Transportation News for February 23, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on February 23, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 2/23/2015

By Heather Caygle, with help from Kevin Robillard

LAY OF THE LAND: Buckle up MT readers because Congress is back in town after a weeklong recess and things are sure to be busy. House lawmakers don’t return until tomorrow but the Senate will be in session today as the showdown over Department of Homeland Security funding continues. While the DHS standoff will dominate headlines this week (, there’s also a lot happening in transpo land.

Some highlights: The Mileage-Based User Fee Alliance hosts its second annual conference Tuesday with representatives from various groups debating the merits of a fee based on miles driven and whether the idea might appear in the upcoming transportation bill.

-Wednesday is jam packed with a slew of events including the opening day of AASHTO’s annual legislative conference and a morning Senate EPW hearing on the transportation bill. In addition, a House T&I panel holds a hearing on the White House’s Coast Guard and maritime budget request and a House Oversight panel examines global flight tracking for airplanes.

-On Thursday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is scheduled to testify before the House Appropriations THUD panel during an afternoon hearing. The AASHTO conference also gets a triple dose of Hill heavyweights – House T&I leaders Bill Shuster and Peter DeFazio and Senate EPW Chairman James Inhofe are all set to speak at various times during the day. If that wasn’t enough for one day, the Senate Commerce Committee meets to markup Chairman John Thune’s whistleblower protection bill for auto industry employees and two TSA reform bills that recently passed the House. The committee will also vote on several nominations including NTSB nominee T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, NTSB acting Chairman Christopher Hart and DOT Assistant Secretary nominee Carlos Monje, Jr.

THE PORT STANDOFF IS (ALMOST) OVER. NOW WHAT? After nine months of back-and-forth name calling, slowdowns and shutdown threats, West Coast port operators and labor representatives reached a tentative agreement Friday on a five-year contract. The agreement still has to be ratified by union members but dockworkers were back in full force over the weekend, trying to make a dent in the backlog of containers at the West Coast’s 29 ports.

Jason Huffman has more: ‘It will take at least a month for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to go through the four steps required for it to ratify the agreement it reached with the Pacific Maritime Association late Friday night, said Craig Merrilees, ILWU’s spokesman. …But PMA has agreed to restore its weekend and night shifts, Merrilees said. …The workers will have to move a lot of cargo very quickly to dig out of the pile-up of containers at ports, and some in the agriculture industry say it will take several weeks or more to get back to normal.’ Full story:

Perez talks: And POLITICO’s Marianne LeVine chatted with Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who was sent to the West Coast last week as a last-ditch effort to try and broker a deal between the two groups. “I’m heartened that I’m back in Washington,” Perez told POLITICO, ‘and they’re not with me.” Read more:

WE’RE BACK TO MONDAY, AGAIN? Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Your MT scribe is happy to be back and ready to make an offer you can’t refuse after a snowy weekend that included double helpings of chicken chili and the Godfather I and II.

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.

“The car door slammed and they’re walking up the steps. I guess life is good with 10 seconds left…”

DOT ANNOUNCES DAILY TAKATA FINES: On Friday DOT began levying a daily $14,000 fine against airbag manufacturer Takata for failure to fully comply with federal investigators, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced. Takata dug in its heels in response, saying it was disappointed and disagreed with the federal action. “We are surprised and disappointed by the DOT/NHTSA letter and press release today, and we strongly disagree with their characterization that we have not been fully cooperating with the,” Takata said in a statement.

NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said the Japanese airbag manufacturer has provided the agency with about 2.4 million documents but hasn’t been very helpful with federal officials trying to decipher the information. ‘At this point, Takata has still not taken any steps to provide the agency with an explanation of the documents it has produced,’ NHTSA wrote in a letter to Takata. At least six people have been killed as a result of the defect and of the potentially 17 million cars on U.S. roads with the faulty airbags, only about 2 million have been fixed so far, Trowbridge said.

Recall bill wanted: During Friday’s announcement, Foxx and NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind also called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would require rental car companies and used car dealers to fix defects that are subject to a recall before renting or selling vehicles. “Requiring rental car agencies and used car dealers to fix defective vehicles before renting is a common-sense solution that would make our roads safer,” Foxx said. Later in the day Sen. Chuck Schumer said he plans to reintroduce a bill that would order rental companies to fix all defects before renting or selling cars.

PUT ME IN, COACH: At the conclusion of his East Coast bus tour at Union Station in D.C., Foxx used several sports metaphors to explain why a long-term surface transportation bill was needed. ‘We’re running the Wildcat on every down,’ he said, explaining the folly of passing dozens of short-term highway bill extensions. ‘When I was young enough and spry enough to play sports, I learned to run to where the ball was going,’ he said, yet again encouraging Congress to do more than simply fix the Highway Trust Fund. ‘We’ve got to get out of doing a single play formation every time we try to tackle our infrastructure problems.’

DOT chief touts transit safety proposal: Foxx was a busy guy on Friday, not only talking Takata fines and wrapping up his bus tour but also announcing a proposed rule that would help state governments set up independent agencies to oversee rail safety. ‘While the fact remains that transit is one of the safest ways to travel in the U.S., DOT believes we have a responsibility to improve safety not only here in Washington, but for all travelers across the country,’ he said, mentioning last month’s death of a WMATA passenger in a smoke-filled train near L’Enfant Plaza. Read more about the MAP-21 mandated proposal:

NEW ALPA CHIEF: LONG WAY TO GO ON DRONES- ?New Air Line Pilots Association President Tim Canoll thinks the FAA still has years to go before it’s ready to regulate the type of large drones that will regularly share airspace with commercial pilots. ‘I think it’s a long way off,’ he said at a breakfast with reporters on Friday. Canoll said technology could solve existing detect-and-avoid and latency issues, but proposed rules remain a long way off. As for the FAA’s recently proposed rules for small drones, Canoll said he wants the agency to require more geo-fencing technology to prevent drones from taking off near airports.

Mailbag: Speaking of ALPA… Canoll is sending a letter up to the Hill today asking lawmakers for ‘targeted and meaningful reforms’ to the Ex-Im Bank’s widebody aircraft financing. ‘ALPA supports the reauthorization and mission of the Bank; however, in the case of widebody aircraft, the Bank’s financing decisions are harming the U.S. airline industry and its workers’ ability to compete in the global marketplace,’ he writes. The current Ex-Im authorization expires at the end of June. Read the letter:


-Google and Apple fight for the dashboard. The New York Times:

-“U.S. struggles to build strong infrastructure.” Bloomberg View:

-States look for highway funding alternatives:

-Federal investigators get full access to West Virginia train derailment site over the weekend as investigation continues. The AP:

-Sen. Ron Wyden wants federal oil train rules to address newer tank cars like those involved in West Virginia derailment. POLITICO Pro:

-What’s going on with the D.C. streetcar? District streetcar sideswipes a car and catches fire during Saturday night test runs. The Washington Post:

-Pair of Metro smoke incidents over the weekend but no injuries reported. The AP:

-D.C. will get seven miles of new bike lanes in 2015. Greater Greater Washington:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 97 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 219 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 624 days.