Aug 4th 2017 | Posted in Transportation by Kristin Gordon

Does the U.S. ever emulate or keep track of transportation initiatives taking place in other countries? According to David Glessner, public information officer with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the agency has hosted over 1,800 international visitors since 1994. “TxDOT receives international visitors for one-day visits, and sometimes engineers or engineering students for more extended periods of time,” said Glessner. Visitors who have shared transportation initiatives from their home of origin or educated themselves by experts at TxDOT have come from Algeria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, Jordan, India, Indonesia, Italy, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Guinea, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Vietnam and Venezuela.

car 2417295 960 720 Transportation opportunities go beyond U.S. bordersTxDOT interacts most often with their neighbors in Mexico. A 2015 report, Texas-Mexico International Bridges and Border Crossing, highlights TxDOT’s four border districts- Pharr, Laredo, Odessa and El Paso. The Odessa district is the only one of the three without any border crossings. Two dam crossings and one hand-drawn ferry that join Texas and Mexico bring the total number of international bridges and border crossings to 28. This does not include the La Linda Bridge, which is closed, and the Roma International Suspension Bridge that is also closed and being considered for rehabilitation. In addition, six rail-only bridges span the Texas-Mexico border.

Beyond the shores and borders of the U.S., several transportation initiatives and projects are in the works that should be of interest to Americans. An energy company based out of Texas signed a memorandum of understanding in 2014 with the Cayman Islands government to explore a fuel transshipment and terminal project. The energy company has proposed working with the British overseas territory to attract bidders to build a transshipment terminal, including storage tanks, berthing facilities for mega-ships and pipelines for local distribution. The project was put on hold amid opposition from eastern district legislators, but a new government is in place and approval is now being sought from elected members. The Texas company has identified a 125-acre site in the eastern districts with access to deep water that could be developed to a fueling station for mega cargo ships transiting through the Caribbean Sea. A fact sheet produced by the company indicates that it would seek to attract bidders for a fuel storage facility with capacity of between 3 million and 8 million barrels.

In July, the Australian government announced the official launch of the Queensland Electric Super Highway, the world’s longest stretch of road that will be filled with a series of stations that will charge electric vehicles. At a cost of $3 million, eighteen towns and cities will comprise the first phase of the route, which will be about 1,118 miles stretching through mostly coastal roads alongside the Great Barrier Reef. The stations should be operational within the next six months.

The land and transport minister of Japan announced that an elevated highway that runs through Tokyo will be move following the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Relocating the stretch of road underground will cost $4.5 billion. The Metropolitan Expressway runs over the historical Nihonbashi Bridge, known for its symbol from the Edo Period. The highway was one of the five main roads that carried people and goods across Japan during that period. The expressway was built around 20 feet overhead in preparation for the first Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Local residents have long demanded that the highway be moved below ground because it spoils the scenery.

Saudi Arabia has unveiled ‘The Red Sea’ project, which will involve the development of hotels, residential units, an airport, seaport and other transportation links spanning more than 100 miles of the Red Sea coastline. The development, which will span across 50 untouched islands, aims to reduce the Kingdom’s dependency on its natural oil reserves. The country has suffered through the fall in oil prices and the government could sell a stake in its $2 trillion national oil company within the next year as it seeks to shift focus to private industry. Phase one is set to start in 2019 and be completed in late 2022.

London’s transportation secretary has agreed to develop plans for a $39 billion Crossrail 2 train service. Work on the line could start in 2020 with trains becoming fully operational by 2033.  The northeast to southwest rail line from Surrey would tunnel beneath central London to Hertfordshire and will reach as far south as Epsom. Crossrail 2 would significantly reduce congestion on existing rail lines and provide alternative routes into central London for commuters. The project would increase the capital’s rail capacity by 10 percent, bringing an additional 270,000 people into central London each morning. Half of the funding will likely come from London taxpayers, but more details will be released in the fall budget.

Funding for some transportation projects in the U.S. may have to wait until 2018. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this week that President Donald Trump remains committed to working with Congress on a massive infrastructure bill, but some GOP leaders have speculated that the timeline for Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure package — which has yet to be unveiled — may not happen until next year. One of Trump’s chief campaign promises was to upgrade U.S. roads, bridges, airports and other public works. Trump outlined broad infrastructure principles in his budget request this spring, but a more detailed legislative package is not expected to be released until at least this fall.

The White House also issued an executive order to formally establish an infrastructure council, which has been tasked with vetting transportation projects and working on other rebuilding issues.

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