Here’s a poem I wrote to entertain you this Friday, with apologies to William Blake. I dedicate this to our readers working in cities and other government agencies, especially those who, like myself, spent many hours over the last several months applying for a TIGER Grant. (If you don’t know what that stands for, it’s in the poem.) I know the Broward MPO was applying for the grant. Was anyone else? Chime in.
BTW, for those who didn’t know, I am now working as a Civil Engineer at the County of Kauai. I may be far away in Hawaii now, but I am still rooting for Miami to be a more livable place! I also still have some consulting projects as well as family in the area, so I am no stranger.
OK, the poem:
The TIGER Grant
TIGER, TIGER, burning bright—
In the office late at night,
What mere mortal dares to try
Frame their town for critic’s eye?
Transportation modes abound:
Rail turns the traffic ’round;
Cycle tracks are quite like crack.
Will the NIMBY’s send us flak?
Put Investment over here!
We’re dead with none, so we fear.
Which one’s finer? Cycle lanes?
Sidewalks? Port container cranes?
Generating concept plans,
Costs, and graphics (Comic Sans?).
Is the sum within our grasp?
Will some other get to clasp?
Those things may just give me fits.
I water’d Hades with my tears!
As each day the deadline nears.
Sweet Recovery—sleep all night?
When it’s finished we might fight.
TIGER, TIGER, burning bright!
We must win or suffer blight.
Following in the footsteps of others such as the University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University will soon be hosting Zipcar car sharing service on campus. In an email to students today, the university wrote the following announcement:
Wednesday, September 24 marks the University’s annual Campus Sustainability Day and this year will be special in that Zipcar, the car-sharing service, will officially launch for the entire FAU community.
Zipcar, an alternative to bringing a car to school, gives members 24/7 access to vehicles parked right on the Boca Raton campus. Low hourly ($7.50/hr) and daily ($69/day) rates include gas, insurance and 180 miles per day to go wherever you want to go. Members can reserve cars online or with a smart phone for as little as an hour or up to seven days. More information can be found at zipcar.com/fau
Campus Sustainability Day will include demonstrations and exhibits featuring many initiatives supported by FAU. Come visit the Mission Green Student Association, the Green Team Leaders, Dirt Pros, South Florida Commuter Services, Housing and Residential Life, Chartwells and Zipcar to learn how you can lower your carbon footprint.
Please join us on Wednesday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the Boca Raton Student Union to celebrate and to see what Zipcar is all about.
Who will use the new Zipcars being put into place? Car sharing systems work best for people who are getting around without their personal vehicle. For those willing to live without owning their own car, a car sharing service is a great tool that allows use of a car for those occasional trips that require it. FAU’s Boca Raton campus is actually well connected multimodally. The Boca Raton Tri-Rail station is about 2 miles from the FAU campus, with options to get to campus either by bike or bus. The El Rio Canal Trail ducks underneath I-95 in a great route that’s completely separate from the road. Palm Tran offers a connecting bus service with a fairly direct route that’s only a bit slower than biking.
Despite this solid connectivity, FAU still generates a lot of auto trips—enough to warrant the new interchange that is under construction at Spanish River Blvd. Let’s look at the things that encourage people to drive instead of getting to campus without a car. As a student at FAU for the past few years, I have taken the train, ridden my bike, and driven my car to campus on many occasions, so some of these insights are from personal experience.
- It’s quicker to drive.
From where I live in Oakland Park, I can drive to campus in 30 minutes, even in 6 PM traffic. Riding my bicycle to the train station takes 20 minutes, taking the train to the Boca station takes 15 minutes, and riding from the Boca station to campus takes 10 minutes. This is typical of public transit, but one of the tradeoffs is the ability to work on something else during your commute. But in my case, and no doubt many others, you could drive and get there early enough to still have extra time to study.
- Tri-Rail stops running too early.
We had a good conversation on this subject on our Facebook page when Sunrail riders put out a petition for night and weekend service. Tri-Rail is not much better. Some classes (all of the ones in my grad school program) get out at 10 PM, and the last southbound train through Boca Raton campus is at 9:17 PM. So some people could take the train to class and get stuck trying to figure out some other way to get home. For me, that has always been biking 15 miles home at 10 PM at night. Not something for everyone.
- You pay for parking already.
You can be an online only student, but at FAU you’re still required to pay a “Transportation Access Fee” which is basically a parking fee. I even dropped an entire semester, got the university to drop all my other course fees–but they refused to drop the Transportation Access Fee for that semester. They sent it to collections, but ultimately I had to pay it before I could register for classes after I re-enrolled two years later. While FAU officially states that this fee goes towards all the transportation infrastructure, it’s worth mentioning that there is not a single designated bike lane on campus, and the only new bike racks going in have been useless “wave” style bike racks that are bolted to the concrete. So I could risk my bike getting damaged in a poorly designed rack or getting stolen by someone with a wrench, or I can use a railing that was not paid for by the Transportation Access Fee if I want my bike truly safe and secure. Also, even though Tri-Rail offers a student discount pass that can apply to FAU students, FAU funnels no funding their way to cover this.
Other universities, such as the University of Florida, structure their fees so that a parking permit is optional, paid for only by those who want to drive to campus. Their parking fee might be higher, but basic economics tells you that if you want to encourage multimodal transportation, you need to pass along the costs of parking as well as the savings from not parking. If this fee were only for an optional parking permit, I would never drive to FAU. I didn’t for a year while I had no car.
- It costs more to take transit.
This one may or may not be true. Depends on your situation. But if you take Tri-Rail, you have to pay the fare for the train, then if you don’t have a bicycle with you, pay the transfer fare to get on the Palm Tran route to FAU. Then pay the Palm Tran fare on the way back. If you got a convenient round-trip Tri-Rail ticket, you get no discount on the trip back, either. Tri-Rail fares are all over the place, but round trip from Cypress Creek to Boca Raton is normally $6.25. A 50¢ transfer fare applies if you remember to get a pass after getting off the train, otherwise you’re stuck paying the full $2. Then it’s another $2 for the trip back to Tri-Rail. So, with regular fare, it will cost you at least $8.75 to go a 15-20 mile distance. With most cars that’s less than a gallon of gas, which I bought a few of yesterday for $3.19. That doesn’t account for the other expenses (car maintenance, insurance, payments, doctor bills from getting fat), but it’s all most people look at. Wait, you say there’s a student discount? Let’s look at that.
- Student discounts are hard to get.
With Tri-Rail, you have to get a special Easy Card, available only in person at the Metrorail transfer station, the Pompano Beach station, the Fort Lauderdale Airport station, or the West Palm Beach station–but only during normal business hours. If you commute early in the morning or only to evening classes, good luck trying to find one of these open. I went to one class a week in Boca for an entire semester without being able to get the discount card. It’s $2 for the Easy Card, BTW. Of course you brought your student ID with you, right? That’s not enough. You have to print out a current class schedule and bring it with you to prove that you’re really and truly a student. Then they’ll snap your photo and all your Tri-Rail tickets for the rest of your life are half off. Well, OK. Until the card expires, anyway–but I have no clue when that happens as it doesn’t say on my card. Required reading here and here.
OK, you got your Tri-Rail discount card. What about Palm Tran? Well, theoretically, you just need to show student ID and your bus fare is only $1. I’ve never gotten to try this one because it’s limited to those under 21. If you’re an upperclassman or a grad student, you’re probably out of luck. Required reading here.
University of Florida actually tacked on a fee to tuition to help fund Gainesville’s transit system, and all students ride the bus free just by showing their student ID. No hoops to jump through, and a big incentive to use the bus.
- It’s hot.
OK, this one is a normal part of Florida life. Sitting out at a bus stop or riding a bicycle always makes you sweat more than if you drive in your air conditioned car. The proper response is to embrace the sweat (I wear breathable polo shirts) and remember that you need the exercise.
- There’s no room for bikes on the train.
The new Tri-Rail trains have only two awkward bike racks, and 4 or 5 bikes are usually crammed into this area. Your bike might fall over, or the conductor might tell you to get another car because his already has two—even though he doesn’t see that the other car has six bikes crammed into that spot. The pic on the right is a typical sight for bikes being crammed in and shuffled around.
- I don’t know where to go.
Wayfinding is a definite concern getting around FAU. I took a class in 2007 before the El Rio Canal trail was open underneath I-95, and got lost a couple times riding my bike from the Tri-Rail station to FAU, meandering through the nearby neighborhoods. It’s better now, except for construction ocassionally blocking the trail. The El Rio Trail between Spanish River and Glades Rd. has only one real connection to the large, sprawling, campus–the crossing at NW 20th St. You ride right by the soccer fields, where a sidewalk taunts you by coming within 5 feet of the path—but offering a drop off of several inches as well as a distinct lack of curb ramps to get onto the road. You’d have better luck cutting across the grass onto a gravel-strewn asphalt parking lot slightly north of there. No drop-offs, but lots of stop signs and opportunities to get lost on campus. Neither of these are real connections, but rather just gaps in the fences. If you want to get to the east side of campus, it’s more direct to get on Spanish River Blvd and enter the campus there on the roads, riding in their undesignated “bike lane.”
This is probably not an exhaustive list, but it should be enough to give the executives at Zipcar pause. Why would you want to invest in an area that would discourage use of your system? We don’t have information yet on the particulars of the Zipcar deal. Perhaps FAU is seeding them funds. But if I worked at Zipcar, I wouldn’t invest in a system at FAU without asking them to change those factors that the university can control—get rid of the flat transportation access fee and replace it with an optional parking permit fee. Now, the launch of Zipcar is good news. But without changes at and around the university, it will not last. Anyone who drives to FAU all the time will not be using Zipcar.
The Miami City Commission voted today in favor of Decobike as their vendor for a bike sharing system, effectively expanding this successful venture from Miami Beach to the mainland! Soon we will all be able to enjoy cycling across the Venetian on a Decobike. As a Fort Lauderdale resident, I will be happy if I can ride the train or express bus into Miami and use Decobike to get around when I’m here. More details to come later.
I had the opportunity to use Ecobici while in Mexico City for the Walk 21 conference. The system of over 1,000 bicycles has a waiting list for membership and no options for short term memberships, so it caters primarily to residents, not visitors. Thanks to the folks at CTS EMBARQ, conference goers were able to borrow passes for a day to use the system.
From everything I’ve heard and the large numbers of red bikes I saw riding around the city, the system is successful. It has about 9,000 daily riders and the membership was capped at 30,000 members before the recent expansions, with a waiting list of several thousands. The focus of this post is not the ridership or success of the system, but a review of the riding and usability of the system. Since Ecobici is operated by Clear Channel, many of the system characteristics are similar to other Clear Channel systems, such as Washington, D.C.’s old SmartBike system.
Before you question my sanity for riding in a city where drivers don’t even need to pass an exam to obtain a license, know that I had guidance from another conference goer from the U.S. who was living in Mexico, and comfortable enough cycling there to ride his folding bicycle from his hotel to the conference each day. (And hey, I ride in South Florida. People question my sanity all the time for doing that.) Roy Dudley, who works with advocacy group Pro Ciclismo Xalapa, offered to show me around the city by bicycle, so I took him up on that. We walked down to the nearest Ecobici station, where I got to experience checking out a bicycle.
To check out, you tap your annual membership card at the kiosk, which is supposed to tell you which bicycle to pull off the rack. The first time I checked out a bike an operating system error message covered up the message telling me which bicycle to take. At first I thought my tap had not registered, but a second tap told me that I already had a bicycle checked out, so I was left to hunt for the waiting bicycle and hope no one else beat me to it. A tiny green light that is nearly impossible to see in broad daylight indicates that the bike is ready to check out. I went down the line from the kiosk, looking for a small blinking green light on the rack. When I found it, I quickly pulled the bicycle off the rack. Good thing I had a partner to grab the bicycle, though, as I was standing on the wrong side of the rack. The system is just a rail and the bikes latch into it, much like the Decobike system in Miami Beach. The Ecobici kiosk just to the right outside the picture above faces the opposite side of the rail from where the bikes are, which is not the most user friendly set up. After my friend held onto the bicycle, I clambered over the rail in my dress pants to get to the bicycle. I ended up doing this same maneuver twice because this was not the only station with this design flaw.
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Continue reading »
Transit Miami attended this year’s Walk 21 conference, combined with EMBARQ’s International Walking and Livable Communities Conference, in Mexico City. This is the first of several posts sharing what we learned in the conference and experienced in the city, and any applications they might have for Miami.
During Tuesday’s keynote session, Jim Walker, President of Walk 21, shared London’s success story of preparing for a multimodal London Olympics. London set about accommodating people’s trips to and from the Olympics, not simply accommodating traffic. This approach incorporated transit, bike, pedestrian, and auto modes–but merely as choices in the main goal of getting to their destination. Rather than splitting planning efforts into approaches for one mode at a time, London’s planners and advocacy groups focused efforts on trips to be taken by Olympic athletes, workers, and spectators in addition to citizens of London going about their daily business. Through this process they effectively created an atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable using transit. “Games lanes” were created to reassure those who felt that the automobile was the only method that would get athletes and VIPs to their games on time, but it was reported in several sources that some athletes did feel comfortable using transit. It seems that London came close to their goal of no additional car trips due to the Olympics by accommodating so many on public transit, on foot, or on the bike.
Tuesday nights my wife and I often ride the Fort Lauderdale Urban Ride with the South Florida Bike Club, the same ride recently featured on the Sun-Sentinel. It’s a fun 20 mile ride with a mix of fast and slow riders and fat and skinny tired bikes. Tonight we rode with a group of about 20 riders and witnessed the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac, sand piled up around the Fort Lauderdale beach wall and onto A1A. Below is one of the cleaner areas, with sand only covering the bike lane. Some areas had sand piled into the travel lane as well that we picked our way around.
I am used to being harassed by motorists, especially when I ride outside the bike lane to avoid the door zone. I generally ignore them and just assume they are ignorant of safe riding techniques. But on a day like this, with sand piled everywhere, you would think drivers would be a little more understanding. Maybe the tropical storm winds cooled off some of the hot heads around here? Nope, not in South Florida. First we had a Broward County Transit bus honk at us while the driver ran a red light in his desperate quest to pass us. Then a motorist trying to sound nice passed us slowly in the other lane, saying, “shouldn’t you be over there in the bike lane?”
Right. Might as well ride on the beach if I wanted to ride on sand. Life goes on in South Florida, and bicyclists are quickly put back in last place where the motoring public believes they belong.
If you’ve spent the past four years of your life without purpose because Fort Lauderdale did not have their annual Air and Sea Show, then I’m sure you are attending the Air Show this Saturday or Sunday. Or maybe you’re just coming for the fun of it. Either way, as die hard fans of transportation that avoids automobiles, we’re here to fill you in on how to get there without driving. Parking at places like the Galleria Mall costs $20 and is pretty scarce anyway.
Bicycle valet parking will be available at Sunrise Blvd. and A1A. New River Wesleyan Church, where this writer happens to be the youth director, along with Cycle Mobility, are hosting the bicycle valet service. There will be a $5 charge to valet park your bicycle, and the service will be available between 8 AM and 4:30 PM. The show organizers have also informed us that there will be self serve bicycle racks at all three entrances to the show. Don’t forget that you can plan your bicycle route to the air show using the Broward Bike Trip Planner.
The Sun Trolley’s Las Olas route will be running, and may be a good bet as it connects downtown and the Broward Central Terminal to the beach area. You can always take Tri-Rail to the Fort Lauderdale Station and connect via BCT to the downtown terminal, then switch over to the Sun Trolley. Check the BCT home page for information on some routes that have been modified to get around the air show area. Otherwise Google Maps Transit directions work well for planning your route.
South Florida’s second bike sharing program launches today, December 14th! After over a year of planning, permitting, bringing people on board with the concept, and even getting cities to pass new ordinances permitting advertising at their stations, B-Cycle is finally ready to roll out with 200 bikes and 20 stations. That number should expand to 275 within a month.
If you’re able, head to one of the launch events during the day.
|Hollywood:||10:00 AM||326 Johnson St.|
|Fort Lauderdale:||1:30 PM||Esplanade Park|
|Pompano Beach:||4:00 PM|
B-Cycle is funded by a $311,000 FDOT grant funneled through Broward County Transit as well as their own capital. Outside of the one-time FDOT grant that will only go towards 75 of the bikes and a few stations, B-Cycle will be supported by ad revenues and user fees and expects to turn a profit. Their plan is to use that revenue to build out to a 500 bike system over a period of five years. While high profile Public-Private Partnerships (PPP’s) such as I-595 and the Port of Miami Tunnel get a lot of attention, it’s great to see the concept being put to use on a transportation mode that doesn’t involve a motor vehicle.
Usage is essentially membership based and then either free or $.50 for the first 30 minutes any bike is checked out. Memberships start at $5 for a 24 hour pass and go to $45 for an annual pass. The second half hour, and every half hour afterwards, costs more ($3) in order to encourage quick turnaround. You’re probably familiar with the concept if you’ve tried DecoBike or another program, but the idea is to pick up the bike at one location and leave it at another station at your destination. The trip often won’t take more than 20 minutes.
Some have raised concerns that B-Cycle might flounder because it is spread too thin over the county. Most of the stations are focused around downtown and the beach in the three launch cities, however, which should cater to the popular tourist and hangout spots. Check the map showing the stations launching tomorrow in blue at broward.bcycle.com. I’m confident it will be better than many small bike sharing systems, such as the self-proclaimed “first bicycle sharing program in the Southeast” in Spartanburg, South Carolina with 2 stations and about 15 bikes. Try bike sharing in Broward as soon as you can and judge for yourself. B-Cycle will have “ambassadors” at the stations today to show you how to use the system, even if you don’t make it to the launch events.
Disclaimer: I manage the FDOT grant, inherited from my predecessor. Of course, I’d love the project even if I didn’t, as it brings bike sharing closer to me. But don’t take this post to be any kind of official FDOT statement.
It appears there will soon be some discussion of whether to use the new “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” sign that was approved in the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
This sign would only be used on lanes less than 14′ wide, which are too narrow for a bicyclist and a motorist to safely travel side by side. On these types of roads, where there is no bike lane, would you rather see this new sign or the “Share the road” plaque/warning sign combo?
The MUTCD does give engineers a choice. Don’t let the picture sizes fool you, the yellow warning sign is bigger. Answer in the poll below.
Share the road photo by flickr user belboo.
In the fall of 2008, Tri-Rail was running near record ridership corresponding to higher gas prices. They never beat the record of over 18,000 riders from Miami Heat’s victory parade in 2006, though. While we came close to another Heat victory this year but didn’t quite make it, Tri-Rail still scored a ridership victory. On June 16, with free Tri-Rail rides for Dump the Pump day, Tri-Rail smashed their all time record. 19,731 people rode the commuter rail yesterday. Check their press release here. Let us hope many will continue to ride even when they have to pay the fare.
Monday and Tuesday a team of Dutch bicycling experts worked with local transportation engineers, planners, and bicycling advocates in the ThinkBike workshop to infuse some of the Netherlands’ bicycle magic into Miami. The Miami Herald published a good story on the subject here. Information from the workshop can be found on Facebook and more will be available soon on the Consul’s website. While the workshop wrapped up with the final presentation Tuesday night, we’ll get you up to speed first on Monday’s opening presentation.
Joseph Weterings, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, kicked off the workshop by congratulating the Florida Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the city of Miami for taking efforts to make the area better for cycling. It’s not enough, though. By contrast, Weterings made clear, “the Dutch and the bicycles are almost inseparable.” He shared how he was separated from his own bicycle when he was assigned to Miami and now misses being able to cycle into the office every day. He touted some of the advances the Netherlands has made for bicycling, and turned it over to his bicycling experts for the details.
The Dutch “Bicycling Ambassador” team leader was Hillie Talens, a transportation engineer. Her team members were Robert Coffeng, a traffic engineer, and Jeroen Kosters, a transportation engineer. She began by giving us a window into her life and explaining where cycling fit in. She shared her hobbies, and emphasized that cycling was not one of them. Though she owned 3 bicycles, cycling was just as common an activity as brushing your teeth before going to bed. For most people in the Netherlands, cycling is just another form of transportation.
Some of the statistics she shared were impressive. Twenty-seven percent of trips in the Netherlands are taken by bicycle. Women ride bicycles more than men, unlike here. The most common emotion associated with cycling is joy–something only children typically associate with bicycling as transportation in this country.
One import graph showed the curve between cycling and fatalities in the Netherlands vs. many other countries. While logic might tell you that an increase in the number of cyclists on the road would lead to an increase in the number of fatalities due to exposure, the reality is very different. The more cyclists are on the road, the fewer deaths we see.
Netherlands went through a decline in bicycle use after World War II, much like the US and many other European countries. Netherlands had a car centric transportation policy, with the Prime Minister advocating one car per family (“… a car in every garage,” anyone?). Their country shifted their transportation policy to be pro bicycling after a significant decline in bicycling, a decline from which they have only partially recovered. The United States has made many small shifts towards a more bicycling friendly policy, but it may be too little too late. When the Netherlands changed their bicycling attitudes, their bicycling decline was stayed and they saw a quick jump up in the number of cyclists. Since then, however, bicycling use has only gradually climbed. Perhaps this is because they have hit the “sweet spot” of keeping most of the short trips on the bicycle, or perhaps it is because they implemented pro bicycling policies before their cycling percentage dropped below five percent.
The pro bicycling policy seeks to prioritize bicycling in many ways. While I cannot even persuade engineers here to install features to make sure bicyclists are detected at signalized intersections, the Netherlands offers bike-specific signals, prioritizes bicycle traffic at bicycle paths intersecting roadways, and seeks to minimize bicyclists’ delay at signals. While in Florida we prioritize cracking down on bicyclists riding side by side through mandatory bike lane laws (promoted even by bicycle advocates) and interpretating the “two abreast” law to prohibit anything more than single file riding, the Netherlands passed a law to specifically legalize side by side riding, regardless of whether cars were approaching. They recognize the inherent social activity of bicycling and seek to promote it. While the Florida Department of Transportation seems OK with designating “bicycle detours” that make bicyclists take the long route because there is no room for them on the main streets, Talens said they endeavor to provide direct bicycling routes without detours. While we often find the easiest place to put separate bicycle lanes is low volume residential streets, the Netherlands has prioritized these as bicycle boulevards where bicycle traffic has priority and cars must share the huge “bike lane.” While the only solution we offer for roundabouts is to let bicylists ride on the road or on the sidewalk, they offer options including bike lanes and separate paths set back from the roundabout like sidewalks as well. While bicylists here get into theoretical discussions or loud confrontations over whether to pass a line of cars at a signal when there is no bike lane, the Netherlands builds bike boxes for these shared lanes that clarify the bicyclists’ position at the front of the line. While we hope drivers hitting cyclists get a slap on the wrist, the Netherlands holds the driver responsible every time. While our engineers have learned how to follow standards manuals and meet the bare minimums, Talens taught that bicycle facilities should be tailor made for the situation. While the Miami urbanized area has roads maintained by about 200 different cities, three counties, and two districts of the Florida Department of Transportation, cities in the Netherlands maintain their own roads. This key political difference is a challenge for us, but one that progressive cities such as Portland have sought to overcome by combining some government agencies.
Talens reminded us of two things that too many forget: cyclists are more than pedestrians with wheels, and cycling is not just a sport. If only transportation engineers could get past that first step.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the rest of the ThinkBike workshop.
Rick Scott certainly has not made himself popular among transit supporters by rejecting high speed rail funding, holding up Orlando’s SunRail, and criticizing Tri-Rail. His unpopularity extends beyond transit aficionados, as his proposed budget cutbacks affect many people. Last night, 10,000 to 15,000 people demonstrated across the state, protesting his cuts. From 750 to 1,300 people congregated along Broward Blvd. in downtown Fort Lauderdale, chanting “Recall Scott” and “They say cutback, we say fight back.” While anti-Scott protesters covered three street corners and spread about a block down Broward Blvd. at Third Ave., 60 to 100 Tea Party supporters congregated on the remaining corner in front of the First Baptist Church.
Police closed portions of Third Ave. and Broward Blvd. as the crowd swelled. In the video below you can hear the protesters chanting and see them swarming across the street as they did nearly every time the police allowed people to cross.
The Sun-Sentinel article points out that some of the protesters were out because of Scott’s rejection of rail funding, while a Tea Party counterprotester called for Scott to kill SunRail as well. As long as Scott and other libertarians are convinced that subsidizing highways is OK, but subsidizing transit is wasteful, we will remain divided on transportation infrastructure spending.
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