Cities

Fifteen years after the Great Flood of 1993, floodplain development is booming

Once it was a cornfield; now it’s a Wal-Mart, a Taco Bell, a Target. Here along a stretch of Missouri’s Highway 40, in the Chesterfield Valley area just west of downtown St. Louis, what’s said to be the largest strip mall in the country sits on about 46 acres of Mississippi River bottomlands. Less than 20 years ago, the land was open space. Press Play to watch with narration, or use the arrow keys on the right to advance through without sound. Photos: Mark Hirsch It’s been fifteen years since the Great Flood of 1993 put this land under 10 …

Priced to move

A comprehensive solution to end congestion

On Monday, the Washington Post took a look at the ideas of a key Department of Transportation policymaker named Tyler Duvall, a man of bold plans who hopes to bring congestion pricing to highways across the nation. Congestion pricing is an idea with roots in the field of economics, widely supported by a broad spectrum of transportation officials. Unfortunately, Duvall has decided to use a very limited pool of federal transportation dollars to push this plan on cities at the expense of desperately needed transportation projects nationwide. Transit in particular, for which the Bush administration has no patience at all, …

Electric cars could impact water supplies, says analysis

Converting most U.S. vehicles to run on electricity could have an impact on water supplies, according to an analysis to be published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Generating the needed electricity would require more water than producing gasoline, the report found — that is, if the nation’s electricity grid continues to be powered by coal and other fuels that require a lot of H2O for processing and cooling. “If we use only wind or solar energy, water use would be essentially zero,” says coauthor Carey King. The report emphasized that we definitely shouldn’t abandon a quest for largely …

'But Americans won't ride trains'

Defying conventional wisdom, NC residents express desire for public transport

Photo: Roadsidepictures You know that old saw about how greens should shut up about public transportation because Americans hate trains and insist on getting around in their own private chunks of resource-sucking steel and plastic? Well, that may be going the way of $2/gallon gas. Get this, from a recent poll of North Carolina residents: Potential new railway options were embraced positively by those surveyed. Commuter rails in urban areas and high-speed train travel between larger cities were supported or strongly supported at 72 and 70 percent of respondents respectively. Respondents also embraced the possibility of a regional rail system …

Journalist Michael Grunwald on the hubris of the Army Corps

Dam, that’s a pretty lock: the sun sets behind the Corps navigation structure at Alton, Ill. Photo: Mark Hirsch Imagine the Pentagon had been caught red-handed concocting its justification before launching the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Imagine that after the scandal died down, the Pentagon admitted Saddam didn’t really have WMDs — but proposed an even larger invasion, because there was a remote possibility things might change someday. Then imagine Congress had rewarded this logic with overwhelming bipartisan support. It’s a silly thought experiment, because Congress — for all its flaws — takes war at least somewhat seriously. But …

A brief history of the creation and growth of the Army Corps

Today, it’s almost impossible to say “Army Corps of Engineers” without also saying “Hurricane Katrina” and “levee failure,” or “Yazoo Pump” and “boondoggle.” But the corps’ original mandate made no mention of hurricane and flood protection, or even of the Mississippi River. An Army Corps survey crew in 1916. Photo: history.nasa.gov In 1802, Congress established the Army Corps of Engineers as the nation’s design and construction crew. The country was barely a quarter-century past the Revolutionary War — where the first iteration of the corps had been assembled on the battlefield — and it needed a steady supply of engineers …

A special series on the Army Corps and the Mississippi River

It’s spring, and for most of us that means tackling a few home improvement projects: cleaning the gutters, say, or replacing storm windows with screens. Remaking the Mississippi An interactive look at a few current Army Corps river projects The Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the Mississippi as a useful and navigable waterway. But some of the Corps’ projects have critics crying “pork.” Click the map below to find out more. Compiled by Patrick DiJusto Illustration by Keri Rosebraugh But what if you took that to-do list and magnified it by …

If you build it ...

Green building may be quickest path to decreased emissions

Reuters has the skinny on a new report on green building. The report concluded that building green would reduce greenhouse emissions more quickly than any other approach. According to the article: North America's buildings release more than 2,200 megatonnes, or about 35 percent of the continent's total, of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. If the construction market quickly adopted current and emerging energy-saving technologies, that number could be cut by 1,700 megatonnes by 2030, the report said. Alas, there are "obstacles" preventing the rapid adoption of green building techniques: One is the so-called split incentive policy, where those who construct environmentally-friendly buildings do not necessarily reap the benefits of using them.Also, governments and other institutions separate capital and operating budgets instead of budgeting for the lifetime of a construction project, creating a disincentive to build "green," the report found. Oh well, I guess I'll have to make do with a nice cozy place on the Street of Dreams until green building catches on. Uh, scratch that.

Juice of the future

Everything you could possibly want to know about batteries

The Economist has published a very readable history and explanation of batteries, especially ones suitable for all electric cars, called "In search of the perfect battery." In particular, it has a very extensive discussion of lithium-ion batteries, which will almost certainly be the core battery for most electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. I highly recommend the piece, since electricity is the transportation fuel of the near- and far-future. (h/t to my brother Dave for sending this to me.)

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