Transportation News for March 11, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 11, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 3/11/2015 

By With help from Kevin Robillard and Marianne LeVine

MT SCOOP: TSA CHIEF COMING TO THE HILL — Acting TSA Administrator Melvin Carraway is set to testify before the Senate Commerce aviation subcommittee next week, MT has learned. This will be Carraway’s first time testifying on the Hill since assuming the lead at TSA following Administrator John Pistole’s retirement in December. The hearing, led by Aviation subcommittee Chairwoman Kelly Ayotte, will focus on proposed changes to the TSA PreCheck program, alleged misconduct by federal air marshals and the president’s budget request. The afternoon hearing gets under way Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL: The aviation panel will be very busy over the coming months. In addition to TSA oversight, the subcommittee is also gearing up for a series of hearings on the FAA reauthorization. “We’re going to have five hearings, starting this month and the rest of next month,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, the subcommittee ranking member, told Kevin. “Our staffs have been talking, but I don’t know if people have been discussing the actual language,” Cantwell added. Kevin also caught up with Ayotte, who said she’s been in contact with the House about the pending reauthorization. Her T&I counterparts have been working on their version of the FAA bill for much longer, over the past year or so, although most of that work has been behind the scenes.

RAILROAD LOBBIES W.H. AFTER DERAILMENT: “Just one day after a 105-car oil train derailment spilled as much as 150,000 gallons of crude in Illinois, the railroad involved in the accident urged the White House not to require they use sophisticated new brakes under a much-anticipated final fuel-by-rail safety rule. The Friday meeting with BNSF Railway and six other railroads had been scheduled before the fiery derailment in Galena, Ill., and it followed meetings earlier in the week between the Office of Management and Budget and both oil industry representatives and manufacturers of the tank cars used to ship crude from the shale-rich Bakken region of North Dakota.”

Documents the railroads brought to the White House meeting showed they have significant concerns about a possible DOT mandate on electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, which can stop tank cars in a unit train more quickly than older air brakes that stop each car individually.” Elana Schor with the can’t-miss story:

UPHILL BIKE BATTLE UNLIKELY: National Bike Summit attendees can breathe a sigh of relief. Kevin caught up with Senate EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe, who says while he would prefer not to have bike/pedestrian programs in the transportation bill, he also knows how to keep it real. “I would be one to fall into that category, but I’m also a realist,” Inhofe said when asked about calls from conservative groups to remove the programs. “And I know that in this environment we have right now, we won’t be able to do what I would like.”

More from the man: “The argument conservatives are using — and some of these conservatives are running for a higher office, so they’re motivated a little differently than I might be — is that anything that doesn’t directly relate to gasoline shouldn’t be a part of this. You can argue that about mass transit and a lot of other things.” But Inhofe said he didn’t see “any danger” of the bike programs being removed from the bill as a result of conservatives’ talk.

Mendez at Bike Summit: Summit attendees will be listening to several presentations this morning on the outlook for bicycling in this Congress. First up is Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez, who goes on around 8:30 a.m. After him, there will be video presentations from Bike Caucus co-chairs Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Vern Buchanan.

WOO-HOO, WE MADE IT TO WEDNESDAY: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Your MT host is feeling the burn after trying a Zumba workout for the first time last night. It’s no joke! Can someone pass me an ice pack?

Let’s chat! Send scoops, tips, complaints and transpo trivia my way or @heatherscope. And don’t forget to follow @Morning_Transpo and @POLITICOPro.

“She traveled this road as a child, wide eyed and grinning, she never tired…”

THAT ELUSIVE STB BILL: The Senate Commerce Committee is supposed to mark up a Surface Transportation Board overhaul bill sometime this month, but committee Chairman John Thune tells MT it might not happen until sometime in April. “We’re debating right now whether to try and do a markup before or after [the break],” Thune said Tuesday. The Senate will be in session for two more weeks before jetting off for a two-week Easter/Passover break starting March 30. “We’re still working the bill but I think there’s a good amount of interest in moving it. More likely after [the break] I’d say.”

OVERNIGHT RELEASE: SPRING AIR TRAVEL PREDICTION — Planning to fly sometime over the next two months? Well, you aren’t alone. Airlines for America is out with its spring travel forecast and nearly 135 million people are expected to fly on U.S. airlines during March and April, a 2 percent increase over last year. A4A also released performance data for 2014. Collectively, the 10 U.S. airlines reported $7.3 billion in profits. And good news for consumers, airlines completed 98 percent of flights last year, with about 75 percent arriving on time.

TEAMSTERS SUE DOT OVER MEXICAN TRUCKING: The Teamsters union has filed a lawsuit against DOT over the long-standing issue of whether Mexican carriers should be able to operate in the U.S. beyond the border zone. Specifically, the group is targeting a report published by DOT following the October 2014 conclusion of a two-year Mexican trucking pilot program. The report determined that Mexican carriers operate just as safe as their U.S. and Canadian counterparts within the United States and paved the way for a more permanent long-haul trucking program.

More on the lawsuit: The Teamsters, along with the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition, allege the report violated the Administrative Procedure Act “because its conclusion … is arbitrary and capricious in light of the admitted lack of significant data from a pilot program Congress required DOT to conduct.” The lawsuit was filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Read more:

BOEING COMPLIANCE RULE DELAYED, AGAIN: A World Trade Organization panel says it needs even more time to decide whether the U.S. has complied with a 2012 ruling faulting its subsidies to Boeing. And by more time, try sometime in 2016. “The panel, in a notice ( released Tuesday, says it now doesn’t expect to issue its opinion until the middle of next year. The ruling in this decade-old dispute, which is the companion to U.S. litigation against the European Union for its subsidies to Airbus, has been repeatedly delayed because of its size and complexity. The Airbus ruling isn’t expected until the end of this year,” reports Victoria Guida.


-Harried parents look to Uber to shuttle their kids around town. The Washington Post:

-Apple CEO Tim Cook sidesteps shareholder love for Tesla. Bloomberg:

-Aerospace company Exelis to offer drone tracking system. Reuters:

-Jon Stewart mocks CNN over its drone coverage. The Huffington Post:

-NTSB: Engine in Harrison Ford’s plane failed on takeoff. USA Today:

-Texas leads U.S. in airport gun confiscations. Bloomberg:

-Solar-powered plane lands in India during second leg of around-the-world trek. The AP:

-Drunk guy falls in between two Metro cars but remarkably escapes unharmed. The Washington Post:

-Bikers shut down highway to save loose dog. Jalopnik:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 81 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 203 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 608 days.

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