Transportation News for February 12, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on February 12, 2015


By Heather Caygle

With help from Kevin Robillard and Kathryn A. Wolfe

MT EXCLUSIVE: THE RED STATE REUNION TOUR – Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is hitting the road again to drum up grass-roots support for infrastructure funding. Next Tuesday, the DOT chief is kicking off a multistate bus tour that will snake along the East Coast, stopping along the way to bring attention to various infrastructure projects and turn up the pressure on Congress to avert a funding crisis. “We’ve got another trust fund cliff coming and ultimately, the American people need to know what’s going on,” Foxx told MT. Like his bus tour last year (refresher here:, Foxx will target predominately Republican states. But this time, instead of cruising through the Deep South and Midwest, he’s sticking to red states along the East Coast, starting off in Florida and ending in Washington, D.C.

While last year’s bus tour didn’t achieve the desired result – Congress only ended up passing a 10-month extension instead of a multiyear bill – Foxx said he has an ace in his pocket this time in the form of the White House’s repatriation for transportation idea. But he was met with skepticism by T&I ranking member Peter DeFazio at a Wednesday hearing. “We aren’t going to see mandatory repatriation probably out of this Congress … and we’re not going to see it by May 31, so do we have a backup plan?” DeFazio asked.

But despite the tough questioning, Foxx said he’s hopeful something big will happen this year, telling MT it all starts at the ground level, out on the road. “I just think the more awareness we can build in the minds of the everyday person, that we don’t have to be stuck, we can actually choose the future,” he said. “That’s the message and frankly, there are enough Americans out there that are frustrated, stuck in traffic and see what’s coming around the corner that it’s actually not a hard message to deliver.” Pros get the full scoop on the bus tour here:

BIPARTISAN BROMANCE IS A BLOOMIN’: Speaking of Wednesday’s T&I hearing (more on the policy details below), it was clear there was some bromance action between Foxx and House Republicans. From T&I Chairman Bill Shuster on down, GOP members of the panel spent significant portions of Foxx’s nearly three hours testifying at the hearing praising the DOT leader. “From Day One, he’s been reaching out to the chairman, to members of the committee, realizing that there are always going to be political differences,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, who gave his fellow Tar Heel a glowing introduction.

And the bipartisan bonhomie doesn’t stop with the House – Senate Republicans say Foxx has made the same effort to reach out on their side of the Capitol. “To me, anyone who’s tough enough to be a mayor is qualified for any job,” said EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe, a former mayor of Tulsa. “On top of that, just look at him: He’s a lovable guy,” Inhofe added. “He’s not mean, like most people around here.” Read more:

RAIL BILL EXPECTED TO SAIL THROUGH: The T&I Committee is expected to easily approve its bipartisan passenger rail bill today, clearing the decks for the laborious legislative battles looming around highway funding and the FAA reauthorization. Rep. Jeff Denham, chairman of the committee’s railroad panel, told MT not to expect any surprises, much like the smooth sailing during the rail markup last year, adding he met with all the committee’s new GOP members individually to address concerns.

‘This or nothing’: While both sides say the bill isn’t perfect, they agree it’s the best piece of legislation they could get in the current congressional climate. “It’s either this or nothing,” said Rep. Mike Capuano, the newly minted ranking member on the railroads panel. “It’s got some good stuff in it, [but] it’s not going to change rail travel of any significant nature.” Yours truly with the full story:

TEAM TRANSPO TAKES ON THURSDAY. Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Your host is working for the weekend at this point, which includes a first-time trip to Tampa. Got any travel recommendations for this Cigar City newbie?

Send scoops, tips, complaints and transpo song lyrics to or send a tweet: @heatherscope. Please don’t forget to follow @Morning_Transpo and @POLITICOPro.

“Eyes all wide and open, the streets are paved with gold…” (h/t Kevin Robillard)

T&I TAKEAWAYS: If you weren’t able to make it to Wednesday’s House Transportation hearing with Foxx (or got hangry halfway through since it lasted three hours), here’s a few things to know: Rep. Richard Hanna questioned why FMCSA awarded a study contract to the same academic center that produced a study criticized by the trucking industry:; Rep. Don Young said Congress was like “like a bunch of dogs circling around a skunk right now” ; and Foxx told Rep. Jeff Denham the administration was sticking to its Positive Train Control approach:

PORT STANDOFF WORSENS: The dispute between West Coast ports and union leaders has taken a turn for the worse and there’s even a House press conference on the issue set for this afternoon. The L.A. Times has more on the latest development: “West Coast ports – including the nation’s busiest in Los Angeles and Long Beach – will partially shut down for four days as shipping companies plan to dramatically slash dock work amid an increasingly contentious labor dispute. Terminal operators and shipping lines said that they would stop the unloading of ships Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, because they don’t want to pay overtime to workers who, they allege, have deliberately slowed operations to the point of causing a massive bottleneck.” Full story:

NTSB URGES ‘IMMEDIATE ACTION’ FROM METRO: The NTSB issued a set of urgent recommendations to Metro on Wednesday in light of the safety agency’s investigation into January’s deadly smoke accident. The NTSB’s investigation is still ongoing, but according to the recommendations, WMATA turned on station and vent shaft fans in exhaust rather than intake mode, meaning ‘there was not a supply of fresh air to aid in moving the smoke through the tunnel to the exhaust.’ Additionally, the train car operator did not shut off the system that pulls air into the train from the outside, and two of four exhaust fans near the source of the smoke stopped working because a circuit breaker had overloaded at some point. Read the letter:

That’s not all: The NTSB also made safety recommendations to APTA ( and said the FTA should conduct a nationwide audit of transit agencies’ ventilation systems and procedures (

Hill hearing on Metro Friday: Jonathan Rogers, a passenger on the Metro train that filled with smoke and left one woman dead, will be on Capitol Hill on Friday to testify before a House Oversight panel about his experience. Rogers will be joined by officials from the key groups involved in the accident investigation: NTSB acting Chairman Christopher Hart, WMATA board Chairman Mort Downey, D.C. EMS assistant fire chief Edward Mills and Jackie Jeter from the transit workers union.

POLL: AMERICANS OPPOSE BIGGER TRUCKS: A poll from the aptly named Coalition Against Bigger Trucks found 76 percent of Americans oppose allowing bigger or longer trucks on American highways. Fifteen percent support them. The poll, conducted by the Republican firm Harper Polling, surveyed 1,000 Americans between Jan. 5 and 8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

IT’S BILL INTRO TIME: Katy Bachman reports: “Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal plan to introduce a bill to protect the privacy and security consumer data collected by digitally connected cars. …Under the ‘cyber dashboard’ bill, auto manufacturers would be required to secure and encrypt all data collected by smart cars and have the ability to report and respond to real-time hacking attacks.”

-Sen. Amy Klobuchar is reintroducing her Driver Privacy Act. Katy again: “The bill, introduced during the last Congress with Sen. John Hoeven, would make it clear that the rightful owner of the data collected by a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder is the owner of the vehicle, except under rare circumstances. The government has required all new cars to have an EDR.”

-And last but certainly not least, today Reps. Janice Hahn and Ted Poe are reintroducing their bill to create a national freight trust fund.

COMMERCE RANKING MEMBERS ANNOUNCED: Sen. Cory Booker will be the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee’s transportation panel, it was announced Wednesday. And Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell will be the top Democrat on the committee’s aviation panel.


-Some startups – including one backed by former Obama adviser Jim Messina – are trying to make Elon Musk’s Hyperloop a reality. Forbes:

-Speaking of Elon Musk, Tesla’s losses widen as delivery expectations fall short. The Wall Street Journal:

-MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, under fire for the agency’s performance during a record weeks of snowfall, is resigning. Boston Globe:

-Uber adds an “SOS” button for India users following rape allegations. The Verge:

-Maryland highway officials say Suitland bridge is safe even after chunks of concrete fell and smashed into the windshield of a woman’s car as she drove by. NBC Washington:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 108 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 230 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 635 days.

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