Volunteers wanted: Oregon to test mileage tax
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) seeks 5,000 volunteer drivers to test a pay-as-you-drive road tax. If the trial program is successful, a mileage tax could become a replacement for the current gas tax.
Anyone who would like to volunteer for the program can sign up on ODOT’s website starting on July 1, 2015.
Volunteers selected for the program will be charged 1.5 cents per mile. Their distances will be tracked from a GPS tracker to an odometer device to a daily diary.
“GPS will be the most hassle-free option,” said Michelle Godfrey, a road usage charge program spokeswoman. “But it’s also the option that people tend to dislike the most.”
The trial drivers will be sent a monthly bill from ODOT, along with a rebate to offset the 30-cent-per-gallon gas tax.
ODOT will use a private vendor to handle all of the accounting associated with the mileage tax trial program. The program promises to protect ”personally identifiable” information, but there will be stiff fines if drivers report fraudulent information.
To figure out how much your mileage tax would be, figure out how many miles you drive per month and multiply it by .015.
Report: Democratic areas awarded more TIGER grants
The Obama administration awarded the largest share of $600 million in TIGER grants to projects in Democratic areas even though Republicans represent 34 more House districts across the country, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Democratic areas received 48percent of the funding, while Republican territories claimed just 33 percent. The rest of the money went to projects that crossed district lines.
Republicans are claiming this type of favoritism has been going on ever since the TIGER program was created in 2009 as part of President Obama’s $840 billion stimulus package to help the country’s economy.
On the other side of the argument, Democrats say more grants naturally go toward the infrastructure needs of urban areas, where the party continues to outnumber Republicans.
Last year projects in 30 Democratic-held congressional districts received grants totaling $303 million while projects in 20 GOP-held districts won grants totaling $140 million. Two projects spanning district lines received grants in 2013 totaling $13 million.
“Just by the numbers one has to say that is looks like politics is involved because Democratic districts fare far better, significantly better than Republican districts,” Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) told the Associated Press. “This is more about funding President Obama’s political needs than funding our infrastructure needs.”
A spokesperson for the Transportation Department told the AP that politics never play a role when it comes to TIGER grants.
“TIGER is a merit-based, competitive program, and DOT funds the best projects that are submitted, no matter where they are located,” spokesman Brian Farber said. “In fact, a number of Republicans championed projects in cities that are represented by Democrats and vice versa. Most of our TIGER projects received bipartisan support. Many projects have Democratic mayors, Republican governors and a split congressional delegation.”
Ray LaHood: 'We need a big pot of money' to fix America’s roads and bridges
Continuing his “America is one big pothole” theme, former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood used an appearance at a Caterpillar press event Wednesday night to lambast the present direction of U.S. transportation policy.
Calling the 2-year transportation bill passed in 2012 “chintzy,” LaHood called upon Congress to think as roads as economic corridors. “I hear people today talking about alternative methods of funding, but what we need is a big pot of money. We need to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon. Do it over two to three years, but index it to the cost of living.” If that index had happened in 1993, the last year the gas tax was raised, America would have the “big pot of money” that LaHood advocates. Even a 10 cent raise is not near enough, “but it would send the message that America’s serious” about its roads and bridges.
Even though politicians don’t want to raise taxes, the states have taken another direction, LaHood says. “In states where they’ve had a referendum to raise the gas tax one or two pennies, 95 percent of the referendums have passed because people know it’s going to roads.” His advice to these politicians: “Don’t be afraid to raise the gas tax, because people won’t be made at you. “
LaHood, who served as DOT secretary from 2009 to 2013, calls the movement to transfer highway funds to state coffers, to be used at their discretion, “a terrible idea. “There is value in having a national program,” he says. “Do we really want 50 states doing their own thing,?” he asked.
He calls the Nov. 4th elections critical. “We need to elect people who want us to be No. 1 in infrastructure development, instead of where we are, at No. 16,” LaHood says. “It’s an important election but there’s a lot of apathy.”
Contractors have a responsibility in this election to let their Congressional representatives know the importance of a 6-year highway bill, LaHood contends. ‘Persuade your Congress people to be bold, and to have vision” with regards to a long-term highway bill. “Almost every segment of the economy benefits,” he says; “there’s no downside.”
This article was written by Editorial Director, Marcia Gruver Doyle.
Driver Beware: America's 5 most haunted roads
Halloween: The time of year when ghosts, goblins and all things haunted try to scare the living daylights out of us! Whether you believe in that stuff or not, millions of people do. In celebration of all those trick or treaters, here are five of the spookiest roads in America.
Haynesville Woods (Route 2A)
If this road doesn’t look scary enough for you, click here to listen to the song “A Tombstone Every Mile,” by Dick Curless. The song is based on just how dangerous Haynesville Woods is.
The road has claimed several lives, which has led many people into believing it is haunted. Some people claim it’s haunted by a woman begging for help after a car accident involving her and her husband. If you choose to help her, you’re overcome with a deep dark chill and the woman disappears.
Some call it the most haunted area in all of Chicago. The stretch of Archer Avenue between Resurrection Cemetery and St. James-Sag Church leads drivers through forests, lakes, and multiple cemeteries. There are several horror stories to go along with Archer Avenue, including the well-known Resurrection Mary.
According to the stories, Resurrection Mary hitchhikes her way up and down Archer Avenue, which is the same road she was killed on over 80 years ago.
Mona Lisa Drive
Legend has it that a rich man once donated a collection of statuary with the stipulation they create one statue to pay tribute to his deceased daughter, Mona. There are several versions of her story, but many believe Mona was in love with a sailer who she walked hand-in-hand with through what is now New Orleans City Park.
Some say Mona’s father forbid his daughter from seeing the sailer, so she killed herself. Others say the sailor didn’t really love her and when he dumped her Mona’s reaction was so violent he killed her.
Whatever happened, Mona now haunts young lovers in the area.
Shades of Death Road
Legend claims a group of anti-establishment types hung out in the woods around Shades of Death Road. They would often kill each other and anyone who dare approach their woods. The low-hanging branches are believed to have been used in several lynchings.
There have been several supernatural activities reported near the road, especially at Ghost Lake – a popular area nearby.
This road is possibly the most horrifying road of all. It has been said to host KKK meetings and Druidic ceremonies. After the roads sharp “Dead Man’s Curve,” drivers will come to the Ghost Boy Bridge.
Legend says anyone who tosses a coin off the bridge and into the water will have it tossed back at them by a boy.
Further up the road drivers will come across the ruins of Cross Castle, which is supposedly a hotbed for Satanic activity.
VP Biden urges for increase in infrastructure spending
“Build, build, build, build. … We built the transcontinental railroad,” Biden said at an event hosted by CG/LA Infrastructure. “The first federal road was built from Washington to Ohio … [We] built a thing called the Eerie Canal … ladies and gentlemen, we always have to build. That’s who we are.”
Biden went as far to say it’s “absolutely brain dead” not to be spending money on infrastructure that improves U.S. ports.
“It’s like that old line from the baseball movie ‘Field of Dreams’: ‘If you build it, they will come,” Biden said. “Invest in these ports and guess what? Manufacturing will come.”
The purpose of the event Biden spoke at was to bring together top business leaders in hopes of encouraging investment in the largest 100 infrastructure projects in North America.
“Vice President Biden knows infrastructure and is a great spokesman for our industry,” said CG/LA President and CEO Norman F. Anderson. “He relates well to this crowd and can speak in their language as few can. We are honored that he took time out of his unimaginably busy schedule to join us.”
Biden has always stressed the importance of infrastructure. Back in July he released a video explaining the “Grow America Act.”
Cat’s mini hydraulic excavator compact radius design works well in congested spaces
Caterpillar’s 303E CR mini hydraulic excavator is 61 inches wide across the blade and has a compact-radius design that limits tail swing to less than 5 inches (127 mm), allowing it to work efficiently and safely in small spaces and on congested job sites. With a maximum operating weight of 7,782 pounds, the mini excavator expands the Cat mini excavator line and gives buyers more choice in the 2.5-3.5 metric ton size class. The new model’s 23.5-horsepower (17.5 kW) Cat C1.3 engine combines with a powerful load-sensing hydraulic system – delivering flows to 23.1 gpm. The machine is available both in cab and canopy configurations. All operator stations, cab or canopy, are ROPS, TOPS, and Top Guard Level 1 certified, and the Cat interlock system, which prevents hydraulic movement when the safety bar is raised, adds further to operational safety, as do the standard travel alarm, automatic swing brake, and three-inch-wide retractable seatbelt.
A large, adjustable suspension seat keeps operators comfortable, and a monitor that displays gauges and general diagnostics keeps them informed. An automatic two-speed travel system enhances overall machine efficiency and ease of operation, and an automatic engine-idle system conserves fuel and reduces sound levels.
The 303E CR’s hydraulic system uses low-effort, pilot-operated joysticks that provide more precise, more consistent control than mechanical-linkage controls. For operator convenience, auxiliary-hydraulic controls are integrated into the joysticks, making the 303E CR work-tool ready with both a one-way-flow circuit for tools such as hydraulic hammers and a two-way-flow circuit when using work tools with cylinders or bi-directional motors. An in-cab pattern changer allows easily switching controls to suit operator preference.
Steel tracks are available for the 303E CR, as an alternative to the standard rubber tracks, for use in applications that require higher resistance to sharp debris.
The Caterpillar 303E CR at-a-glance
|Net power, hp (Kw)||23.5 (17.5)|
|Weight, canopy, lb. (kg)||7,297 (3 310)|
|Weight, cab, lb. (kg)||7,782 (3 530)|
|Hyd. flow, gpm (L/min.)||23.1 (87.6)|
|Relief pressure, psi (bar)||3,553 (245)|
|Dig depth, max., in. (mm)||108 (2 750)|
|Dig height, max., in. (mm)||178 (4 530)|
Doosan Telematics allows for remote monitoring
Doosan Telematics is an upgraded telematics package for its heavy equipment including excavators, wheel loaders and articulated dump trucks and will be standard on all of the company’s equipment, except for DX63-3 and DX85R-3 compact excavators. The new system includes a GPS unit; a Q-Pro wireless data modem and wireless service – the modem sends data collected from sensors on the machine to a website via a cellular signal; a satellite antenna and service that provides a communication link when the Doosan machine is working in remote locations and cellular service is not available; and the CoreTMS website, which provides access to reports and important machine data.
Each new machine that arrived after July 1, 2014 at dealerships for the manufacturer came with a complimentary three-year subscription, including prepaid wireless service. Customers monitoring their equipment remotely from an Internet-enabled device or on the CoreTMS telematics website have access to three years of prepaid wireless service. Once it expires, customers will have the option to purchase a service extension. Doosan has offered a telematics solution since 2008, and customers who have an active telematics subscription can access the CoreTMS website for machine details and reports.
Cement shortage taking its toll on Minnesota projects
Construction projects in Minnesota are struggling to get done in a timely manner due to a cement shortage. CBS Minnesota reports the shortage is due to flooding from the spring, and some problems at cement plants down south.
“We have a problem right now. We do have a cement shortage,” Jerry Lang, president of the Aggregate and Ready Mix Association of Minnesota, said.
With projects like new Minnesota Vikings football stadium and the St. Croix River bridge currently under construction, Lang says it can be difficult to figure out where the limited amount of cement actually goes.
“And then we deal with these customers. Which customers are going to get the cement and which ones we’re cutting back, and what projects are going to be held up whether it’s a state project, a DOT project, commercial or private residential,” Lang said.
The football stadium and the St. Croix River bridge are currently getting priority shipments of concrete. However, those projects are also facing disruptions and likely delays.
Several contractors and workers in the concrete industry have asked Gov. Mark Dayton for an executive order, which would allow truck drivers to increase their hours on the roads, and haul loads up to 100,000 pounds.
MoDOT chooses GroupCast to stay connected
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has chosen to use GroupCast as its mass notification service. The GroupCast system will facilitate communication between 3,500 of MoDOT’s field and administrative personnel.
“We’re thrilled to help the Missouri Department of Transportation stay connected to its employees all over the state,” said GroupCast co-founder Paul Langhorst. “Whether MoDOT staffers need to coordinate salt trucks in the winter or manage construction projects during the summer, we’ll be there to help them communicate.”
MoDOT is currently the seventh-largest highway system in the nation and works with a budget of more than $2 billion. It’s clearly one of the most important agencies in Missouri state government.
The GroupCast notification platform can be used to send voice, text, and e-mail messages to a mass number of people at a moment’s notice.
“With more than 11 years in the mass notification industry, we know that organizations like MoDOT can have a positive impact on people by sending timely messages on important issues,” said GroupCast co-founder Paul Langhorst. “GroupCast will allow MoDOT to communicate in very targeted ways with different groups of employees across the state.”
SCDOT now offering online traffic streaming
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) now offers online streaming video of traffic as part of its 511 Traveler Information System.
The streaming video from SCDOT’s traffic cameras replaces still images that were updated online every few seconds.
“Streaming video was always a top requested item from the public,” said Director of Traffic Engineering Tony Sheppard. “From day one, when we put any image on the web, people wanted streaming video. They wanted those up to date, live images. Technological advances now provide us a chance to do it.”
The streaming video will also prove useful to first-responders in areas where the lack of fiber optic cables had made it impossible to connect to SCDOT’s streaming video in the past.
“In places where they didn’t have the IT (Information Technology) infrastructure, now these first responders can receive it over the internet,” Sheppard said.
SCDOT has installed 336 cameras along interstates and other major highways. The cameras are linked to the agency’s Traffic Management Centers where employees communicate with first responders, including SCDOT SHEP trucks, to help manage traffic. The cameras do not record video.
In addition to the website, there are free apps available for cell phones and tablets that operate on the iPhone and Android platforms. To download them head over to the 511 website and look under “Extras” and “511 Tools.”