Citing the "devastating impact" on revenues from the pandemic, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called in a Senate hearing for urgent federal assistance for transportation projects. Whitmer was joined by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who said that work on infrastructure would help create badly needed jobs emerging from the pandemic.
SmartTake: Hogan and Whitmer, who served as the bipartisan one-two punch for the National Governors Association's infrastructure agenda for the past year, touched on the talking points you'd expect. Namely, prioritizing sustainability and streamlining the federal funding process. However, as some observers have noted, the two governors are not perfect messengers for an infrastructure push. Maryland has been plagued by mismanaged public-private partnerships, while Michigan's efforts to repair roads have hit political snags. Interestingly, Whitmer was able to dodge a question on raising the federal gas tax, an issue Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg struggled to avoid during his confirmation hearing.
An infrastructure bill could emerge from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by Memorial Day, says Chair Tom Carper, D-Del. Carper also hopes to add a focus on highway and bridge resilience against climate change to a five-year, $287 billion bill the committee had approved in 2019.
Reduced traffic due to the pandemic led to a 34% improvement in freight truck speeds across the nation's 100 worst bottlenecks last year, but road conditions and traffic continue to pose problems, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. The organization called on federal leaders to use the report to help formulate infrastructure spending.
SmartTake: At first its hard to have sympathy for speedy truckers who had roads largely to themselves in 2020. Even at the Fort Lee, N.J., intersection that for the third consecutive year was named the nation's worst bottleneck, truck speeds averaged almost 40% higher. So why the fuss? Truckers still only averaged 31 mph at that intersection last year. Maybe not so speedy.
The loss of power across much of Texas during its deep freeze last week led to disastrous pressure drops at some water distribution systems, while others failed to obtain chemicals to cleanse their supplies. One assistant professor at Stanford University has called the situation "a case of cascading failures." Other experts say it shows the precarious dependence of water infrastructure on less than reliable power supplies.
The New York State Department of Transportation used Bentley's OpenRoads Designer and OpenBridge Modeler as well as iModels to model three alternatives for a new Route 28 Bridge over the Esopus Creek. The result was a living, modifiable 3D model that helped the project team avoid misinterpreting material quantities.
Autodesk is venturing into analytical software for water infrastructure with a $1 billion acquisition of Innovyze. The startup has about 3,000 clients for its software, which alerts users to structural needs as they arise.
Connected traffic management systems that leverage artificial intelligence could help cities saving $277 billion by 2025 while reducing congestion and emissions, according to a report by Juniper Research. The report also notes that cities are investing more in smart parking systems.
A modular parking structure from Walker Consultants and Swinerton offers a standardized but customizable design based on building information modeling. The solution, named Perq, is said to reduce engineering time to as little as four weeks from several months for most parking structures.
UK rail infrastructure operator Network Rail is applying the landslip lessons learned from Storm Christoph to update its framework for cuttings, embankments, structures and drainage. Two task forces are studying weather action and earthworks while also working with government and specialist organizations to formulate ways to deal with extreme weather resulting from climate change.
The Navy's lightweight torpedo and very lightweight torpedo programs will be advancing on several fronts this year. Among other things, testing is planned for a wing adapter kit for the MK 54 lightweight torpedo that will allow it to be dropped from higher altitudes and guided to an entry point on the water.
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