Transportation News for July 6, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 6, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 7/6/2015

By KATHRYN A. WOLFE, with help from Jennifer Scholtes

COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER: The relief and joy on display at the Senate EPW’s markup of a multi-year transportation bill was palpable, and even keener considering that the bill almost imploded days before the markup, forcing staff to scramble to rejigger the bill with the markup looming. Our own Heather Caygle is out this morning with a great stemwinder about just what happened behind closed doors, and how the DRIVE Act almost changed how much money states and localities have to pony up for projects. Pros get it all:
GET THE CHOCKS: The dust is still settling over the House Transportation Committee’s decision to yank the anticipated rollout of its FAA reauthorization bill last week, but here’s one inescapable truth: The House’s punt all but ensures there will be a short-term extension for aviation policy before the end of September, the first of what I anticipate to be many. (Anybody starting a pool yet?) The fact is that the Senate’s glacial pace on their version of the bill combined with a set of usual (and unusual) thorny policy issues already made an extension highly likely, but the House’s move cements it.

+1 FOR K STREET: A scoop from yours truly: Steve Martinko, a former top aide to Rep. Bill Shuster, has decided to throw in with K&L Gates, where he’ll join the ranks of their government affairs consultants. Martinko starts today, but Pros knew all this Thursday.

MONDAY BLUES: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports. I’m Kathryn, your conductor for this one-day train, thanks for joining me.

As always, you can hit me up at or follow me on Twitter @kathrynwolfe. And don’t forget to follow Team Transpo: @jascholtes, @heatherscope and @morning_transpo.

“Make my way back home when I learn to fly high …” (thanks to Foo Fighters who rocked RFK)

Programming note: Jen Scholtes, our world-traveler, has decided to return from the blue waters of the British Virgin Islands after all (bad decision), so please funnel your hottest tips her way starting now. Also ask about her catamaran skills. That’s in case you’ve forgotten.

REPATRIATION RED FLAG: In a blog post (, the House Ways and Means Committee suggested that using revenues from a tax overhaul to pay for a surface transportation bill may flop. The committee says “if we find common ground on limited changes to our tax system, we’ll explore what can get done over the next year and a half … But if this common ground doesn’t materialize, we’ll continue working toward our ideal version for a tax reform. Brian Faler has more for Pros:

‘THE ENFORCER’ TO ACT: NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind told reporters Thursday to watch for some action related to Fiat Chrysler’s performance on recalls soon after its public docket closes this month. Rosekind said it could be as soon as this month, but “absolutely” by Labor Day. He also said to watch for a public hearing on the Takata airbag recall crisis, likely this fall.

BIZ TRAVELERS JUMP ON COLLUSION PROBE: The Business Travel Coalition has written to 34 state attorneys general bemoaning the state of the U.S. aviation market, saying it’s “exceeding unlikely that the radical consolidation of the domestic U.S. commercial aviation marketplace can be undone” and asking attorneys general to consider “reengaging, at the national level, the problem of insufficient airline competition with the goal of evaluating structural and other reforms that would return robust competition to the marketplace.” Read the letter here:

ENJOY THE SILENCE: The upshot of the ongoing Justice Department probe into alleged price-fixing by some U.S. airlines for now seems to be this: airline executives are going to keep their mouths shut, at least for a while, about “capacity discipline,” at least according to Standard and Poors. More from the firm: “The DOJ investigation is still at an early stage, and we don’t know exactly which actions it views as potentially problematic or how the DOJ might characterize them as illegal. However, one thing seems certain: airline executives will be more circumspect in describing their capacity plans when they announce their second-quarter earnings over the next several weeks.”

READ THE FINE PRINT: The Coalition for Transportation Productivity is out this morning with a new letter ( asking members to review the findings of DOT’s comprehensive truck size and weight study and “allow carefully crafted reforms in vehicle weight regulation to move forward.” Also read their one-pager here:

GOOGLE ATTEMPTS TO — QUIETLY — WOO WASHINGTON: While certainly not as publicly pushy as rivals like Amazon in its efforts to influence drone regulations, Google has been waging a more understated campaign to promote its interests in the industry. Pro’s Tony Romm reports that the company held a private, unannounced drone conference at its Bay Area headquarters last month, hosting about 80 people from D.C. and Silicon Valley, including four FAA officials. “The company spent $5.4 million on D.C. influence operations during the first three months of 2015, with unmanned aerial vehicles among its top priorities. … Google also dispatched Dave Vos, who leads the Project Wing team, to speak to about 90 congressional aides at a Memorial Day weekend dinner in San Francisco, part of a Silicon Valley ‘educational’ trip organized by the Information Technology Industry Foundation.” More from Pro:

DHS STEPS UP HUMAN TRAFFICKING CAMPAIGN AT TRANSPORTATION HUBS: Expanding its push to combat human trafficking, DHS has started running “Blue Campaign” messages on video monitors at thirteen major airports, describing the signs of human trafficking to help travelers identify and report the crime. Travelers will also now spot the awareness messages on airport shopping bags at 10 major hubs, at more than 300 truck stop gas stations and 50 other gas stations. The lowdown from DHS:

HOT OR NOT: A new poll ( by Morning Consult, which queried just under 2,000 registered voters, asked participants to weigh in on how they feel about funding highway spending with a gas tax hike, as well as through “taxing overseas profits.” Not surprisingly, 50 percent of those answering said its’ a bad idea, versus 37 percent who thought it was a good idea. More liked the idea of taxing overseas profits, though, with 64 percent approving and 21 percent disapproving. A majority of those polled — 60 percent — also said just letting the program expire was a bad idea, versus 22 percent in favor.

DHS CHIEF WELCOMES NEW TSA HEAD TODAY: Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson gives freshly confirmed TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger an official welcome out at TSA headquarters in Arlington this morning and is expected to throw in an update on aviation security efforts. Both the secretary and the new administrator are under pressure to make drastic changes to the agency that failed more than 95 percent of the time to detect fake bombs and weapons during covert testing and allowed the hiring of dozens of aviation workers who had been flagged in federal terrorism databases.


— Amtrak agrees to consolidate jurisdiction for eight lawsuits it’s facing over the deadly derailment in Philadelphia. UPI:

— Drones as modern-day carrier pigeons? Popular Science:

— Some 5,000 evacuated after a CSX train carrying acrylonitrile derails in Tennessee. WBIR-TV:

— The U.S. monitored 10,000 people for Ebola symptoms over fall and winter. Live Science:

— Amtrak study of an additional daily passenger train between Minneapolis, St. Paul or St. Cloud to Chicago shows St. Paul to Chicago is the most feasible. Read the study here:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 26 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 88 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 494 days.

Tags: ,