Transportation News for March 17, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 17, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 3/17/2015

By HEATHER CAYGLE, with help from Kevin Robillard and Elana Schor

RISE AND SHINE, TODAY’S A DOOZY: MT readers, we’ve got a busy day ahead. The Chamber of Commerce kicks off its daylong aviation summit at 8 a.m., which includes keynotes and panels with about 30 industry CEOs (full agenda here: House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster will also address the group around 11 a.m. with his vision for the upcoming FAA reauthorization. (MT’s best guess is he’ll say it should be “transformational.” Bonus points if he works in an Adam Smith reference.) But before he heads to the Chamber, Shuster will be gaveling in the House Transportation Committee’s second hearing this year on the surface bill at 9:30 a.m. At the same time, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will be testifying before a House Appropriations panel on his agency’s budget for the upcoming year.
Make sure to eat a healthy lunch and maybe take a shot of caffeine because the afternoon is pretty busy too. Sir Tim Clark, Emirates Airline’s president, will hold a briefing at the National Press Club on the ongoing Open Skies battle between Gulf airlines and U.S. carriers. (Expect some Open Skies action at the Chamber’s aviation summit, too.) And TSA acting Administrator Melvin Carraway will testify before the Senate Commerce aviation panel in the afternoon. This will be Carraway’s first time testifying as head of the TSA, a position he assumed when John Pistole retired at the end of last year.

TRANSPO COALITION PUSHES BACK AGAINST DEVOLUTION: States would need to hike their gas tax by nearly a quarter per gallon on average if legislation devolving the federal highway program is enacted, according to an analysis by the Transportation Construction Coalition. The group analyzed the Transportation Empowerment Act, legislation introduced last Congress and backed by Heritage Action for America and other conservative groups. On average, states would need to hike their gas tax by 23.5 cents per gallon assuming road and bridge construction funding remains flat, according to the analysis. The coalition, made up of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the Associated General Contractors and other groups, opposes devolving the program back to the state level and giving legislators and governors control over road and transit construction budgets. See its nifty map:

-Heritage Action for America spokesman Dan Holler said the study actually helps his group’s political cause by reminding conservatives they subsidize liberal states: “The study demonstrates the inequity currently embedded in the system,” he wrote in an email. “It reminds folks in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma that they are subsidizing motorists in like California, Vermont and New York.” It’s worth noting the distinction between donor and recipient states isn’t as strong since Congress began patching the Highway Trust Fund using money from the general fund.

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SENATE CONFIRMS MONJE: The Senate confirmed Carlos Monje Jr. on Monday to serve as assistant Transportation secretary for policy. Monje’s confirmation was an easy one — he was confirmed 94-0. He has been a counselor to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx since 2014 and before that was special assistant to the president and chief of staff for the Domestic Policy Council for three years.

GREENS LOBBY W.H. ON RAIL RULE: One week after railroad industry players pressed the White House not to require more sophisticated braking systems in the upcoming oil train safety rule, green groups used their own meeting on Friday to urge that the much-anticipated DOT regulation be strengthened. ForestEthics, one of the environmental groups that attended an Office of Management Budget meeting on DOT’s forthcoming oil train rule, made the case that the analysis underlying the proposal downplays the economic and environmental risk of crude-by-rail incidents estimated to occur while the industry is permitted to phase out aging tank cars from fossil-fuel fleets. “The trends and track record over the past 3 years demonstrate that DOT has underestimated both the incidence of oil train disasters and the hardships they would bring,” Matt Krogh, ForestEthics’campaign director, wrote in notes prepared for the meeting.

NHTSA TO CRACK DOWN ON DROWSY DRIVING: “NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a speech in Chicago on Monday that the agency needs better data to measure the problem and wants to find ways to boost awareness and crackdowns of the unsafe driving behavior. Rosekind is a former NASA scientist and expert on human fatigue who previously was a member at the National Transportation Safety Board. He said NHTSA will work closely with states to learn what legal and enforcement strategies are most effective, beginning by looking at the impact in the handful of states that have passed laws specifically targeting drowsy or fatigued driving,” The Detroit News reports. Read the full story:

TRANSPORTATION FUNDING IN THE AGE OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES: Pro Energy with the deets: “A study from Carnegie Mellon University looks at one of the biggest long-term worries of transportation planners: the impact of electric vehicles on the gasoline taxes that contribute to state and federal highway budgets. The study lays out options for generating new revenue, including registration fees based on the vehicle’s price, like those being used in Colorado and Wyoming; a 2-cent-per-mile fee for travel by electric vehicles; or a fee of 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour on charging the vehicles themselves.” The full study:

(GAS) MONEY, MONEY, MONEY: We’ve heard about those low, low gas prices for months now. But do you know what folks are doing with that extra cash in their pockets? The Washington Examiner reports on a new Allstate-National Journal poll ( “About four-fifths of Americans said they saved money at the pump this year, with more than half using that windfall to cover basic necessities and pay off debt, according to a poll released Monday. … Fifteen percent of respondents said lower gas prices made a ‘huge difference’ on their financial situation. … Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said they were using gas savings to pay for everyday items, while 27 percent said the financial padding was helping avoid or chip away at debt.” Read more:


-The Wall Street Journal covers Open Skies: Gulf carriers are winning fans ( and U.S. airlines cite others’ experience in Open Skies fight (

-No shocker here: FAA predicts more people expected to fly in the coming years. Dive into the 20-year forecast:

-Family of ignition switch victim settles with GM for more than $5 million. The Wall Street Journal:; Plaintiffs in GM defect cases get access to previously confidential documents. Automotive News:

-Rep. Tim Ryan to Obama: Use trade talks as leverage for long-term transportation bill. Pro:

-Uber CFO stepping down, cites need for a “long break.” USA Today:

-Amtrak let millions in overpayments slip away. E&E: (h/t Bob King)

-Eno Center for Transportation’s NextGen Working Group has released its “statement of principles” on how best to modernize the air traffic control system. More here:

-What if a crude-by-rail accident happened in Chicago? Chicagoist:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 75 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 197 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 603 days.