Transportation News for August 3, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on August 3, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 8/3/2015


TRANSPORTATION FUN IS DONE, BUT SENATE STICKS AROUND: Transportation authority has been extended, the Highway Trust Fund has been temporarily padded and House lawmakers are home free for five weeks. But senators, they’re not so lucky. While there’s nothing transportation-related to watch for on the agenda, those in the upper chamber linger for a few more days before kicking off their own August recess. And if you keep C-SPAN on, we bet you’ll catch a few straggling floor speeches about some home state potholes and the need invest in the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Monday: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration holds a meeting downtown on commercial and private drones use, focused on privacy, transparency and accountability.

Tuesday: Ag groups host a conference outside Chicago on transportation capacity challenges, with a speech by STB Acting Chairwoman Deb Miller and discussions with rail executives: The Coast Guard advisory committee on chemical transportation holds a meeting to talk about the safe and secure transport of hazardous materials by water.

Wednesday: Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft speaks during a Newsmaker luncheon about challenges his agency faces, including cybersecurity, expanding the Panama Canal and managing limited resources: The transportation-focused agriculture conference wraps up out in Illinois, with talks by officials from major transportation groups like the American Trucking Associations and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials: The Coast Guard advisory committee on chemical transportation meets for a second day to discuss hazardous materials transportation.

Thursday: The Treasury Department’s advisory committee on insurance holds a meeting to talk about the proposed definition of affordability of personal auto insurance, among other issues. The Coast Guard advisory committee on chemical transportation meets again.

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“And what will the passenger do when he hears that he’s already paid for the crown, on the southbound train going down.”

AUTO ISSUES HANG UP TPP DEAL: While trade negotiators say they worked out the vast majority off issues out in Hawaii, it was ultimately auto industry issues that stifled a TPP deal last week. POLITICO’s Doug Palmer, reporting from Kaanapali, explained on Friday that Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb confirmed that the United States, Japan, Canada and Mexico were still hung up on trade issues. “The sad thing is, 98 percent is concluded,” Robb told reporters between meetings. “It’s really the big four” that are holding things up. More from Doug:

Rule of origin: Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal admitted he’s been harping on rule-of-origin standards for vehicles. “If I can be accused of anything, it’s putting myself to the front to really push the interests of my country,” he said during a press conference on Friday. Pro’s Victoria Guida reports that “Mexico is seeking a rule of origin equal to the one included in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which would require 62.5 percent of the content of the vehicle to originate in the TPP region. The TPP rule of origin, realistically, would be 55 percent at the highest, say informed sources. Japan, by contrast, wants a low rule of origin in the autos sector. … For his part, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the U.S. was seeking an outcome in autos that would drive production in the region.”

Tricky timeline: Trade officials plan to return to their talks later this summer, but Pro’s Matthew Korade explains that “if negotiations slip past that, the timeline for reviewing the deal could doom congressional passage. That’s because lawmakers would debate the deal in the middle of the 2016 election season, making it harder to win support from liberal Democrats and their labor and environmental backers.” Pros get a blow-by-blow on exactly how this timeline works:

MH370 INTRIGUE GROWS OVER WEEKEND: Malaysian officials confirmed Sunday that the wing part found last week on an island off France does in fact come from a Boeing 777, the same type of plane as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the AP reports: As the investigation continues, the New York Times notes ( that “just about every piece of flotsam kicked up along the shores of this island in the Indian Ocean has attracted scrutiny. A plastic water bottle with Chinese writing on it? Call the police and send it off for examination. A scrap of metal that looks as if it could be from a plane? Alert the authorities. It might be one more clue.”

Extra drama: Amid the search for more clues, one of the world’s most active volcanoes began spewing lava upon the French island on Saturday, where “awe-struck tourists and fascinated scientists climbed the mountain to enjoy the display, which is a common occurrence at the tropical island east of Madagascar,” AP reports:

OBAMA CALLS OUT CONGRESS’ PATCH ‘HABIT’: As he said he would, President Barack Obama signed the three-month transportation extension Congress sent him late last week, but not without first giving legislators a little lecture. “I want to make sure that before I sign this, Congress gets a clear message, and that is: We should not be leaving all the business of the U.S. government to the last minute.”

‘Hand-to-mouth’: While it’s good that transportation authority and funding aren’t going to expire, the president said, “on the other hand, we have now made it a habit where, instead of five-year funding plans for transportation, instead of long-term approaches where we can actually strategize on what are the most important infrastructure projects … we operate as if we’re hand-to-mouth three months at a time, which freezes a lot of construction, which makes people uncertain, which leads to businesses not being willing to hire because they don’t have any long-term certainty.”

PIG FARMERS CHEER HIGHWAY BILL ADDITION: The National Pork Producers Council is celebrating passage of the Senate’s multi-year transportation funding bill, pleased that senators included language that would permanently dismiss truckers hauling livestock from the mandated 30-minute rest break for every 8 hours of driving. Pro Agriculture’s Chase Purdy explains that “until now, groups like NPPC had to obtain two-year exemptions from the law. Each time they asked for an extension, the group maintained that the provision causes livestock producers and their drivers irreparable harm, and places the welfare of the livestock at risk.” Ironically, the Senate passed the permanent exemption less than two months after a truck carrying more than 2,000 baby pigs ran off the highway in Ohio, killing hundreds of the animals and sending hundreds of others running down the roadway:


— Tesla presses its case on fuel standards. The Wall Street Journal:

— Freight thieves are becoming cybercriminals. Fortune:

— Editorial board: Congress should look beyond the gas tax. The New York Times:

— Tourists flock to gawk at massive highway bridge projects. AP:

— At five years old, Uber is valued at nearly $51 billion. The Wall Street Journal:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 88 day. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 60 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 466 days.