Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

By CFS

We all know that corn ethanol takes away resources from growing food, but by how much might astonish you.  According to author Alexis Madrigal in his book Powering the Dream, USDA statistics from 2010 show that fully 1/3 of the United States corn harvest went into our collective gas tanks.

That 1/3 of US corn production is akin to a subsidy for the wealthy.  You see, the more wealth and income a person has the more cars a person owns and consequently the more miles a person tends to drive (who wants to be on a bus with a bunch of stinky people), consuming proportionally more gas.  Conversely, the higher up the income scale one climbs the less a person spends on food as a proportion of their income.  The exact opposite is true of the lower-income scales, whome spend a much larger proportion of income simply feeding themselves and their families while spending less on transportation.  So, corn ethanol subsidies are essentially robbing from the poor and giving to the rich, a kind of reverse Robin Hood.

Bringing it down to the scale of Missoula, would you rather help out the people that live on the South Hills in Mansion Heights, or the people that live in doublewides in East Missoula?

Just how much is 1/3?  The US corn harvest in 2010 was 13.1 billion bushels.  Yes that is 13.1 with a B! A record-setting year in terms of acreage under production and yield even in the face of record grain prices.

So, fully 4.3 billion bushels of corn was converted into ethanol.  Those 4.3 billion bushels yielded 12.1 billion gallons of ethanol (based on my calculations from the ratio I derived thanks to this link) out of a total US supply of 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol which gives us 10% of the total gasoline supply.

That’s a lot of numbers… but bear with me.

So, to fill just 10% of our voracious appetite for fuel (18 million barrels of oil/day) uses roughly 26.4 million acres of American (Fuck Yeah!) farmland.  So while the addition of corn ethanol to our fuel supply hasn’t put much of a dent into American gas prices or our consumption of foreign oil, you can see in the chart below just how much biofuels have effected the price of corn.  The steep increase in price coincides nicely with the increase in total corn used for ethanol seen in the chart here (scroll down toward the bottom).

And also coincides nicely with the increase in the commodity price of beef.  Beef, it’s where most of the corn goes.

Obviously, the increase in price isn’t all due to increases in the amount of corn ethanol produced, but the pattern fits nicely together.  The real point of all these numbers I’ve thrown in front of you is to show the sheer scale of the impact that ethanol has on the food market (quite a lot) and the extent of the impact on the fuels market (almost non-existent).

In the end ethanol subsidies are part of the larger package of policies in this country that give breaks to those with an excessively disproportionate share of this country’s wealth.  These subsidies might not be that large in the scheme of things relating to our total budget deficit, but they are symptomatic of our larger cultural tendency to reward the rich and punish the poor.

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BCFS

Just ignore anything thing that comes out of a politician’s mouth when discussing oil prices, whether that politician may be President Obama or Denny “I do believe I fell off my horse” Rehberg.  For that matter you can also ignore Faux News’ claim that financial speculation is the key culprit of high oil prices because the reality is that the main driver behind oil prices is a lack of sufficient supply.

The Oil Drum has a great analysis (which continues in the comments) up at their site that comes to this very conclusion.  It’s a long, and a very technical post, but well worth the read.

The basic problem the world is facing in the short-term is that the great oil exporters aren’t so great anymore.  You see, the major exporters have been massively developing their countries over the last 20 years trying to diversify their economies away from a dependence on oil exports.  This has strangely had the reverse effect of making their economies more reliant on oil.

In 2005 total world exports were 40.8 million barrels per day (mbpd) as compared with 35.7 mbpd in 2009, a  12.5% decline in only a matter of 4 years.  While data might not be available for 2010, the news only gets worse.  Both Russia and China have instituted export restrictions so as to support their domestic economies.  This will lead to a further reduction in total oil exports.  The news out of Russia, being the world’s second largest oil producer, does not bode well for the oil importing countries of the world.  Add in the fact that Saudi Arabian oil production peaked in 2005 and Russia peaked in 2007.  No country can replace these two producers and so the decline in world exports will continue and with it prices at the gas station here in America will continue to rise.

Two additional variables complicate the situation.  The first is political.  Already the Arab Spring is effecting oil exports coming out of the Middle East.  But on-top of the unrest directly leading to reductions in oil production regimes that are desperate to hold on to their power are already starting to spend oil revenue on social programs with the aim to buy the silence of their populace.  That leaves less money to invest in future oil production and will lead to an otherwise faster decline in production.

The second, is the economic principle of diminishing returns on investment.  This is an economic fact that was drilled into my head in economics class.  Usually, this principle is couched in the terms of labor vs. capital.  Each additional laborer produces a certain amount of profit, add too many workers and that rate of return decrease and will eventually go negative.  Same with capital.

Energy markets are subject to the same principle but in a slightly different manner.  The principle here is “energy returned on energy invested” (EROEI).  Back in the day when oil was first discovered, the EROEI was in the range of 30-50, meaning for every unit of energy expended in production, 30-50 units of energy were actually produced.  Now however, we are down to the point of extracting oil at an EROEI under 10, with tar sands right about 5.  So we are reaching the point of having to expend a lot more energy and money to get just a little bit of energy in return.

Now, You can take this principle and expand it a bit further.  Lets take for example infrastructure investment, in this case our national highway network.  Because this type of investment is public, the return on investment would be the total economic activity spurred by said investment, ranging from the construction jobs created directly from the investment to the development of real estate on former farmland and the sale of cars that fill up said highways.

Between 2004 and 2008 23,300 miles of additional roadway were built in America.  Now the first 23,300 miles that were built in the system way back under Truman contributed much more to the economic prosperity of our country than the last 23,300 miles.  Why is that?  It’s because of all that previous investment.  Not only is that last 23,300 miles a marginal amount at this point compared with all that previous investment,  but all those thousands of miles already built require a lot of investment each and every year just to maintain.  All the maintenance required to keep up that old investment takes away from the ability of a nation to invest in new infrastructure.

This same phenomenon is occurring in places like Saudi Arabia.  Once you’ve gotten to all the easy oil, you have to spend an increasing amount of money just to tread water.  From The Oil Drum:  Saudi Arabian oil officials met with Halliburton to discuss plans to boost their oil-directed rig count by roughly 30%.

According to a Saudi oil official interviewed by Reuters, the investment in new drilling rigs “is not to expand capacity. It’s to sustain current capacity on new fields and old fields that have been bottled up.” (1) This news on its own should be troubling as it infers that the Kingdom is facing significant declines on currently producing fields. Even more troubling is the recent statement by another senior Saudi oil official that the Kingdom “expects oil production to hold steady at an average of 8.7 million barrels per day to 2015.”

Increasing investment by 30% just to stay barely above water.

Drill-Baby-Drill!

by Pete Talbot

(The Montana lefty blogosphere has been cranking out some great stuff, IMHO, on state and national budgets, and on eminent domain; and offering up some honest critiques of Montana Legislators and U.S. Senators and Congressmen on both sides of the aisle, to name but a few of the worthy posts of late.  And for the most part, the comments have been lively, thoughtful and informative.  But I need a break.  Hope you do, too.)

I’d opt for a colonoscopy rather than go to the Wal-Mart Superstore at the corner of Mullan and Reserve Streets.  So you know it was extremely important to me; the ‘it’ being the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

When I was a little kid in Madison, Wisc., home of Oscar Mayer, the Wienermobile was present at every major event.  There was a little person dressed as a chef who would hand out hot dogs and wiener whistles.  Those days are gone but new, scaled-down versions of the Wienermobile are criss-crossing the land.

The Wienermobile was in Missoula this past weekend.  I know you’re dying for the stats.  It’s a converted GM W4 series chassis with a fiberglass body and a four-speed automatic;  six litre, 350 Vortec 5700 V-8 engine;  60 mph in 24.81 sec.; miles per gallon are 18 downhill, five uphill.

Since I haven’t been offered an ambassadorship to Fiji or a slot on the Olympic table tennis team, I’d gladly take a Wienermobile driving job, except for the hanging out in Wal-Mart parking lots.

During these times of war, pestilence, retrogression and downright meanness, a diversion like the Wienermobile is just what I needed.

By CFS

Its been official knowledge for some time that Michelle Obama hates America, but now she is taking matters into her own hands and is singlehandedly killing Americans… pedestrians that is.

The big news today flying around cantservative “news” sites and blogs is that Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign – a campaign aimed at fighting childhood obesity through encouraging healthier eating habits and a more active lifestyle – has been linked to an uptick in pedestrian deaths in the first half of 2010.  How has this not been called by its proper name yet… an act of terrorism?

The original story appeared in the Washington Examiner this morning in their local section and comes from a recently published report by the Governors Highway Safety Association on PRELIMINARY safety statistics for 2010.  The GHSA representative originally quoted in the Examiner story linking the uptick with Let’s Move has already denied saying any such thing.

The fact that this is getting so much traction is mostly because of the absurdity of the claim and the fact that it makes for a great rabble-rousing headline.  This doesn’t bother me so much as the fact that a “respected” media outlet doesn’t know how to handle statistics and accurately represent them to the public.  As someone who spends most of his workday compiling large amounts of information into databases for the purpose of statistical analysis and mapping the idiocy of the statistical reporting boggled my mind.

The Examiner’s first offence is that data covering six months does not constitute a trend.  Four years of data, yes… two years of data, maybe… six months, absolutely not.  Additionally, this is a preliminary report which means the numbers are likely to change and they don’t even have a margin of error published yet.

Their second offence was cherry-picking the statistics they reported.  The story only talks about the increases in pedestrian deaths and misses a lot of the other information the GHSA report published.  Yes deaths were up significantly in the DC area, but on a national level the increase was only seven fatalities, or .4%, a statistically insignificant number when dealing with close to 2000 total fatalities in that six month period.  They also failed to mention that 28 states saw pedestrian fatalities decrease while only 18 states saw an increase.

Thirdly, the reporter at the examiner apparently can’t read either, given the fact that the GHSA report’s first sentence states, “The number of pedestrian traffic fatalities in the United States for the first six months of 2010 were essentially unchanged.”

And finally, they missed a bigger story embedded in the report.  Just four states make up 41% of all pedestrian deaths – California, Florida, New York, and Texas.  Those four states also happen to be the four states with the highest vehicle miles traveled per year, a total coincidence I’m sure.

These are the kinds of quality stories that are produced when the media, politicians, and the public play at gotcha journalism.  The Examiner doesn’t care that there is not one bit of useful information in the story, or that there are three or four pieces of misleading information, the only thing they obviously care about is driving traffic to their site and stealing five seconds from our precious attention starved web surfing brains.

Now… back to something useful found on the internet… slip nips over at Huffington Post.

by jhwygirl

Last month Director had told the Legislature’s Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee that their review of Exxon/Imperial Oil’s environmental analysis (yep, the applicant submitted the ea) would be completed by August 15th….while later he backtracked and said that he didn’t expect to have it by the end of August.

Well, here we are, middle-of-September, and the bad news continues to pile on. Forest Supervisors of both the Lolo and the Clearwater National Forests oppose the plans to move the rigs up and over Lolo Pass…and Oregon’s U.S. Representative Pete Fazio is >calling for an investigation into Exxon/Imperial Oil’s plans to ship giant equipment through Idaho and western Montana to an energy project in Canada.

Apparently the Helena National Forest is OK with the plans to move the Korean-built bohemaths up and over Roger’s Pass – yep, no potential there for major disruption…

Not only does the bad news continue to pile on, but Lynch had promised the EA “by early September.”

One does have to ponder the Lolo National Forest Supervisor’s current position – given that they had to rescind their decision to bury powerlines (the request the result of Exxon/Imperial Oil’s transport plans) given that they failed to consult with the tribes – Lolo Pass the site of the ancient native Nez Pierce tribe’s Nimi’ipuu trail.

Wonder because while they are taking comment on the proposal to bury the powerlines through September 24th and the scoping period is exactly (and only) 30 days. Rather odd considering both the controversy surrounding the project and the fact that the scoping is the result of them having overlooked even scoping the thing in the first place, don’t you think?

You can read the notice here and check the map out on the specifics here.

Let’s note, too, that the scoping notice does not mention the application is the result of Exxon/Imperial Oil’s need to have the lines buried so they can move their oil modules. It does, in fact, state the purpose of the initiation of the request by Missoula Electrical Cooperative is to “improve long-term service to local residences and businesses.”

Really?

Still, too, one has to ponder if MEC should really be the applicant? Isn’t Exxon/Imperial Oil paying for this burial? Or is it the customers of MEC? It does lay open the question, doesn’t it? Given that the stated purpose on the scoping notice is to improve long-term service to its customers?

Shame on the Lolo for misrepresenting that line burial project. Check out that map…there’s quite a bit of that line burial that is immediately adjact to Lolo Creek, endangered bull trout habitat.

Are lines being buried on the Clearwater National Forest? What permits are needed from both of these forests? Why doesn’t the fact that these transport plans affect at least 3 National Forests this thing isn’t being analyzed under a full NEPA environmental impact statement?

Why doesn’t the fact that this entire transport plan crosses multiple state jurisdictions and multiple countries warrant a full NEPA EIS by the Feds? Is our security that lax? Is the concern that little?

Hopefully the hypocrisy of the Lolo’s public notice for the burial of these powerlines won’t go un-noticed.

The public and our County Commissioners and City Council should provide comment asking the Lolo National Forest to ensure that it re-notice the application to note the full purpose of the project…and analyze the full effect of the connected actions of this proposal – the effects both here and in Canada on the Athabasca tribal peoples.

by jhwygirl

This Montanan thinks ya’all are awesome.

I also think the Nez Pierce rock, too.

Montanans? We need to get after it.

by jhwygirl

A Tar Sands Shipments Open House will be held Tuesday, April 27th, 6:30-7:30pm at the University of Montana Campus in the Third Floor of the UC, Room 330/331.

It is sponsored by Northern Rockies Rising Tide, UM Climate Action Now, and the entire No Shipments Network. It’s purpose is to look at the local, regional, and international impacts of the Mammoet Shipments of equipment and the Alberta Tar Sands.

The timing is appropriate – MDOT’s public meeting to present the (so-called) preferred alternative is Thursday, April 29th, with an Open House at 6:00 p.m. and a Public Hearing at 6:30 p.m. It will be held at Meadow Hill Middle School, Old Gymnasium, 4210 Reserve Street, Missoula, MT

NRRT, UM CAN and NSS included a summary with their email:

The Alberta Tar Sands have been called out in the international community as the worst industrial project on the face of the planet. Currently Exxon Mobil is planning to invest 26.1 million dollars to open up a new northwest corridor to ship Tar Sands mining equipment from South Korea to Alberta. The proposed route begins in international waters, comes up the Columbia and Snake Rivers to the Port of Lewiston, and from there moves along the Lochsa river, up over Lolo pass, through Missoula and up the Blackfoot River to the Port of Sweetgrass. The trucks carrying the equipment are, at their largest, 24 feet wide, 30 feet tall, and 262 feet long; the size of a three story building with the length of almost a football field.

The Environmental Assessment as required by Montana Department of Transportation regulations has just come out but does not adequately address the impacts these shipments will have on local communities, emergency vehicle passage, or environmental damage from road construction. Most importantly, the assessment does not even mention the impacts Tar Sands mining has on Climate Change even though Montana stands to be greatly affected by the continued use of such fuels.

As well, the scope of the Assessment is drastically limited and does not take into account the entire route through which these shipments will pass. By only completing the Montana Environmental Assessment Exxon Mobil is circumventing any federal process that would require them to look at the shipment route as a whole. We need to press the Montana DOT to submit to a federal Environmental Impact Statement to take into full account all the damages that Tar Sands mining generates.

by jhwygirl

I shoulda’ checked my email first, before writing the post below.

This photo comes courtesy Missoula resident and transportation advocate John Wolverton:

by jhwygirl

The sheer disregard that this proposal has for what is one of the more scenic drives and accessible recreational and prime fishing corridors in western Montana blows my mind.

There are so many things wrong with this proposal as it is now – a weak environmental analysis, prepared by Exxon, without any scoping. You can count on hearing more about that as I attempt to delve into the nearly 200 page (plus 12 addendums) document….by May 14th!

That’s right – public comment, which opened April 8th – closes on May 14th on a proposal to establish a permanent “High and Wide Corridor” from Lewistown Idaho, over and across Lolo Pass and 300 miles of western Montana on to Canada and Exxon’s oil tar sands in Fort McMurray in Alberta.

You can access the full Kearl Module transportation Project here, from MDOT’s EIS and EA public notice page.

I think we got lucky last winter, but how many trucks and 18-wheelers end up in the drink down there on the Idaho side? Because that road is so narrow?

Are they going to have to blast some of those cliffs to widen the road? Along what is a pretty darn scenic corridor?

Two pieces of equipment are expected to move through Montana every day for a year. 24-feet wide, 30-feet high, 210-feet long, and weighing up to 334,568 pounds.

Do you recreate Lolo Pass? I do in the summer. Several times a week….and then with occasional weekends. Imagine the delays! They say 15 minutes? No frickin’ way – not with stuff as largw as what they’re proposing to move.

Of all choices, Lolo Pass was best? Well, guess what? We really don’t know – the environmental review done by Exxon included four alternatives: four Canandian highway routes and one US Interstate route. Those 4 alternatives? Dismissed in four paragraphs with no analysis of the so-called impassable barriers, while the Idaho/Montana route is extensive in the number of turnouts needing to be constructed, the number of small bridges needing crossed, and the extent of modifications needed to complete the route.

That was before Exxon tried to say that this project was “categorically excluded” from analysis.

In some circles, this is called a “pre-determined analysis of the preferred pre-chosen alternative.”

It’s bad enough when they don’t scope the thing to first see what types of alternatives come from the public…but when they don’t even bother to fully analyze the alternatives, well, folks, that’s just about bordering on violating some of our Montana Environmental Policy Act laws and rules.

ARM 18.2.251 requires a programmatic analysis “whenever the agency is contemplating a series of agency-initiated actions, programs, or policies which in part or in total may constitute a major state action significantly affecting the human environment,” and “whenever a series of actions under the jurisdiction of the agency warrant such an analysis as determined by the agency, or whenever prepared as a joint effort with a federal agency requiring a programmatic review.”

Did I mention that last July, MDOT Director Jim Lynch testified before the joint legislative Revenue and Transportation interim committee of the large impacts of this proposal? He said that the very nature of the project required an EIS..and yet, despite that testimony, MDOT chose to direct Exxon forward with an environmental review that didn’t even include scoping (a process in which initial outreach is made to the public for comments in an effort to determine alternatives and the scope and scale of analysis. Here is a link to Director Lynch’s presentation to the committee

You can watch the July committee hearing here. Lynch’s testimony starts about 18 minutes in. You can also review the minutes here.

What to do? Email MDOT public comment saying that the scope of this project requires a public scoping process to better assess alternatives; that all alternatives should be fully any thoroughly analyzed equally; that potential risk to important fisheries and other natural resources must be taken into consideration and weighed against other alternatives; that an assessment of risk to the public along what is a narrow secondary route used primarily for recreation should be considered; and that consideration of permanent impacts to scenic and historic corridors should be afforded the maximum protection necessary for future generations.

Just wait ’til I get to the economic impacts (or lack thereof) of having these things shipped nearly whole, after assembly in North Korea or China or wherever….

by jhwygirl

Missoula County Transportation Planning Division will be doing a non-motorized traffic count in May, but it’s going to take some volunteers – and the more the better.

This flyer has more information on the count, along with the short 1-hour training schedule dates (which are April 29th and May 6th).

The traffic counts will occur two days, two different times: Tuesday, May 4th, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, May 8th, noon to 2 p.m.

The county has a sign-up sheet at the main transportation webpage….and get over there and sign up. Today’s what – the 20th? First training session is the 29th.

Anyways – this is certainly a worthy effort – all part of a needs assessment to determine what it is Missoula uses and how we use it, in terms of non-motorized transportation and its infrastructure. It’s hard to justify grants without raw data….and don’t you know, we’d all be wealthier with more grants and less tax $ for that infrastructure.

by carfreestupidity

Carfreestupidity has graciously agreed to join us b’birders and share some of his postings here at 4&20. I’ve been reading his stuff over at Imagine No Cars: Thoughts on Alternative Transportation and Urban Design for some time. I love it. Good stuff. He’s got a a great thoughtful informative voice. I’m sure you will enjoy it too. Let’s give him a great welcome here – and take to the task of voicing support for more rail. Thanks carfreestupidity – and welcome aboard! – jhwygirl

An online version of the Restore the North Coast Hiawatha petition created by students at The University of Montana is now available on MontPIRG’s website. The petition was started in support of Amtrak’s passenger rail study and Senator Jon Tester’s push for reinstatement of the line. The original petition garnered over 1200 signatures in a matter of only a few weeks of gathering in Missoula. The first set of petitions will shortly be delivered to Senator Tester in Washington D.C.

It is the purpose of the online version to garner wider support for the rail line outside of Montana and to let our United States Senators know that the people demand more transportation options. The line connects many important cities in the region including Seattle, Spokane, Sandpoint, Missoula, Helena, Bozeman, Billings, Bismarck, Forgo, and many more. The restored line would be an important step in reducing green house gas emissions, providing transportation options, and offering vital economic infrastructure.

by Ana J. Beard

On Saturday Dec. 26, 2009 David James DelSignore hit four girls walking down Highway 200, killing two (Ashlee Patenaude, 14 years old, and Taylor Cearley, 15), and injuring the others.

This tragic accident was due to DelSignore’s poor decision to drive home drunk. Because of this, the two surviving girls, all of their families, as well as their friends, classmates and acquaintances, have to deal with the heartbreak of losing two girls who were far too young.

On Facebook a group was made in loving memory of Patenaude and Cearley, and within five days, over 5000 members have joined. People are paying their respects and posting their sympathies for the friends and families, but looking through the comment threads (as well as the comment threads on the Missoulian coverage) there are people writing about how DelSignore deserves the death penalty or to be thrown in the middle of the fairground rodeo area so friends of Patenaude and Cearley can “get drunk and have a demolition derby.”

In times of tragedy and loss, everyone is rushing around to place blame. DelSignore is fully responsible for his actions but an eye for an eye won’t make anything any better. Hating him won’t bring back these girls, or cure any heartaches. DelSignore will have to live with this mistake for the rest of his life, it will most likely haunt him and that is punishment enough (on top of jail time, of course).

As for blaming the parents or the girls themselves (which some people have had the nerve to do), the girls where NOT breaking Missoula curfew, which is 1 a.m. on a weekend night and this could have happened on any road, at any time of night. It’s not their fault they chose Highway 200 as opposed to the dark residential streets-the EXACT streets our parents have always told us to avoid at night, in caution of rapists, kidnappers, and, ironically enough, poor lighting and drivers who aren’t paying attention or are inebriated.

All of this should remind us to hold our loved ones close, live life to the fullest and please, please, please don’t drink and drive. Call a friend, or a taxi cab. Don’t get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. Even if you think you’re okay to drive, you never know, that assumption could lead to one life-changing mistake.

A joint memorial service will be held for Patenaude and Cearley Thursday Dec. 31, 2009 at 1 p.m. in the gym at Bonner School. Also, Hellgate students plan to wear white in memory of Patenaude and Cearley on Monday, Jan. 4, 2010.

The community is also invited to Saturday’s Hellgate basketball game against Sentinel at Sentinel at 10 a.m. All four girls were on the team (consisting of nine players). Attendees will also be wearing white and there will be gold ribbons being sold for a dollar in their honor.
 
Donations on behalf of the deceased families are being accepted by Bonner School and can be sent to: Bonner School, P.O. Box 1004, Bonner, MT 59823. Also, the Missoula Federal Credit Union has set up a fund for the expenses the families of all four girls called “The Hellgate Girls Fund”.

by jhwygirl

Apparently it’s being contemplated.

Mountain Line has a survey out – available on the web – seeking to determine the viability of a Missoula to Lolo line that would run weekdays, once or twice in the morning and the same in return in late afternoon. From the info request for public comment:

MOUNTAINLINE SURVEY FOR BUS SERVICE TO LOLO Mountain Line has received many requests for Bus service to Lolo. The most likely scenario for bus service to and from Lolo would be a weekday commuter express bus service, traveling to and from Lolo once or twice in the morning, and once or twice in the late afternoon/ evening. The bus would pick up and drop off at Harvest Foods in Lolo, who have agreed to serve as a park and ride. The bus would then go directly into Missoula.

First off, I think its great that Harvest Foods is helping this along. Offering its parking lot for park-and-commute is not only a good community-oriented thing to do, it’ll probably help add to its sales, given that instead of driving by in the comfort of their vehicle, many will probably run inside to get those handful of items that are needed around the house instead of waiting until lunch hour the next day to go and grab the stuff down in town.

Reducing traffic on that drive down the hill? Smart for many – that road gets pretty slick, and more and more are commuting into town. Taking 20 or 30 or 50 cars off the road will improve safety and reduce carbon emissions also. I imagine, on snowy or days, that riding the bus instead of negotiating icy roads might be quite attractive.

 

by JC

ProPublica has a chart of all the stimulating transportation projects listed by state. You can see Montana’s projects here.

Road and bridge projects are expected to make up one of the biggest chunks of the jobs created by the stimulus package. We’ve put together a chart of more than 5,800 projects that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Once given the green light, states can put the projects out to bid, contract them and begin construction work. So far, about 2,300 projects are under way. See the chart.

You might say that Missoula County is unique in the proportion of projects devoted to alternative transportation projects like bike/ped paths/lanes. Great falls get a bunch of sidewalks. Billings gets big roads.

On the bottom of my list of fun projects is the Scott Street bridge resurfacing. Something about the sound of 2 million dollars worth of concrete grinding and dust and jackhammers running all day and evening that just… grates on my nerves. Not to mention all the dust that is settling on everything outside my house, and creeping in during these hot summer days when it is mandatory to keep the house wide open whenever the inside is hotter than the outside.

In related news, the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program will let you trade in your old gas guzzler for a $4500 credit towards a new ride. That’d buy a lot of nice non polluting bikes, but alas, you have to go petro (or hybrid).

It’s all starting to make sense now. Spend money on new roads, give people money to buy new cars. Encourage people to get back to that good ole ‘Merican dream to see the USA in your new Chevrolet! The uniquely American way to avoid depression (personal or economic–take your pick). I guess if you can afford a loan for the price of a new car (minus $4500), or if you can qualify for said loan (not too many Montanans I know) then it might be a pretty good deal.

Let me know when there’s a program that’ll allow me to trade the junker sitting in my alley for a nice shiny new mountain bike, to ride on those new bike lanes, and I’ll know that trickle down really works!

by jhwygirl

Rails advocate and Ward 1 Councilperson Dave Strohmaier might even want to travel for this one: Senator Tester has planned a public meeting to discuss re-establishment of the old Hiawatha route of Amtrak for Bozeman on May 26th. That’s about all the Billings Gazette has, but it’s enough to peek some people’s interest, no?

The Senator’s website has this.

by jhwygirl

3 Plus for Russell has a petition they are asking people who object to the 5-lane N. Reserve Street-style road proposed for Russell Street in the most recent draft EIS to sign. The petition is here.

Providing good comments is essential, too, and if you have time, I’d urge you to also take the time to submit those to Tom Martin (address below.) 3 Plus for Russell has some tips on how to do that.

Tom Martin
Montana Department of Transportation
PO Box 201001
Helena MT 59620-1001

The deadline for comments is October 20th, although city council and others have been pushing for an extension of that date.

3 Plus is also planning a press conference at the intersection as Reserve and Mullan, on Wednesday, October 15th at noon. The purpose is to meet at a similarly sized intersection as that which is proposed by the Russell/3rd Street EIS, in the middle of the Northside/Westside/Franklin to Fort neighborhoods.

Proponents of the 3-Plus for Russell concept include Missoula Advocates for Sustainable Transportation, Rose Park Neighborhood Council, Bike/Walk Alliance for Missoula, Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation, ASUM Office of Transportation, Montana Transit Information Systems, and representatives from other affected neighborhoods, including Franklin-to-the-Fort, Emma Dickenson, and Riverfront.

If you need some background, not only is the 3 Plus for Russell blog a good place, but 4&20 has written on this issue several times – here, here, here and here

by jhwygirl

Following a downright brutal Monday night city council meeting, and in what Keila Szpaller of the Missoulian called “a surprise move”, city council, approved a peer review of the Russell/3rd Street EIS during Wednesday’s Public Works committee. The EIS is currently out for review.

The Russell/3rd Street EIS was produced by HKM Engineering. Nearly all of the work HKM does is for MDOT road projects.

HKM unveiled the draft of the EIS back in April and it was not well received. Many thought it was an abrupt reversal of all information that had been both provided to the public and bythe public during the multiple neighborhood meetings held for the project.

Even in Bozeman, HKM’s work on Rouse Avenue has received much the same reception.

So horrible it was viewed, that Citizens Initiated Their Own Engineering Proposals, and Ward 3’s Councilman Bob Jaffe and Council Goddess Stacy Rye made a referral to the Public Works committee for a peer review of the project’s EIS.

What was “surprising” on Wednesday, is that Dick Haines brought forth a friendly amendment to the referral, requesting a peer review of the Miller Creek EIS. It was gladly accepted and approved on a voice vote.

The review should cost approximately $20,000.

Comments are due on the Russell/3rd Street EIS by October 20th. The thinking is that key components will be reviewed by another engineering firm to confirm (or dispute) HKM’s findings and resulting preferred alternatives. The peer review will be submitted as public comment to the document, as city council’s.

Meanwhile, don’t forget 3 Plus for Russell, which will be holding a presentation at the Rose Park neighborhood meeting on Wednesday Sept 17th at 7pm, St. Paul’s Church, 202 Brooks.

For more information on 3 Plus for Russell, email info@russellstreet.org.

by Pete Talbot

Jhwygirl is all over the city’s budget, particularly John Hendrickson’s (and the other “conservatives'”) proposed budget cuts.

Since I’m getting close to “senior” status myself and know quite a few seniors, this one item caused some concern:

Eliminate the Missoula Urban Transportation District’s (MUTD) Senior bus line

I actually received an unsolicited call today from a senior who said this:

“So, those council people want the seniors out there driving around? Or maybe they just want them shut up in their homes, not able to buy groceries or see their doctor?”

This guy was pissed. He said that if the council wanted a room full of angry seniors out for blood, just keep it up.

(It should be noted that the city’s budget passed last night, intact, by a seven-to-five vote. The senior’s bus service will not be cut.)

There was a host of other bad budget-cutting ideas but it’s really dumb to anger Missoula’s senior population and I’m guessing the proposed budget cuts won’t be lost on those who would have been directly affected. I believe that Hendrickson and his cohorts could be in deep doo-doo when they’re up for re-election.

by jhwygirl

I think it’s a shame, but this is apparently what has to occur in Missoula order to get a voice heard in roadway design here in Missoula.

ASUM Transportation, Missoula Advocates for Sustainable Transportation (MAST), Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation (MIST), Bike Walk Alliance for Missoula (BWAM) and non-motorized transportation advocate John Wolverton – who has been very involved in all meetings concerning the Russell/3rd Street project – have joined together to form 3 PLUS for RUSSELL STREET.

In a piece blogged yesterday, announcing the EIS produced by MDOT HKM Engineering, Wolverton, in the comments, announced an upcoming meeting of 3 PLUS for RUSSELL STREET, to be held at the Rose Park neighborhood meeting on Wednesday Sept 17th at 7pm, St. Paul’s Church, 202 Brooks.

As a reminder, back in April, HKM Engineering, took a sudden “turn” away from the website-announced preferred alternatives which had included traffic calming items such as traffic circles, and shot for a 4 travel lanes + a center turn lane on Russell, along with double left turn lands on the corner of 3rd/Russell. In other words – a sea of asphalt.

HKM has had multiple public meetings where, by all accounts, traffic roundabouts and traffic calming landscaping had been ideas provided as input and had been well received. Apparently, though, there is a large disconnect between having the public meetings and using the public input.

They can hear what we’re saying, they’re just not listening.

3 PLUS for RUSSELL STREET has taken its designs to the street and to the public, and by all accounts has been well received. They’ve employed a method they call LIVE engineering: Listen, Investigate, Verify and Engage. They’ve set up at the Farmer’s Market, the Bitterroot Branch Trail and have even had volunteers taking it directly to neighborhoods.

The design:

The current HKM published preferred alternatives essentially cut a huge chuck of the city in half with a 4 lane highway.

Think North Reserve.

Seriously – they call that design? What public input gave HKM the idea that was what The Garden City was about?

3 PLUS for RUSSEL STREET’s concept:

The 3-PLUS for RUSSELL proposal will provide a transportation corridor which is safer and more convenient for all users, less costly than a 5-lane system, and which will blend with the diverse commercial and residential districts along the corridor, and will not destroy a single home or business. 3-PLUS for RUSSELL is neither a “no-build” proposal (leaving things as they are) nor a 5-lane alternative (similar to Reserve Street) as the City and the State of Montana are proposing. It is a carefully designed system that will make Russell Street one of the safest, most versatile, free-flowing and durable transportation corridors in Montana. Here is a brief description of the 3-PLUS proposal.

Why 3-PLUS?

We call this proposal 3-PLUS because much of the corridor would be converted to 3 auto travel lanes, combined with bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and green boulevards. In addition, several sections would employ four lanes to better serve commercial and redevelopment areas. One short segment would continue to have two auto travel lanes plus bike lanes and sidewalks (between 7th and 11th streets), as a way of calming traffic in the heart of the corridor and preserving the Rose Park and Franklin-to-the-Fort neighborhoods.

3 PLUS for RUSSELL STREET has a great informational sheet and even a petition, which I am too technically challenged to including them here (sorry)…but you can always email these guys – or, better yet, go check them out on Wednesday, September 17th at St. Paul’s Church at 202 Brooks – at info@russellstreet.org.

by jhwygirl

Regular readers might recall that MDOT unveiled the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the much-anticipated Russell/3rd Street re-engineering at a meeting at the Franklin Elementary School back in April.

It wasn’t received well. It left many wondering why we have public meetings at all. I mean – if you aren’t going to listen to 90% of the people who care to be involved…..

Many felt blind-sided. Roundabout plans that had been published on the website had suddenly (very suddenly) been dropped. They had been widely supported. Some called it a “sea of asphalt”, others suggested that its planned could not “be adequately evaluated without concurrent planning for the Reserve corridor and Mullan,” and “without putting the possibility of a Russell/I90 interchange on the table.”

Even Lamnidae weighed in.

All had very valid points.

MDOT has released it published version of the Draft EIS. Comments are due by October 20, 2008. There are links on the website to submit comments electronically. you can also use snail mail, to:

Tom Martin
Montana Department of Transportation
PO Box 201001
Helena MT 59620-1001

I’ll be putting out reminders on this one people. Take some time. Read the EIS. Look at the pretty pictures. Get involved. It’s our town. Not MDOT’s.

That MDOT drive-by gives me a great segue to this….

On a shorter note: HKM Engineering was chosen by the city to assist with the design and public input part of the project. Things haven’t exactly gone as the some with the city had hoped – and councilpersons Stacy Rye and Bob Jaffe have a referral to the Public Works committee requesting that a peer review be done of HKM.

After all, it’s the city picking up the tab for HKM, not MDOT. But one has to wonder with the results we’ve gotten.

The whole HKM situation deserves a post unto itself, actually. If I only had the time…………

by jhwygirl

BWAM and several local groups including the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation (MIST), Mountain Bike Missoula, and Missoula in Motion have come together to plan a family-friendly festival in celebration of non-motorized transportation.

The event starts at noon, at Caras Park, and goes until 8 p.m. A great kick-off to what is going to be a fabulous Labor Day weekend.

There will be a local contingent of food and beverage vendors, live music, local bike and walk organization exhibits, the Safety Team, and a variety of performers that together will provide an all-day fun-time festival atmosphere.

There are, in fact, looking for additional talented folks that might be able to add to the entertainment. If you can help out, shoot an email over to Erin at events@bikewalkmissoula.org.

by jhwygirl

Ever the consummate politician, Governor Schweitzer jumped at the opportunity to generate support for his coal-to-gasification and Otter Creek tract dreams when asked by Mayor Engen to help with affordable housing.

“Put your brains to affordable housing with me,” Engen asked, while touring Brian around town, within sight of the Intermountain Lumber site.

Schweitzer obliged, according to The Missoulian, and and turned to a staffer and asked how the coal tax fund could help.

~~~~~

In another part of the visit, Engen asked the Governor to help stump for some reform with Director Lynch, of the Montana Department of Transportation. Something was mentioned about “red tape”.

Council members have complained about MDOT’s heavy-handed review and approval authority over city projects (dare I say Hill-Beckwith?) and funding methodology. Heavily populated and shopping destination Missoula generates a whole bunch of gas tax revenue, yet doesn’t receive funding proportional to its generation of funds. Engen, surely, was looking for a more equitable solution.

As for cutting through that red tape, I say keep that push on, John – the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

by Pete Talbot

I often refer readers to Bob Jaffe’s (Ward 3) excellent city government list serve/blog. It gives you the news from city council committees, where most of the work gets done.

Well, Bob is out of town, so Jason Weiner (Ward 1) is doing the writing this week. Jason has more of a conversational style, which I enjoy. Lots of nuggets of info — from parks to planning to budgets.

Jason offers some insights into how the conservative element on council deals with issues when they’re in the majority which, thank god, isn’t often. He also gives an update on the Higgins-Hill-Beckwith roundabout and asks for input from the list serve’s readers. As of this writing, eight respondents are in favor of constructing the roundabout ASAP and two are for postponing.  You have to subscribe to the list serve if you want to view comments.

So, if you’re interested in city government, a subscription is a must.  I wish the county provided the same sort of service.

by jhwygirl

It’s been what? 3+ years since approval? Talk about the wheels of government!

This, from Jaffe’s listserve:

In other news we heard today that the Higgins Hill Beckwith project may be delayed until next summer. I can’t tell you how frustrating this is. At this point it is likely that construction cannot start before October and will take up to two months to complete. There is great concern about the potential for opening up our first high traffic round-a-bout for the first time in foul weather. There is also concern about having the detour traffic and opening happen while the U and Paxson are in session. It was hoped all of this would take place during the lower traffic summer months. The most recent round of delays focused around a contract dispute with MDOT about sidewalk maintenance and liability. We also still need to work out the details of right of way acquisition. Apparently there is some rule that doesn’t let you work on that concurrent to the design development. No final decisions have been made but the arguments for delay are pretty strong. If you have some thoughts on this I’m sure our public works department would love to hear them.

Where’s Lou Ann? She’d of gotten this thing done…She’d be in there sqwallin’ at someone (probably MDOT) and hammering out some sort of get ‘er done edict, and, you know what? It’d get done.

I notice, incidentally, that Jaffe seems to be “wishing his life away,” as a friend of mine used to say. He’s got his most recent post dated July 25 instead of June. Hey Bob – summer just started! Let’s not rush it!

by jhwygirl

A bicyclist was killed Thursday afternoon when he was struck by a truck, just north of Costco, near the exit to West Broadway.

City police officer Sgt. Shawn Paul is still investigating – but the bicyclist didn’t have any identification, and the department may end up seeking help in identifying the man.

The Missoulian story notes that the bicycle lane changes width in that area and that the solid fog line becomes dotted in that area. It’s unclear whether the truck drove into the cyclist, or visa versa.

Sad.

by jhwygirl

Bob Jaffe reports today from his MissoulaGov listserv that in a discussion regarding West Broadway and the traffic diet and accident data, Ward 5’s Renee Mitchell closed out the Public Safety committee meeting today by rehashing the worn suggestion that a pedestrian activated light at Burton would have solved the (serious) accident problem – there were how many deaths there too? – and that (this is paraphrased from Jaffe’s post) “the people getting killed were just drunks anyway.”

Lovely.

And this is a woman who campaigned, if I recall correctly, on transportation issues?

If she says this kind of stuff out loud, one can only wonder what goes banging around that pretty little head of hers.

by jhwygirl

City Club Missoula is going to host Office of Planning & Grants’ Planning Director Roger Millar this coming Monday for a lunchtime discussion on the Urban Fringe Development Area (UFDA) Project.

Everyone is welcome, but reservations are required, and the need to be made by noon on May 15th (this Thursday). There is a lunch or no-lunch option – cost is $11/members, $16 for nonmembers if you do lunch, or $5 for the no-lunch forum only. Email ccm@cityclubmissoula.org or call 406-546-6643 before noon Thursday, May 15, for reservations.

The event is being held at the Doubletree Edgewater, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Roger Millar and his staff will lead a public discussion to help develop a framework plan that incorporates what the community wants in its Growth Policy. The purpose of the UFDA Project is to look at where Missoula’s growth has been going and where it might go.

Millar’s project is pretty ambitious, and OPG has been at this one for quite a while now – gathering data and meeting with Neighborhood Councils, the County School Board, the Business Improvement District, various service clubs, and Five Valley’s Land Trust. Millar is taking a methodical approach to figuring out how our community wants to handle the growth we all know is coming – how to take us into our future. Actual planning – or at least the beginning throes of it. It’s comforting, frankly, to have a new Planning Director come into town and instead of telling us what we need to do, he comes into town and begins figuring out what makes Missoula tick.

He’s also placing heavy emphasis on mapping and visual tools, giving the GIS staff in OPG quite a workout. All things are very helpful, and provide wonderful tools for analysis once it’s all in the system. Even this skeptic (me) is a fan.

There’s a nice list of the maps available on this page – scroll about 3/4 of the way down. There’s also some other links there too. (Be nice if this project, given the amount of information available, had its own page.)

Laval Means (lmeans@co.missoula.mt.us) and Casey Wilson (cwilson@co.missoula.mt.us) are the main staffers on the project. Shoot them an email if you have any questions.




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