Data visualizations Gas taxes Laws and policies Roads Transit
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When you look at how much Texas drivers hand over to Washington and how much comes back, it’s easy to feel like the feds don’t like us much.
Federal officials do not “directly” return a whopping 78 percent of fuel and vehicle taxes collected in Texas. That’s second highest among states; behind Iowa with its 84% bye-bye rate and well ahead of third-place Florida.
Unfortunately, though, there’s a bigger untold story here. Officials invested more than half of those collections into projects straddling one or more states. And the data doesn’t show how those amounts were distributed among states.
So the 78% no-return likely isn’t as bad as it looks. Texas probably received more. Still, hover over the interactive map below and you’ll see a wide range of give and take, including Alaska’s 60 percent gain.
If you’re in Texas, odds are you’re paying more for car insurance than the average U.S. driver, says a survey by Insure.com.
I ran the survey’s data through Google Fusion Tables to see a bigger picture, and it turns out costs are as varied as the nation’s landscape itself. In particular, extreme highs touch all three coasts as well as the Canadian and Mexican borders.
Hover over states to see average costs. The darker the shade, the higher the cost.
Reasons for the undulating costs are, literally, all over the map, from claim-happy and disaster-prone Louisiana and bumper-to-bumper traffic in Georgia, to slow-poke drivers in Iowa and strict teen-driving laws in Maine, according to Insure.com.
The survey looked at 2013 cars and settled on a typical guy with a clean record and good credit. Texas rolled in at $1,545, ranking 19th overall.
Texas joined 19 other states and D.C. to rank higher than the $1,510 national average. Louisiana tops the list with $2,699. Maine sits at the bottom with $934.
Here are the top 10. Again, use hover to see dollars. The full table’s here.
Laws and policies Roads Safety: Speed limits Texas Department of Transportation
The Texas Transportation Commission approved increasing the speed limit to 75 mph on about 1,500 miles of mostly-rural Interstate highways in the state. Around the San Antonio area, the following stretches will see 75 mph signs soon:
- I-10 West from Loop 1604 to past Kerrville (where it’s already 80 mph)
- I-10 East from just outside Loop 410 to Waller County west of Houston
- I-35 South from Palo Alto Rd. to the existing 75 mph section south of Devine
- I-37 from just inside Loop 410 to Corpus Christi
I-35 between San Antonio and Austin was not approved for the higher speed limit.
The Legislature approved the higher speed limits last year.
- TxDOT’s 75 mph page – http://www.txdot.gov/safety/speed_limit/75mph.htm
If you have a lead foot, then you’ll love this news.
First, if you hadn’t heard already, the Legislature earlier this year approved– and the governor signed– a bill that would raise the statutory maximum speed limit for state highways to 75 mph (excluding, of course, the existing 80 mph speed limit on some sections of I-10 and I-20 out in West Texas.) Texas now joins all but a handful of states west of the Mississippi with a 75 mph top speed. The limit can only be increased on roads where an engineering study determines that it’s safe to do so, but if past practice holds true, that should be the majority of roads that are currently capped at 70 mph.
Even better, the bill finally eliminates the matrix of speed limits for daytime/nighttime and cars/trucks. All speed limits will now apply to all vehicles at all times. Texas was the only state to still have a different nighttime limit and one of the few with a separate limit for trucks.
The new law takes effect September 1st. A separate effort to increase the maximum speed to 85 mph died.
More recently, the speed limit on the northern arc of Loop 410 has gone up from 60 mph to 65 mph. With the recent completion of construction to widen the freeway to 10 lanes, TxDOT completed a speed study that showed the 85th percentile speed being 65 mph, so in accordance with agency engineering guidelines, TxDOT asked the City of San Antonio to officially increase the speed limit to 65 mph north of US 90. Signs went up this past week.
I also recently noticed that the speed limit along Loop 1604 south of Braun Rd. increased from 55 mph to 60 mph.
First it was Windcrest. Now it seems that SAPD is also cracking down on jaywalkers.
Earlier this year, reports surfaced that Windcrest police were ticketing Rackspace employees who were on their way to or from lunch at one of the restaurants across Walzem Road from Rackspace’s headquarters at the old Windsor Park Mall, known affectionately as “The Castle”.
Now, there are several anecdotal reports of this happening in San Antonio itself, first at a school, now at some other location (it might even be the airport based on the person’s description of the sign, which I have only seen at the airport.)
So this begs the question, what are the state and local laws regarding jaywalking? more »
Gas taxes Laws and policies Roads Toll roads: Alamo Regional Mobility Authority interchange Loop 1604 stimulus funds Terri Hall TURF US 281
Bruce Davidson, one of members of the Express-News’ editorial board, wrote a spot-on editorial in yesterday’s paper about how the root cause of toll roads is the Legislature’s and Governor’s resistance to increasing the gas tax. His editorial essentially says not to blame the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) because they’re just playing the hand they’ve been dealt and that, in reality, they are working to find funding for 281 and other projects “wherever they can get it.”
Of course, the response out of southern Comal County was nearly instantaneous. more »
The San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will be holding three public meetings on its 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Essentially, this is the revolving list of local transportation projects that are proposed to be funded* over the next three four years (yes, I can count <g>). The projects selected are typically a subset of those in the current long-range plan. Obviously, what eventually does get funded depends heavily on what money eventually comes to this area, but this plan identifies the projects that are first in line to get whatever funding becomes available. The plan includes allocations for all forms of transportation including highways, streets, transit, and bike and pedestrian amenities.
The MPO is the agency charged under state and federal law to control the transportation funding purse-strings for the San Antonio urban area, which in this case includes Bexar County and portions of Comal and Guadalupe counties in the Schertz area. The TIP is required under federal regulations as a condition of receiving federal funding. Projects not in the TIP cannot use federal funds, so this is an important process.
There will be three meetings, all with identical content:
- Tuesday, May 4th from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- Thursday, May 6th from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
- Saturday, May 8th from 9:00 a.m. to noon
All three will take place at VIA Metro Center on San Pedro just south of SAC. Visitors will also be able to check-out some new interactive systems and discuss the transportation planning process with the folks that make these decisions.
(* As I’ve discussed before vis-a-vis the US 281 project, the term “funded” in transportation parlance means that anticipated revenues during the plan timefame will be able to fund a project. Until those revenues are actually allocated to the MPO, a project does not actually have money available to start work.)
History Laws and policies Passenger rail Railroads Safety Uncategorized: steam power
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Question: How do you return a long dormant steam locomotive back to active passenger service in 2010, with all the heightened concerns about safety? Answer: Very, very carefully. This ain’t 1964. Way back then early Texas Transportation Museum members including one Dave Wallace, acquired the 1925 Baldwin 0-4-0 steam locomotive from New Braunfels where it had sat idled in a shed since being retired around 1928, brought it to San Antonio, placed it on tracks adjacent to Pearl Brewery, simply filled the boiler with water and fired it up. While it didn’t explode, it sent out enough smuts and soot that those same volunteers ended up cleaning car windshields for several blocks around. more »
It is, of course, one of the more minor centennial occasions. You probably won’t celebrate it but you will, without noticing, except for this little reminder, observe it. February 7, 2010 is the 100th anniversary of San Antonio’s first traffic ordinance. Nine years after the first gasoline powered horseless carriage, eight years after the city gained its first automobile agency, seven after the creation of the San Antonio Automobile Club, and six years after the city mandated that all vehicles be registered and display ID plates or numbers, the city introduced written rules for all road users. more »
Congress has yet to approve a new, comprehensive surface transportation bill to replace the previous legislation (known as “SAFETEA-LU”) that expired last year, instead opting to keep it on life-support through a series of short-term extensions. The resulting lack of certainty over future funding– as well as limited funding in those extensions– is severely crippling the construction industry, that according to several speakers at a noontime rally outside San Antonio’s convention center yesterday that attracted about 100 people.