Transportation News for March 23, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 23, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 3/23/2015


THE WEEK AHEAD: This week on the Hill, Amazon will get to gripe about the FAA’s drone policies and the TSA should expect some PreCheck complaints. Here we go.

–Monday: The Japan International Transport Institute is hosting a 2 p.m. discussion on “Challenges for Railroad Improvements and Projecting New Lines” at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Representatives from the East Japan Railway Company and Amtrak will speak.
–Tuesday: The day kicks off at 10 a.m. House Transportation aviation subcommittee on reforming the air traffic control system. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, the Reason Foundation’s Bob Poole and National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi are among the witnesses.

At 2:30, the Senate Commerce aviation subcommittee starts its work on an FAA authorization bill with a hearing on UAS. Amazon, whose application for drone testing was approved last week, is sending Paul Misener, its global vice president for public policy, to testify. FAA associate administrator Margaret Gilligan, NTIA associate administrator John Morris and GAO aviation expert Gerald Dillingham will also testify. Jeff VanderWerff will represent the American Farm Bureau Foundation.

All day long, the NTSB is hosting a forum on preventing trespassing onto train tracks at the board’s L’Enfant Plaza headquarters. The Federal Railroad Administration said 476 people died and 432 were injured in trespassing accidents in 2013.

–Wednesday: The NTSB’s trespassing forum continues.

And at 10 a.m., the House Homeland Security Committee’s transportation security subcommittee holds a hearing on the agency’s popular PreCheck program and risk-based security approach. John Roth, the inspector general for DHS, and TSA Chief Risk Officer Kenneth Fletcher will testify. Expect some questions about a GAO audit that found TSA gave PreCheck privileges to a “notorious felon.”

At 2:30, the Senate Commerce Committe will markup two major rail freight bills. Committee Chair John Thune’s STB reauthorization bill will get a hearing, as will legislation from Sen. Roy Blunt that would extend the deadline for railroads to implement Positive Train Control.

–Thursday: The House and Senate are in session, but things are quiet otherwise.

–Friday: The Cato Institute hosts a discussion of the upcoming surface transportation bill with some like-minded libertarian folks in the Rayburn building. Cato’s own Randal O’Toole, the Reason Foundation’s Baruch Feigenbaum and CEI’s Marc Scribner will participate.

MAN WHO ATTACKED TSA AGENT WITH MACHETE DEAD: Richard White, 63, was shot by Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies after he attacked a TSA checkpoint Friday night with a machete and wasp spray. He also had Molotov cocktails, gas bombs and smoke cylinders in his car. He died on Saturday. One TSA agent was wounded by a weapon fired at White. It’s not clear if the attack was political. “No one at this point in time has any notion about what may have triggered this behavior,” Sheriff Newell Normand said. “And not unlike dealing with the mentally ill, sometimes you will never know what actually triggers some of this type of behavior.” CNN:

WE KNOW. IT’S MONDAY. Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

I’m filling in for regular host Heather Caygle, who spent her weekend in Alabama. Find me @politicokevin and krobillard at politico dot com. Heather will be back tomorrow. She’s @heatherscope and hcaygle at politico dot com. Jennifer Scholtes, the newest member of Team Transpo, is @jascholtes and jscholtes at politico dot com. And as always, follow @morning_transpo and @POLITICOPro.

“Train kept a-rollin’ all night long…”

** A Message from Americans for Fair Skies: The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are subsidizing their airlines and shredding the Open Skies Agreements they signed. Their actions have resulted in the largest trade violation in history. Action must be taken to restore fairness to our skies. Learn more at **

APTA GIVES D.C. STREETCAR THE GO-AHEAD: The American Public Transportation Association has found no “fatal flaws” with the D.C. streetcar project, an important step on the way to the project’s long-delayed opening. A peer review panel found nothing critically wrong with the project and will release a draft report in mid-April. “This letter from APTA underscores DDOT’s guiding principle for the DC Streetcar that it will only open once it is deemed safe,” said D.C. DOT Director Leif Dormsjo said. “The APTA peer review helped give us a pathway toward a Streetcar service that can meet safety certifications and the needs of passengers that it will eventually serve.”

NEW YORK SUBWAY FARES RISE: A ride on the New York City subway jumped from $2.50 to $2.75 on Sunday at midnight, the tolls on the city’s bridges and tunnels will jump up to $5.54 if you have EZ-Pass or $8 cash. The MTA approved the toll hikes back in 2009, planning on hikes every other year. The toll hike comes amid some bad press for the system. A New York Times story focused on mounting delays: And the New York Post, in a bit of tabloid excess, declared “the subways are worse than ever.”

DOT ENFORCES RECALL-REPORTING RULES: Wrapping up an investigation into the largest-ever car seat recall, DOT announced Friday that it has slapped Graco with $10 million in fines for not acting quickly enough in reporting faulty child seats. After Graco recalled more than 4 million seats early last year and another 2 million over the summer because their buckles were getting stuck, the department launched an investigation in December to determine whether the company owned up to the defects within five business days of discovery, as required by law. Graco will only have to pay $3 million of that sum, as long as it spends the extra $7 million on efforts to improve child safety over the next five years.

UNMANNED SYSTEMS CAUCUS RELAUNCHES: Reps. Joe Heck and Dan Lipinski are relaunching the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus. “Transportation technology is moving at a rapid pace, quickly advancing the use of autonomous and remote-controlled vehicles, commonly called ‘unmanned’ systems,” Lipinski said. “The movement of people and goods is being transformed and new commercial opportunities are being developed every day.” The co-chairs and AUVSI President Brian Wynne are co-hosting a panel discussion on drone use in agriculture on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the Congressional Visitors Center.

JUSTICES HEAR REBEL YELL FOR VANITY PLATES: The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in the legal battle between Texas’ DMV and the Sons of Confederate Veterans over whether the state can refuse to include the Confederate battle flag on license plates, the Dallas Morning News reports: When the Supreme Court agreed in December to hear the case, the Christian Science Monitor explained that “the underlying issue in the case is whether state-authorized vanity license plates are a form of government speech or are, instead, the private speech of drivers who agree to pay extra registration fees to display a particular message on their vehicles”: While a federal judge initially sided with Texas on the issue, a federal appeals court ruled that the state’s refusal was in violation of the First Amendment.


-The family of a man who died in a truck crash that injured comedian Tracy Morgan will get $10 million in a settlement. DNAInfo:

-Uber drivers in Colombia are being ambushed by taxi drivers shouting “Death to Uber!” Bloomberg:

-New York City’s taxi industry wants to propose a cap on the number of Uber drivers in the city. USA Today:

-Beloved PDX carpet named “grand marshal” of Portland parade. The Oregonian:

-California announces $69 million winning bid for demolition of Bay Bridge. Oakland Tribune:

-Tesla CEO calls Model S “sophisticated computer on wheels.’ LA Times:

-Atlanta transportation officials are offering toll credits for drivers who opt instead for public transportation on occasion. Washington Post:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 69 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 191 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 597 days.