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Mobility Matters - Images of a freight truck traveling on a highway, downtown Fort Worth, a TRE locomotive, downtown Dallas skyline and highway traffic; Celebrating 35 Years of Regional Transportation Excellence, 1974 - 2009

Do a Little More This Ozone Season to Help Yourself — and Your Neighbors
Unlocking Congestion with Cooperation
      A Message from Michael Morris, Transportation Director

Riley Looks to be Resource for Others on Transportation
     Member Profile, Mark Riley, County Judge, Parker County
MAP-21 Funds Programs through 2014
AirCheckTexas Issues Replacements for Limited Time
Annual Transportation Report Available Online, in Print
RTC Meetings Available Online

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MAP-21 Funds Programs through 2014

After nine short-term extensions of the federal highway and transit programs over almost three years, Congress approved a new two-year bill in June.

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), signed by President Barack Obama on July 6, will spend approximately $105 billion for transportation improvements across the country through fiscal year 2014. With the dual purpose of funding the transportation system and creating jobs, the new law lays out $83.8 billion for highways and $21.2 billion for transit improvements.

The new law replaces the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

The short-term extensions of SAFETEA-LU, which expired in September 2009, made it difficult to plan for major projects because states and metropolitan areas were unsure how much future funding they would receive.

 

Photo (Thinkstock): U.S. Capitol Building

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This was particularly tough for Texas and other growing states. And the Dallas-Fort Worth area, one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions, has billions of dollars in projects under way as it seeks to improve system reliability for 6.5 million residents.

The funding picture is now clearer. Texas will receive about $3.06 billion in fiscal year 2013 for highways, including safety, transportation alternatives, and congestion mitigation and air quality. In fiscal year 2014, the amount increases to $3.08 billion.

Among the most notable changes, bike-pedestrian improvements and other “quality of life” projects that had been categorized as transportation enhancements became transportation alternatives under MAP-21.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments and other metropolitan planning organizations will receive 50 percent of the funds, and states will have discretion over how to spend the remaining money.

Bike paths will have to compete against other “alternatives” for funding. The bill also contains environmental-streamlining provisions that could expedite some transportation projects considered key to improved mobility.

With concern over the budget deficit remaining high, the new law puts more emphasis on performance measures, rewarding states that efficiently deliver transportation projects that improve system reliability.

There are also no earmarks. But projects will likely receive a boost from the significant expansion of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program. TIFIA, which provides projects low-interest loans, will increase from $122 million in 2012 to $750 million next fiscal year. The program grows to $1 billion in fiscal year 2014.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has benefited from TIFIA loans to advance State Highway 161 in western Dallas County and Interstate Highway 35W north of downtown Fort Worth. SH 161 is expected to be complete by the end of the year, and IH 35W could begin next year and conclude by 2017.

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AirCheckTexas Issues Replacements for Limited Time

Logo: AirCheckTexas

       Logo: Drive a Clean Machine

 

Jason Noble and his family were facing expensive repairs to their 1998 Nissan Altima after it had failed a recent emissions test. But then Noble heard he may be eligible for assistance to help buy a cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

The AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Program has helped fix emissions problems for about a decade in an effort to clean up the region’s air. And it was about to benefit the Nobles.

The program offers $600 vouchers toward repair costs and vouchers worth up to $3,500 to replace vehicles. A family of four earning up to $69,150 whose vehicle meets certain requirements may qualify for assistance.

Although expensive repairs are always inconvenient, for Noble and his family, the timing was right. A large budget deficit had forced the Texas Legislature to cut the program’s funding significantly in 2011, requiring the North Central Texas Council of Governments to suspend the replacement component in Dallas-Fort Worth last summer.

But in April, the replacement program was re-launched for a limited time, and the Nobles were among the hundreds of beneficiaries.

“We were ecstatic we were eligible. It was the boost we needed … ,” said Noble, children’s pastor at a Keller church. “We had a chance to get a newer car.”

Instead of taking the car to the repair shop, he began shopping for a replacement. The family eventually settled on a 2009 Toyota Corolla and is satisfied with the purchase.

“We’re very grateful,” he said.

In addition to being cleaner-burning and more dependable, the Corolla will save the family money on gas. He estimates a difference of between six and seven miles per gallon between the old and new cars.

More than 27,000 vehicles have been replaced with the help of the program, now in its 10th year. Another 25,000-plus have benefited from repair assistance.

This was the second time Noble and his family had traded in a vehicle under the program. They first replaced an old Jeep and received a significant boost in gas mileage.

AirCheckTexas has continued to distribute vouchers worth up to $600 for repair assistance year-round, ensuring that even while the replacement assistance was suspended, motorists whose vehicles failed the emissions portion of the state inspection could receive a hand addressing problems if they met the income guidelines.

Donna O’Rand also was confronted with an expensive car repair bill recently and was going to have trouble paying. With the help of the AirCheckTexas repair program, she was able to get her car fixed for $30, the AirCheckTexas co-pay.

“It really worked for me because I wouldn’t have been able to make those repairs otherwise,” she said.

The replacement component was again suspended June 29 after 1,300 vouchers were distributed this spring and summer. But it will return next year and help more people like the Nobles.

For information, visit www.nctcog.org/airchecktexas.

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AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine
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Annual Transportation Report Available Online, in Print

Look in virtually any direction, and it’s obvious the region’s transportation system is undergoing significant change. The doubling of Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s light rail system continues.

Multimillion-dollar transportation projects in the plans for a generation or more are under way. Bottlenecks are about to be improved on notoriously congested roadways such as LBJ Freeway and Interstate Highway 820 thanks to innovative partnerships with the private sector.

The recently published Progress North Texas 2012 provides a glimpse at these and more improvements while explaining the challenges the region faces as it continues to grow. Available in print and online, the publication includes both technical data and testimonials from people who rely on the system. It illustrates how the region has done in the past year and should respond to the demands brought on by growth.

 

The report examines funding, air quality, roadway construction, quality of life and regionalism. NCTCOG and its transportation partners are cooperating on improvements so that these challenges can one day be turned into triumphs.

One recent example of how collaboration helped turn a difficult situation into victory for the region was Super Bowl XLV. A few days before the Super Bowl was to kick off at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, winter weather unlike anything the region had seen in years settled in. NCTCOG and its partners had planned for two winter storms in an effort to make visitors’ stays memorable for the right reasons. And that’s exactly what they got. The close coordination required to overcome the back-to-back winter storms will pay dividends in the future.

This year, the Transportation Department enlisted the help of fifth-graders from Fort Worth ISD to design the cover. The students were asked how they think they will travel around the region in 2035. From the answers, it is clear they have creativity and talent. The entries can be viewed as part of an online slideshow at www.nctcog.org/ourregion. If you would like additional copies of the print edition, contact Brian Wilson at bwilson@nctcog.org.

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RTC Meetings Available Online

The North Central Texas Council of Governments began video recording Regional Transportation Council business meetings for the web in June. Indexed videos will be available online within 24 hours of each meeting and accessible on computers and mobile devices.

Graphic: Regional Transportation Council, Public Meeting Videos

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NCTCOG staff recommended indexed access to archived meetings was preferable to live streaming over the Internet, due to limited bandwidth and potential reliability issues at this time. This method, selected by the RTC, allows anyone to access any agenda item. The videos will usually be available the morning after the RTC meets. Through the use of agenda tags, users can navigate to specific points in the meeting and only watch what they want.

Prior to offering the video online, NCTCOG used DVDs, which will no longer be offered, since people can now watch the entire meeting on their computers or mobile devices at their convenience.

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Mobility Matters is prepared in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration. The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors who are responsible for the opinions, findings and conclusions presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration or the Texas Department of Transportation.

10/31/2016 03/17/2009 JS

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