Transportation News for April 7, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on April 7, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 4/7/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Tarini Parti, Marc Caputo and Kathryn A. Wolfe

PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION CARAVAN BEGINS: Six Republican T&I members and five state transportation secretaries will gather in Pittsburgh this morning to begin an ambitious two-day road trip across Pennsylvania. Just today, the group plans to travel 230 miles, holding press conferences and meetings in four different towns before making it to Harrisburg before nightfall. Check out all the pit stops:
Broader perspective: House T&I Chairman Bill Shuster, who is leading the tour, says his home state “certainly has some significant infrastructure needs,” and the group will be looking at some of those local issues, spurring “broader discussions about how other regions of the country are looking at and thinking about addressing these same critical issues. The more voices and perspectives we can hear, the more likely we are to come up with the best solutions.”

NTSB: HASTEN REPLACEMENT OF OIL-HAULING RAILCARS: The NTSB is pushing DOT to pick up the pace in upgrading and switching out railcars that carry flammable liquids such as crude oil and ethanol, warning that tank cars currently being used are not equipped to prevent the kind of explosions that have followed derailments in recent months. Kathryn explains that the board has even questioned the safety of the newer, safer model of tank car that energy and rail industries have promoted: The NTSB is calling for all railcars that transport highly flammable liquids to be equipped with thermal protection systems and sufficient pressure relief valves. The board’s recommendations:

Applause from Capitol Hill: Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Ron Wyden were quick to commend the NTSB for slapping down the recommendations, urging OMB to wrap up the rulemaking process. “It is my hope that the next step from the administration will be a strong DOT rule that will get these cars upgraded quickly, or get them off the tracks completely,” Wyden said in a written statement.

Railroad industry rallies behind recommendations: The Association of American Railroads has thrown its backing behind tougher rules for tank cars. “The nation’s freight railroads have long advocated for tougher federal rules on tank cars and believe that every tank car moving crude oil today should be phased out or built to a higher standard, including thicker shells, thermal protection, appropriately sized pressure relief devices and other enhancements,” the group said in a statement Monday. “The freight rail industry supports an aggressive retrofit or replacement program and believes final regulations on new tank car standards will provide certainty and chart a new course in the safer movement of crude oil by rail.”

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

By the looks of his Twitter feed, it appears Russell Crowe is among us in D.C. this week: “Well, well, your nations Capitol putting on a splendid day. 17km bike ride in the sunshine.” Is it not a bit showy to plump out that distance with foreign metrics? For those using American measurements, that’s a little over 10 miles of pedaling for the New Zealand-born actor. While you’re checking out Crowe’s Twitter musings (, follow me: @jascholtes or fill my inbox:

“The kid guns the gas, car starts to swerve, heads for a semi-truck, jumps the curve. Truck hits a Big Boy in the Shoney’s parking lot, flies through the air, takes out the bank clock…”

** A message from APTA, American Public Transportation Association: It’s time to make public transportation infrastructure a priority. On April 9, communities around the country will “Stand Up for Transportation” and tell Congress that infrastructure investment is critical to their local economies. Congress: Fix the Highway Trust Fund and act now on a long-term transportation bill. **

COAST GUARD CONTRACT BIDDER THROWS RUBIO BASH: Campaign Pro reports that the owner of Eastern Shipbuilding is said to have hosted a “hush-hush” fundraiser Monday night for Marco Rubio. It just so happens that the senator is chairman of the Commerce Committee panel that oversees the Coast Guard and that the shipyard is one of three companies vying to design the next generation of the service’s Offshore Patrol Cutter — a contract worth $10 billion. “A secretary at Eastern confirmed that Rubio was touring the shipyard Monday and that he was to attend the fundraiser,” Pro reports. “One source invited to the fundraiser said donations are broken down by host ($10,000 contribution), VIP ($5,000), and attendee ($1,000).” The shipyard’s owner was also in talks last spring to participate in a $100,000-per-head fundraiser for Jeb Bush, but scheduling conflicts got in the way.

IAM OPTS FOR DO-OVER IN DELTA UNION ELECTION: Looking for a clean slate after its application practices were questioned, an AFL-CIO trade union has withdrawn its application for organizing Delta flight attendants. Pro’s Marianne LeVine reports that the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers nixed its application after discovering a number of election cards had questionable signatures and contained insufficient information: “By our calculation, the number of questionable cards makes our showing of interest borderline,” the union wrote in a blog post Monday: “However, rather than waiting months for a determination, … we believe the best course of action is to avoid further delay and withdraw our current application, renew our organizing drive and file again 12 months from the date of the dismissal of our application, as is permitted by law.”

REID WARNS OF TRANSPORTATION FUNDING CRUNCH: In his first home state appearance since his exercise accident on New Year’s Day, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told his Nevada constituents on Monday that the state will need to get scrappy to finish a highway connecting Las Vegas and Phoenix since federal transportation funds are waning. The AP reports: “Reid addressed a crowd gathered near the Hoover Dam for a groundbreaking ceremony, touting construction of a $318 million bypass that planners hope will be the first section of the Interstate 11 corridor. He said that a shortage of federal transportation funding means the project leaders will need to be creative to make sure there’s enough money to finish the project. … Reid criticized President Barack Obama for pushing back against congressional earmark spending. Reid said such appropriations are important ways to secure funding and that he used an earmark to jump-start work on the bypass.” The full story:

LOBBYISTS LOCK UP TRANSPORTATION CLIENTS: POLITICO Influence reports that new registrations have been filed to represent GM, Erickson Aviation, Boeing and freight logistics company J.B. Hunt Transport. Check it out:

NTSB ADDS ANOTHER SMOKE INCIDENT TO METRO INVESTIGATION: The NTSB is adding a second incident involving smoke and electrical arcing on Washington’s Metro system to its ongoing investigation of a similar incident in January that killed a passenger, Kathryn reports: The second incident, in February, involved an Orange Line train that reported smoke in the tunnel as it approached the Rosslyn stop. No one was injured. The NTSB plans to hold a fact-finding hearing June 23-24 “to further explore the range of issues” involved in the ongoing probe.

MOVING ON UP: Airlines for America made Jeffrey Miller its managing director for flight operations this week, luring him from his post as vice president of operations for U.S. cargo airline Ameriflight. Miller has worked in operations roles for National Airlines, AirTran and the Air Force, where he ended his two-decade military career as a deputy operations group commander.


— Virgin America entices viewers to sit through lengthy ‘Blah Airlines’ film with promise of flight miles. LA Times:

— Federal judge dismisses lawsuit alleging creators of Cartoon Network show copied DOT marketing campaign. Houston Chronicle:

— Canada Sells Remaining Stake in General Motors. The Wall Street Journal:

— Asian air industry struggles with safety after decade of growth. AP:

— Marijuana Creates Colorado Cargo-Hauling Niche. Bloomberg Business:

— Business travelers are bypassing the taxi queue with greater frequency, opting for Uber. AP:

— Coast Guard closes part of Mississippi River after ships collide. Tribune wire:

— Oil-train shipments decline following stall of U.S. energy boom and safety problems. The Wall Street Journal:

— Sen. Dean Heller tells Nevada legislature he is focused on passing legislation to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent. AP:

— In Myanmar, sidecars are still a popular mode of transportation. LA Times:

— Lufthansa indicates it had no obligation to report Germanwings co-pilot’s past depression. AP:

— How many human pilots are really necessary aboard commercial planes? One? None? The New York Times:

— Short-term deal keeps Amtrak route between Chicago and Indianapolis open. Tribune wire:

— Southwest Airlines CEO gets 24 percent boost in compensation following record year. AP:

— Government panel finds Boston transit plagued by high costs, absenteeism. AP:

— Equipment manufacturers association: Paul Ryan can help find long-term fix for roads. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 54 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 176 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 582 days.