Riding the Rails

I have been traveling by air for most of my adult life, and for a few years, flew somewhere at least once a week.

Yet while I took trains in Europe and Japan, it never occurred to me to do so from Detroit. Amtrak, people said, took forever and was a fairly nasty experience; a shabby relic of transportation’s past.

However, air travel has become less and less fun, from the increasingly cramped seats and loss of anything resembling service, and more and more intrusive security procedures.

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Commentary
10:53 am
Mon January 23, 2012

Fixing the roads

To say that Governor Rick Snyder isn’t popular these days with Democrats,  liberals and even some independent voters would probably be an understatement. Many were upset by his decisions to cut education spending in order to drastically lower business taxes. Others weren’t happy that the state is now taxing pensions.

And there was widespread unhappiness when Snyder signed a bill that prevents state and local governments from offering domestic partnership benefits to their employees. Polls indicate that some who voted for him fourteen months ago wouldn’t do so today.

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Politics
4:17 pm
Sat January 21, 2012

Roads and motorists' money at stake in Michigan

Flickr user fellowship of the rich

A package of bills soon to be introduced in the Michigan Legislature is expected to propose higher vehicle registration fees and tax changes to raise more money for road repairs. The bipartisan bills will have support from Republican Governor Rick Snyder. He says Michigan is under-investing in its roads to the tune of $1.4 billion a year.
    

Snyder says it would make more financial sense to start addressing the problem now. The repair bill will be even worse the longer Michigan waits to address the problem.
    

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