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Infrastructure in the News 10.26.16


(Mayor Bloomberg launched a self-driving car initiative)


The Nashville Tennessean: Five cities chosen for self-driving car test

This metropolis among five global cities chosen for a self-driving cars initiative launched  by Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York and the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute.




New York Times: Brace Yourself for a Busy Holiday Season at Airports

With Thanksgiving less than a month away, airlines and airports — not to mention savvy travelers — are bracing for what could be a record-setting year-end holiday travel season in the United States.


Futurism: The 2020 US Elections Will Completely Transform Autonomous Transportation

While most eyes are on the 2016 U.S. election, Tesloop CEO Rahul Sonnad is looking ahead to 2020, and he sees autonomous vehicles as a much bigger political talking point than they are currently.


Investment News: The case for more U.S. infrastructure investment by the private sector

Both U.S. presidential candidates — who agree on little else — have expressed strong support for increasing federal infrastructure spending.


Fox Business: Tackling America's Infrastructure Problem After Election Day

Despite their glaring differences, the presidential candidates agree on this one issue: America’s crumbling and antiquated infrastructure must be fixed as soon as possible.



New York Times: A Project Mends a Gash in the Street Grid of Washington

The depressed highway is a road from nowhere, the remnant of an Interstate once planned to cut through residential neighborhoods. Activists blocked the larger plan for the freeway in the 1960s, so this small segment close to the Capitol is left to feed traffic from city streets to other freeways, leading south over the Potomac to Virginia and east across the Anacostia River.


Associated Press: Pennsylvania Turnpike: Commercial scofflaws owe $1.5M

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is trying to shame trucking firms and other commercial haulers into paying more than $1.5 million in unpaid tolls.


Washington Post: Thoughts of snow: District prepares for winter battles ahead

For Washingtonians, the winter of 2015-2016 was a tale of two storms. They think not only of the historic blizzard on the weekend of Jan. 23-24, but they think also of that tiny dusting on the afternoon and evening of Jan. 20. Each caused its own set of difficulties.


The Valdosta Daily Times (Georgia): Congressman addresses transportation issues in Valdosta

U.S. Congressman Rob Woodall visited Valdosta on Tuesday to discuss transportation issues with local leaders and transportation experts.


My AJC (Georgia): Outcome of Fulton transportation votes could be a signal for region

In the highest-profile transportation initiatives since the 2012 failure of a regional tax, Fulton County and the city of Atlanta are betting big on residents’ interest in making improvements to the way they get around.


Time Warner Cable News (North Carolina): Former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx Takes Tour of Transportation System

US Secretary of Transportation and former Charlotte Mayor, Anthony Foxx, spent the day touring the city's transportation system.


Philadelphia Magazine: Uber and Lyft Bill Passes Final Legislative Hurdle

The Pennsylvania Senate yesterday voted overwhelmingly to approve legislation that would, with Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature, make Uber and Lyft legal in Pennsylvania.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/26/2016 05:40 AM EDT

With help from Lauren Gardner and Jennifer Scholtes

ON SECOND THOUGHT ... With mounting pressure from dozens of bus companies and trade groups, FMCSA may try to retool parts of a fairly new rule aimed at carriers shut down for safety reasons. That rule, which the agency finalized last year, is meant to prevent motor coach companies deemed unsafe from continuing business under a different name. Some carriers have apparently been able to keep operating by signing leases with other companies that don't actually oversee their trips, as our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros.

Industry says it misses the mark: Members of the bus industry say the regulation, which they'll have to comply with starting in 2018, will fail to hit its intended targeted: so-called chameleon carriers. They also say the rule conflates the concepts of "leasing" and "chartering," making companies that charter buses and drivers responsible for a subcontractor's compliance with federal regulations.

A brewing battle: Allison Kennedy, a spokeswoman for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said her group "is deeply concerned that FMCSA is bowing to industry pressure to revisit the rule before it has been implemented and its safety benefits realized." The agency will hold a public roundtable on Monday.

IT'S WEDNESDAY: 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.

"I'm moving like the wind through the trees. Like a train on a track, there ain't no stopping me. Let the wheels spin free. With an A.M. radio busting out a tune. The ghosts from my past singing with a lonesome croon."

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

JUDGE APPROVES VW SETTLEMENT: A federal judge approved on Tuesday a $14.7 billion settlement between Volkswagen and the regulators and vehicle owners who had sued the automaker for using software in diesel cars that allowed them to cheat on emissions tests, Reuters reports . Volkswagen will start buying back the vehicles involved in the scandal in the middle of next month and will give owners thousands of dollars in extra compensation. It will also spend $4.7 billion on environmental programs. The deal is "the largest civil settlement worldwide ever reached with an automaker accused of misconduct," according to Reuters.

CABINET BACKS HEATHROW EXPANSION: The U.K. prime minister's cabinet gave the green light Tuesday to expand Heathrow Airport. The House of Commons will vote on a plan to add a third runway to the London airport in about a year, after members of the public give their input, POLITICO Europe's Charlie Cooper reports. Construction is expected to get underway in the 2020s. Cabinet ministers, the mayor of London, environmentalists and local residents have spoken out against a Heathrow expansion.

As Charlie reports, "The new runway at Heathrow would be the first full-length runway in the southeast of England since World War II. [Prime Minister Theresa] May's government has sought to portray the decision as a sign of Britain's economic self-confidence in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum."

But there's a bigger problem: The expansion of Heathrow alone won't address the EU's need for more airport capacity, POLITICO Europe's Matthew Greenfield and Joshua Posaner report. Right now, "Heathrow's two existing runways are operating at 99 percent capacity, mirroring a continental shortage in aviation capacity that's largely flying under the radar," Matt and Josh report. "We all know that one runway at Heathrow is not enough," said Olivier Jankovec, Airports Council International Europe's director general. "It's too little too late. We need more."

McCAUL VS. CRUZ 2018? House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul won't rule out the possibility of challenging Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 GOP primary, saying on Tuesday that doing so wouldn't be "smart." "I think any elected official, you don't close off your options," McCaul said during a Texas Tribune event, as POLITICO's Brent Griffiths reports . "I have several options potentially in front of me, and I'm not going to say no to any of them, whether it be serving an administration in a national security post, whether it be, possibly when I am term-limited on Homeland, going to chair the Foreign Relations Committee or going home. ... I have five kids."

McCaul suggested that Cruz has invested more time in his presidential campaign than issues that matter to Texas, but added, "I do think that after this election cycle that he has come home, that he realizes that you have to mind the store back home."

ON THE 10TH SURGE OF SAFETRACK WMATA GAVE TO ME: Metro holds a press conference today on the latest SafeTrack surge, which will shut down Red Line service between the NoMa-Gallaudet and Fort Totten stops from Oct. 29 (Happy Halloween Weekend!) to Nov. 22. Metro's Rhode Island Avenue and Brookland stations will be closed. "Red Line riders should expect significantly longer wait times and crowding on trains, especially during rush hour due to severe service reductions," Metro said in a release . "All Red Line riders are encouraged to consider alternate travel options during this surge." Folks traveling on the Green and Yellow lines between Gallery Place and Fort Totten can also expect crowding.

TWEET OF THE DAY: Reid Epstein (@reidepstein) posted Tuesday: "Good morning from Trump Doral in Miami, where you can get around on Trump bikeshare"

I'M SORRY I CAN'T BE PERFECT: The FAA said Tuesday that it's denied more drone flight applications than it has approved because applicants aren't providing the right safety information. In the two months since the agency issued new rules for small commercial drones, it has OK'd 81 applications to fly in Class D and E airspace. It has rejected 854. The FAA has issued 36 waivers for operations beyond the scope of the new regulations. It's rejected 71 requests for waivers. As our Jennifer Scholtes reports for Pros, "The agency says many applicants have listed incorrect or incomplete information, have requested too many waivers, or have requested waivers for airspace that hasn't yet been opened to drone operations."


— "Uber's self-driving truck company just completed its first shipment: 50,000 cans of Budweiser." The Verge.

— "Official: Tire treads worn on bus in fatal California crash." The Associated Press.

— "Average domestic airfare drops to lowest level since 2009." The Los Angeles Times.

— "Bob Hoover, aviation icon whose aerobatic stunts thrilled the world, dies at 94." The New York Times.

— "Two hospitalized after mobile lounge goes into ditch at Dulles Airport." The Washington Post.

— "Accused former Christie aide repudiates testimony of other witnesses in Bridgegate trial." POLITICO New Jersey.

— "Exclusive: Slim in talks with Spanish firms for bid on $3.5 billion Mexico airport terminal - sources." Reuters.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 44 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 338 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 12 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,438 days.


9 a.m. — The Automotive Recyclers Association begins its four-day convention and exposition. Baltimore.

11:45 a.m. — Securing America's Future Energy holds a discussion on "How Washington Can Enable the Autonomous Vehicle Industry." 2167 Rayburn.

5:30 p.m. — The American Enterprise Institute holds a discussion during which R. Richard Geddes, visiting scholar, will release his report on infrastructure funding. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

To view online:

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Under pressure from industry, FMCSA may reconsider bus leasing rule Back

By Lauren Gardner | 10/25/2016 05:03 PM EDT

FMCSA may rework portions of a regulation the bus industry says would do little to keep some companies ordered to shut down for safety reasons from simply doing business under a new name.

In 2015, FMCSA finalized a rule intended to prevent unsafe motor coach companies from striking "questionable lease arrangements" that let them operate under the authority of another company that doesn't actually supervise the trips. That practice had made it harder for FMCSA to track and punish bad actors.

But FMCSA has received 37 petitions from bus companies and their trade groups to reconsider the rule, in part because they say the rule wouldn't actually cover the "chameleon carriers" regulators appear to be targeting. The agency will convene a public round table on those issues Oct. 31 as it launches the reconsideration process. Though the rule is final, companies won't have to comply with it until January 2018.

"Their intent was good, but the execution is really what we have the issue with," said Suzanne Rohde, vice president of government affairs at the American Bus Association.

The rule, industry says, conflates the concepts of "leasing" and "chartering" bus service in a way that would render many above-board arrangements untenable.

For instance, companies often charter buses from other carriers to supplement service during peak-demand seasons, or when they can't handle the number of customers in a tour group on their own. Currently, those chartered buses typically retain the legal operating authority of their parent companies — meaning the carrier doing the leasing isn't responsible for ensuring compliance with federal safety rules.

Once the rule goes into effect, though, the bus company that chartered additional buses and drivers generally would be responsible for the subcontractor's regulatory compliance and legal liability — and would have to draw up a separate lease agreement reflecting that.

Beyond requiring the chartering company to take on additional liability, Rohde noted that the rule's leasing language as written doesn't apply to companies who try to skirt an operating ban by opening under a new name. Instead, it applies to agreements between two bus companies that have FMCSA-approved operating authority.

If FMCSA imposed the leasing requirements in cases where a company with operating authority partners with another that's lacking it, she said, "then you're targeting precisely the group of carriers that you were going after to begin with."

At least one safety organization is wary of FMCSA revisiting the regulation.

"The rule addresses a dangerous gap in regulatory controls that allows unsafe motor carriers, including motor carriers that have been placed out of service, to mask their operations and continue to operate under the auspices and operating authority of another motor carrier," said Allison Kennedy of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The group, she said, "is deeply concerned that FMCSA is bowing to industry pressure to revisit the rule before it has been implemented and its safety benefits realized."

An FMCSA spokesman declined to comment about the reconsideration process before the roundtable.

But the agency said in the notice announcing the discussion that, while many of the groups' concerns can be addressed by offering "additional explanation," issues like chartering arrangements "may require regulatory changes."

FMCSA is also weighing changes to the final rule's mandate for temporarily marking a leased vehicle with the liable carrier's DOT registration number and to a 24-hour notification requirement for customers when one company subcontracts out service to another.

The agency may also expand the rule's 48-hour grace period for bus companies to put a lease agreement in writing when securing a replacement vehicle when one in the fleet breaks down.


Heathrow airport expansion approved Back

By Charlie Cooper | 10/25/2016 08:54 AM EDT

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet approved the expansion of Heathrow Tuesday, in a long-awaited decision to boost Britain's airport capacity.

The move will trigger a public consultation that will last for around a year before final plans to build a third runway at the airport are put to a vote in the House of Commons.

Construction is not likely to begin until the 2020s. A rival bid from Gatwick Airport was rejected after an independent commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, backed Heathrow expansion last year.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron had promised a decision by the end of this year, but it has fallen to his successor May, formerly an opponent of Heathrow expansion, to push the plans through.

The new runway at Heathrow would be the first full length runway in the south-east of England since World War II. May's government has sought to portray the decision as a sign of Britain's economic self-confidence in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum.

Ministers said that the expansion would boost trade and create new opportunities for business in new markets, including in Asia and South America. The government estimates the scheme, which will be paid for by the private sector, will come with a £61 billion boost to the U.K. economy, creating 77,000 jobs over the next 14 years.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who backed Leave in the EU referendum campaign, said the decision was "truly momentous."

"I am proud that after years of discussion and delay this government is taking decisive action to secure the U.K.'s place in the global aviation market — securing jobs and business opportunities for the next decade and beyond," he said.

"A new runway at Heathrow will improve connectivity in the U.K. itself and crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities. This isn't just a great deal for business, it's a great deal for passengers who will also benefit from access to more airlines, destinations and flights."

However, the decision is set to trigger a political backlash, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Justine Greening long-standing opponents of the plan. May has granted cabinet ministers temporary permission to speak out against the government's chosen option.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that the decision to expand Heathrow Airport "is the wrong decision for London, and the wrong decision for the whole of Britain." He added that the rival Gatwick plan would have been "quicker and cheaper."

The plan will also be vehemently opposed by environmentalists and local residents.

Conservative MP for nearby Richmond Park, and former London mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith resigned following news of the decision. He previously threatened to quit and force a by-election if the government gave the Heathrow plan the go ahead.

A mitigation plan for the community around Heathrow has been set out by the government, with a value of up to £2.6 billion. People whose homes will be subject to compulsory purchase orders to make way for the new runway will receive 125 percent of the market value of their home, plus legal fees, stamp duty and moving costs. A further £700 million will be made available to sound-insulate homes under the flight path.

The government has said it believes the plan can be delivered within the air quality parameters set out by a landmark U.N. decision earlier this month.

May told her cabinet's airport subcommittee Tuesday morning that the decision was part of creating "a more outward looking Britain."

Her official spokesperson later pointed out that the decision on airport capacity had been "ducked by successive governments for 40 years" but had been taken within May's first four months in office.

While May, whose Maidenhead constituency is close to Heathrow, has previously opposed expansion of the airport, she will seek characterize the decision as one taken for the benefit of the whole country, in the face of local opposition from MPs in and around London.

"The PM is very clear this is a vital decision for our country," her spokesperson said Tuesday. "It is right therefore to get on and take these important decisions, not to duck them, and as we do, to make sure we are thinking about the whole of the United Kingdom, not just a particular part of it."

Downing Street confirmed that Johnson and Greening have been granted "special dispensation" to publicly oppose the government's decision, but will not be permitted to speak out against it in the House of Commons chamber.

This article first appeared on POLITICO.EU on Oct. 25, 2016.


McCaul won't 'close off' possibility of running against Cruz Back

By Brent Griffiths | 10/25/2016 12:10 PM EDT

Rep. Mike McCaul was given multiple opportunities to rule out a 2018 Texas Senate primary challenge to Ted Cruz today. But the House Homeland Security chairman said at this point it would not be "smart" to rule out a run.

"I think any elected official, you don't close off your options," McCaul said at a Texas Tribune event in the state's capital today. "I have several options potentially in front of me, and I'm not going to say no to any of them whether it be: serving an administration in a national security post, whether it be, possibly when I am term-limited on Homeland, going to chair the Foreign Relations committee or going home. ... I have five kids."

McCaul carefully broached the subject when pressed by Tribune CEO Evan Smith. The six- term congressman took a few shots at Cruz, but conceded that the first-term senator has improved since he snubbed his party's presidential nominee this summer in Cleveland.

"I think he spent a lot of time, since Day One running for president," McCaul said. "I think we deserve somebody in the Senate who is going to be representing the interests of state of Texas. I do think that after this election cycle that he has come home, that he realizes that you have to mind the store back home. I do think he has traveled the state to get that effort sort of back on track."

The 54-year-old said he comes from a generation where you "support your nominee," but also recalled how Cruz's predecessor focused squarely on her state.

"I remember Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas was her crown jewel."


FAA: Commercial drone fliers botching waiver applications Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 10/25/2016 02:54 PM EDT

The FAA has rejected more drone flight applications than it has approved in the first two months of its new regulatory regime for commercial drones, apparently because applicants aren't filing correctly.

The agency issued a public update this afternoon, stating that it has approved 81 applicants to fly drones in Class D and E airspace and has issued 36 waivers for operations outside the scope of the new rule issued in August for commercial operation of small drones. But the FAA has also rejected 854 airspace applications and 71 waiver requests in that time.

The agency says many applicants have listed incorrect or incomplete information, have requested too many waivers, or have requested waivers for airspace that hasn't yet been opened to drone operations.

FAA officials note that they "clearly spell out" information required for certain waivers, such as exceptions for flying drones at night.

"Waivers and airspace authorizations are an important part of making the new rule work as intended," the agency said in its statement today. "Applicants can help speed the process by making sure they make a solid, detailed safety case for any flights not covered under the small drone rule."

The FAA issued 76 waivers on the first day of the new drone rules alone and has administered thousands of remote pilot knowledge tests over the last two months.


Accused former Christie aide repudiates testimony of other witnesses in Bridgegate trial Back

By David Giambusso | 10/25/2016 05:32 PM EDT

NEWARK — The cross examination of Bridget Anne Kelly reached a slow crescendo in federal court Tuesday as Gov. Chris Christie's former aide was forced to confront her own words and the testimony of her former co-workers — testimony she said was mistaken.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna tried to establish Kelly, on trial for conspiracy charges in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, as an influential operative in Christie's administration, capable of pulling off the alleged act of retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. Kelly, in tears at several points Monday, adopted a more defiant tone under questions from the government Tuesday, insisting she was not someone who held enough sway to perpetrate the lane closure conspiracy.

Khanna started the day methodically examining emails and text messages from Kelly and by afternoon began relentlessly questioning her version of events, her lack of knowledge about the reasoning behind the lane closures and the contradiction between her own testimony and that of two of her former subordinates.

Kelly testified early in the day that she was unaware of any specific animosity against Sokolich, a Democrat who did not endorse Christie's reelection bid, and that to her knowledge he shared a decent relationship with the governor's office. Khanna then confronted her with worried texts from Sokolich on Sept. 10, 2013, the second day of the lane closures.

At the time, Kelly had been forwarded a text from Sokolich to her co-defendant, former Port Authority deputy director Bill Baroni. Sokolich expressed concerns about the traffic caused by the closures, saying children were not able to get to school.

"[Sokolich] said 'Help please. It's madness,'" Khanna said, recounting the text. "You didn't reach out to the mayor at all when you got this message?"

Instead, Kelly had sent a text to David Wildstein, the admitted architect of the closings, saying "Is it wrong that I'm smiling? ... I feel bad for the kids, I guess."

Kelly testified she was 'smiling' because she was happy that Wildstein's supposed traffic study on the bridge was a success, without any safety issues. She then said she was genuinely concerned about the children.

"I truly felt badly about the children," Kelly testified. "I know it's been portrayed to be whatever everybody else wants it to be."

Khanna also rehashed text messages Kelly exchanged with Wildstein about Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, whom both found "annoying." Days after Kelly's infamous "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email to Wildstein, she exchanged messages with Wildstein about Carlebach.

"We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?," Kelly texted.

Asked about the message on the stand, Kelly insisted the text was simply a joke, and was not an indication that traffic jams were used for retribution.

"All of the Port Authority related problems caused traffic problems," she said. "It was banter. Again, a poor choice of words."

Key to Kelly's defense is the notion that she was under the impression all along that the Fort Lee lane closures were part of a traffic study and not political retribution against Sokolich for not endorsing the governor. But statements by previous witnesses at the trial indicate she was aware of the punitive nature of the closures.

Chris Stark, a former aide who answered to Kelly, testified that she said, "We are doing enough to mess with him," referring to Sokolich.

"My testimony is that I did not say that to Mr. Stark," Kelly testified Tuesday.

Kelly also denied comments made by Jeanne Ashmore, a former Christie aide who said she briefed Kelly on constituent complaints about the traffic during the closures and that Kelly smiled at points during the briefing.

Kelly also denied testimony by Matt Mowers, a former Christie campaign aid who testified that Kelly asked him if Sokolich was definitely not endorsing Christie.

"You're testifying now that Miss Ashmore's testimony was also false," Khanna said Tuesday. "Just like Chris Stark and Matt Mowers — all false testimony."

Kelly said they had different recollections.

Asked about the testimony after the day's proceedings, Kelly's lawyer, Michael Critchley said he would address it in his closing remarks.

"I'll have more to say about that in my summation. Everybody had a chance to listen to the testimony as it came in," he said. "You won't be surprised by my summation."

Cross examination of Kelly continues Wednesday. Lawyers predicted the jury could begin deliberating by late Friday or early Monday.