Transportation News for July 20, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 20, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 7/20/2015


SENATE SETS HIGHWAY BILL IN MOTION: While Senate leaders continue to work behind the scenes to sort through all the offsets proposed to pay for a multiyear transportation patch, the chamber plans to push through some of the clock-running and obligatory legislative hurdles in the meantime, setting a procedural vote for Tuesday afternoon.

Rand’s roadblock: Although Sen. Rand Paul hasn’t specifically called out the transportation bill as a target, he threatened Friday to use “all legislative vehicles” to “defeat and defund Planned Parenthood” this week, which could certainly gum things up for the highway bill. More on that from our Heather Caygle:

Monday — Highway safety advocates hold a press call on their push to get more safety provisions included in the Senate Commerce Committee’s title of the Senate’s six-year surface transportation proposal. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx speaks up in Boston at a National Council for Public-Private Partnerships conference. Metro and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments hold a press conference to talk about a new fire rescue liaison position in Metro’s Rail Operations Control Center to improve coordination between Metro and area emergency response personnel.

Out in Idaho, the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials hosts its annual meeting, with talks from American Trucking Associations CEO Bill Graves, American Road and Transportation Builders Association CEO Pete Ruane, American Public Transportation Association CEO Mike Melaniphy and the Chamber of Commerce’s Janet Kavinoky.

Tuesday — Two House Oversight subcommittees review WMATA’s finances and look into the role of its inspector general, with testimony from James Curley, the metro operator whose train filled with smoke in January, NTSB Vice Chairwoman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, WMATA’s CEO and the system’s inspector general: The Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials proceeds with the second day of its annual meeting.

Wednesday — The Senate Commerce Committee vets Marie Dominguez, the Obama administration’s pick to run PHMSA: And the House T&I Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment holds a hearing on the EPA’s program that helps communities revitalize brownfields properties plagued by the presence of hazardous substances:

Off the Hill, the Air Line Pilots Association hosts its annual safety conference with an opening address by Rep. Peter DeFazio: The Chamber of Commerce hosts a press conference on a new report critical of the Obama administration’s new ozone regulations and their effect on transportation projects. New America holds an all-day forum downtown on drones, focusing on property rights, human rights and global development: And the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials wraps up its annual meeting in Boise.

Thursday — The Air Line Pilots Association finishes its safety forum: The World Resources Institute hosts a discussion on improving traffic safety with better street design and urban development: The Young Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association of Bethesda hosts a dinner to discuss “next-generation technologies fueled by innovation,” with DOT’s chief information officer.

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

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“I said it again, but could I please rephrase it? Maybe I can catch a ride.”

FOXX CALLS DERAILED TANK CARS ‘INSUFFICIENT FOR THE FUTURE’: DOT confirmed that the oil train that derailed Thursday night in northeast Montana was pulling CPC-1232 tank cars, which are deemed better than DOT-111s but still not safe enough. On Friday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx reiterated that department officials believe these newer-age 1232s are “insufficient for the future. And that’s why we have a new tank car standard that we put in place. And it will take some time to have market penetration of those new tank cars.” In an interview with POLITICO’s Darren Samuelsohn, Foxx pointed to the department’s efforts to make those cars safer while the industry works to phase in new ones, including mandating jacketing as well as speed and route changes. “But there’s no question,” he said, “that we need to have a new group of tank cars carrying this stuff. And we’re trying to get there as quickly as possible.” A refresher on the derailment details: Circle back this week for Darren’s full interview with Foxx on The Agenda:

The deets: DOT confirms that the BNSF train was heading from northeast North Dakota to the northernmost tip of the Puget Sound in Washington state, where BP has an oil refinery. Statoil, a Norwegian oil company, was sending the shipment that leaked 35,000 gallons of crude near the small town of Culbertson, Mont.

TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY SHRUGS OFF CYBER RISK: The Aspen Institute and Intel Security are out with a new report this morning that shows a disconnect between actual risk of cyber attacks and how those in the transportation industry view the risk. The majority of those surveyed said they believe their vulnerability to cyberattacks has decreased over the last three years. But those in the transportation industry say they feel more vulnerable to cyber attack than executives in other critical infrastructure sectors. Read up:

FOXX CAUTIONS AGAINST UNNECESSARY ATC REJIGGERING: Still waiting on Rep. Bill Shuster’s FAA bill like the rest of the industry, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is standing by his position that he’s in favor of switching things up for air traffic control, but only if that change actually moves the system toward something better. “I think the good news is that we have a system that works pretty well,” Foxx told POLITICO’s Darren Samuelsohn in a wide-ranging interview on Friday. “Most of our users of our aviation system, our air traffic control systems, would say that this is an area that the government actually does pretty well. I think that’s true. Having said that, if there is a way to raise the bar on safety beyond where it is, raise the bar on efficiency beyond where it is, raise the bar on effectiveness beyond where it is, we should look at it. I don’t have a predetermined view on this question other than: The test for me will be whether we can get better outcomes under a different model than we have today. But we’re not starting from a point of disadvantage on that question.” Keep a lookout for more of Darren’s stellar transpo reporting in this week’s special edition of The Agenda:

SENATE DEMS LAY OUT UTOPIC FUNDING VISION: As Senate leaders try to pull together enough money just to keep highway funding flowing for the next few years, the chamber’s Democrats are outlining far more ambitious transportation dreams. Our Heather Caygle reports ( on the details of the manifesto Senate Banking Committee Democrats unveiled on Friday, explaining that “among other things, the lawmakers call for Congress to fund transit at levels outlined in President Barack Obama’s transportation plan — a nearly 75 percent increase over current levels — over a six-year period. But the paper, with its nine big ideas, is just a wish list considering Congress has yet to settle on a path forward for infrastructure programs beyond the July deadline.” The wish list:

A LITTLE LOVE FOR THE TRANSIT COMMUTER: The Senate Finance Committee’s tax extenders package would bestow a sizable gift to transit commuters, bumping up their tax benefit to $250 per month, from $130 per month, through 2016. Our Kathryn A. Wolfe explains that “with the highway and transit bill considered must-pass legislation, rumors have swirled that lawmakers may attempt to attach the extenders package to any transportation bill.”

PAGING DR. DRONE: Sen. Mark Warner is cheering the successful drone delivery of medical supplies to an annual remote-area medical clinic in his home state of Virginia. A NASA-operated, full-sized aircraft and hexacopters operated by drone startup Flirtey Inc. flew in the supplies on Friday. “Today’s successful delivery was a win for Virginia’s test site, and a landmark moment for the unmanned systems industry,” Warner said in a written statement. “These flights highlight the humanitarian possibilities of this technology.”


— Firms back $10 million testing ground for self-driving vehicles. The Wall Street Journal:

— A streetcar named incompetence. The Washington Post:

— Can Bill De Blasio turn Uber into the NRA. BuzzFeed News:

— Seven transportation plot lines better than the high-speed rail scheme in ‘True Detective.’ CityLab:

— Appeals court says Airlines get leeway when someone references a bomb. The Chicago Tribune:

— Trying to win the public’s trust with autonomous cars, at 120 mph. The New York Times:

— Intense rain collapses California freeway. LA Times:

— NYC’s Kennedy airport building luxury animal terminal. AP:

— Robot cars get 32-acre city in Michigan to hone driving skills. Bloomberg Business:

— Boeing warns carriers about flying bulk shipments of lithium batteries. The Wall Street Journal:

— Next question for the Purple Line: Will the money be there to build it? The Washington Post:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 12 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 74 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 480 days.