Transportation News for April 22, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on April 22, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 4/22/2015


FOXX DELIVERS FUNDING PITCH AHEAD OF APPROPRIATIONS SEASON: During Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s exchange with Senate appropriators this morning, the DOT head is expected to rehash the Obama administration’s dreams for fiscal 2016 funding, laying out how he wants Congress to track its forthcoming DOT appropriations with the goals of the department’s six-year, $478 billion Grow America plan.

Legislators on the transportation subcommittee are likely to disagree with Foxx, as usual, on the administration’s proposal to fold rail programs into the Highway Trust Fund. The secretary will likely field questions about the White House’s request to pare back funding for new efforts to help shore up crude-by-rail safety. And Foxx is expected to make the case for boosting spending on transit, asking appropriators to fulfill the administration’s request for $18.4 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, which is a more than $7 billion jump from the roughly $11 billion FTA received in fiscal 2015.
Tune in live at 10 a.m.: The Obama administration’s fiscal 2016 budget request:

IT’s EARTH DAY! — AND WEDNESDAY: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

Send me your Earth Day transpo photos — anybody riding a pogo stick to work will get an H/t tomorrow for sure. You know what to do: @jascholtes or

“I pulled over to the side of the highway and watched his taillights disappear.”

UBER’S BREAKTHROUGH IN EUROPE: On a continent where governments have been largely opposed to ride-sharing services, Brussels could soon drive change by becoming the first city to embrace Uber. POLITICO Europe reports that the move could be “a small victory with large symbolism. … Legislation currently being drafted by Brussels mobility minister Pascal Smet, and expected to be passed by January 2016, would turn Uber’s 700 drivers into independent contractors, who would pay income taxes. … While Brussels (with about 1.1 million inhabitants) is a relatively small capital city, the move is bold and reverses the city’s ban on Uber last year. The California-based company has faced violent protests in Brussels, as well as in Paris, Madrid and Berlin. Last month, a German court banned Uber and said it would slap lawbreakers with heavy fines.” More from POLITICO’s new hub in Belgium:

NEW CERTIFICATION CONTROLS COMING IN FAA BILL? The FAA reauthorization bill senators are crafting just might include new mandates aimed at keeping certification rules consistent across the country for aviation products and planes. Sen. Kelly Ayotte hinted at that possibility on Tuesday, saying it is “problematic” that implementation of certification rules sometimes differs among regions, and adding that “this is something we can fix and we must fix.” Our Kathryn A. Wolfe has more:

DOT OFFICIALS ‘DON’T REALLY GET’ CONGRESSIONAL FUNDING HABITS: Peter Rogoff, DOT’s undersecretary for policy, railed on Congress while talking to port authority officials on Tuesday. The top policy wonk said DOT officials find it “very depressing” that lawmakers are willing to pay the political price of digging up money to provide temporary transportation funding but won’t go all out in making long-term infrastructure investments. “We disagree with the policy. But frankly, we don’t understand the politics either,” he said. “What we don’t understand is people who want to say, all right, we have to take the bullet or rip off the Band-Aid — or use whatever metaphor you want — to actually go in and raise real revenue for transportation, but we should only raise enough to ensure that conditions continue to deteriorate.”

MCCAUL: EUROPE’S WEAK TRAVEL SECURITY IS ‘ACHILLES HEEL’: House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul is calling on the Obama administration to work with European countries to step up their use of watch lists to prevent aspiring terrorist from making their way to the United States. In an op-ed for Fox News, the chairman writes: “EU law forbids blanket screening of citizens, meaning that EU nationals are rarely checked against terrorist watchlists when they travel — even though thousands of them have fought alongside extremists in Syria. Compare this to America, where a U.S. citizen flying home is checked run against the watchlist at multiple stages. … To protect America, we must push our border security outward. That means working with our foreign partners in Europe and beyond to urgently fix their security deficiencies — before more extremists leave the battlefield and set their sights on our city streets.”

U.S. AIRLINES SWING AT GULF CARRIERS WITH FINANCIAL ROUNDUP: The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies released its own rundown this week of subsidies it claims Qatar and Etihad airlines are taking from their governments, building up the group’s argument for the U.S. to reopen negotiations under Open Skies agreements with Qatar and UAE. “The information in the financial records already in the possession of the U.S. government provide indisputable proof that Qatar and the UAE are funneling massive amounts of money into their state-owned airlines in a calculated effort to undermine Open Skies policy and any semblance of fair competition,” Jill Zuckman, chief spokesman for the group, said in a written statement. “We believe that the $42 billion in subsidies and other unfair state benefits that our investigation uncovered is just the tip of the iceberg.” The group’s report:

The Air Line Pilots Association also chimed in with criticism of the Gulf carriers: “It’s time for the United States to tell the UAE and Qatar that a deal is a deal,” the group’s president, Tim Canoll, said in a statement. “We need our government alongside us in the fight for a strong and vibrant U.S. airline industry.”

The anti, anti-consumer: On the other side of the fight, Business Travel Coalition Chairman Kevin Mitchell wrote Tuesday that “DOT needs to see these hyper-aggressive airline behaviors and strategies for the anti-consumer activity that they represent.” The Gulf carriers stimulate demand in the U.S. travel market, offer consumers more choice, lower fares and pressure U.S. airlines to improve their services, Mitchell argues. “These are all telltale signs of a functioning competition and an Open Skies policy delivering anticipated outcomes.”

BLUMENTHAL PLANS BILL TO TAKE ON GM ‘INJUSTICE’: Likely cobbling together several ideas he proposed last Congress, Sen. Richard Blumenthal plans to introduce a bill he says will take on GM’s “injustice” in providing compensation to those injured or whose family members died in accidents after faulty ignition switches failed to trigger airbag deployment. Our Heather Caygle has more:

SENATORS URGE UNIFORMITY IN TRANSIT SAFETY STANDARDS: Senate Banking Committee lawmakers are calling for more uniform federal safety standards to address issues highlighted by the smoke incident that killed one Metro passenger and sent dozens to the hospital in January. “There ought to be some level of common standards,” Sen. Mark Warner told acting FTA Administrator Therese McMillan on Tuesday. The senator said he hopes to address the issue in a multiyear transportation reauthorization this year. Heather’s got the details:

BP’S CEO TRUMPETS SCALE AND SPEED OF GULF SPILL RESPONSE: POLITICO’s Darren Goode, reporting from Houston this week, writes that BP CEO Robert Dudley pushed back Tuesday at criticism that the Gulf of Mexico isn’t recovering as fast as the company contends. “While not perfect, no company has ever done more faster to respond to an industrial accident,” Dudley said at an energy conference.

LOBBYING MOVEMENT: POLITICO Influence reports that Georgetown Rail Equipment and American Rivers have just started new lobbying contracts. NORCAL Water Jobs Liberty has registered as a PAC. And these clients have just logged lobbying terminations: Southwest Airlines, the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, Air Canada, the Arizona Department of Transportation, the American High Speed Rail Alliance, the Mississippi State Port Authority of Gulfport, and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. The details:

MT MAILBAG: Knowing lawmakers are thinking now about what they want to put in their FAA reauthorization plans, airport industry leaders sent a reminder note this week about their request for Congress to raise the cap on passenger facility charges that fill the Airport Improvement Program fund used to spiff up the nation’s flight hubs. “Because every flight in the United States begins and ends at an airport, it is essential that airport priorities are included in any plan to transform air traffic control in order to prevent any negative impact on an airport’s ability to serve their customers through well-documented infrastructure development needs,” leaders of the American Association of Airport Executives, as well as the Airports Council International — North America, said in the letter. The groups sent their request to both House and Senate lawmakers. The House version:


— Connecticut Indian tribe to build casino at Korean airport. AP:

— BP should buy Tesla and its batteries. Bloomberg Business:

— Lawsuit alleges driving danger from smartwatches. The Chicago Tribune:

— Judge: Pro-Israel group can post ‘killing jews’ ads on buses. AP:

— Trinity’s guardrails said to be at center of federal criminal probe. Bloomberg Businesss:

— NHTSA prepares steps to speed up Takata, Jeep recalls. Automotive News:

— Op-ed: A danger on rails: Transporting highly flammable crude oil. The New York Times:

— NYC subway ridership grows to highest point in 65 years. AP:

— 8 critical rail projects that Amtrak can’t afford. CityLab:

— D.C.’s streetcar won’t be a free ride for long when it eventually gets rolling. The Washington Post:

— Low wages, trade deals luring auto plants and jobs to Mexico. AP:

— Lockheed boosts 2015 forecast as aircraft margins improve. Bloomberg Business:

— German industry body says train strikes may cost 100 million euros a day. Reuters:

— Uber complies with German ban on unlicensed cab drivers. Reuters:

— Clay modelers shape the future of auto design. AP:

— State’s Hochstein: Energy production won’t be foreign policy lever. Pro:

— Wisconsin Senate OKs ride-hailing regulations. AP:

— Mexico competition watchdog probes airline sector. Reuters:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 39 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 161 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 567 days.