Infrastructure in the News: December 17, 2012
BAF IN THE NEWS:
Politico: Answer This: Ed Rendell
Democrat Ed Rendell left the Pennsylvania governor’s mansion in 2011, but he hasn’t stayed away from the political sphere. He is now co-chairman of Building America’s Future Educational Fund.
The Daily Beast: Most Innovative Mayors in the U.S.
While Washington seems paralyzed by partisan bickering, America’s mayors are busy putting ideas into action. City hall is increasingly a place for bold experimentation. Unlike Congress, there’s no fiddling over the fiscal cliff or divisions into angry, ideological, debating societies. As communities climb out of the great recession, pragmatism is forcing innovation. Success requires strong leadership and a vision of politics as the art of what works.
National Journal: Cliff Dwellers, Is This a Big Deal?
Cliff metaphors abound these days, thanks to our members of Congress. In my travels, I've run across the deportation cliff, the human cliff, and yes, the transportation cliff. (Thank you, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.). To be clear, there are two cliffs in the transportation world. There is the "fiscal cliff," which would result in an overall cut of about 8 percent in federal funds. That impact on transportation isn't clear, although it would certainly be a blow. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says that could result in a furlough of 2,000 to 2,200 air traffic controllers, which could ultimately result in fewer flights.
NPR: New Car Features May Keep Older Drivers Out Of The Big Yellow Taxi
In some of the most potent cultural images we have of cool cars, they are being driven by young men — Ron Howard cruising in American Graffiti, cousins Bo and Luke from The Dukes of Hazzard sliding over the hood of the General Lee, James Dean behind the wheel of his Porsche.
The Hill: House Dem's bill requires Treasury to study taxing cars by the mile
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) on Thursday introduced a bill that would require the Treasury Department to study the viability of raising new federal highway funds by taxing cars for each mile they drive.
New York Times: Walk Like a Fish
NOBODY in their right mind visits Midtown Manhattan during the holidays. The reason is simple: everyone, it seems, is in Midtown Manhattan during the holidays. Drawn to the scene like lacewings to streetlights, tourists jam the sidewalks, the crowds slow-moving, veering, shopping-bag-laden, and only vaguely walking forward.
New York Times: E.P.A. Sets a Lower Limit for Soot Particles in the Air
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new standard for soot pollution on Friday that will force industry, utilities and local governments to find ways to reduce emissions of particles that are linked to thousands of cases of disease and death each year.
New York Times: As State Budgets Rebound, Federal Cuts Could Pose Danger
After years of budget cuts and sluggish recovery, states expect to see their revenues climb back to prerecession levels this year for the first time since the financial crisis hit. But even as some states hope to restore some of the deep spending cuts they have made, they face a new threat.
Crain’s New York: FreshDirect scales back South Bronx expansion plan
FreshDirect is scaling back its footprint in the South Bronx, where it plans to relocate in several years, and where it is being sued by a community group that opposes its development plan.
Bloomberg: Fixing U.S. Air Traffic Dysfunction Seen in Example
Twenty years ago, Canada’s air- traffic system used outdated equipment and was choking with flight delays. Since then, the organization set up to control the nation’s airspace shuttered radar rooms and towers, cut the workforce and created a market for its technology.
Huffington Post: Fiscal Survey Of The States Shows Economic Uncertainty
WASHINGTON -- Increased health care spending and uncertainty from the federal government over spending has complicated the fiscal picture for states at the same time there has been revenue growth.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett, Featuring Kathryn A. Wolfe and Jessica Meyers
December 17, 2012
THUNE'S TRANSPO RECORD: How will presumed new Commerce ranking member John Thune approach transportation policy? He won't get into the specifics yet, but industry sources tell Jessica they're heartened with his legislative approach and ability to "work across the aisle to build consensus, and move a bill through Congress." It's a stark contrast to Sen. Jim DeMint, for whom the infrastructure community had been preparing for months. "Sen. DeMint tends to be much more political as opposed to interested in the legislation itself," said former NHTSA head Joan Claybook. "Thune is very substantive. That's great as far as I'm concerned. It means you can have a debate with him on the issues you want."
Watch him: His colleagues are generally as mum on his policy positions as he is, speaking only generally about his expected effectiveness working with Chairman Jay Rockefeller. But we do know this: His state isn't served by Amtrak, leading him to question federal funding; he believes Essential Air Service is exactly that, "essential"; and his ability to marshal the European Union ETS scheme prohibition for U.S. airlines all the way to the president's desk makes him "someone to watch," according to one source. Jess takes it away: http://politico.pro/VFL0C0
SOUTH OF THE BORDER: FMCSA has spent $50,000 to put black boxes in 14 Mexican trucks that deliver goods into the United States. It's chump change, in the big scheme of things, but it still has a top Democrat hopping mad. T&I's Peter DeFazio has opposed the cross-border trucking program for years and said the payments are "outrageous." He had a long list of issues, from no hours of service laws in Mexico to no certified drug testing, when MT asked about the program. "We won't pay for an American to put it in their trucks - and they're talking about mandating them here - so what's the deal that we'll pay for Mexican companies to put it in their trucks?" DeFazio asked. Kathryn has the story: http://politico.pro/VFrPZb
Gee whizz: In listing problems with the trucking program, DeFazio recalled an interesting T&I hearing on drug tests. "We've got problems with our own labs here," he told MT last week. "We held a hearing on that, you might remember, very amusing, about whizzinators and all that kind of stuff."
BLUMENAUER BLOOMING ON INFRASTRUCTURE: Just as Team MT reported the House is dropping its demands to ban the study of a vehicle miles traveled fee, Earl Blumenauer was introducing his bill to require Treasury to study just such a scheme. The bill, which would authorize more than $150 million for the study, is a nonstarter in the lame duck, but adds an interesting angle to the discussion of long-term transportation funding. Incoming T&I Chairman Bill Shuster has said the VMT is the best long-term solution going forward - and also that both parties have dozens of members resistant to the idea both on tax and privacy grounds. Read the bill: http://bit.ly/VGJgs6
Preview: The Oregonian, who sits on both the Budget and Ways and Means committees, said infrastructure is on tax-writers' minds, telling Kathryn that infrastructure funding will get "some attention" in both committees "in the beginning of the next session." He said Budget in particular tentatively plans to hold a hearing on infrastructure funding woes early on.
RAMPING UP: Rep. Charles Boustany, fresh off his runoff victory over fellow Republican Jeff Landry, says he's mulling what to do with the RAMP Act in the next Congress. "We're discussing whether we will reintroduce the RAMP Act in its current form or with some modifications. I haven't decided yet," he told MT last week. The original RAMP Act would ensure that all revenue into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund gets spent for dredging and port projects. MAP-21 included a nonbinding "sense of Congress" provision to fully spend the HMTF money. But it was, well, nonbinding, so the president can still request a lower number and Congress isn't obligated to honor the request. So Boustany wants something with teeth to ensure the money goes to paying for port improvements. "I want something that's enforced," he told MT.
ON THE FLOOR THIS WEEK: The Senate is taking up a $60.4 billion Sandy aid package this week that includes $12 billion for New York-area transit, roads, Amtrak and mitigation efforts. David Rogers also reports that the fight over the fiscal whatchamacallit is delaying the White House's budget, which in recent years has proposed ambitious transportation proposals that have gone nowhere in Congress. http://politi.co/12u9jZc
NORTH OF THE BORDER: The White House put out a report Friday reviewing the border cooperation between the U.S. and Canada over the past year. There's some transport aspects to it, including the countries recognizing each other's air cargo security programs, a model for a pilot program on cargo truck inspections and expedited screening for "trusted travelers." Give it a read: http://1.usa.gov/ULvt2p
STANDARD PROBING: A few days after AAA raised concerns over the E15 fuel standard, The Hill reports that the House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to dig into the issue early next year. AAA said 15 percent ethanol (as opposed to the 10 percent standard) can damage car engines and even void warranties and wants more testing. http://bit.ly/Tlnz2n
'YOU CAN ALWAYS GO - DOWNTOWN': The Los Angeles County MTA has applied for $1 billion in TIFIA credit assistance from DOT, according to a letter posted by the L.A. Metro. The vote against a 30-year extension of the half-cent transportation sales tax into 2069 is starting to affect the region's efforts to re-envision its transit, but the MTA argues it is still "uniquely positioned to take advantage of the enhanced TIFIA program, although on a smaller scale than we had contemplated under the 30/10 acceleration plan." The two projects applied for are the Westside Subway extension and the Regional Connector, which will transform service downtown and simplify routing schemes and one-seat rides. The letter: http://bit.ly/QYF6Pu
THUMBS UP FOR THUNE: MT readers are optimistic about Sen. John Thune as the top Republican on the Commerce Committee. Sixty percent said he'd be great for the job and 16 percent think he'll be better than Jim DeMint. Nine percent said nobody can top outgoing ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison and 5 percent wish Roger Wicker had gotten the job.
MAILBAG - Ambassador Bridge: Nearly 20 major construction and transportation organizations have penned a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to approve a construction permit for a new international trade crossing between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Read it: http://bit.ly/12pylbY
ALL IN THE ALASKAN FAMILY: Mike Anderson begins today as the new press secretary to Rep. Don Young, a previous T&I chairman. Mike comes over after working as press secretary for Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Young's previous press secretary Luke Miller is going to the governor's office.
New York Times: Its Restaurants Empty and Its Trains Stalled, Hoboken Encounters Storm’s Increasing Toll
HOBOKEN, N.J. — It is happy hour at the Hotel Victor Bar and Grill on a Friday and the place is nearly empty. The evening commuters who would normally be emerging from the PATH train station across the street about this time, filling streets with thousands of potential customers, are nowhere in sight.
New York Times: U.S. Hunger for Yogurt Leads to Gigantic Factory
Chobani, the yogurt company that grew from nothing five years ago to a roughly $1 billion powerhouse today, on Monday will formally open one of the world’s largest yogurt-processing plants in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Washington Post: Lab helps Metro find escalator fixes
At the end of a long corridor in a building the length of three football fields, engineers and technicians are trying to find solutions to one of the Metro system’s most vexing problems: escalators and elevators that won’t go up and down.
Washington Post: Controversy surrounds Va. plan to build $1.4 billion toll road
RICHMOND — Virginia, a state so strapped for road funds that it dips into the new-construction kitty to patch potholes, is about to bankroll a $1.4 billion highway.
Washington Post: Mayor Gray, D.C. Water against council plan to reimburse Northwest flood victims
Mayor Vincent C. Gray and senior D.C. Water officials hope to derail a D.C. Council plan that would reimburse flood victims in Northwest, saying it would set a precedent that could leave taxpayers on the hook for millions in future uninsured claims.
Washington Post: Maryland Senate president nudges O’Malley on hiring a transportation secretary
If Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley wants a transportation funding bill to pass in the upcoming legislative session, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. has a piece of advice: hire a transportation secretary.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis transit buses still seeing surge in passengers
Soaring gasoline prices, a regional restoration of transit service and a mending economy have made St. Louis Metro buses more attractive.
New York Daily News: MTA repair speedup to slow overnight subway trips
The MTA will announce Monday plans to shut down five major sections of the subway overnight so a small army of maintenance workers can swarm through tunnels and stations unimpeded and unthreatened by trains.
Transportation Nation: D.C. to Start Testing Streetcars Next Spring
The first three streetcars to roll downs tracks in the District of Columbia since 1962 will be ready for testing next spring, DDOT officials said at a news briefing on Thursday.
America has 117,000 miles of rail, 600,000 bridges and 79,000 dams.