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By JENNIFER SCHOLTES
GARAMENDI PLANS BILL TO FORCE LNG EXPORTS ON U.S. SHIPS: Rep. John Garamendi tells MT that he expects to introduce a bill in the next month that would force liquefied natural gas exporters to use U.S.-built ships and American sailors. The congressman, who is set to give a speech this afternoon about the idea at a maritime industry conference in Northern California, argues that U.S. national security depends on revival of the Merchant Marine and on the U.S. shipbuilding industry being able to sustain the demand for military ships. “Build the ships in America, in American shipyards, and put American sailors on the ships,” he told us. “We’re probably looking at 100 — maybe 200 — or more ships over the next 20 years that could be built in the United States if we were to write 16 lines of law. That’s all it takes. … It will not happen unless Congress acts.”
Republican support: The Democratic congressman says he is crafting the bill along with some of his Republican counterparts, and that a GOP lawmaker may even be the lead sponsor. “There’s a significant number of Republican members of Congress that represent the shipyards that could be building these ships,” he said. “I’ve talked to them, and they have an interest in the legislation, and they may carry the legislation. … You’re going to see this happening. This is a big deal for the United States shipbuilders and the Merchant Marine. There’s a lot of support out there, so we can make it happen.”
Previous attempts: Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of T&I’s subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, partnered with Garamendi last Congress in introducing a bill (http://1.usa.gov/1HTcttN) that would require DOT to create a program for promoting LNG exports on U.S.-flag vessels and to give top priority to processing licenses for facilities at deep-water ports that will export on American ships. Garamendi also tried earlier this year to amend (http://1.usa.gov/1ObOUjt) an LNG permitting bill with language that would force the use of U.S. flagged vessels until 2020 and the use of U.S.-built and flagged vessels thereafter.
LAWMAKERS RALLY FOR ‘STAND UP FOR TRANSPORTATION DAY’: Sen. Dick Durbin and four of his Illinois colleagues from the House will join local transportation leaders this morning to talk up efforts to move forward with an overhaul of the Highway Trust Fund and to ensure transportation authority gets re-upped before the May 31 expiration date. The lawmakers will hold their press conference at Union Station in Chicago alongside leaders from Amtrak, Pace bus service, the city’s Regional Transportation Authority and the Metra rail system. The gathering is one of the highest-profile events held for “Stand Up for Transportation Day,” a nationwide push powered by the Voices for Public Transit coalition. Check out the other transportation events being hosted across the U.S. today: http://bit.ly/1yX1sCz
‘Woeful tales of highway disrepair’: “Common sense tells us that it will cost a lot less to keep the system we have in good repair than to let it disintegrate and have to start from scratch,” Rep. Dan Lipinski, whose district includes a chunk of southwest Chicago and the suburbs, is prepared to tell Illinoisans at the press conference this morning. After so many temporary extensions of surface transportation authority in recent years, “the backlog has gotten bigger, the funding gap has grown and the system just gets more expensive to fix,” Lipinski will explain. “Anyone who’s driven the family car lately knows what it’s like to hit a pothole. Woeful tales of highway disrepair have become part of the trucking lore. Bridges are crumbling from under us in many of our older cities while growth is being stifled in our newer ones.” Reps. Mike Quigley, Bill Foster and Bob Dold also plan to speak at the press conference.
THURSDAY — ALMOST THERE: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.
If you’re reading this while trudging up a broken Metro elevator, fret not. A WMATA spokesman tells MT that the agency plans to announce at a finance meeting today that it is going to replace those moving stairways with a slice of the nearly $150 million in grant funding the Federal Transit Authority has just promised for improving safety and reliability of the rail system. Because those grants get matching funds, Metro is culling nearly $300 million and plans to also use the cash to swap out old railcars.
Give me a shout: @jascholtes or email@example.com.
“Looking for an exit and a song that I might know. Counting down the memories and adding up the miles.” http://bit.ly/1Cj3I8A
** 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. www.standup4transportation.org **
NTSB SHARES GULFSTREAM CRASH DETAILS: The NTSB has released about 800 pages of documents from its investigation into the plane crash last year in Massachusetts that killed newspaper and sports team investor Lewis Katz, as well as six others flying on his private jet to Atlantic City after a party at the home of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. The trove of paperwork includes a transcript of the cockpit voice recorder and investigation interviews: http://go.usa.gov/3DBuQ
Katz was co-owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer when he died. And on Wednesday, the newspaper used the NTSB records to describe the moment when the pilots suddenly realized they had tried to take off with their tail elevators locked: “‘Lock is on,’ the pilot said over and over, seven times in all, as the aircraft accelerated down the runway at Hanscom Field, outside Boston. His next and last words were, ‘I can’t stop it,’ then ‘Oh no no.’” The Inquirer’s full story: http://bit.ly/1Cy9txU.
Pilots neglected pre-flight safety checks: The NTSB documents also showed that Katz’s personal pilots almost never performed the required pre-flight safety checks. Bloomberg Business reports: “There were only two occasions out of the last 176 trips of Katz’s Gulfstream IV in which the pilots bothered to fully test the flight controls before takeoffs, according to preliminary reports …. While the NTSB isn’t yet ready to assign definitive blame for the cause of the crash, the hundreds of pages of documents it released paint a picture of two pilots repeatedly failing to follow basic safety procedures.” The full story: http://bloom.bg/1GNt1Vm
New safety alerts: Looking to apply lessons learned from recent accident investigations, the NTSB also issued four safety alerts this week, calling on pilots and maintenance workers to make sure flight control and trim systems are properly rigged and for pilots flying in mountainous regions to prepare with proper training. The advice: http://1.usa.gov/1Dk86be
TRANSPO GROUPS TAKE SIDES ON HIRE-LOCAL PROPOSAL: DOT is giving the public an extra month to weigh in on whether the department should allow state and local agencies to give hiring preference to locals and to target certain demographics for work on federally funded transportation projects. So groups on both sides of the debate are now trying to ensure they’re heard in this extended window.
Specific guidance, please: The Jobs to Move America coalition supports the proposed policy change but is urging the department to make sure it provides specific guidance for different types of contracts and creates separate criteria for targeted hiring initiatives than for efforts to hire locals. “The evidence shows that if grantee agencies are allowed to apply innovative contracting language to all of their procurements, the job creation and economic development impact of that investment will grow substantially,” the group said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx this week: http://bit.ly/1IuoRDX
Worries of limited competition: The American Road and Transportation Builders Association has balked at the plan, saying this week that the proposal would “increase costs, decrease competition, and could actually result in less frequent hiring of minorities and women.” The builders group argues that giving hiring preference based on residency would limit competition in bidding processes, geographic-based hiring searches could force companies to choose workers who are not qualified for their positions and the residency-based model could dilute the impact of existing requirements aimed at increasing employment of women and minorities.
AIG SCORES DRONE EXEMPTION: AIG has joined the list of insurance companies with a pass to fly drones to check out properties for claims and risk assessments, our Kathryn A. Wolfe reports. The FAA has already granted drone exemptions to Allstate and State Farm. And like other companies, AIG had already started testing drones in countries with more lenient regulations. “AIG is committed to continuous improvement and innovation in providing better, faster, and safer risk and claims assessments to our customers,” said Eric Martinez, executive vice president of claims and operations at AIG. “Leveraging cutting edge technologies like UAVs can enhance our ability to assess and mitigate risks to better help our customers and their communities prepare for and rebuild after a catastrophic event.” http://politico.pro/1Cy69TB
‘BRIDGEGATE’ INDICTMENTS NEXT WEEK?: The New York Times has reported that indictments could come down “as early as next week” in the federal investigation into the potential political motivations behind the closure of the George Washington Bridge in 2013: http://nyti.ms/1CWjJUw. Dana Rubinstein of Capital New York explains that the indictment prediction follows news this week that David Samson is retiring from his law firm. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appointed Samson as chairman of the state’s Port Authority, where he was posted during the bridge closings. http://politico.pro/1JqdVVA
PhRMA LAUNCHES AD CAMPAIGN AT DCA: POLITICO Influence reports that PhRMA is taking its “From Hope to Cures” campaign to Reagan National Airport. The ads at the American and US Airways terminals are part of a push to highlight biopharmaceutical innovation. They feature a lung cancer survivor, as well as a 4-year-old fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia. See the ads here: http://politico.pro/1a5Ie7c and http://politico.pro/1NTR05F
THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):
— L.A. mayor envisions greener, more walkable city in the future. AP: http://abcn.ws/1HSYtjB
— Why more airports are luring international flights. The Wall Street Journal: http://on.wsj.com/1CWUfX4
— To save lives, shake up traffic signs. CityLab: http://bit.ly/1DL7M7E
— GM stops production of first generation Volt. The Wall Street Journal: http://on.wsj.com/1JqpXyb
— Ride-sharing companies begin to lobby Texas state lawmakers, rather than cities, for fewer restrictions. AP: http://abcn.ws/1JqrxQC
— China to start keeping a list of badly behaved tourists. The Wall Street Journal: http://on.wsj.com/1CWUCRp
— American Airlines and U.S. Airways take big step in merger. LA Times: http://lat.ms/1yeZMJT
— For some teenagers, 16 candles mean it’s time to join Uber. The New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1IutVrW
— Private equity’s big bet on shipping falters as deal boom ends. Bloomberg Business: http://bloom.bg/1ObWLO3
— Tesla to upgrade slower-selling version of Model S. The Wall Street Journal: http://on.wsj.com/1NVcGhL
THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 52 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 174 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 580 days.Tags: transportation