Transportation News for May 28, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on May 28, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 5/28/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Heather Caygle and Victoria Guida

SAFETY PROGRAMS ARE HURTIN’ TOO: It’s not just transit workers and road builders that suffer when Congress decides to lurch from one Highway Trust Fund extension to another. Folks and companies involved in road safety equipment — think highway markings, road signs and guardrails — are also negatively affected by the string of extensions that’s come to define the federal transportation program. “We are very, very frustrated,” said Scott Seeley, chairman of the American Traffic Safety Services Association, the trade association for groups that design, create and install road safety material. Without long-term funding certainty, states are hesitant to green-light transportation projects, including those that make the roads safer. “It’s an economic hit. So for our members, the projects are not out there. They’re not putting down the stripes, they’re not putting up the signs, they’re not putting up the guardrails,” he said.
‘A true user fee’: Like many other transportation advocates out there, Seeley says it’s time for lawmakers to embrace the obvious solution: gather some political courage and raise the gas tax. “I understand the political dynamic. … My frustration is I don’t buy any of those arguments. It is a true user fee,” he said, adding that the direct correlation between paying the gas tax and seeing new road projects is something tangible that the U.S. public can glom onto. “Someone has got to have the political will to put that on the table. … I have to believe that this is something the American public would support.”

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TRUCK SAFETY GROUPS JUMP ON WAL-MART CRASH SETTLEMENT NEWS: Truck safety advocates are taking another swing this week at congressional efforts to allow bigger trucks and tweak driver workweek definitions, jumping on news Wednesday that Wal-Mart has reached a settlement agreement with Tracy Morgan over the crash last year that injured the actor and killed his friend. In his lawsuit against the retailer, Morgan claimed Wal-Mart was responsible for the fact that the truck driver who hit the vehicle in which he was a passenger had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time and that the federal safety violation was a regular practice for the company. “Unfortunately, crashes like this one involving a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel will continue to kill and maim innocent families if Congress continues to pander to the wishes of special trucking interests,” Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said in a written statement. “By large majorities the public does not support any of these changes being pushed by special interests behind closed doors.”

Wal-Mart’s statement on the settlement: A refresher on the THUD spending measure House appropriators approved last month with language on truck weight and length exemptions, as well as hours-of-service rules: The bill:

FAA RETHINKS PILOT MENTAL HEALTH REPORTING: Citing the Germanwings crash this year and the Malaysia Flight 370 disappearance last spring, the FAA announced Wednesday that it will join with aviation and medical experts to study mental health reporting for commercial pilots, aiming to emerge with information that can guide the agency in considering new rules for “medical methods, aircraft design, policies and procedures, pilot training and testing, training for Aerospace Medical Examiner, or potential actions that may be taken by professional, airline, or union groups.” The Pilot Fitness Aviation Rulemaking Committee is expected to hand down recommendations within six months.

FOXX SAYS EDUCATING LAWMAKERS IS KEY TO TPA PASSAGE: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx continues to stay out front in the Obama administration’s campaign to get the “fast track” trade promotion authority bill through Congress, strategizing how to get enough House lawmakers onboard to move the Senate-passed measure through the lower chamber. “We’re … working to educate members of Congress to make sure we have the best possible shot at getting this done quickly on the House side,” the secretary told reporters during a conference call Wednesday. More from Pro:

Port pressure: The American Association of Port Authorities sent a letter Wednesday to House leaders, urging them to make TPA passage a priority. “The prosperity of the United States is inextricably entwined with that of the rest of the world and international trade agreements provide stability and equity enabling increased trade,” the letter says. “AAPA believes this legislation will help open the door to new markets for American goods and services, boost U.S. economic growth and support well-paying jobs nationwide.” The letter:

READ UP ON HOW REAGAN RAISED THE GAS TAX: Those gunning for an increase in the gas tax can now view the guidebook on how President Ronald Reagan and the 97th Congress were able to hike the unpalatable fee to pay for transportation infrastructure. Transportation guru Jeff Davis admits that lessons from his new report “may not be able to raise the current gas tax, but they are just as valuable today as they were 30-plus years ago.” Check it out:

REALITY TV SUBJECT ARRESTED FOR THREATS AGAINST METRO: “Kidd Cole,” as he has dubbed himself online, was arrested Wednesday on charges of making terrorist threats against Metro stations, buses and trains in the D.C. area. Jerez Nehemiah Stone-Coleman was exposed last year on MTV’s reality show “Catfish” for his efforts to pose online as a recording artist to impress women. WMATA’s police communications division said it received eleven 911 calls between mid-December and mid-May, conveying specific information about bomb threats or hostage situations in the Metro system. Among the false threats, according to WMATA, the caller in January claimed people “from France” told him they planned to ambush the president’s motorcade to assassinate him that night and had placed bombs around the Potomac Avenue Metro station. That station was subsequently shut down during bomb sweeps. Two days later, the caller stated he and his friends planned to take hostages on Metrobus 6149 and would kill if not paid $15 million ransom, WMATA said.

RAILROAD-CROSSING SAFETY GROUP TAPS NEW STATE LEADERS: Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit group that advocates for action to prevent railroad-crossing accidents, has appointed Nancy Sheehan-McCulloch as state coordinator for California, Sara Logan as assistant state coordinator there and Margaret Wood Cannell as state coordinator for North Carolina. Sheehan-McCulloch has worked for the organization for six years and previously served as northern region coordinator. Logan was southern region coordinator before this. And Cannell has experience in environmental engineering, economic development and nonprofit management, according to the nonprofit.

COMMUNICATIONS GROUP SCOOPS UP FORMER DDOT COMMS DIRECTOR: Communications firm Stratacomm announced this week that Karyn Le Blanc is joining the group as a senior vice president, leading the firm’s Infrastructure Practice Group started June 1. Le Blanc has served as communications director for the District Department of Transportation, where she worked for eight years. Most recently, she was communications director for the Downtown Business Improvement District. More on Le Blanc and her new gig:


— When will self-driving trucks destroy America? Bloomberg View:

— New insurance product will fill a gap for UberX, Lyft and Sidecar drivers. LA Times:

— With ‘attitude shift’, Takata moves from denial to compromise in airbag crisis. Reuters:

— Copper wire theft causes subway headaches for thousands of NYC-area commuters. Wall Street Journal:

— Metro might hire outside consultant for ‘wall-to-wall’ management review. The Washington Post:

— U.S. safety agency urges pilots to avoid distracted flying. Reuters:

— Ford recalls thousands of vehicles over power steering. AP:

— Aston Martin seeks women drivers, luxury tag. Wall Street Journal:

— Car fatalities on the rise this year. The Washington Post:

— Air France jet in near miss with giant volcano in Cameroon. AP:

— Union pacific moves to offset lower cargo volumes. Wall Street Journal:

— Toward the peaceful coexistence of buses and bikes. CityLab:

— Uber gets big win in Nevada as Legislature OKs bill authorizing service. LA Times:

— GM to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on Chevrolets. Wall Street Journal:

— Porsche’s wealthy buyers in China choose cheaper models. Bloomberg Business:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 65 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 126 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 532 days.