Transportation News for July 8, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 8, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 7/8/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Adam Sneed

T&I DELAY BECOMES A ROADBLOCK FOR FAA REVAMP: Today was supposed to be the day T&I holds a hearing on Chairman Bill Shuster’s grand FAA overhaul proposal, followed by a markup of the bill on Thursday. But since the text didn’t drop as expected last week, those plans have been postponed to a date TBD. And Craig Fuller, who serves as vice chairman of the FAA’s Management Advisory Council, says that holdup is only hindering the panel’s efforts to build agreement around the plan.
‘Kabuki dance’: “The consensus has been very difficult to achieve, in part because the actual legislation is still hidden from us,” Fuller said Tuesday: “There’s this Kabuki dance of: maybe there’s a bill this week, maybe next week, maybe September. … Do you think we’re going to reform this if we’re not going to see a bill until September?”

In the dark: Besides the many stakeholders who remain out of the loop, even the committee’s top Democrats have yet to see a draft proposal of the bill. And although they have been meeting with their GOP counterparts to try to reach some early agreement on broad concepts, there is still a wide divide over what to do with air traffic control. In the ATC community, groups like the National Air Traffic Controllers Association say they, too, are still eagerly awaiting the opportunity to review the legislation. “We have not taken a position and won’t be able to until we see the details of the bill,” Doug Church, a spokesman for the group, told us on Tuesday.

Stick together: Whatever the measure entails, the union that represents 11,000 FAA inspectors and technicians is advocating for the agency to remain a cohesive unit. “We believe separating portions of the FAA will create more problems than we have today,” said Michael Perrone, president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists. “We get more bang for the buck if they stay together.”

A refresher on the committee’s move to push back the bill rollout:

LAWMAKERS RETURN, NONE THE WISER ON PAY-FORS: The legislators in charge of coming up with the cash to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent are just as wishy-washy now as when they left town. Rep. Dave Reichert told POLITICO on Tuesday night that House Ways and Means leaders are still “hoping for an extension until the end of the year” to buy enough time for a “five- to six- to seven-year long-term bill.” On the Senate side, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch still won’t say what kind of pay-fors he’s floating, but he said he’s sent the ideas up the chain to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and that the leader “thinks some of them are pretty good.”

Repatriation contemplation: The Wall Street Journal reported ( over the weekend that Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan is leading a contingent of House Republicans to consider working with the president and Senate Democrats like Chuck Schumer to use repatriated foreign earnings to pay for transportation infrastructure. But Hatch has long opposed the idea and told MT on Tuesday that “we shouldn’t be using our money that way” anyway. “We should bring it back and spend it on our economy.” Ways and Means’ Charles Boustany told us “any type of repatriation would have to be in the context of a broader international tax reform package, and that’s under discussion.”

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

Take it from us transpo geeks: The Atlantic’s animated history of transportation is just as good as its animated history of 20th Century hairstyles. Our vote for best inventions: the funicular, the dandy horse, the penny farthing and (of course) the monster truck. Check it:

Reach out: or @jascholtes.

“Be running up that road. Be running up that hill. Be running up that building.” (H/t Maggie Chan)

BLUMENTHAL PRAISES FEINBERG: Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who is usually one of Congress’ staunchest FRA critics, signaled his backing this week of acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg, saying he is “strongly supporting her nomination” to take the post permanently. The senator said just a month ago that he thinks “the FRA has been as much a part of the problem as the solution” in getting all railroads to be compliant with the positive train control mandate. But he argued Monday that Feinberg’s leadership could help the struggling agency.

“There’s no secret that I’ve been critical of the FRA in the past for failing to act as promptly and aggressively as it should to implement existing authority, which is why I’m so grateful that Sarah Feinberg’s here today, because she’s new to this job,” Blumenthal said during a press conference in Connecticut, at the site of a memorial for a train worker killed there in 2013 after a controller improperly opened a track. “I’m supporting her nomination because I think this agency needs new leadership and vision and courage to do better at implementation. And I’m convinced that her heart and mind are in the right place.”

CRUISING TO CUBA: Carnival Corp. announced this week that its new do-gooder trip brand — Fathom — will sail to Cuba as soon as the island gives the go-ahead. POLITICO’s Adam B. Lerner explains that “the trips technically won’t constitute tourism, but rather will operate under existing U.S. Treasury guidelines that permit cultural and humanitarian exchanges with Cuba. … U.S. travelers can sign up for a place on one of the trips with a $600 deposit. Ultimately the trip will cost $2,990 per person with taxes and other fees not included. The price is more than 3 times the typical fare for a similar-length Carnival trip to the Caribbean.” More from Pro:

CRAZIER STORMS = MORE AIRLINE FINES: As the flood waters were rising in Houston on Memorial Day, hundreds of flyers were stranded for three or more hours on the city’s tarmacs — delays that could be quite costly for the airlines whose planes were stuck that day. Of the 14 delays in May, 10 were flights trying to leave from Houston at the end of that holiday weekend, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Our Heather Caygle explains that “the number of flights in violation of DOT’s tarmac delay rule speaks to the impact severe weather can have on the industry. For instance, there were only 30 domestic flights with lengthy delays in all of 2014, compared to nearly half that in May 2015 alone.”

WHO’S FLYING DRONES?: The FAA is famously strict about who gets to fly drones in the U.S., but Morning Tech points out that the agency has opened up a bit this year under pressure from would-be drone users and lawmakers. About 500 exemptions have now been issued to operators using the devices for everything from crop inspections to filmmaking. Want to see who’s scored a permit? The Verge and Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone have created a database with details:


— Darin LaHood wins Illinois GOP race to replace ex-US Rep. Schock. AP:

— Tesla’s Musk Says Model X Will Double Company’s Sales. Bloomberg Business:

— Ford tries to figure out bicycles. CityLab:

— Low-cost drone maker takes on rivals. The Wall Street Journal:

— Op-ed: Let consumers help repair the auto industry. Roll Call:

— Funding to help buy wheelchair-accessible cabs entirely unspent in D.C. WAMU:

— Pittsburgh’s ‘shared space’ street concept could be a national trendsetter. Route Fifty:

— A mission for Citi Bike: Recruiting more female cyclists. The New York Times:

— Google begins testing self-driving prototype cars in Austin. Reuters:

— Hull damage forces Shell Arctic support ship back to dock. AP:

— Uber wants to be a technology company in Indonesia. The Wall Street Journal:

— Where electric vehicles actually cause more pollution than gas cars. CityLab:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 24 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 85 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 491 days.

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