Transportation News for February 26, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on February 26, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 2/26/2015

By HEATHER CAYGLE, with help from Kevin Robillard and Kathryn A. Wolfe

LONG-TERM DREAMS, SHORT-TERM FUNDING: With the May 31 deadline quickly approaching and no obvious solution to the transportation funding crisis, it can be pretty easy to get discouraged. But Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is back in coach mode and he doesn’t want to hear no for an answer. “The worst thing we could have is going over that deadline without a clear answer to where we’re headed,” he said, adding that a short-term patch isn’t the “inevitable” outcome. “When folks’ minds get fixed around a major problem, things can happen very quickly in Washington.”
But there’s a big problem — leaders of the House and Senate transportation committees have said they don’t want to move a long-term bill without the funding question answered. And the House and Senate tax-writing committees, the ones that have to answer that very tough question, haven’t taken any public steps toward doing so. And the main idea being floated — using repatriation to shore up the Highway Trust Fund — hasn’t exactly been embraced by the leaders of the tax committees, particularly outside of a tax overhaul.

DeFazio with the cold water: So where does that leave the Highway Trust Fund? MT went to House Transportation ranking member Peter DeFazio, a known pragmatist, for the real talk. “I would say that [Foxx] is the ultimate optimist — unrealistically, ultimately optimistic,” DeFazio said. “We need a short-term bill of some duration.”

TRANSPO TAG TEAM GETS ROLLING: EPW leaders Jim Inhofe and Barbara Boxer didn’t hold back at Wednesday’s hearing on the transportation bill, taking on critics of the federal funding program and other lawmakers who have been slow to act. The EPW chairman and ranking member provided a tag-team counterassault against two of the biggest roadblocks to a long-term surface transportation bill, with the Oklahoma Republican battling against a solution preferred by some of his fellow conservatives and Boxer prodding the rest of Congress — especially its tax-writing committees — to hurry up and find a solution. Read Kevin’s story:

Boxer: Lack of action a ‘disgrace’: While Inhofe mainly focused on laying out the case against devolution, Boxer turned her criticism toward other lawmakers and their lack of action as the May deadline looms. While the House Transportation Committee has also held a hearing on crafting a long-term surface transportation bill, the other committees that would need to sign off, including the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance, Banking and Commerce committees, have shown little sign of movement. “I think it’s a disgrace that there’s no long-term bill right now as we speak,” she told MT. “Except for this committee, no one seems to care and they ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

No ‘drug mules’ in final bill: Inhofe also revealed he and Rep. Bill Shuster have discussed ways to keep controversial riders from hitching on to a long-term bill — whenever it actually moves. Inhofe’s comments came after Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse fretted the House would attach such language, what he called the “drug mule theory of legislation.”

Boxer says Inhofe is the new Eisenhower: Boxer and Inhofe’s fondness for each other is well-known, but the California Democrat may have kicked it up a historical notch when she compared Inhofe to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States. “You’re a leader on national defense and you’re a leader on the Highway Trust Fund,” she said not long after Inhofe mentioned his admiration for the general who helped free Western Europe from Nazi control. “And that last person that brought [those] together was Eisenhower.”

Side note: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is scheduled to testify March 3 before the Commerce Committee on the DOT budget request, and the next day the committee’s infrastructure panel will hold a hearing on reauthorizing highway safety programs.

MT PREVIEW: THUNE TALKS TRANSPO—Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune will talk about his committee’s agenda for the year at a Newseum event this morning and MT was able to get a sneak peek: “Although I am passionate about technology policy, I have a fairly strong background when it comes to transportation infrastructure and railroads in particular … My goal on the transportation reauthorization bill is to make sure that congressionally directed safety policies reflect a broad outlook,” Thune will say, according to prepared remarks.

TAKE A DRINK FOR THURSDAY. Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

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

“All the stories he could tell, if this bus could talk…”

NHTSA ISSUES TAKATA PRESERVATION ORDER: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a preservation order requiring Takata to retain airbag inflaters that have been replaced as part of a recall, as evidence for the agency’s ongoing investigation and for private lawsuits. The preservation order ( also requires Takata to make sure NHTSA has access to testing data from any removed inflaters. The agency previewed the order last week when it announced daily $14,000 fines against Takata for failing to fully comply with the federal investigation.

Related op-ed: “Safety sacrificed in NHTSA revolving door.” USA Today:

NEW ICAO PROPOSAL ON CRASH DATA RECOVERY: Michael Lawson, the U.S. ambassador to ICAO, told a House committee Wednesday that the U.N.-chartered body has drafted new standards for recovering data after a plane crash that will “likely require changes or additions to aircraft equipment” that could take years to implement. The changes would be phased in sometime between 2019 and 2021 and isn’t scheduled to be adopted by ICAO until March 2016.


-Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch introduced legislation today aiming to increase the availability of replacement auto parts. The bill would alter the period in which automakers have exclusive control over an external collision repair part design from 14 years to 30 months and would allow aftermarket parts makers to begin researching, designing and testing said parts.

-Freshmen Sens. James Lankford and Gary Peters have introduced a bill that would encourage the use of remanufactured parts when fixing government vehicles. Peters and Lankford teamed up to introduce similar legislation when they were members of the House. “Upkeep on federal vehicles is a nearly $1 billion annual expense, and remanufactured auto parts are not only less expensive, they help save energy and reduce waste and pollution,” Peters said in a statement.

DeFAZIO HITS LEADERSHIP ON COAST GUARD: House Transportation Committee ranking member Peter DeFazio is blasting House leadership for potentially letting Coast Guard employees work without pay. “It is unbelievable that on the same day we held a hearing about next year’s Coast Guard budget request, the Coast Guard is preparing for a shutdown due to the Republican leadership’s failure to pass this year’s budget,” the Oregonian firebrand said in a statement. Rep. John Garamendi — who briefly challenged DeFazio for the ranking member slot — joined in on the statement.

What’s the impact? The Coast Guard’s 41,141 active-duty personnel won’t receive any paychecks after Feb. 28. That’s a heavy burden because unlike their Navy and Army counterparts, only 14 percent of Coast Guard employees live in government and military housing, putting them in immediate danger of failing to pay rent. And more than three-quarters of the Guard’s civilian employees will face a furlough. Here’s a fact sheet:

EX-IM FLY-IN: A group of about 40 Delta employees were seen swarming Capitol Hill on Wednesday, chatting with lawmakers about the airline’s opposition to the Ex-Im Bank’s financing for foreign carriers. The group, which includes Delta flight attendants, gate agents and pilot workers, is expected to be on the Hill today as well.

BISHOP LAUNCHES LOBBY SHOP: Former T&I member Tim Bishop has a new gig since being ousted from Congress in November, and true to his roots, it involves transportation. More from POLITICO Influence: “Bishop and government affairs and Capitol Hill veterans David Carroll, Steve Schultz, Steve Stallmer and Brett Heimov have launched Envision Strategy. The firm will focus on transportation, higher education, business development and health care issues. The firm has already signed clients including the New York Roadway and Infrastructure Coalition.”


-Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program makes the case for why now is the time for a national freight program:

-The Governors Highway Safety Association is out with a report showing that during the first half of 2014, about 2,100 people on foot were killed by cars (about the same number as 2013) and pedestrian fatalities remain 15 percent higher than five years ago. Full report available on the GHSA site:

-The World Economic Forum has a study on how to boost private-sector investment in infrastructure:

-Researchers at the College of William and Mary take a look at the shortage of aviation maintenance workers:


-Must read: “TSA issues secret warning on ‘catastrophic’ threat to aviation.” The Intercept:

-United sends safety warning to pilots after several serious cockpit errors. The Wall Street Journal:

-Rep. Janice Hahn wants federal inquiry into the Pacific Maritime Association following port standoff. Long Beach Press-Telegram:

-Regulators are considering lifting the ban on long-haul flights from LaGuardia Airport. The Wall Street Journal:

-Maine Interstate shut down after 75-car pileup. USA Today:

-AUVSI has a nifty graphic showing how the number of applications to the FAA for commercial drone exemptions has greatly outpaced the number of approvals:

-The D.C. domain where taxi drivers still rule: airports. WAMU:

-The deets on Oregon’s VMT pilot program. The Container:

-U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council responds to Delta VP over Open Skies dispute:

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