Transportation News for April 20, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on April 20, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 4/20/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Rachael Bade, Heather Caygle and Tal Kopan

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS UNION DETAILS FAA ASKS: Folks from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association tell MT that their president, Paul Rinaldi, is going to divulge this morning what his union wants to see Congress accomplish in overhauling the FAA. The union has been clear that its members believe the agency’s current funding structure is lacking and that Congress needs to provide a stable stream of cash. But at an Aero Club of Washington luncheon downtown this morning, Rinaldi plans to lay out specifically what NATCA wants to see in the FAA revamp proposals lawmakers are now mulling. Luncheon details:
BEHEMONTH BUDGET GROUP GETS TO WORK: Aiming to finalize a spending blueprint, Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee will huddle this afternoon with five of their House counterparts to work toward a budget agreement that might stand a chance at passage — a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in more than a half-decade. As Pro reported last week, allowing so many senators in on the negotiations “could make for interesting talks given the internal divide about what to do on some controversial issues.”

PORT OFFICIALS COME TOGETHER: Port authority leaders begin to gather this morning at the Mayflower Renaissance in Dupont for a three-day conference hosted by the American Association of Port Authorities. Dozens of port officials will speak at the event, including leaders from Mexico, Colombia and Canada. And Peter Rogoff, DOT undersecretary for policy, will show up to address the conference on Tuesday afternoon, followed by remarks from Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zunkunft. Conference agenda:


Tuesday — The Senate Banking Committee hears from Federal Transit Administration head Therese McMillan. During the hearing, ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown is expected to make a push for stepping up requirements aimed at encouraging the use of American-made materials in taxpayer-funded transportation projects, a Democratic aide for the panel told MT.

The American Association of Port Authorities meets for the second day of its spring conference. And the CEO of Qatar Airways holds a press conference at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, followed by a Q&A session.

Wednesday — The American Association of Port Authorities wraps up its spring conference. House T&I holds a hearing on the Obama administration’s fiscal 2016 budget request for the Army Corps of Engineers and the TVA. The Senate Appropriations panel that handles transportation funding presses Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx about the Obama administration’s fiscal 2016 budget request for DOT.

Thursday — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration holds a meeting on minimum training requirements for entry-level drivers of commercial motor vehicles. The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board holds a meeting of the Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee on revising and updating accessibility guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act for transportation vehicles that operate on fixed guideway systems. The Eno Center for Transportation holds a Capitol Hill briefing on overhauling the U.S. air traffic control system.

Friday — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration meets again to discuss minimum training requirements for entry-level drivers of commercial motor vehicles. And the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board holds another meeting on updating accessibility guidelines under ADA.

IT’S MONDAY — SEIZE THE WEEK! Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

Tweet at me: @jascholtes. But don’t get too cheeky, ‘cus Big Brother — err, United Airlines — is watching and will really jam you up if you joke about being able to digitally deploy their oxygen masks: If Twitter’s not your thing, reach out via email:

“I took my car and drove it down the hill by your house / I drove so fast…”

NO POT OF GOLD TO SOLVE TRUST FUND WOES: Laying on some real talk, the Senate Finance Committee’s top Democrat, Ron Wyden, says lawmakers shouldn’t expect some “repatriation rainbow” to fix the Highway Trust Fund between now and the May 31 funding expiration. The senator says a legislative proposal for solving the funding crisis will likely be “ready to go before long,” though. More from Pro:

Short-term extension: Giving some more insight into congressional negotiations than some of the lawmakers themselves, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said last week that lawmakers are considering a short-term extension of highway and transit programs through the summer to bide more time for a long-term deal. “That’s a patch, it’s not a solution,” he said. “If they need a few more months, make them purposeful months.”

NORTHEAST RAIL STAKEHOLDERS SETTLE ON FIVE-YEAR CAPITAL PLAN: Amtrak, DOT and the Northeast Corridor Commission have finalized a plan for improving the region’s rail network over the next half-decade. A four-page summary of the plan: The full proposal:

LAWMAKERS QUALIFY PRAISE FOR CRUDE-BY-RAIL RULES: Still waiting on DOT to release a final rule on regulating the rail transport of crude oil, lawmakers are hedging their approval of the new restrictions the department just announced. “I wish the Administration had released the long-overdue comprehensive crude oil by rail final rule this morning, but these actions should help improve crude by rail safety,” House T&I Chairman Bill Shuster said in a statement on Friday. And his committee counterpart, Rep. Peter DeFazio, echoed with similarly qualified commendation, saying the new rules “are a good start,” but that “ultimately, we also need the final rail tank car safety rule.”

From the Senate, Dick Durbin said “these are steps in the right direction, but they are not enough,” while Chuck Schumer conveyed his applause with the caveat that “more must be done” to protect his constituents living along rail lines.

Preparing first responders: DOT is issuing safety advisories reminding shippers and carriers that product information must be immediately available to emergency responders in the case of a derailment. Federal Railroad Administration chief Sarah Feinberg said during an interview with MSNBC last week that “every fire department is going to be outmatched” in responding to an explosion of a railcar full of crude oil. “If you have a smaller incident, the firefighters have a chance. But the reality is, this product is explosive. It reacts violently,” the acting administrator said on The Rachel Maddow Show. “The best thing for first responders to do is be trained in how to respond to these incidents.”

Our Heather Caygle explains the new rules:

FTC LOOKS INTO RIDE-SHARING APPS: The Federal Trade Commission is scheduling a workshop for June to talk about ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, specifically citing “competition, consumer protection, and economic issues,” Pro’s Tony Romm reports:

STB WEIGHS IN ON MONTANA RAIL LINE: The Surface Transportation Board has just laid out its environmental assessment of the proposal to build 42 miles of new rail line in southeast Montana to move coal. The public gets 60 days to comment on the draft:

FROM HSGAC TO U.S. TRAVEL: Jena Baker McNeill joins U.S. Travel’s government relations team this morning as the group’s new senior director of government relations. Before this new gig, McNeill was deputy director for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and previously worked at the Heritage Foundation and the Chertoff Group. “The U.S. travel community evaluates every travel-related policy though the lens of safety and security, first and foremost, and Jenna’s background speaks directly to that emphasis,” Roger Dow, the U.S. Travel Association’s president and CEO, said in a written statement.

CALIFORNIA SENATORS LAY OUT TRAIN SAFETY ALTERNATIVE: Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have put forth their proposal to give railroads a few more years to implement an anti-collision safety system, but Heather explains that the extension is shorter than what is called for by legislation the Senate Commerce Committee agreed to last month. More on the newly introduced bill:

LOBBYING MOVEMENT: POLITICO Influence reports that these transportation clients have just terminated lobbying contracts: the Ship Agents Coalition, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, Chicagoland Speedway, Cleveland-Cuyahog County Port Authority and the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission out of Illinois. The lowdown:


— Zipcar finds urbanites, not just millennials, view car ownership as a pain. The Washington Post:

— Airlines slash routes to Moscow in latest sign of Russia’s growing isolation. Bloomberg Business:

— BMW sticks to China expansion plans despite marked slowdown in the Chinese economy. The Wall Street Journal:

— A transit-themed world’s fair may be coming to L.A. City Lab:

— First in flight? Connecticut stakes a claim. The New York Times:

— Dutch launch criminal investigation into Uber. Reuters:

— Police finally caught up with a minivan carrying four caged puppies on its roof after dozens of calls poured in to 911 centers in northeast Ohio. AP:

— 14 million bees spilled on highway in Washington state. The Seattle Times:

— Germanwings crash exposes history of denial on risk of pilot suicide. The New York Times:

— Ford to develop carbon-fiber material to reduce car weight and meet fuel standards. The Wall Street Journal:

— Mexico awards highway project to sons of banned contractor. Reuters:

— How car-reliance squeezes the middle class. City Lab:

— BMW recalls 91,800 Mini Coopers for air-bag fix. The Wall Street Journal:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 41 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 163 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 569 days.