Transportation News for April 30, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on April 30, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 4/30/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES and HEATHER CAYGLE, with help from Kathryn A. Wolfe

KEEPING TABS ON AIRPORT SECURITY CRACKDOWN: The TSA’s acting administrator will testify before Congress this afternoon for the first time since the Department of Homeland Security decided to tighten screening requirements for airport and airline employees this month following completion of a review triggered by allegations of gun-smuggling by airline employees. The agency’s interim chief, Melvin Carraway, will sit before lawmakers on the House Homeland Security panel that handles aviation issues, answering questions about what the TSA is doing to ensure airports are sufficiently locked down. Watch the hearing live at 2 p.m.:
Access control: Subcommittee Chairman John Katko says the subcommittee is looking for feasible ways to implement recommendations laid out in the report ( the Aviation Security Advisory Committee just finished on airport access control measures. Shortly after that document was released this month, the department announced that all airport and airline employees traveling as passengers must now go through TSA security screening and employees will be subject to random screening throughout the workday, among other new rules. A refresher on the policies:

Breaches abound: Those policy changes also come after The Associated Press released data this month showing there were at least 268 perimeter breaches at the nation’s 30 busiest airports from the beginning of 2004 through 2015. That report here:

TANK CAR RULE ON THE HORIZON: The DOT is gearing up to release on Friday the final version of a much-anticipated rule strengthening tank car and operating standards for trains carrying crude oil. And although federal officials wouldn’t confirm the announcement first reported by Reuters (, the stars seems to be aligning for a Friday reveal: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and his Canadian counterparts are due to meet in Washington that day, and acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg has canceled travel plans previously scheduled for then, according to a railroad lobbyist.

Hill reaction: Several lawmakers said they have yet to be briefed on the final rule but are looking forward to its unveiling. House Transportation ranking member Peter DeFazio said details of the rule didn’t come up in his meeting with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Wednesday (more details on that meeting below), but the DOT chief promised to brief DeFazio before the regulation was rolled out. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin told Heather he hasn’t seen the final rule but has been pressing DOT to finish the regulations as quickly as possible. “I’m anxious to see it,” Durbin said in an interview. “I met with the secretary and told him that we’ve got to deal with this and deal quickly. This generation of tank cars is not safe enough.” Pro with the story:

LAWMAKERS STUMP FOR U.S. AIRLINES IN OPEN SKIES TIFF: Four House lawmakers gather this afternoon to vocalize their support for U.S. airlines in their battle to get the Obama administration to renegotiate Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the UAE, citing allegations that the Gulf nations provide unfair subsidies to their own carriers. At a press conference, Reps. Dan Lipinski, Bob Dold, Frank Pallone and Tom Emmer will join airline employees to rail on what they say are improper perks detracting from the U.S. economy.

IT’S THURSDAY, THANKFULLY: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

As Distracted Driving Awareness Month winds down, the feds are making one more push today to encourage people to tweet about the risks with the hashtag #justdrive. For some guaranteed RT love, add me to those tweets: @jascholtes. Props to @HinghamPolice for this one:

“Hailed a cab, passed out cold before you told the driver where to go, so he drove you around Chicago…”

** A message from the Auto Care Association: The auto care industry is a coast-to-coast network of more than 500,000 independent manufacturers, distributors, parts stores and repair shops that keep every motorist moving. Our four million employees generate 2.3 percent of America’s gross domestic product. Our network delivers products at the speed that keeps America’s cars on the road. **

THE FANATASTIC MR. FOXX: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and among his agenda items was a meeting with the House T&I ranking member to talk shop on a short-term extension. Foxx supports a clean policy patch that goes into the summer, but DeFazio is lining up with other House lawmakers in support for a longer extension that could possibly go until the end of the year (and would require more funding). “He advocated the July date. I told him I didn’t think that would work, that some states wouldn’t go with that,” DeFazio told Heather after the meeting. The Oregonian said the idea of doing a clean policy extension into July, as supported not only by Foxx but some senators, is flawed because lawmakers are unlikely to reach any long-term agreement between now and then, and that type of patch leaves states with uncertainty because it doesn’t take up the funding issue until mid-summer.

Ways and Means talks highways: House Ways and Means Republicans discussed highway funding during their weekly lunch on Wednesday, and members seem to be generally supportive of a year-end patch, although no final decision has been made. “We’re where Chairman Shuster is from a timing standpoint, a construction schedule; … our committee is prepared to help Chairman Shuster meet his goals, short and long term,” Ways and Means member Kevin Brady said. House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster said Tuesday that he’d like a short-term deal that at least keeps the Highway Trust Fund solvent through September or later.

BALLOONS? BIRDS? GYROCOPTER? SAME DIFFERENCE: Knowing now that the federal government’s radar system can’t tell the difference between a gyrocopter and flocks of birds, lawmakers will surely be hounding NORAD to get moving on its plans to improve its ability to identify low-altitude, low-speed aerial vehicles flying the capital region. The gyrocopter a Florida mailman flew for roughly 30 miles in restricted airspace that landed on the Capitol lawn this week produced a radar blip indistinguishable from the “small dots” of non-aircraft radar tracks marking “flocks of birds, weather events or occasional kites or balloons,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told House lawmakers on Wednesday. More from Pro:

THUD SAILS THROUGH SUBCOMMITTEE: A fiscal 2016 transportation spending bill that keeps funding relatively flat and contains several controversial policy riders easily sailed through the House Appropriations THUD subcommittee Wednesday morning. But Democrats vowed to take aim at some controversial policy riders during the full committee markup, which could happen in May after the House returns from a weeklong recess. House Appropriations ranking member Nita Lowey criticized the policy riders in her opening remarks, saying they belong in an authorizing bill, not funding legislation. “Christmas came early for the trucking industry — longer, heavier trucks; stalled enforcement of hours-of-service rules; and inadequate insurance requirements,” Lowey said. “Controversial riders, including those on foreign policy that we will discuss in full committee, have no place in an already difficult appropriations process.”

And in the other corner: An ATA spokesman hit back at Lowey’s remarks, telling MT: “These provisions are not by any means an early Christmas present for trucking, but if enacted into law they will help millions of Americans receive their holiday gifts from a safer and more efficient industry.”

‘Shortsighted’ WMATA funding: Lawmakers who represent districts near D.C. were not pleased with the line item the spending panel laid out for funding WMATA. Nine D.C.-area legislators complained in a statement about the $75 million the bill would provide for the Metro system in 2016 — a sum that’s half what WMATA usually receives each year. More from Kathryn:

ALPA CITES WIN ON OPEN SKIES: The THUD markup wasn’t just a victory for the trucking industry, it was also a victory for opponents of Norwegian Air International’s bid to operate in the U.S. — if you ask industry group ALPA. “The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l commends the members of the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee for affirming its broad opposition to any foreign air carrier permit application that conflicts with the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement,” the group said in a statement, pointing to specific language in the spending bill that would seem to do just that.

Not so fast: But loyal MT readers will remember a skirmish between NAI supporters and opponents in December after both sides claimed victory based on identical language in the cromnibus spending bill. A throwback from Kevin: “Depending on whom you talk to, the cromnibus either opens up American skies to Norwegian Air International or prevents the low-cost airline from offering its services.” More:

MORE MONEY FOR HARBOR MAINTENANCE FUND: Working late Wednesday night in an effort to scoot through appropriations bills, the House passed an amendment to the fiscal 2016 spending bill for energy and water programs, signing off on an additional $36 million for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which helps pay for operation and maintenance at ports and harbors. Rep. Janice Hahn, who co-sponsored the amendment, noted in a floor speech Wednesday night that the Army Corps of Engineers has recommended fully funding harbor maintenance tax for five years to fully dredge the nation’s ports. “Americans expect to go to Target and have tennis shoes or toys on its shelves,” Hahn said. “Our farmers need efficient ports to export our agriculture products. And we cannot let America’s infrastructure crumble.” The amendment:

‘BRIDGEGATE’ UPDATE: CHRISTIE ALLY EXPECTED TO OWN UP IN COURT: The latest in the “Bridgegate” scandal unfolds as the interstate projects director New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appointed is expected to plead guilty to criminal charges as early as Friday. Bloomberg News reports that the anticipated move would suggest David Wildstein “may be cooperating with prosecutors probing traffic jams he ordered near the George Washington Bridge.”


— FAA raised questions about Andreas Lubitz’s depression before Germanwings crash. The New York Times:

— Mexico Moves to Regulate Use of Drones. AP:

— NYC’s MTA bans all political advertising, citing hate speech. Capital New York:

— Glitch in iPad app delays dozens of American Airlines flights. The LA Times:

— A top fundraiser for Obama turns from Wall Street to drones. Bloomberg Politics:

— U.S. ports see costly delays as cargo ships, volumes grow. The Wall Street Journal:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 31 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 153 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 559 days.

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