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transportation

Priestmangoode

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in Michigan for high speed higher speed rail. For that, well get trains that can travel 110 m.p.h. for much of the Detroit to Chicago trip. A modest boost in speed is about as much as we can ask for given the state of our infrastructure (over the summer, some passenger trains in Michigan were ordered to travel at 25 m.p.h. because of the sorry state of the tracks). One drawback to train travel is the number of stops along the way. Detroit to Chicago has stops in Dowagiac, Niles, and New Buffalo, Michigan. What if the train could just slow down around those stops? Behold the Moving Platforms concept from Paul Priestman of the English design group Priestmangoode (bob head while watching): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Sn7q1Qvp6w O.k. - this pie-in-the-sky idea has been around for awhile. New Scientist magazine writes that they first featured an article about a similar idea in 1969. Priestman told CNN that its valuable to throw off the chains and think big: While Priestman admits that it will be some time before his vision could be implemented, he says the time has come to rethink how we travel. This idea is a far-future thought but wouldnt it be brilliant to just re-evaluate and just re-think the whole process? he says. But why not dream big? Meet George Jetson while you think about it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gK95NvhvswU

annarborbridges.com

Demolition of two crumbling bridges near Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor will start November 28th, according to the city of Ann Arbor . The Stadium Boulevard bridges were built in 1928 and they span South State Street and the Ann Arbor Railroad. The bridges have been in need of repair or replacement for some time and are considered functionally obsolete. The city of Ann Arbor was hoping federal transportation funds would come through to help rebuild the bridges. After missing out on one round, federal funding eventually did come through. A $13.9 million grant from U.S. Department of Transportations Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program will help pay for part of the project. The remainder of the funding will come from the state of Michigan ($300,000), and the city of Ann Arbor ($6,600,000).

Draft Michigan Rail Plan / MDOT

This was an interesting graph I came across in MDOTs draft report, Michigan State Rail Plan . The miles of railroad we have in the state today, match what we had back in 1880. The state went from a peak of 9,059 miles in 1909, to 3,900 miles today - a decline of almost 60%. It makes sense. The internal combustion engine began competing with rail at the turn of the last century. Trucks and cars began moving more freight and people. Automobile companies even had a hand in dismantling some rail...

MDOT

Most of the upgrades are happening along the Detroit to Chicago route. Thats because this line was designated as a high speed rail corridor by the federal government back in 1992. With that designation comes federal grant dollars. And recently, it has meant hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars. $639.5 million of the $687.4 million being invested in Michigans rail system is coming from the federal government. The rest is made up of state and local funds. Heres a list of...

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder and federal transportation officials will speak today at a conference in Lansing on improving rail service in Michigan. Michigan has 540 miles of publicly owned rail. The governor has called for improving and expanding that system to move people and cargo more quickly and efficiently. He said he will seek more federal dollars and wants part of vehicle registration fees to be used for improving mass transit. He believes very strongly that infrastructure is very important both to Michigans economy and to the future and that rail is very important to that mix, both passenger and freight, said Sara Wurfel, the governors press secretary. The state recently won a federal grant to purchase and upgrade 140 miles of track to be part of accelerated rail service between Detroit and Chicago. The governors plans for the state include making Michigan a central point in a regional business corridor that runs from Chicago to Toronto.

Mike Russell / wikimedia commons

Governor Rick Snyder said the state needs to invest more money in its roads and bridges, and he said hell continue to push for a new, publicly owned bridge linking Detroit and Canada. Snyder made the remarks in a special message to the Legislature today. He said a new international bridge will help create jobs and more markets for Michigan products. Weve had some setbacks, but again, following my philosophy of relentless positive action we are going to stay relentless because I believe its in the best interest of all our citizens You couldnt find a better partner in the world than to partner with our neighbors in Canada and build a bridge, said Snyder. Governor Snyder wants lawmakers to find nearly $1.5 billion in additional revenue to help pay for road and bridge repairs and maintenance. He says one way to fund that would be to eliminate the 15-cent fuel tax at the pump in exchange for a wholesale gasoline tax.

Michigan roads
User nirbhao / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

In a speech today directed toward the Michigan Legislature, Governor Snyder expressed his desire to improve just about every bit of infrastructure in the state. Roads, bridges, airports, ports, rail, water lines, sewage pipes, and broadband Internet connectivity - it was all on the table, and the Michigan Governor said the states infrastructure was suffering from a lack of investment. The Governor said the states economic recovery is tied to investing in all these bits of infrastructure, and that there is no time to waste.

aflyingpsychofly / Flickr

Governor Snyder is set to deliver an address this afternoon in Southfield about how he plans to improve infrastructure and transportation in the state. Michigan Radios Zoe Clark spoke with Michigan Radios Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry this morning about what we should expect to hear from Governor Snyder.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Detroit school cited for overcrowding Last week, the Detroit News reported on overcrowding in DPS classrooms. They reported on 55 kindergartners in a class at Nolan Elementary School, and that a science course in a DPS high school had 72 students. Now theres news of one school being cited by the citys fire department. From the Detroit News : A Detroit public school was cited Tuesday by the Detroit Fire Marshals Office for overcrowding after a parent complained to fire officials that too many children were in her sons kindergarten class. Lt. Gerod Funderburg of the Detroit Fire Department said the fire marshals office issued a citation at Nolan Elementary School, 1150 Lantz. They went out today and issued a ticket for overcrowding, Funderburg said. Detroit home prices on the rebound? Home prices have been sliding in Detroit prior to the Great Recession, but there are some good signs in Detroit. The Detroit Free Press reports: Low inventories of homes on the market and increased demand have hoisted metro Detroit home prices by 6.1% since the beginning of the year, according to research by IHS Global Insight. So are home prices finally on the rebound after five years in decline -- or is this a temporary lull before another big drop during the fall? Most industry experts dont expect a huge drop, but IHS has forecast another 5% to 10% home price decline nationwide before recovery begins. An analyst told the Free Press that because Detroit entered the housing slump before the rest of the country, it might recover ahead of the rest of the country as well - especially as the region adds more jobs. Smashed pumpkins on the morning commute From the Associated Press: It was no treat driving on a Detroit-area freeway after a truck dumped a load of pumpkins during the morning commute. Hundreds of pumpkins were scattered Wednesday across several lanes of traffic on eastbound Interstate 696 in Farmington Hills. Many of the pumpkins were pulverized as drivers passed through. Video from a traffic camera showed motorists slowly making their way through the pre-Halloween mess. WWJ-AM reports snow plows later were used to clear what remained of the pumpkins from the roadway. Michigan State Police Sgt. James Kemp tells the Detroit Free Press that one motorist had a smashed windshield, but no injuries were reported. Kemp says police stopped the truck and the driver could be cited for having an unstable load.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyders administration is looking how it might move forward construction of a new international bridge connecting Detroit and Canada without the approval of the Legislature. A measure necessary to project died today (Thursday) in a state Senate committee, and Republican leaders say it appears the bridge project cannot win legislative approval. But the new Detroit bridge remains central to Snyders long-term plans to make Michigan a Chicago-to-Montreal transportation corridor. Geralyn Lasher is the governors spokeswoman. She said the administration is considering its options. We have to look at it all, and we will look at it all very closely now because very disappointed about today. Its too important to jobs, its too important for Michigan. Its too important to really say goodbye to this kind of money that we can leverage to all parts of our state to fix roads, to fix bridges, and to move forward, said Lasher. The bridge was also going to be used to leverage millions of dollars in federal road and bridge money for projects across the state. Lasher says there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the project. An independent watchdog group called ads being aired statewide by bridge opponents flagrantly false.

The Regional Transit Authority millage was defeated Tuesday.
flickr user Matt Picio / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

We reported last week about the federal money coming to the state, and Sarah Hulett reported on more details released yesterday. In case you missed it, heres how the $46.7 million from Federal Transit Administrations Alternatives Analysis, Bus Livability, and State of Good Repair grant program is broken up in Michigan:

user K_Gradinger / Flickr

A series of bicycle lanes stretching 16 miles and connecting three neighborhoods in southwest Detroit has been completed. The Greenlink is part of the citys urban master plan for non-motorized transportation and allows bike riders safe access to the three historic neighborhoods.
A $500,000 Michigan Department of Transportation grant funded 80 percent of the project. Other grants and fundraisers paid for the other 20 percent.
The Greenlink joins the Detroit RiverWalk along east...

Google Maps

A small plane crashed in Allegan County this morning. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that construction workers working on a bridge over U.S. 131 saw the plane approaching the Plainwell Municipal Airport and noticed that it was too low. The plane clipped the back of a FedEx semi traveling on U.S. 131 before crashing. Chuck Wiersma was one of the construction crew members: We said, Hes not going to make it, Wiersma said. And he didnt make it. The plane clipped the trucks trailer and crashed. Paul Brindley, who runs the airport, said the pilot was killed. Police said the truck driver was not hurt. After the plane crashed, Wiersma said he drove onto northbound U.S. 131 and attempted to stop traffic. He also went to the crash site to see if he could help. Asked what he saw, Wiersma said, It was a mess. At around 9 a.m. this morning, WZZM reported that a stretch of U.S. 131 was closed: Allegan County Sheriffs Deputies have closed the northbound side of the highway, from M-89 to M-222. It is unclear how long U.S. 131 will remain closed. Drivers are advised to avoid the area.

Ifmuth / Creative Commons

A new study shows the conditions of Michigans roads will continue to decline unless the state can come up with a lot more money to maintain them. More than a third of Michigans roads are in poor condition. The study was released this week by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers. It shows the state needs $1.4 billion more each year for at least 85-percent of roadways to be in good or fair condition. State Representative Rick Olsen (R-Saline) and Representative Roy Schmidt (D-Grand Rapids)...

A bipartisan legislative workgroup has determined that keeping Michigans roads useable will require an additional $1.4 billion a year. In 10 years, that number grows to an estimated $2.6 billion. Business and infrastructure groups have been pressuring the Michigan Legislature for years without success to come up with a way to raise more money for fixing and maintaining roads and bridges. Representative Rick Olson says Michigan needs to more than double what it spends to maintain streets and highways: Well I think the bottom line of this study is, unless we spend this kind of money were either going to need to reconcile ourselves to poorer roads, or were going to need to be willing to pay even more in the future. Olson says raising the gas tax would not go far enough in raising revenue to pay for roads. He says a larger and more permanent solution will need to be found to generate revenue. Olson and his Democratic counterpart have submitted their report to state House leadership.

Amtrak

There are three Amtrak routes with trains that travel to and from cities in Michigan to Chicago. If you ride on any of them, chances are your train will be late. The route with the best on-time rate in the last year were the trains traveling on the Blue Water route between Port Huron and Chicago. On average, youll be on-time 50 percent of the time on these trains. The Pere Marquette route with trains traveling between Grand Rapids and Chicago comes in second. On average, those trains run on-time 48 percent of the time. The most popular route is the worst. The Wolverine route, which has trains running between Pontiac/Detroit to Chicago, had an average on-time rate of just 14 percent. Amtrak provides a detailed breakdown of each trains on-time performance along with reasons for delays on their website. Heres a breakdown of the on-time percentages for Amtrak trains in Michigan from best-to-worst: Blue Water #364 - 73.8% (Chicago to Port Huron) Pere Marquette #370 - 54.2% (Chicago to Grand Rapids) Pere Marquette #371 - 41.7% (Grand Rapids to Chicago) Blue Water #365 - 25.5% (Port Huron to Chicago) Wolverine #350 - 19.8% (Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac) Wolverine #355 - 18.7% (Detroit/Pontiac to Chicago) Wolverine #353 - 17.6% (Detroit to Chicago/Pontiac) Wolverine #351 - 11.4% (Detroit/Pontiac to Chicago) Wolverine #354 - 9.5% (Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac) Wolverine #352 - 4.4% (Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac)

Federal Railroad Administration

The Federal Railroad Administration has obligated $28,204,450 to the Michigan Department of Transportation to build a new Dearborn train station. U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-Dearborn) made the announcement in a press release today: This funding will allow the City of Dearborn to consolidate its two passenger rail stations into a intermodal station in the west section of downtown Dearborn... The intermodal facility will be designed for the planned Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail as well as future high-speed intercity passenger rail service. The station will accommodate city, regional and intercity bus systems; local and tourist shuttles; bicycle and greenway linkages; and, auto, taxi, and limousine connections to Detroit International Airport. In the release, Dingell said modernizing rail travel will help attract small business development, increase job growth, and enhance the livelihood of communities and business, by helping to expedite the time and efficiency of people and goods getting from point A to point B. Last May, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced an investment of $196.5 million to improve track and signal systems between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. The improvements, the federal government said, would reduce trip times between Detroit and Chicago by 30 minutes. The Federal Railroad Administration selected the Dearborn rail station to be funded under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program. In total, the government plans to spend $10.1 billion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to improve passenger rail service in the U.S. The Dearborn Press & Guide reports the announcement puts an end to questions about whether the money would come or not: [The money] was awarded more than two years ago as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Although the money was awarded, until this week it still had not been obligated and Congressional Republicans are proposing to rescind all non-obligated ARRA funds as part of the upcoming federal budget process. Dearborn Mayor Jack OReilly was quoted as saying he was relieved by the news, I was panicked that our shovel-ready project would never come to fruition. This really is key for Dearborn, as well now be central to any future transportation planning for the region.

TSA.gov

I posted information from the AP earlier about the TSAs plans to test a program that will improve screening times at airports. (Welcome news to many who abhor waiting in lines at airports.) Twitter follower Justin Fenwick wrote us saying Wish I knew what info. they want... Good point, Justin! The Associated Press reports that currently, the TSA has three bits of information on all passengers: Your full name, Date of birth, and Gender This new program will gather up information from frequent-flier programs: Frequent-flier programs include more than those three identification fields. For instance, personal information provided in Deltas frequent-flier program includes the travelers home address, email address or phone number, and preferred language. TSA officials would not say what screening measures could be avoided for security reasons. In a press release , TSA officials say the pilot program is expected to start this fall. During the first phase of testing, certain frequent fliers and certain members of CBPs (Customs and Border Protection) Trusted Traveler programs, including members of Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS, who are U.S. citizens will be eligible to participate in this pilot, which could qualify them for expedited screening at select checkpoints at certain airports. They expect around 5,000 to 8,000 passengers to participate in the initial program. At Detroit Metropolitan airport, officials say certain frequent fliers from Delta Air Lines and certain members of CBPs Trusted Traveler programs who are U.S. citizens and who are also flying on Delta will be eligible to participate in the pilot. Officials say they plan to expand the pilot program to other airlines once operationally ready.

Michael Eyal Sharon / Flickr

A new program aimed at speeding up airport screenings will be tested in Detroit. From the Associated Press: The Transportation Security Administration plans to test a program that would pre-screen certain travelers who volunteer more personal information so they can be vetted to potentially receive expedited screening at the checkpoint. This is the Obama administrations first stab at a more risk-based, intelligence-driven passenger screening program that could begin to answer traveler complaints that the government is not using common sense when it screens all passengers at airports in the same way. The program will initially be tested at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Miami and Dallas, among certain Delta and American travelers who are U.S. citizens and are enrolled in the airlines frequent flier programs, as well as among Delta and American travelers who participate in some other government trusted traveler programs and who also travel through those four airports.

screen grab from YouTube video

This past Monday, Michigan Radios Sarah Cwiek reported on the growing controversy surrounding Detroits light rail project. Reports indicated that private backers might pull out of the project. ( Kresge Foundation President Rip Rapson told Cwiek the foundation is committed to the project.) Now, the Detroit Free Press is reporting on disagreements between Mayor Bing and the Detroit City Council over who should sit on the board overseeing the light rail project. Some council members feel the...

Great Lakes harbors threatened by dredging backlog

Jul 5, 2011

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/michigan/local-michigan-976128.mp3 The Great Lakes form a sprawling ecosystem of nature and industry. In a strong economy, ships can transport up to 200 million tons of cargo across these waters each year. But now the shipping industry has declared a state of emergency. The cause is a region-wide dredging backlog. Shippers worry sediment buildup threatens to choke some navigation channels. But before we begin this tale of sediment and...

Suncor Energy

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - AAA Michigan says gasoline prices are down 16 cents per gallon over the past week to a statewide average of $3.56. The auto club says Monday the statewide average is about 71 cents per gallon higher than last year at this time. But the price has fallen 56 cents in three weeks. Of the cities it surveys, AAA Michigan says the cheapest price for self-serve unleaded fuel is in the Lansing area, where its $3.41 a gallon. The highest average can be found in the Ann Arbor and Marquette areas at $3.62. Dearborn-based AAA Michigan surveys 2,800 Michigan gas stations daily.

Half-off amnesty offered for unpaid parking fines

Jun 18, 2011
Flickr/Chris Moncus

People who have unpaid parking tickets in Detroit will be able to take advantage of a special program and pay only half the amount of money they owe. The program is called All or Nothing Amnesty and starts Tuesday and ends July 1st. It also applies to people already in payment plans over parking debt, but does not apply to people whose vehicles have been clamped with a boot. In a press release the city says, In order to participate in this program, individuals must pay their entire record and...

user amtrak_russ / Flickr

On the heels of the federal governments announcement that it plans to increase the speed of Amtrak trains traveling between Detroit and Chicago, comes a slow-down order from the freight company that owns much of the track. Norfolk Southern railroad says Amtrak trains will have to travel at speeds of 25 m.p.h. on some parts of the line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. More from Annarbor.coms Nathan Bomey: The decision means that travelers on Amtraks Wolverine line may experience 90-minute delays on the trip from Kalamazoo to Dearborn, Amtrak said. Passengers need to check with Amtrak before heading to the station for their trips. A 90-minute delay is a big deal for trains working to improve their on-time performance, which has been notoriously bad in Michigan. Amtrak Train number 351 , for instance, travels between Chicago and Grand Rapids/Port Huron/Detroit - Pontiac. In the last twelve months, its been on-time only 17.1% of the time. Last month, officials from the federal government announced plans to invest $196.5 million to improve the 135 miles of rail line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. The improvement, officials from the government say, will allow trains to reach speeds of 110 m.p.h., cutting 30 minutes off the time it will take to travel between Detroit and Chicago. The freight company who owns the line, says they wont be responsible for maintenance on the improved track. Rudy Husband, a Norfolk Southern spokesman, was quoted in Annarbor.com : If they want to make the Michigan line a passenger route with higher speeds than what freight trains run, then someone other than Norfolk Southern is going to have to pay for the increased maintenance costs, Husband said. We have been trying to work out a solution to this for a very long time now. But in the meantime were doing what needs to be done to be responsible to our customers and our shareholders. So before the trains speed up, theyll have to slow down.

user spicybear / Flickr

Michigans motorcycle helmet law is once again in the sights of advocates who say riders should be allowed to operate a bike without head protection. Legislation approved today by the state Senate Transportation Committee would allow licensed operators to forgo a helmet if they are 21 years old and have had a motorcycle endorsement for two years; or they have passed a motorcycle safety course. Jim Rhoades, an advocate for repealing the helmet law, says Michigan misses out on a lot of tourism...

User seemidtn / Flickr

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the investment of over $2 billion in high speed rail projects around the country. But what are the actual projects? The entire list is available at the Department of Transportations website, which has the full press release . But here are some highlights (including full descriptions from the press release on the two Michigan projects. Amtrak NEC Power, Signal, Track, Catenary Improvements Connecticut New Haven to Springfield...

user cogdogblog / Flickr

The government is investigating the safety of some Ford F-150 trucks. From the Associated Press:
U.S. safety regulators are investigating a fuel tank problem that could affect more than 2.7 million Ford F-150 pickup trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says on its website that the steel straps holding up the gas tank can rust and break, possibly causing a fuel spill and fire. The agency says it is looking into trucks from the 1997 through 2001 model years. The F-150 is the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. NHTSA says there are 243 reports of the tanks falling and causing two fires. No injuries have been reported. The agency began looking at the problem last year when it had received 32 complaints. Ford says its cooperating with the investigation. Anyone with concerns should contact their dealer.

user amtrak_russ / Flickr

Passenger rail in Michigan will get some upgrades because of a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 . Most of $199 million granted to the state will go toward improving the rail lines between Detroit and Chicago so passenger trains can travel faster. The improvements are expected to allow trains to travel at top speeds of 110 m.p.h. rather than 95 m.p.h. The Department of Transportation says the improvements will cut 30 minutes off the time to travel between Detroit and Chicago. Senators Levin and Stabenow put out a press release this morning with some of the details of the plan. They say the track will be improved between Kalamazoo and Dearborn: [the] rail project will rehabilitate track and signal systems to allow trains to travel at 110 mph for the 135-mile stretch. The current obsolete signal system will be replaced with a positive train control system, improving safety. The grant fully funds the states request. Levin and Stabenow say $2.8 million in Recovery Act funds will also be used to start the process of building a new train station in Ann Arbor: The Ann Arbor Stations $2.8 million will be used to complete a preliminary engineering and environmental study required to design and construct a new high-speed rail station in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor Station is the busiest Amtrak station in Michigan, but only has single-tracking capacity, forcing intercity trains to block the mainline while serving the station. By constructing a passing track, more than one train will be able to service the station while others can pass unimpeded. The money being spent in Michigan is part of $2 billion in new spending on rail service across the country. The U.S. Department of Transportation made the spending announcements today. Rail passengers in Michigan will see new locomotives and passenger cars as a result of the spending. Seven higher-speed locomotives and 48 new passenger cars will run between Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. Michigan Radios Sarah Cwiek is attending the press conference with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood scheduled for today at 2:30 today in Detroit. Well hear more from her later.

The future of passenger rail service in Michigan may take a big leap forward today. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation will be in Detroit this afternoon for an announcement concerning high speed rail. Michigans been down this track before. State transportation officials had high hopes last year when the Obama administration planned to invest billions of dollars in developing high speed rail projects across the country. State officials lobbied hard for the federal government to upgrade the rail link between Detroit and Chicago, so trains could travel between the two cities at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. But, while the administration designated billions of dollars for projects in Illinois, California and Florida. Michigan only received a small amount of money to upgrade some Amtrak stations. But, Floridas new governor decided his state didnt want the two billion dollars the Obama administration was offering. It appears Michigan and New York may end up splitting the money. Well find out specifics later today. Floridas not the first state to say no to federal high speed rail money. Wisconsin and Ohio also declined. Amtrak reported last month that ridership is rising on all three passenger rail lines it operates in Michigan.

user smaedli / Flickr

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to visit Detroit Monday to make a major high-speed rail announcement. From the Detroit News : Last month, Michigan applied for more than $560 million in funding - including joining three other states as part of a joint request. Michigan officials expect the state will receive funding for some grants sought. The state sought track improvements in Detroit and a new transit terminal in Ann Arbor, and new trains are part of Michigans pitch for more federal money for high-speed rail after Florida said it didnt want $2.4 billlion. LaHood is expected to be joined by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and other elected leaders at Detroits Amtrak station Monday afternoon. LaHood is to make an appearance earlier in the day at New Yorks Penn Station. Bings office declined to comment ahead of the announcement. In the Midwest, there are several sections of rail being improved that will allow trains to travel faster. New money could further develop this system. Its known as the Chicago Hub Network and includes improvements to the rail connections to St. Louis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Columbus. From the DOTs website:

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