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U.S. Driving Decline is in Reverse

The historic drop in driving that began in 2007 and the dramatic decline in gridlock that accompanied it have ended, according to a report today by a firm that tracks congestion in the USA....Traffic congestion is still about two-thirds of 2007 peak levels but likely to get worse, says Rick Schuman, author of INRIX's 2009 National Traffic Scorecard.

Fed Guarantee Helps BrightSource Energy Plan

BrightSource Energy Inc. of Oakland won $1.37 billion in federal loan guarantees Monday to build solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, becoming the latest Bay Area green-tech company to receive major financial backing from the U.S. government. The money will help BrightSource build the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a collection of three solar-thermal power plants that will use mirrors to focus sunlight and generate electricity. Together, the three plants near the Nevada border will produce enough power for 140,000 homes.

Tougher Penalties Proposed for Hands-free, Texting Violations

The cost of a ticket for these offenses would be among the toughest in the nation — going up to $455 for texting and $255 for using a hand-held phone, from approximately $145 — if a bill introduced Monday by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, becomes law...And the rules would now apply to bicyclists, who were not covered by the hands-free law that went into effect July 1, 2008.

Revised Berkeley Downtown Plan to go before City Council

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates will submit a new plan for the downtown area at the Tuesday night City Council meeting after opponents threatened to put a previously approved plan to a vote of local residents on the June ballot. Bates' new plan calls for lower building heights, affordable housing provisions in some instances, green building requirements and local labor provisions.

Toll Increase Creates Casual Carpool Conundrum

On July 1, an economic shift may test this unregulated system and the reciprocity behind it. As part of a package of toll increases, Bay Area toll bridge officials have decided to do the unthinkable: They're ending the free ride....Does the driver, who will need to pay the toll through a FasTrak transponder, cough it up in full? Do the passengers - usually two - each pony up $1.25? Or is an even split - 83.33 cents per person - warranted?

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