Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
Dutch Cities Discuss Plans for “E-Bike Freeway”
Citizens of the Netherlands have long been known for their attachment to their bikes. They remain a popular form of basic local transport in every city in the densely developed country. Now several Dutch cities are planning to build a highway that would enable them to serve as a faster form of intercity transport.
Eltis reports that two Dutch provinces, Drenthe and Groningen, and four cities — Groningen, Haren, Assen and Tynaarlo — are studying ways to outfit a 30-km bike path from Assen to Groningen to make it a viable “fast” bike commuting route.
An article in Die Krant van Midden-Drenthe (in Dutch) explains that as “e-bikes” or “pedelecs” — bicycles equipped with electric motors that provide an extra boost to the bicyclist’s own power and can travel at speeds as fast as 45 km/h — have become increasingly popular, local officials in the Drenthe-Groningen region are exploring bike path improvements designed to increase the share of commuters traveling by bike among its cities.
Among the improvements being considered are sensors, alternative power generation, self-healing pavement and asphalt that glows in the dark.
Henk Brink, a deputy from Drenthe, told the newspaper, “New rapid cycle infrastructure could be a nice addition to all measures that we have already taken in the field of cycling and accessibility in the Groningen-Assen region.”
Businesses Back Sacramento Streetcar
A proposal to add a modern streetcar line to the rail transit mix in California’s capital city, Sacramento, received a key endorsement in a mail-in referendum. Now, the proposal goes before residents in its corridor to get their vote.
CBS Sacramento reported last week that when the votes were tallied on Feb. 17th, a majority of business owners along the proposed streetcar’s 3.3-mile route supported the project.
The streetcar would connect downtown Sacramento with neighboring West Sacramento and serve several downtown landmarks, including the Capitol, Old Sacramento, the Bridge District, the new Sacramento Kings arena and Raley Field.
Registered voters living within three blocks of the proposed line will get their say in an election set for May.
According to the news report, the federal, state, county and city governments, along with property owners along the route, would split the tab for the $150 million project.
If the residents approve and financing is lined up, work on the streetcar could begin as early as mid- to late 2016.
Canberra Sells Assets, Gets Bonus for Light Rail
Australia’s federal government has dangled a large carrot in front of its cities: extra funding for infrastructure projects in exchange for privatizing government-owned assets.
The national capital of Canberra has taken the government up on its offer, and as a result, it will get an extra A$60 million ($46.7 million U.S.) for a light-rail line the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government plans to build.
The Australian Broadcasting Company reports that the ACT Government will sell A$400 million ($311.4 million U.S.) in assets to raise funds for the light-rail line. The assets being put up for sale include six government buildings and 11 public housing projects.
The Capital Metro light rail project has its critics; one was quoted in the report as questioning the wisdom of the ACT Government’s failure to consider other projects, such as bus infrastructure, roadways or a convention center, as candidates for the federal largesse. ACT Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell defended the choice, saying, “This is a very important decision for the ACT and a strong endorsement from the Federal Liberal Government that Capital Metro is productive infrastructure, that meets their criteria and which has economic benefits for all of the ACT economy.”
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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is an associate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.