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Infrastructure in the News 10.25.16


(Mayor Bloomberg launched a self-driving car initiative)


The Tennessean: Nashville chosen for Bloomberg self-driving cars initiative

Nashville is among five global cities chosen for an autonomous vehicles initiative launched  by Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York and the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute.


Washington Post: Michael Bloomberg’s plan to get cities ready for self-driving cars

Self-driving cars are coming. Whether it's Tesla's Model 3 or Uber's automated ride-hailing service, many cities will probably start seeing these vehicles on the road in just a few years.


Miami Herald: Nashville is among five global cities chosen for an autonomous vehicles initiative launched  by Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York and the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute.

America may be in the throes of Election 2016, but organizers of a global conference taking place in Miami believe it is cities and their inhabitants that are most often in the best position to drive massive change and innovation.



Washington Post: As cars become more reliant on computers, government moves to protect against cyber attacks

Less than a week after one of the most massive cyberattacks in U.S. history, federal officials want to ensure that hackers won’t be able to invade the computers that increasingly control automobiles.


Reuters: On the Ballot: Two Clashing Visions of How America Will Power Its Cars, Homes

Forget the accusations of groping, bigotry and email mismanagement. If the American voter had to choose between Republican nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton based on their energy policies alone, the presidential election would still be a remarkable drama, amounting to the biggest referendum on global climate change since the term was coined.


New York Times: Uber's Otto Hauls Budweiser Across Colorado in Self-Driving Truck

In the first real-world commercial use of autonomous trucking, some 45,000 cans of Budweiser beer arrived late last week to a warehouse after traveling over 120 highway miles in a self-driving truck with no driver at the wheel, executives from Uber [UBER.UL] and Anheuser-Busch said.


Washington Post: Distracted driving gets much blame for rise in traffic deaths, but is that accurate?

Everyone sees distracted drivers on the road these days, and almost everyone suspects that texting and driving is contributing to an alarming rise in traffic fatalities.


Car and Driver: The Future of Transportation: Q&A with DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx

Following his remarks on the future of transportation during the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh last week, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx sat in a conference room on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.


The Hill: Our nation’s infrastructure will crumble without resilience

For those of us who work in cities, it was great to hear New York Sen. Charles Schumer’s announcement this week that one of his first legislative priorities—should he become Senate majority leader—would be a large infrastructure program.



New York Times: At New Jersey Transit, a ‘Culture Change’ Is Called For

“Neglect Brings a Steep Decline for N.J. Transit” (front page, Oct. 14) speaks a simple truth that both regular commuters and occasional passengers on regional rail lines have known for years: The state of railroad transportation in this country is deplorable.


New York Times: After Almost a Century, the 2nd Avenue Subway Is Oh-So-Close to Arriving

It has occupied a special place in New York City’s imagination for nearly 100 years: an unfinished dream, a punch line for delays, a construction nightmare. Some New Yorkers wondered if they would ever live to see the day when it came to life.


Washington Post: VDOT launches new hearings on I-395 HOT lanes plan

The Virginia Department of Transportation has scheduled three hearings to review the design for the Interstate 395 HOT lanes and another to talk about easing a bottleneck in the highway’s regular lanes.



Getting low-carbon vehicles on the road is imperative, but the roadblock remains the lack of charging stations for electric cars and trucks.


Construction Drive (New York-New Jersey): NY-NJ Port Authority commits $300M to Gateway infrastructure initiative

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced a $300 million spend last week to replace an aging rail bridge in New Jersey, according to The Wall Street Journal.


By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/25/2016 05:45 AM EDT

With help from Joshua Posaner, Lauren Gardner and Anthony Adragna

DOT TACKLES VEHICLE CYBERSECURITY: As part of the Obama administration's latest effort to keep up with rapidly developing car technology, DOT is out with proposed guidance for vehicle cybersecurity, recommending that automakers and tech companies include multiple layers of protections in their designs and consider digital threats based on their level of risk. Such a strategy, NHTSA argues, "reduces the probability of an attack's success and mitigates the ramifications of a potential unauthorized access." In other words, cars should be designed with features that prevent hacking or at least try to keep people and information safe if a hack is successful.

As Pro Cybersecurity's Eric Geller reports, the agency suggests that car companies put executives with knowledge and experience in handling cybersecurity issues on their leadership teams, keep track of supply chain threats and update protections as vehicles get older.

'A top priority': Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that cybersecurity is "a top priority" for DOT. The guidance is meant to "provide best practices to help protect against breaches and other security failures that can put motor vehicle safety," Foxx said. Mark Rosekind, the administrator of NHTSA, added, "In the constantly changing environment of technology and cybersecurity, no single or static approach is sufficient." The public has 30 days to comment on the draft guidelines.

Lawmakers say it's not enough: Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey had some harsh words for DOT, saying that releasing a guidance proposal is "like giving a take-home exam on the honor code to failing students."

"If modern day cars are computers on wheels, we need mandatory standards, not voluntary guidance, to ensure that our vehicles cannot be hacked and lives and information put in danger," the lawmakers said in a statement, before plugging their proposed Security and Privacy in Your Car Act. The measure would direct NHTSA and the FTC to set cybersecurity and privacy standards, and create a system to rate cars based on the strength of their cybersecurity and privacy protections.

IT'S TUESDAY: Good morning and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Please send tips, feedback and, of course, song lyrics to or @brigurciullo.

"Let's steal this wheel/Take a spin to find out how we feel/Just around the corner/Slow down for sound/Turn it up and no we can't be found/The body that we transcend."

Want to keep up with all of MT's song picks? Follow our Spotify playlist.

TRUMP WANTS $1 TRILLION IN INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT: Donald Trump says he would get a bill introduced during his first 100 days in office that would "spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years." In a plan the Republican presidential nominee released over the weekend, Trump promises the legislation would leverage "public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years." The bill would be "revenue neutral," according to the document. As your MT host reports for Pros, Trump said in August that he would spend at least twice as much on infrastructure as Hillary Clinton has proposed — $275 billion over five years — and indicated he would finance it through debt.

UPDATE ON CALIFORNIA BUS CRASH: There are no signs the driver of a tour bus that smashed into a tractor-trailer Sunday in Southern California hit the brakes before the crash, officials told The Associated Press. The accident left 13 people dead, including the driver, and 31 others injured. The tractor-trailer was moving at 5 mph on the highway, where maintenance work was being done, when the tour bus crashed into it at up to 65 mph. The bus didn't have seat belts. "There's no indication whatsoever that the driver applied the brakes," California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Jim Abele said. He pointed out that no one found skid marks on the road.

The owner and driver of the tour bus, 59-year-old Teodulo Elias Vides, was listed in lawsuits related to three previous freeway crashes, the AP reports, but Vides wasn't driving in those incidents.

SHIPPING EMISSIONS DEAL GETTING COMPLICATED: Monday's opening of the International Maritime Organization's latest committee meeting ended without conclusive progress on a timeline for a sulfur-capping deal in the shipping sector. Delegates have a straight choice: Agree that enough cleaner bunker fuel will be available to sharply cut the use of higher sulfur-content fuel in 2020, or say the market needs more time to prepare and snap that date back five years.

"From the perspective of international shipping, this is a particularly difficult challenge," IMO's Kitack Lim said in a speech. "The Paris Agreement addresses the emissions of individual countries, but shipping is not a country, it is a global industry. Finding an effective way to allocate emissions is not straightforward. Ships can move between different flags as easily as they can sail between different countries."

MIC CHECK, 1-2, 1-2: Our own Lauren Gardner rejoined WAMU's Martin Di Caro on the (Metro)rails last week to interview Rep. Gerry Connolly for the "Metropocalypse" podcast about the system's safety and financial woes and what role the federal government should play in addressing them. The Virginia Democrat — never at a loss for words on the significance of the nation's second-largest transit system to the region — opined on floated service cuts and the future of congressional aid to Metro.

Connolly's plans: Of particular interest to our readers may be Connolly's admission that he has no desire to pursue a seat on the Appropriations Committee to make up for the recent contraction of the capital area's influence over the federal purse-strings. "I've got eight years of seniority on the committees I'm on, both of which are very vital to this region and to my district in particular," he said of his positions on the Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Government Reform panels. "It's too late for me to build any seniority on Appropriations." Download the podcast here.

STB TO DISCUSS HOW IT SETTLES RATE DISPUTES: The Surface Transportation Board is hosting a roundtable today with economists to pore over an independent report released last month on the agency's methodology for settling rate disputes between railroads and the shippers that hire them. The report examined STB's current approach to adjudicating complaints from "captive" shippers that lack competing transportation options to move their products to market, plus a couple alternatives that would be less costly for those industries. Freights read the report's findings as endorsing the status quo, while shippers like the American Chemistry Council take issue with it across the board.

In this corner: "The findings are clear: shippers have cost-effective alternatives to bring rate complaints to the STB, and changes to the existing regulatory structure — including different rate review approaches or new access regulations — would not benefit the larger transportation system," Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger said after the report was released last month.

And the other: The American Chemistry Council has blasted the report for contradicting an earlier study by the Transportation Research Board, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, and has insinuated that it was biased because the consultant that wrote it, InterVISTAS, "has a history of working on behalf of the railroads."

REPORT: TRANSPO SYSTEM NEEDS GREEN-TINTED GOGGLES: Environment America released a report Monday arguing that the U.S. needs to rethink its transportation system if the country intends to reach its climate goals. Recommendations include giving funding prioritization to low-carbon transportation, speeding the deployment of electric vehicles and encouraging the development of cities with plenty of opportunities for biking and walking.

FMCSA WARNS OF GALAXY NOTE 7 DANGERS: FMCSA hasn't banned commercial motor vehicle passengers and drivers from carrying a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, but the agency is urging them to turn off the phone if they have it with them, wait to charge it until after they're out of the vehicle and keep it close instead of in a baggage compartment. Galaxy Note 7 phones were recalled this fall following reports that the battery in the devices can catch fire. DOT has banned the phones on flights to, from and within the United States, and Amtrak has prohibited them on its property. FMCSA says the devices can be carried as cargo as long as they're packaged in a way that prevents them from heating up and PHMSA grants a special permit.


— "Metro's answer to train operators running red signals: brighter bulbs." The Washington Post.

— "Heathrow third runway expected to get May cabinet green light." The Guardian.

— "Auto makers struggle with high-tech dashboard screens." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Ex-aide says Christie's office created 'alternate universe' after bridge scam, set her up for blame." POLITICO New Jersey.

— "Super-cheap driverless taxis may kick mass transit to the curb." Bloomberg.

— "Distracted driving gets much blame for rise in traffic deaths, but is that accurate?" The Washington Post.

— "Unhappy American pilots to push union switch after five decades." Bloomberg.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 45 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 339 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 13 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,439 days.


7:30 a.m. — The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative begins a three-day general meeting. Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place. NW.

8:30 a.m. — The FAA starts three days of Aeronautical Charting Forum meetings. Pragmatics, Inc. 1761 Business Center Dr. Reston, Va.

10 a.m. — The Surface Transportation Board holds a public roundtable for economists to discuss a study called "An Examination of the STB's Approach to Freight Rail Rate Regulation and Options for Simplification." STB headquarters, first floor, hearing room, Patriot's Plaza, 395 E St. SW.

10 a.m. — Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and OMB Director Shaun Donovan hold a press conference in Charlotte, N.C., to "highlight the economic progress that Charlotte and the nation have made, and the economic challenges that remain."

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

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Stories from POLITICO Pro

Transportation Department issues proposed vehicle cybersecurity guidance Back

By Eric Geller | 10/24/2016 01:38 PM EDT

Carmakers should install many layers of cybersecurity protections in their vehicles and think about threats in terms of risk levels, the Department of Transportation warned in draft guidance announced today.

"A layered approach to vehicle cybersecurity reduces the probability of an attack's success and mitigates the ramifications of a potential unauthorized access," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in the proposed guidance.

The document also encourages car companies to stock their leadership teams with cyber-savvy executives, monitor digital threats to their supply chains and keep patching vulnerabilities as their vehicles age.

"In the constantly changing environment of technology and cybersecurity, no single or static approach is sufficient," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind in a statement.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said cybersecurity was a "top priority" for his department and called the guidance — which is open to public comment for 30 days — a set of "best practices" for the industry.

Rosekind mentioned the new guidance in a recent letter to a House committee chairman who was concerned about the vulnerabilities of a car diagnostic port.


In first 100 days, Trump wants bill to 'spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment' Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/24/2016 02:07 PM EDT

Donald Trump released a plan over the weekend for his first 100 days in office, including a promise to get a bill introduced that would "spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years."

In the past, Trump has promised to spend at least double what Hillary Clinton has proposed — $275 billion over five years. "We'll get a fund, we'll make a phenomenal deal with the low interest rates and rebuild our infrastructure," Trump said Aug. 2 in a Fox Business Network interview. "We'd do infrastructure bonds for the country, from the United States."

In his so-called "Contract with the American voter" released Saturday, Trump says he will work with lawmakers during his first 100 days to introduce and pass legislation that would leverage "public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral."

Clinton has pledged to pay for her plan "through business tax reform."

Trump also promised that, on his first day in office, his administration would start working to "cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America's water and environmental infrastructure." And he swears he will remove "Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward."


Ex-aide says Christie's office created 'alternate universe' after bridge scam, set her up for blame Back

By David Giambusso | 10/24/2016 03:03 PM EDT

NEWARK — While the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal had been gaining steam for three months, it wasn't until Gov. Chris Christie gave a marathon news conference regarding the closures that Bridget Anne Kelly suspected she was being set up as a scapegoat, she said in court Monday.

Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff to Christie who, along with former Port Authority deputy director Bill Baroni, is charged with the lane closure conspiracy, maintained that she believed the closures were part of a legitimate traffic study blessed by the Port Authority, rather than an act of political retribution aimed at Democratic Ft. Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie's reelection bid.

She testified that on the day of the Dec. 13, 2013 news conference, Christie hastily called a senior staff meeting and instructed the dozen or so people in the room to tell Kevin O'Dowd, the governor's chief of staff, if they knew anything about the closures prior to the first media reports.

Kelly said she "reminded" O'Dowd that she had known, that he had known and the governor had known about the closures. She said they had discussed the closures several times in August and September.

"The first part of my discussion with Kevin O'Dowd was immediately following the staff meeting," Kelly said in federal court Monday. "I said 'Kevin, we spoke last night. I knew about the traffic study, you knew about the traffic study, the governor knew about the traffic study. Now there's a subpoena for documents.' I told him I did have documents and I did delete them."

But when Christie stood before reporters later that day, he claimed neither his staff nor he had any prior knowledge of the closures.

It was then that Kelly said she began occupying an "alternate universe."

Not only was Christie aware of the closures, but he had told Gov. Andrew Cuomo to exert influence over Pat Foye, Cuomo's appointee at the authority, to stop criticizing the lane closures, Kelly said.

"The governor said that he had a conversation with Gov. Cuomo and he told Gov. Cuomo to tell Pat Foye to 'back the f--- off.'"

In two news conferences, one on Dec. 2 and the extended one on Dec. 13, Kelly said Christie lied about his knowledge of the lane closures, his conversation with Cuomo and about his conversations with senior staff.

After the Dec. 13 conference, Kelly said she frantically tried to talk to her boss, O'Dowd, and found him suddenly elusive.

"I wanted to talk to him about what just went on in the press conference because it was like an alternate world," she said, beginning to cry on the stand. "I was scared. I had four kids. And I needed to be as forthright with them as I could be because what they were saying in the media wasn't what I knew to be the case."

Throughout her second day of testimony, she continued to portray the governor as someone quick to anger, susceptible to perceived slights, and willing to cause harm to those who crossed him. Following the staff meeting she said her greatest fears began to set in.

"I was, at that point, petrified because now nobody was remembering that the knew about this traffic study," Kelly testified.

Michael Critchley, her lawyer, asked, "Do you know what the word 'scapegoat' is? Did you feel you were in jeopardy?"

"I was petrified. I had no one to go to talk to about what I thought was going on," Kelly said, again in tears. "Everyone's livelihoods depended on Chris Christie. Including mine."

Less than three weeks later, Kelly testified she was on her way to work and a local phone number she didn't recognize popped up on her cellphone. A reporter had gotten a hold of her now infamous email that said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

Kelly testified that her phone didn't stop ringing after that. She called Christie's communications director, Maria Comella, who told her not to come to the office. As she approached her home she saw it teeming with reporters. She went to her parents' home and saw reporters there as well before going to the home of another relative.

She testified she then received an unsolicited call from an attorney who had been asked to contact her. The attorney said the next morning, Jan. 9, she would get a call from the governor's office when she would be terminated.

"I was going to be OK," she said she was told. "A job would be found for me and that I would be OK."

As Critchley closed two days of questioning he asked Kelly outright if she ever had any knowledge of a scheme to close the lanes as an act of retribution, as has been claimed by federal prosecutors.

"Absolutely not," she said.

The U.S. attorney's office briefly began cross examination of Kelly Monday and will continue Tuesday at federal court in Newark.