Transportation News for June 1, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on June 1, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 6/1/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Heather Caygle, Tarini Parti, Cate Martel and Matt Yurus

FOR FEINBERG, INITIAL SUPPORT COMES WITH HIGH EXPECTATIONS: Now that President Barack Obama has officially chosen acting Federal Railroad Administration head Sarah Feinberg to run the FRA more permanently, lawmakers will be looking to the nominee to make commitments about drastically rerouting the course of an agency that has lagged in implementing NTSB recommendations and congressional mandates.
Our Heather Caygle reports that the nomination drew praise on Friday “from lawmakers who have been among the FRA’s harshest critics. But they also made it clear they want to see changes. … Lawmakers have been reluctant to criticize Feinberg during her temporary tenure, instead mostly keeping silent or offering praise about her Capitol Hill outreach. But her lack of prior rail experience before joining DOT in 2013 could get closer scrutiny as she moves through the confirmation process.” More from Pro: A refresher on Feinberg’s lack of railroad experience:

Hot seat: Feinberg will testify before House T&I on Tuesday, alongside NTSB Chairman Chris Hart and the head of Amtrak, about last month’s fatal derailment in Pennsylvania. Some rail experts have said the Obama administration’s slowness in nominating a permanent FRA leader could hamper federal response to the accident:

Foxx’s praise: After serving as an executive at Facebook and Bloomberg, and as a White House aide to Rahm Emanuel, Feinberg joined DOT as Secretary Anthony Foxx’s chief of staff. On Friday, Foxx said in a written statement that Feinberg “has already proven to be a steady and capable leader at FRA, and especially during the tragic Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, where she remained on site throughout the initial rescue and recovery efforts. … FRA will benefit from her ability to cut red tape and get things done.”

THIS WEEK: House leaders remain iffy about whether the THUD spending bill will actually make it to the floor by week’s end. But the big debate will begin today, regardless, since lawmakers will duke it out over their favorite line items at tonight’s Rules Committee meeting: Off the floor, transportation-focused legislators have a lot of watchdogging on the agenda this week, with hearings on the Takata recall and last month’s Amtrak derailment.

Monday — Standing beside the Memorial Bridge this afternoon, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell hold a press conference with lawmakers about how hard-up that particular structure has become and how Congress should invest in transportation infrastructure. Rep. Don Beyer, Sen. Tim Kaine and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton will join the secretaries, along with National Parks Director Jonathan Jarvis. During the event, D.C.’s delegate plans to detail a new bill that would authorize $460 million annually for the National Park Service’s federal lands transportation program and create a program called the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Transportation Project program, with an authorization of $150 million annually.

The House Rules Committee meets tonight to set parameters for floor debate on the House’s THUD spending bill: And EPW subcommittee head David Vitter brings it home today for a field hearing in Baton Rouge on relieving traffic congestion and improving roads, with testimony from Louisiana Transportation Secretary Sherri LeBas:

Tuesday — Newly nominated FRA administrator Sarah Feinberg, NTSB Chairman Chris Hart and the head of Amtrak testify before House T&I about last month’s derailment in Pennsylvania: And a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hears from NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind and Takata’s executive vice president about the Japanese manufacturer’s recall of about 34 million vehicles equipped with faulty airbags:

The committee has posted a timeline for the Takata recalls:, a backgrounder: and a list of different recalls issued for Takata airbags:

The National Academy of Sciences holds a meeting on systems that can reduce carbon emissions from commercial aircraft: The U.S. Travel Association hosts a teleconference on its new platform for national aviation policy, making recommendations for reauthorizing the FAA.

Wednesday — FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and NTSB Chairman Chris Hart speak at a Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics’ aviation symposium at the National Press Club. The House Small Business Committee holds a hearing on how long-term investment in transportation infrastructure can help small businesses.

Thursday — Sens. Tom Carper and Cory Booker join with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to speak about rail infrastructure at CAP. FAA officials speak at the RTCA aviation symposium.

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

Reach out: or @jascholtes.

“It was just an old hand-me-down Ford with three-speed on the column and a dent in the door.”

GAME-CHANGER FOR THE HILL: POLITICO Pro is launching a Congressional Directory at 2 p.m. today — free to Pro subscribers. The new intelligence tool is integrated into the platform Pros already rely on for news, and features member and staffer information including work history, education, issue areas and recent news, as well as offering users the ability to create customized searches, export lists, and track updates. To learn more about POLITICO Pro’s newest feature, email us at

AUTO LENDING BILL FINDS FEW FRIENDS: Sen. Elizabeth Warren is ready to go now with her bill to regulate auto lending, but she’s having a hell of a time getting her peers to back her up on this one. Pro’s Jennifer Liberto reports that “None of Warren’s fellow Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee have agreed to co-sponsor the legislation yet, several industry and congressional sources confirmed for POLITICO. … The reason isn’t complicated. The $730 billion auto-dealer industry enjoys a special status. Auto dealers are in every district, employ more than a million people and are often local and family owned — which adds up to huge leverage in Washington. The industry has an army of lobbyists and a long history of beating back regulatory attempts.”

** A message from GAMA: Since 2012, the Export-Import Bank has facilitated over $1.9 billion in financing support for general aviation aircraft made in the United States. Reauthorizing the Bank is essential to ensuring a level playing field for manufacturers worldwide, supporting economic growth, and protecting U.S. jobs. It’s time for Congress to act. **

PHMSA FINALLY GETS A PRESIDENTIAL PICK: The president chose another DOT nominee on Friday, putting forth Marie Therese Dominguez to run the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Pro’s Elana Schor explains that the “Dominguez nomination to helm PHMSA, which has been buffeted by criticism in recent weeks over its failure to move forward on long-standing congressional mandates and National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, comes as the agency investigates the cause of the May 19 oil spill along California’s Refugio Beach.” Dominguez is currently a principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for civil works and previously served as senior adviser to Sen. Mark Warner’s Forward Together PAC before ascending to a top government relations post at the Postal Service.

The agency has gone without a confirmed leader for more than seven months, and lawmakers wrote to Obama last month, urging him to come forward with a nominee to run the agency that’s working right now on rules for railcars that carry crude oil. That letter:

DHS DIVULGES 10 NEW PRECLEARANCE PROGRAMS AT FOREIGN AIRPORTS: The Department of Homeland Security has named the ten foreign airports that are now on their way to getting U.S. preclearance programs that get travelers vetted through immigration, customs and agriculture inspections before they depart for the United States, rather than when they land. The new preclearance hubs are expected in Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the UK. Right now, 15 foreign airports have preclearance programs. “I want to take every opportunity we have to push our homeland security out beyond our borders so that we are not defending the homeland from the one-yard line,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a written statement on Friday. More on the expansion:

FEDEX WEIGHS IN THROUGH OPEN SKIES DOCKET: FedEx filed comments Friday for the departments of Transportation, State and Commerce to consider in deciding whether to reopen Open Skies negotiations with Qatar and EAU. The global shipping company worries claims of unfair competition made by major U.S. airlines “could result in damage to FedEx, the U.S. all-cargo industry or U.S. interests writ broadly,” the filing said. “Furthermore, we believe that FedEx’s operations in the region are also at risk. As the largest U.S. airline presence in the Gulf, we represent the most logical target victim of retaliation brought on by a U.S. action in violation of its commitments.” The filing:

A4A HIRES AMERICAN AIRLINES MANAGING DIRECTOR: POLITICO Influence reports that Airlines for America has named Capt. Billy Nolen as senior vice president of safety, security and operations. Nolen joins A4A from American Airlines, where he served as managing director of corporate safety and regulatory affairs. “Billy is a leader in flight operations and safety, having run such programs at the world’s largest airline, and is an excellent addition to our team,” said A4A President & CEO Nicholas Calio in a statement. “As an active pilot with both military and commercial airline experience, he understands well A4A’s work to constantly advocate for and build on the safety and efficiency of our national airspace.”


— Windshield devices bring distracted driving debate to eye level. New York Times:

— For solar-powered plane, China-to-Hawaii flight is a test of skill and energy. The Washington Post:

— America’s worst airport to get $4 billion Swedish massage. Bloomberg Business:

— New York-bound passenger jet reports near-miss with drone. Fox News:

— Uber hires new head of operations for India. The Wall Street Journal:

— John Kerry breaks leg in bicycle accident in Europe: Pro:

— U.S. auto sales speed toward 17 million. The Wall Street Journal:

— EPA proposal will put bigger trucks on a fuel diet. New York Times:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 61 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 122 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 528 days.

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