Transportation News for May 8, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on May 8, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 5/8/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Heather Caygle

WITH NO PLAN OF THEIR OWN, TOP DEMS TRASH GOP OVER TRANSPORTATION: In the spotlight, Senate Democratic leaders like Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer are bad-mouthing Republicans for not delivering a big-picture plan for transportation funding. But they are reluctant to admit that their own party isn’t unified on pay-fors either and quick to forget that they too failed to enact a sweeping overhaul of the transportation funding scheme during their tenure in the majority. That partisanship has not plagued all of the upper chamber’s members, though. Behind the scenes, a few lawmakers from each party are trying to get their colleagues to settle on the length of a short-term patch and to begin conceptualizing that long-term strategy that has been so elusive in recent years. Sen. Tim Scott described the situation best this week when he said his caucus is “struggling” to sort this out. “Please pray for us,” he said Thursday. “We need some help.” More from Pro:
Indiscriminate criticism: The outside groups pushing for Congress to come through with a multi-year plan are certainly not blaming just one party for inaction. The American Road and Transportation Builders Association has partnered with the American Public Transportation Association to launch a radio campaign targeting congressional leaders from both parties in their home districts. The groups are running 30-second spots in states and districts represented by Republican and Democratic leaders in both chambers, as well as the heads of the Senate Finance Committee.

“For the past seven years,” the ads say, “our presidents and the Congress have added over $50 billion to our nation’s debt … just to maintain current road and public transit funding. Now they’re talking about doing it again. That puts a huge burden on future generations. And it’s wrong. It’s guaranteeing our kids will have worse debt, … traffic congestion and poor infrastructure. Tell [Congressman/Senator…] you’re tired of funny money politics and budget schemes on transportation. It’s not fair to our kids.” Listen for yourself:

V-DAY FLYOVER FILLS D.C. SKIES: DCA’s airspace will be closed off from noon to 1 p.m. today as a fleet of 56 World War II aircraft take to the skies of the nation’s capital to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the day the Allies accepted Germany’s surrender. In sight from the National Mall, the planes will swoop in 15 formations representing the war’s major battles. Look to the clouds around noon to watch the spectacle live from pretty much any spot in D.C., or catch it online:

FOXX HOPS ABOARD SILVER LINE: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will ride the Silver Line this morning with Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, traveling five stops to the end of the line in Reston, where they will hold a press conference about the need for investment in public transportation. Around the same time, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission will be hosting a forum on the region’s transit network, across from the Greensboro stop on the Silver Line. Comstock is set to speak at that event too, along with Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne and Sen. Tim Kaine, as well as Reps. Don Beyer, Barbara Comstock and Gerry Connolly.

INNOVATING IN THE FIELD OF DRIVERLESS CARS: Jonathan Margolis, the acting deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, will trek to Dupont this morning to talk about driverless cars at Brookings. The panel will focus on how the U.S. and Germany are promoting innovation and influencing regulations for that industry. Check it out:

THAT FRIDAY FEELING: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

Today, MT is really digging this sassy cartoon Bloomberg Business drew up to show how Detroit-based Shinola has executed its vision of making an all-American bike:

Reach out: or @jascholtes.

“I can be the train and you can be the tracks.” (h/t Adam Snider)

FAA ASKS AIRPORT NEIGHBORS ABOUT NOISE: The FAA announced this week that it will soon start contacting people living near airports to get a sense of how they feel about noise from planes flying around their homes. The agency says the effort will be “the most comprehensive study using a single noise survey ever undertaken in the United States.” Communities around 20 of the nation’s airports will be surveyed, but the FAA says it can’t disclose which will be chosen, in order to preserve the scientific integrity of the study.

DOT POLICY WONK CHIDES NEW YORK FOR TRANSIT INACTION: DOT’s Peter Rogoff scolded New York state’s policymakers on Thursday for failing to fund a five-year plan to keep the region’s transit system up to snuff. “We in Washington may have foolishly thought that something as fundamental as the MTA capital plan would certainly have a solution by now,” said Rogoff, DOT’s undersecretary of transportation for policy. More from Dana Rubinstein for Capital New York:

TENNESSEE AUTO UNION ASPIRES FOR GERMAN-LIKE ORGANIZING: Fostering a little German labor culture in the states, the United Auto Workers Local 42 plans to formalize a works council at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., and become the exclusive representative for the plant’s workers. Pro’s Brian Mahoney explains that “works councils are common throughout Europe and especially in Germany, where VW is located. They are cooperative bodies in which managers and workers meet to discuss a variety of issues affecting the plant and its workers. Volkswagen USA has already established a sort of proto-works council in Chattanooga. … But there are limits under U.S. law on how closely VW may follow the German works council model without recognizing a union to represent workers.”

CRUDE TREATMENT PROBABLY WON’T PREVENT MANY EXPLOSIONS: DOT says North Dakota’s new pre-treatment standard for Bakken oil “will not have a drastic effect” in reducing fire and explosions from train derailments since most of the state’s crude already has a vapor pressure below the state’s aim of 13.7 pounds per square inch. Our Kathryn A. Wolfe explains: DOT’s final regulatory impact analysis:

BROOKINGS PITCHES INDEXING GAS TAX TO INFLATION: In an infrastructure funding report released Thursday, the Brookings Institution proposes indexing the federal gas tax to inflation and linking it to changes in the price of oil. Pro’s Katy O’Donnell reports that, under the proposal, “the tax would rise when the price of gasoline falls — and vice versa — in order to limit the economic consequences of fluctuations in the after-tax retail price of gasoline. The authors suggest setting a floor and ceiling on the variations.” More on that: The report:

DOT TRIMS DERAILMENT DAMAGE PREDICTION: The cost of damages from oil train derailments over the next 20 years might not be as bad as DOT initially estimated. The final analysis the department published with its new oil train rules states that projected damages will probably be around $3 billion through 2034, rather than the $4.5 billion first estimated in the draft analysis. Kathy explains that “the difference mostly seems due to two major adjustments — one, the draft analysis used a cost of $300 per gallon spilled with an average of just over 83,000 gallons spilled per incident, while the final rule uses an estimated cost of $200 per gallon spilled. … Additionally, the final analysis also takes into account that the industry has voluntarily committed to building jacketed CPC-1232 cars for crude oil service going forward, which PHMSA estimates will be expected to grow to 34 percent of the fleet by 2019 even without more regulations.”

LOBBYING ACTION: POLITICO Influence reports that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has hired Forbes-Tate to lobby on a number of issues — Pilots Bill of Rights 2, General Aviation Pilot Protection Act and any legislation affecting aviation aircraft owners and pilots. The group spent $2.5 million on lobbying last year.

MT MAILBAG: Chamber of Commerce posts and business groups from throughout the country have been writing to Cabinet officials and congressional leaders in recent weeks, siding with U.S. airlines in the fight over Open Skies agreements with Qatar and UAE. One of the most recent letters, penned by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, states that — if U.S. leaders don’t take action to stop what the groups say are unfair subsidizes to foreign airlines — “the effects of this uneven playing field will radiate outward from major airports across the country and threaten businesses large and small throughout the U.S.” The lot of letters:


— Banned from driving, Saudi women turn to Uber and other ride-share apps. LA Times:

— In the fight to prevent cars and other vehicles from hitting pedestrians on city streets, San Francisco has a “secret weapon.” Route Fifty:

— Mobile apps get picked up by independent truckers for better routes. The Wall Street Journal:

— China blacklists four people for misbehaving while traveling. AP:

— With bended knee, Rosslyn hosts a marriage proposal. The Washington Post:

— Op-Ed: Here’s one bit of infrastructure we can’t afford to neglect anymore. Crain’s Chicago:

— Raise the gas tax? Proposals for highway spending go outside the lines. The Wall Street Journal:

— Verizon partners with Lyft to preload app on select Android phones. LA Times:

— New Mexico’s commuter rail line faced with financial burdens. AP:

— Chinese authorities visit Uber’s Chengdu office. Reuters:

— Houston’s urban interstate debate: Transform, or tear down? CityLab:

— European Commission and Parliament want to give Uber a free ride. POLITICO Europe:

— Foreign car makers hit China sales speed bump. The Wall Street Journal:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 23 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 145 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 551 days.