Category Archives: I-80

Bay Lights – San Francisco Bay Bridge to have amazing LED display

After a trip to San Francisco several years ago, I noted that the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge would be considered the signature bridge in most cities, but it is second to the majestic Golden Gate Bridge. The Bay Bridge with its two back-to-back suspension bridges is majestic and beautiful in its own right. Now, an incredible LED display, called “Bay Lights” is going make the bridge even more spectacular. From the SF Chronicle (‘Bay Lights’ a shining moment for region):

“Bay Lights” incorporates 25,000 LED lights on the west span of the Bay Bridge, and the software-generated patterns of light will glow from dusk to 2 a.m. for a full two years.

It’s a coup for the Bay Area to get a public art piece of this size and importance. The scope of the project is breathtaking – an 1.8-mile span from Yerba Buena Island to San Francisco, a crew of eight electricians working at night to attach the lights to the suspender cables of the bridge, an $8 million cost (privately fundraised, thank you) – and making it all happen was an incredible feat.

The Times has video:

Artist Leo Villareal created custom software to interpret the traffic, water and other movements in the area and light up the suspension cables on the spans that connect San Francisco to Treasure/Yerba Buena Island which is just under two miles. The privately-funded $8 million public art is a commemoration of the Bay Bridge’s 75th anniversary and will shine from dusk to 2 a.m. for two years.

The Bay Bridge opened in 1936 and used to carry US 40 and US 50. Now, it carries Interstate 80.

On the Oakland side of the bridge, construction continues on a replacement for the old cantilever bridge (a portion that collapsed during the 1989 Battle of the Bay World Series earthquake) with a self-anchored, one-tower suspension span. That tower was incorporated into the Golden State Warriors logo, a clever homage to a previous suspension bridge logo.

Now I really want to visit San Francisco again. But then again, I always want to visit San Francisco.

Highway markers from Shields Up!

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Gov. Rendell still pushing for tolls on I-80 in Pennsylvania

Rendell: Congress should remove restrictions on tolling of interstatesPost-Gazette
There he goes again — Gov. Ed Rendell wants Congress to give Pennsylvania and other states the ability to establish tolls along highways. Interstate 80 which runs through the northern half of the state has heavy out-of-state traffic. This leads to people with no familiarity of highway funding to believe that out-of-state drivers do not contribute to the roads maintenance costs. This is fiction of course, since American motorists are responsible for 90% of interstate highway funding that is collected primarily through a national sales tax on gasoline. State gas taxes tend to fund the other 10%. in short, all American drivers pay for interstate roads. Politicians, like Rendell and a previous recent governor, Tom Ridge, apparently do not understand this either. Both called for tolls on I-80. I have even created a label called I-80 so you can follow along.

American motorists and taxpayers have paid for I-80 for over fifty years. If Pennsylvania wants to toll the road or any other previously “free” interstate highway, they should have to reimburse the highway trust fund for all costs associated up until this point. If that happens, I have no problem with them putting tolls up. I’d laugh and call Pennsylvania “the toll booth state” too. It is worth noting too that Pennsylvania got more funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund throughout the 1990s than any other state. Of course, much of it was sent to the Altoona area by Bud Shuster, who ruled the powerful infrastructure committee that allocated highway funds. Congress shouldn’t give Pennsylvannia a free pass because they spent the money poorly. If Pennsylvania wants more highway funding, they ought to increase their statewide gas tax appropriately.

H/T Jeff Kitsko, on Facebook

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FTA says no to tolls on PA I-80

Tolls on I-80 deniedThe Collegian
U.S. rejects Pa.’s request for I-80 tollsThe Inky
U.S. says no to Interstate 80 tollsPost-Gazette
Lawmakers seek plan to fix roadsCDT
There will not be tolls along I-80 in Pennsylvania as proposed, the Federal Transportation Administrator blocked it.

I was all ready to call Pennsylvania the “tollbooth state” too.

Now, it seems likely that the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be privatized which still does not make much sense over the long term to me. Once again, as Jay Hancock suggested, this is a “pernicious national trend: transforming public utilities into private monopolies.”

Adding onto the gas tax probably makes the most sense to cover funding shortfalls, but I doubt enough people have the political courage to make that decision.

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I-80 terminus

I-80 weatern terminus
SAN FRANCISCO — I can now say that I have been at both ends of Interstate 80. We jumped on it from US 101 at its western terminus for our brief jaunt to Treasure Island. I have been to the eastern terminus at I-95 in New Jersey several times. By the way, I think the eastern terminus needs to be somewhere in New York City, so that it can cross the George Washington Bridge. It would be fitting to have to big bridges on opposite ends of the road.

I-80 is easily the longest interstate that I have seen from both ends. The next longest is probably I-78, though I may have been to both ends of I-87, I can’t say for sure. I’ve passed both ends of I-84, but I wasn’t on the eastern end, I was on I-90 (Mass Pike). I have been on all of I-66 and I-68 too.

I-80′s current terminus was once the end of US 40 and US 50 until 1964, when California wiped out most of its US routes to avoid duplication with interstate highways. I can understand getting rid of US 40 since there is an I-40 in Southern California, but would it have been so bad to keep US 50 as a sea-to-sea route? I have been to the eastern end in Ocean City, Md. Additionally, extending US 50 back to San Francisco would mean that US 50 was routed over a Bay Bridge twice since there is the William Preston Lane Jr. (Chesapeake Bay) Bridge in Maryland. One of the spans of that cross is even the same X truss style as San Francisco’s Bay Bridge.

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The poor Bay Bridge

DSCF0042
SAN FRANCISCO — In all but about two cities, a bridge like the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge would be the signature crossing. The towers have an attractive design with x-shaped trusses. The cables are lit up at night too. Even more impressive is that the Bay Bridge is really two consecutive suspension bridges end-to-end with a brief tunnel through an island followed by another bridge on the opposite side. As spectacular as that all is it can only be considered the second best bridge in San Francisco.

David drove us to Yerba Buena Island/Treasure Island on our way out of town for some views of the San Francisco skyline (and blurry photos, sadly), so we were on the western portion of the bridge. Aside from the death defying on-and-off ramps, we enjoyed the ride.

[flickr : my photos tagged with sanfranciscooaklandbaybridge/slideshow]

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I-80 tolls: Pennsylvania’s chronic impending disaster

Toll war building strengthCDT
Last week the CDT had the latest on Pennsylvania’s I-80 tolls fiasco.

The latest twist is that state senator Scott Conklin announced that he wants to provide a $500 tax break for Pennsylvanians who regularly travel on the road. I wonder if that would be Constitutional.

I have to give credit to Run Up the Score! for introducing me to that great expression in the title.

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Tolls on I-80 in Pa. one step closer

State takes first steps for tolls on I-80Post-Gazette
This is actually news from a few days ago. I hope the FHWA will say something along the lines “you got more gas tax money than any other state for years during the Bud Shuster era and now you want to add tolls without studying alternatives like a gas tax? No dice, mofos.”

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I-80 tolls backlash growing

Legislation to stop I-80 tolls gaining supportCDT
Backlash against tolling I-80 is gaining speed politically at the federal and state levels.

U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-Plesantville, a fierce opponent of the I-80 toll plan, submitted legislation this week as a companion to Texas Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s measure, which she introduced to prohibit tolls on federal highways.

This is good news — even though Peterson is playing up the the “rural people pay more than their share for city people” myth. By the way, An August 4 article in the Post-Gazette debunked Peterson:

In a joint news release announcing the amendment to stop the plan to toll I-80, Reps. English and Peterson said rural Pennsylvanians should not be responsible for solving statewide transportation problems.

And in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, they wrote: “Essentially, the new transportation plan would impose excessive tolls on economically challenged rural communities which are already paying their full share of gas taxes and other fees, and transfer that revenue to more prosperous suburban communities to fund transit programs that should be supported by the communities they serve.”

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette examination of state transportation statistics shows the opposite to be true: Money collected from the densely populated Pittsburgh and Philadelphia urban areas generates the bulk of revenue that’s spread statewide to pay for road, bridge and transit programs.

For example, Allegheny County, with 909,000, has the highest number of registered motor vehicles in the state. That also is 50 percent more than the 601,654 registered vehicles in Mercer, Venango, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield, Centre, Clinton and Lycoming counties combined, where I-80 passes through the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts represented by Mr. English and Mr. Peterson.

The nearly $44 million that PennDOT collected last year from Allegheny County vehicle owners in registration fees for the state’s Motor License Fund also was about 50 percent more than the total collected in all of those counties.

On the other hand, I-80 alone eats up 22 percent of all federal interstate maintenance money allocated to the state. That statewide total last year was $211.9 million.

When revenues generated by Allegheny County are combined with the five-county Philadelphia area, where transit is provided by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the urban areas are generating about 33 percent of all transportation money that is shared with the other 61 counties.

So, basically Peterson is doing the right thing, when he isn’t scapegoating the economic engines of Pennsylvania. Today, in an Inky article, titled Foes raise stakes on I-80 tolls, Peterson added:

“How do you do something this big without corridor studies or economic studies?” Peterson said last week, stopping at a restaurant off I-80 for a slice of blackberry pie. He drew a map of Pennsylvania on the back of a placemat and jabbed it with his pen. “Pretty soon, there will just be a big red circle around us, saying, ‘Don’t go there.’”

Another good passage from the article:

Local leaders fear the ripple effect of tolls: Fewer visitors to the Autumn Leaf Festival in Clarion. Higher costs for power plants. Oversized loads trying to drive through undersized local streets. More expensive commutes for workers and college students. Fewer orders for the vendors who supply cabinets, bathtubs and trimwork to the modular housing makers.

If Pennsylvania wants to spend more money on roads, it should actually spend some time coming up with a thoughtful, reasonable solution. It seems to me that raising the fuel tax is the most pragmatic, but some legwork needs to be done before that or any other solution is implemented.

Hopefully all of the backlash in Pennsylvania will scare Virginia from going down this same path.

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The I-80 tolls mess

There is a lot of backlash to the legislation to add tolls to Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania.

  • The legislators in and around State College suddenly went NIMBY voted against the plan because it had the possibility of tolls in their area.

  • This week in the U.S. House, Rep. John Peterson, R-Pleasantville, and Rep. Phil English, R-Erie added an amendment to the transportation bill prohibiting the use of federal funds (CDT) for the conversion. That may not make a difference because there are other ways to funds toll booth construction, but it sends a message.
  • Proponents of the toll plan like Ed Rendell, the Democratic governor from Philadelphia, are again threatening to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Post-Gazette). The whole thing has the typical Pennsylvania vs. Philadelphia connotations (sound familiar Virginia residents?) because some of the funding from tolls would go to mass transit. Call it a hunch, but Philadelphia (and probably Pittsburgh too) area taxpayers are paying more than their share already, so I don’t feel too bad for the rest of the Commonwealth on this one.

Of course, this mess could have probably avoided if there had been leadership (I’m looking in your direction, Bud Shuster) and a better run PennDOT, but hindsight is 20-20 and those two things seem impossible anyway. In the real world, Pennsylvania should have passed an increase in the gas tax instead of cynically trying to pass the burden of funding strictly onto out-of-state travelers. If the Federal Highway Administration says no to I-80 tolls, which it hopefully will on general principle, Pennsylvania might have to a gas tax anyway. As much I would enjoy the irony of Pennsylvania as “The Tollbooth State”, I would rather a precedent for tolling interstates built with federal highway trust fund money not be set.

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