Transportation News for February 20, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on February 20, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 2/20/2015

By Heather Caygle, with help from Kevin Robillard

TRANSPO BUS ROLLS INTO UNION STATION: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s multistate transpo bus tour comes to an end today. Foxx and his team will roll into D.C.’s Union Station around 1:00 p.m. after spending the past several days snaking along the coastal South, starting in Florida with additional stops in Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. Foxx met some friendly faces out on the road (and got in some quality time with Vice President Joe Biden) but lawmakers are unlikely to be so receptive to his push for a massive infrastructure investment – many members of Congress support the idea generally but can’t agree on a plan to come up with the revenue infusion required for implementation. The DOT chief will be joined by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman for today’s homecoming.

AVIATION IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Elsewhere around D.C. today, the upcoming FAA reauthorization will be in the spotlight at the American Bar Association’s air and space law conference. The event kicks off this morning with an 8:30 a.m. legislative panel with representatives from the House Transportation and Senate Commerce committees in addition to officials from the FAA, A4A, NATCA and NATA talking all things reauthorization. Later in the day, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will deliver the lunchtime keynote speech. The conference also includes sessions on passenger privacy and federal aviation regulations. Full agenda here:

AND DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE WEEKEND: Foxx will be back in the South to meet with union leaders at the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department’s annual meeting in Atlanta. TTD’s 32 member unions will meet with Foxx on Saturday and then GOP Reps. Peter King and Rodney Davis on Sunday. “We’re delighted that there are sensible people on both sides of the aisle that want to work with union leaders on creating good jobs and rebuilding our transportation system,” said TTD President Ed Wytkind. Agenda topics include the upcoming highway and FAA reauthorizations, Amtrak and rail safety. In addition, the union groups plan to release 2015 policy goals next week on several transpo topics including motorcoach safety, drones and NAI’s foreign air carrier permit application.

MT FIRST LOOK: FEDEX WRITES TO CABINET ON OPEN SKIES: FedEx Express CEO David Bronczek is calling on the White House to preserve Open Skies agreements with Gulf carriers in a letter sent to Foxx, Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. “Recently, several U.S. passenger carriers have questioned Open Skies, specifically as it relates to Middle Eastern carriers. … What they want is for the U.S. government to protect them from competition from able, attractive new entrants. For FedEx, the Open Skies agreements with the Middle Eastern countries are very valuable. … Retrenchment in any way from Open Skies by the U.S. would jeopardize the economic growth benefits that air cargo provides.” Read it:

More Open Skies: Emirates Airlines rejects apology from Delta over Sept. 11 comments. Reuters:

THE STATE OF ‘DEVOLUTION’: The push for devolving much of the federal transportation program to the state level is in its ‘best position we’ve had since the late 1990s,’ Heritage Action for America communications director Dan Holler said at a breakfast with reporters on Thursday. Holler and Emily Goff, The Heritage Foundation’s transportation policy analyst, both said momentum for the idea was growing. Goff noted the declining purchasing power of the trust fund was leading to ‘de facto devolution’ as states hiked gas taxes on their own.

Shuster stranglehold? Holler was confident the Transportation Empowerment Act – the current version of the devolution idea, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee in the last session – would get a vote in the upper chamber. ‘If we were able to get a vote on TEA under Harry Reid, I’m pretty sure Mitch McConnell will give Mike Lee one.’ The possibility of a vote in the House is more complicated. Holler said it would depend on whether leadership feared an amendment could actually pass. ‘It depends on how much of a stranglehold Shuster has,’ he said.

**Say yes to more U.S. jobs, increased tourism, economic growth, lower airfares and more transatlantic competition. With nearly 300 American flight attendants already working in the U.S., and with a new Boeing fleet, approval of Norwegian Air International will allow Norwegian to continue creating jobs and generating economic growth.**

WE’RE ALL IN FOR FRIDAY. Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Your host is looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend that includes making some Crock-Pot chili, playing with Biggie Smalls and gearing up for Congress’ big return next week.

Got any good scoops, tips, complaints or transportation trivia? Hit me up at or send a tweet: @heatherscope. And don’t forget to follow @Morning_Transpo and @POLITICOPro.

“We’re drivin’ down the road, I wonder if you know. I’m tryin’ so hard not to get caught up now…”

SCHUMER ON DRONE RULE: LET’S CHANGE SOME THINGS- Sen. Chuck Schumer wants some changes to the FAA’s proposed commercial drone rules -three changes to be exact – including allowing some operations outside of the drone pilot’s line of sight. ‘The requirement that all UAS must fly within the visual line of sight of the operator or visual observer could significantly hinder the potential for UAS in many commercial usages,’ the New York senator wrote to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Schumer also asks the FAA to require drones to be equipped with geo-fencing technology to take ‘human error out of the equation’ and work with the Commerce Department to quickly develop privacy guidelines. Read more:

Your daily drone roundup: Farmers dissatisfied with drone rule, Reuters:; And even before new commercial drone regs were proposed, corporations skirted current rules, The Wall Street Journal:

MAILBAG: SENATORS PUSH FOR END TO PORT STANDOFF: Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are again wading into the dispute between West Coast port operators and labor interests, asking the groups to hurry up and reach an agreement. “It is our understanding that the only issue that stands between further damage to our economy and a contract agreeable to both parties is the choice of an arbitrator,” they wrote in a Thursday letter. “While it is understandable that the parties can disagree, it is highly disappointing that with so much at stake, you have not been able to come up with a path forward on this one remaining issue.” The duo sent a similar note earlier this month. Read the latest letter:

Related: Both sides return to the negotiating table as Labor Secretary Tom Perez pushes for a deal. The Wall Street Journal:

DOT LOOKING AT GAS VAPOR IN WEST VIRGINIA DERAILMENT: Reuters has the story: “Federal investigators will examine whether pressurized gas played a role in the massive blast that followed the derailment of a train carrying crude oil through West Virginia this week, the U.S. Transportation Department said on Thursday. Questioning the possible role of gas vapors in the West Virginia fire broadens the debate over how to ensure public safety at a time when drastically larger volumes of crude oil are being shipped by rail and roll through cities and towns. … The Transportation Department did not call for regulations governing the presence of gas vapors in a national oil train safety plan it drafted last summer and is now with the White House for review.” Full story:

Report: Oil trains could affect 25M Americans: Pro Energy with the deets: “A report from the Center for Biological Diversity says approximately 25 million Americans live within the 1-mile evacuation zone of oil trains. The report, which was released Thursday, says without further regulation and safety standards, oil trains threaten 3,600 miles of streams as well as 73,000 square miles of lakes, wetlands and reservoirs.” Read the report:

AND THE WINNER IS … With the Oscars on Sunday, the Airports United coalition decided to get in on the action with a video linking the annual awards show to the need for an increase in the passenger facility charge (yes, really). This is the latest in a series from the group pushing for a PFC increase, with the other videos capitalizing on the Super Bowl, Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day. Watch the latest here:


-For years, Metro failed to alert officials that federally-funded radio alarm system wasn’t working. The Washington Post:

-Sen. Richard Blumenthal wants a DOJ investigation into a possible auto insurance scheme involving cars repaired with lower-quality, cheaper parts. Read the letter:

-Apple “offering $250,000 signing bonuses and 60 percent salary increases” to Tesla employees if they leave the company, Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Bloomberg:

-And from USA Today: Why Apple won’t buy Tesla for $75 billion

-Experian tries to debunk concerns about a subprime auto loan bubble. CNBC:

-Uber is back in Spain after being banned from transporting passengers, only this time the company is in the food-delivery business. The Wall Street Journal:

-Safety groups want automatic braking systems for truckers. The Hill:

-What we can learn about public spaces from long-distance trains. NextCity:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 100 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 222 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 627 days.