Transportation News for June 10, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on June 10, 2015

MTC Transportation Headlines


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 6/10/2015

By Jennifer Scholtes, with help from Heather Caygle

IT’S JUDGMENT DAY FOR THE TSA: A week after news broke about TSA’s shocking failure to detect most threats during covert testing, senators huddle this morning to press the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general about the agency’s shortcomings. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s meeting is the first TSA oversight hearing since the revelation that screeners failed to detect 67 out of 70 attempts to bring fake explosives and weapons through airport checkpoints. Besides the DHS inspector general, the panel will hear from a GAO director, a federal air marshal and a TSA security director for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Watch live at 10:30 a.m.:

Another blunder: On top of the scathing threat report, senators have even more fodder after the release Monday of an IG report that TSA allowed at least 73 people to work in the airline industry who had been flagged under terrorism-related codes. POLITICO’s Nick Gass explains that “these people, including employees of major airlines, airport vendors and other employers, were all cleared to access secure airport areas despite being watch-listed. The reason for this, according to the TSA, is in part because the agency ‘is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current interagency watch-listing policy.’ Rather than conducting criminal history and work authorization checks itself, the TSA generally delegated individual airports to do these tasks, though it had limited oversight.” More from Pro: That report:

‘Come clean’: Sen. Ben Sasse, who got his freshman assignment to the Homeland Security panel, is sure to continue his calls today for the Obama administration to declassify the report on TSA letting 67 out of 70 threats slip. “Obviously we don’t want to do anything or declassify anything that would give the terrorists a roadmap to the particular vulnerabilities, but the problems that we face are much worse than the public understands,” Sasse told FoxNews on Monday. “And I think the president has an obligation to come clean and lead a national conversation about where we are in preventing terrorism, because we’re not as safe as where the public is being led to believe. … The people in this city don’t have a sense of urgency. You need the public to inject a sense of urgency to this.”

HOUSE POISED FOR THUD PASSAGE VOTE TONIGHT: House lawmakers return to town today with a hefty load of votes, aiming to polish off work on their transportation spending bill and its nine unsettled amendments. The passage tally could be a close call since Democrats predictably argue that the measure’s funding levels are too low and Heritage Action for America has put the THUD vote on its scorecard, essentially warning Republicans that they’ll lose conservative clout if they vote in favor of the bill. Heritage said in a statement Monday that, “rather than providing tremendous budgetary resources to a bankrupt Highway Trust Fund and continue the cycle of taxpayer-funded bailouts, Congress should pursue reforms that empower states and localities while reducing federal control, both in terms of finances and regulations.”

Watch the House vote at 6:30 tonight:

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SENATE POLITICS GET STICKIER AS HTF EXPIRATION LOOMS: Staring down a summer of deadlines, it’s about to get much harder for Senate Republicans to maneuver through must-pass bills without making major concessions to Democrats threatening to gum up the process if they don’t get their way. And among that shortlist of urgent items, of course, is an extension of highway funding and policy. POLITICO’s Burgess Everett outlines the trouble ahead for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, noting that “with deadlines looming on several must-pass bills, the stage is set for brinkmanship that could last through the summer and into the thick of the 2016 presidential primary season.” If the majority leader agrees to allow a floor vote on renewing the Export-Import bank’s charter, Burgess explains, Democrats just might go along with a temporary transportation bill. Lots more:

** A message from Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America: America’s wine and spirits wholesalers serve as the key link in the hospitality industry, which is a major economic engine supported by a safe, modern and efficient transportation infrastructure system. Congress should continue to protect public safety by supporting programs to address impaired driving. **

FRA PLANS TO HAND DOWN NEW PASSENGER RAIL GUIDANCE: The FRA is expected to issue a nationwide passenger rail advisory as soon as today, urging railroads to pinpoint curves and bridges where speed limits drop by more than 20 mph, according to the Wall Street Journal. The paper reports that the new safety advisory “will also recommend commuter railroads configure their signals to automatically slow down trains if the engineers driving them fail to hit the brakes at those locations, if such systems exist … If so-called automatic train control systems aren’t in use, the rail agency’s advisory is expected to recommend trains carrying passengers either include a second crew member in locomotive cabs or ensure that crew members aboard a train remain in ‘constant communication’ at those locations.” More from WSJ:

TEXAS HIGH-SPEED RAIL FEUDERS PLEAD TO FEDERAL LAWMAKERS: While the FRA dwells on the proposal for the high-speed rail project between Houston and Dallas, the fight between ranchers and the railway developer heats up out in Texas. Pro’s Eliza Collins reports that “Houston Mayor Annise Parker and state Rep. Sylvester Turner — both Democrats — are among those supporting the project and buying into Texas Central Railway’s message that the new ‘high-speed rail will reduce congestion on already strained infrastructure, reduce carbon emissions, create thousands of jobs and most importantly, support and continue to bolster the Texas economy.’ But the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and Texans Against High-Speed Rail say the railway would cause big problems for ranchers, some of whom have operated in the state for generations, by dividing the land, reducing property values and increasing their costs. The two groups have begun a campaign to raise attention, holding informational meetings while writing nearly a dozen state farm bureaus and Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.” More from Pro:

NTSB ISSUES METRO ORDER AMID SMOKE INCIDENT INVESTIGATION: Still investigating the cause of Metro’s deadly smoke incident in January, the NTSB says it’s found an issue that requires “immediate action.” The safety board is calling on WMATA to ensure certain kinds of electrical connectors have been properly installed and sealed. Our Kathryn A. Wolfe reports that the agency “has found that some power cable connector assemblies on the Metro system have not been installed according to specifications and that WMATA does not have a program to ensure the proper sealing sleeves are in use.” More from Pro:

FEDS BAND WITH EDISON TO BOOST ELECTRIC CAR DEVELOPMENT: Under an MOU announced Monday with the Edison Electric Institute, the Obama administration aims to up the deployment of plug-in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. The partnership includes the Energy Department, DOT, GSA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. More from Pro’s Alex Guillén:


— NTSB says cars and trucks need collision prevention systems. Reuters:

— World’s most congested subway prepares to host Olympics. Bloomberg Business:

— Why airlines are making it harder for us to buy a cheap ticket. The Washington Post:

— Q&A: Uber bets on strong, steady demand in Indonesia. The Wall Street Journal:

— First phase of California’s bullet train is cut due to disputes. LA Times:

— Mercedes’s new E-Class set to automate driving at highway speeds. Bloomberg Business:

— Washington state to break ground on wildlife-crossing bridge over major highway. Reuters:

— Truck carrying 2,200 pigs overturns on Ohio highway. AP:

— Metro’s #newtrain debut marred by a morning of delays. The Washington Post:

— China railway firm loses $10 billion in value after debut. Bloomberg Business:

— Qatar Airways CEO sees no need for concessions to U.S. airlines. Reuters:

— Seeking more bookings, airlines limit sites that show their fares. The New York Times:

— Lufthansa CEO says changing pilot mental health screening proving difficult. The Wall Street Journal:

— Mexico City cabbies are getting physical with Uber. The Washington Post:

— Subaru sells out: Will a fast-growing carmaker decide to stay small? Bloomberg Business:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 53 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 114 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 520 days.