Transportation News for August 6, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on August 6, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 8/6/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Heather Caygle and Tarini Parti

CARPER PITCHES GAS TAX BILL: He doesn’t have a ton of followers, but Sen. Tom Carper is charging ahead nonetheless with his proposal to raise the gas tax, introducing a bill Wednesday night that would hike the fee by 4 cents per year for four years. Passing his peers in the hallways of the Capitol this week, the unrelenting jokester couldn’t help but sarcastically thank several of his unwitting GOP colleagues for signing on as co-sponsors. Most were confused by the if-pigs-fly suggestion that they’d support his plan, but some were good sports. Sen. Lisa Murkowski laughed and joked that the bill had already passed unanimously. “We should have gotten one of the Republicans running for president to join us,” Carper said, “and that way they would have really stood out in the debate.”
Fallback plan: Aides say the measure is estimated to generate $220 billion over a decade, a sum projected to be sizable enough to permanently solve the Highway Trust Fund’s shortfall. While Carper is not opposed to other funding paths, he has suggested a gas tax increase could be a last resort if more popular proposals fall short. “I met with the president and the vice president months ago, earlier this year, to talk with them about how we’re going to pay for transportation,” Carper explained on Wednesday. “And I said: ‘Mr. President, I like your idea, international tax reform, this deemed repatriation idea. But at the end of the day, if that doesn’t happen, we need a fallback plan.’ And I think this is a pretty good fallback plan.”

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

Reach out: or @jascholtes.

“They’re flying them back to the Mexican border. … You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane.”

TWEET OF THE DAY: Laura Nelson, a transportation reporter for the LA Times, tweeted Wednesday: “Love, love today’s Google doodle. Happy 101st birthday to the traffic light!”

ELECTRIC CAR CLAN TAKES AIM AT HIGHWAY BILL: If environmentalists and electric vehicle fans had their way, Congress would ditch language in the Senate’s multiyear highway bill that would encourage states to levy a fee on alternative fuel vehicles. Our Lauren Gardner explains, however, that “whether they have the juice remains to be seen. … While voluntary and temporary, the language shows that lawmakers in both parties want to make sure the sliver of zero-emission vehicles that are helping automakers meet federal fuel economy standards are paying into the Highway Trust Fund like their gasoline-powered cousins. And though electric car advocates have allies in Congress, it’s unclear they’ll have the leverage to delete the section during conference.”

BOEING PUNISHES EX-IM HATERS: The world’s largest aerospace company can surely make it rain, but Boeing is being stingy these days with its cash handouts to politicians — at least to those who have backed the takedown of the Export-Import Bank. POLITICO’s Anna Palmer and Jeremy Herb report ( that “when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy headlined a fundraiser in early June, the room was packed with defense industry lobbyists, but reps from one megacontractor were missing — Boeing. Not only was Boeing absent at that fundraiser, the contractor has cut off all political contributions to the No. 2 House Republican over his support for killing the Export-Import Bank … ”

Tangible effect: Reuters reported ( Wednesday that ABS, a provider of commercial satellites, told Boeing it would have to consider a non-U.S. manufacturer for the ABS-8 satellite because of the lack of government export financing. A rundown from Pro’s Matthew Korade:

ACTING FMCSA HEAD GETS OFFICIAL TAP: Scott Darling, the man who’s been leading FMCSA in an acting capacity for nearly a year, has finally been picked to run the agency permanently. Following the White House’s announcement of Darling’s nomination on Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx released a statement saying Darling “has already demonstrated his ability to lead the agency” and “is constantly working with all sides to find solutions to challenges facing the industry and the motoring public.” Darling’s official role is chief counsel, a job he snagged in 2012.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association laid on praise of its own for Darling, saying in a statement Wednesday that the nominee has been “open and receptive to input from the Association, and he appears to appreciate the role of professional truckers.” The group said it has been particularly pleased with Darling’s progress on new driver training issues, which “had previously been stagnant for many years.”

ALL ABOARD THE CAMPAIGN TRAIN: Down in Florida, support for a major passenger rail project is being used to wage political attacks in the runup to next year’s Democratic primary for Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat. wrote Wednesday that “U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson spoke in support of All Aboard Florida while blasting his U.S. Senate opponent and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy for not showing up at a Wednesday meeting where the fate of the company’s request for tax-exempt bonds is being decided”: The private corporation, which is planning a 235-mile passenger rail system from Miami to Orlando, got the go-ahead this week to fund its project through the sale of tax-exempt bonds, the Miami Herald explains:

NORTH AMERICAN NATIONS SEEK TRUSTED TRAVELER RECIPROCITY: DHS moved forward this week in executing a North American trusted traveler partnership with Canada and Mexico, following on the countries’ agreement earlier this month to create a system that allows travelers to apply for expedited screening benefits when flying within the continent. Under the agreement, Mexican nationals who are part of their country’s trusted traveler program will be able to apply for the NEXUS program that allows expedited screening upon arrival at international airports in the U.S. and Canada. It will allow Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS to apply for Mexico’s system. And U.S. citizens will continue to be eligible for both programs.

SENATE REPUBLICANS GIVE THEMSELVES PROPS FOR HIGHWAY BILL: Patting their own backs, Senate GOP leaders gathered on Wednesday to run through their list of accomplishments so far in the 114th Congress, acknowledging their recent passage of a multiyear transportation funding plan. Our Heather Caygle reports that EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe “was quick to blame past Democratic control of the chamber for the state of America’s infrastructure but at the same time said he’s still working with the minority to see the current highway and transit bill to fruition.” More:

BIRD STRIKE REPORTING ON THE RISE: Airports are reporting bird strikes more often now, which means the FAA won’t be forcing them to notify, can better study national incident trends and has new scientific basis for crafting policies to prevent birds from flying into planes. A report ( the FAA requested found that airports reported the incidents 47 percent of the time from 2009 to 2013 — up from 42 percent during the previous four-year period.

AUTO IMPORTS HIT RECORD HIGHS: The strong dollar helped push imports of autos and auto parts to record highs in June, the Commerce Department reported this week. Pro’s Doug Palmer reports ( that “the U.S. trade gap with the European Union hit a record high $14.5 billion in June, as the weakening euro helped propel imports from the EU to $37.4 billion, also a record. … Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit with all countries rose more than 7 percent in June to $43.8 billion, as export growth was essentially flat and imports rose slightly. The month-to-month increase was the largest since March.”

CHRYSLER WAITED 18 MONTHS TO DISCLOSE CYBER VULNERABILITY: Morning Cyber writes about how Fiat Chrysler waited 18 months before it told federal regulators about the security flaw in its radios that allowed white hat hackers Chris Valasek and Charlie Murphy to stop a Jeep Cherokee dead in its tracks on the Interstate, according to a Bloomberg scoop Wednesday. “The automaker says it was working on a fix and didn’t consider the problem a safety defect,” Bloomberg reports, adding that “the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration saw otherwise” and pushed Chrysler to recall the 1.4 million affected cars just eight days after learning of the vulnerability. Here’s the story:

A NEW HURDLE FOR ORBITZ-EXPEDIA DEAL: Morning Tech’s Adam Sneed reports that the hotel industry is coming out swinging this morning against the pending merger between Orbitz and Expedia. The deal between the two major online travel-booking services would “severely reduce consumer choice in the online marketplace,” American Hotel & Lodging Association President Katherine Lugar said in a statement. The $1.6 billion merger was announced in February and has been under review at the Justice Department ever since. If approved, it would bring a number of popular booking sites into Expedia’s fold, including Orbitz,, Travelocity,, Hotwire and CheapTickets. … When the deal was announced, Expedia CFO Mark Okerstrom said that ‘in the grand scheme of things’ his company is a ‘small player’ in a $1.3 trillion travel industry that’s growing quickly (

TAKATA UPS LOBBYING: Takata Corp. increased its spending on lobbying by 22 percent in the second quarter as it faced increased attention from regulators and lawmakers, reports Bloomberg’s Tim Higgins:

A CHECKLIST FOR STOPPING DERAILMENTS: The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure released a report this morning on factors contributing to train derailments, making several policy recommendations aimed at preventing those accidents. The report suggests an increased use of technology that can continuously monitor track, equipment and roadbed conditions; more effective and frequent track and rail inspections; improvements to reduce the likelihood of accidents caused by human error; and further penalties for rail owners who fail to comply with the Dec. 31 deadline for implementing positive train control technology. The report:


— The gas tax question that probably won’t be asked during the GOP debate. The New York Times:

— 20,000 train passes go unsold for Pope’s Philadelphia visit. AP:

— Tesla’s loss nearly tripled in the second quarter. The Wall Street Journal:

— Intact MH370 part lifts odds plane glided, not crashed, into sea. Bloomberg Business:

— The future of D.C. taxis. WAMU:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 85 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 57 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 463 days.

Tags: ,