Infrastructure in the News: December 7, 2012
BAF IN THE NEWS:
Washington Post (Associated Press): Mayor: From building codes to evacuation zones, NYC is working on storm, climate prep
NEW YORK — The city will work on upgrading building codes and evacuation-zone maps, hardening power and transportation networks and making sure hospitals are better prepared for extreme weather after Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.
Washington Post (Associated Press Reprint): New Jersey governor, Obama reunite 6 weeks after storm as White House weighs new aid package
WASHINGTON — New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie reunited with President Barack Obama on Thursday for the first time since the pair teamed up in response to Superstorm Sandy.
New York Times: Mayor Pledges to Rebuild and Fortify Coast
New York City, still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, will expand its evacuation zones, tighten building codes and look for ways to fortify critical infrastructure like transportation and electrical networks from future natural disasters, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday.
Wall Street Journal: Sandy Alters 'Reality'
By MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL
December 6, 2012
Two-thirds of all New York City homes damaged by superstorm Sandy were outside of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's existing 100-year flood zone, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday, calling for an immediate redrawing of the maps to reflect current conditions.
"The yardstick has changed, and so must we," Mr. Bloomberg said during a breakfast speech in Lower Manhattan. "FEMA is currently in the process of updating their maps, and those maps will guide us in setting new construction requirements."
The FEMA flood map designations play a crucial role in setting building and zoning codes. The designations are also used for insurance purposes, and homeowners seeking mortgages in high-risk zones may be forced to buy federal flood insurance.
Expanding the city's flood zone was among a host of measures the mayor proposed to protect the city from dangerous storms. He said the city would also change its evacuation maps, likely boosting the breadth of Zone A, the low-lying areas that are evacuated first. And he called for better protection for critical infrastructure such as the electricity network and changes to the building code.
But the mayor rejected big-ticket ideas such as building a sea wall as too expensive.
There are "no panaceas or magic bullets," Mr. Bloomberg said. "We have to live in the real world and make tough decisions…Saying we're going to spend whatever it takes just is not realistic."
The speech was an opportunity for Mr. Bloomberg to burnish his credentials as a voice on climate change. He spoke after an introduction by former Vice President Al Gore, an environmental activist, and the event included other speakers who lauded the mayor's efforts.
Mr. Bloomberg appointed two deputy mayors to conduct a comprehensive review of the city's preparedness measures and recovery operations and file a report that will be made public by the end of February. He also tapped Seth Pinsky, head of the city's Economic Development Corp., to develop a concrete recovery plan for the communities hardest hit by the storm.
"Let me be clear: We are not going to abandon the waterfront," the mayor said. "We are not going to leave the Rockaways or Coney Island or Staten Island's South Shore. But we can't just rebuild what was there and hope for the best. We have to build smarter and stronger and more sustainably."
Mr. Bloomberg described Sandy as unprecedented. Water levels at the Battery reached 14 feet, he said, noting that FEMA had estimated there was a less than 1% chance of that happening. In 1960, the water levels reached 11 feet, the record before Sandy.
Mr. Bloomberg pledged to redo New York City's evacuation maps to better "reflect the new reality we face."
Before Sandy struck, the mayor ordered a mandatory evacuation of the roughly 375,000 people living in Zone A. But as The Wall Street Journal reported last month, two of the city's 25 drowning victims died outside Zone A.
"Sandy surged beyond Zone A—into Gerritsen Beach, into Howard Beach and into East Williamsburg," Mr. Bloomberg said. "So, now we'll re-examine the evacuation zones and update them."
Zone A was expanded in 2011 after Tropical Storm Irene, growing to encompass all of the Rockaway Peninsula, City Island and the Hamilton Beach neighborhood of southeast Queens. "Thank God we did because it meant they were ordered to evacuate, which probably saved lives," the mayor said.
But even those revised maps weren't sufficient, the mayor said.
Mr. Bloomberg said a substantial portion of the city's critical infrastructure is situated in the 100-year flood plain, and he directed Mr. Pinsky to examine what it will take to make "every essential network that supports our city" capable of withstanding a Category 2 hurricane. During Sandy, the mayor said, "all of our major infrastructure" networks failed and took too long to be restored.
While Mr. Bloomberg reiterated his position that sea walls aren't viable—though they are a solution backed by his ally, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—he said there may be some coastline protections that could be helpful, such as berms, dunes, jetties and levees.
The mayor said he is reaching out to executives at utilities and wireless phone companies to prod them to better prepare for extreme weather. Consolidated Edison Inc. ED -0.04% plans to invest $250 million in the coming months, he said, and the mayor had a long conversation Wednesday night with the CEO of Verizon about service.
"We cannot, in the future, have cell towers that have only eight hours of backup battery power," Mr. Bloomberg said. "That is just not acceptable in the world that we live today."
In his introductory remarks, Mr. Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on climate change, said Sandy was related to global warming.
"What will it take for the national government to wake up?" said Mr. Gore, who lost his bid for president in 2000.
He praised the steps that President Barack Obama has taken, but said "we cannot have four more years of mentioning this occasionally and saying it's too bad that the Congress can't act."
Mr. Gore praised Mr. Bloomberg, who has been outspoken on climate change. The mayor cited climate change as a primary factor in his decision to endorse Obama in the days before the election.
On Thursday, the mayor said the challenges facing the city are enormous but he is confident of success.
"There is no storm, no fire, no terrorist act that can destroy the spirit of our city, and keep us from looking forward envisioning a better tomorrow and then bringing it to life," he said.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett, Featuring Jessica Meyers and Kathryn A. Wolfe
BIG TRANSPO NAMES AT PRO EVENT: Ever wonder why you should go Pro? Here’s a great reason. Next Wednesday, Dec. 12, we’re hosting a discussion of all things transportation, including a look back at 2012 and a look ahead to 2013. And we’ve locked down some great names: T&I Chairman John Mica, incoming EPW ranking member Sen. David Vitter, former T&I Chairman Jim Oberstar, T&I member Tim Holden, former Pa. Gov. and Building America’s Future Co-Chairman Ed Rendell, and two state DOT secretaries: Sean Connaughton of Virginia and Gene Conti of North Carolina. Pros can RSVP here: http://politi.co/TG7mpm
USA TODAY: Fact check: Dueling fiscal cliff deceptions
10:26AM EST December 6. 2012 - A fog of misinformation has settled on the fiscal cliff, as both House Speaker John Boehner and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have traded conflicting, misleading and false statements in recent days on the president's deficit-reduction plan:
Governing: Deficit-Reduction Talks May Fuel Gas Tax Increase
Leaders of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will try to introduce a new surface transportation bill at the very onset of 2014, according to a committee aid who outlined the expected timeline of the legislation.
The Hill: LaHood defends California high-speed rail plan
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took a break from celebrating his birthday Thursday to press lawmakers to release funding for the centerpiece of President Obama's high-speed rail plans.
The Hill: Northeast transit officials detail Hurricane Sandy impact
Officials from Amtrak and other northeast U.S. public transportation agencies briefed a Senate committee Thursday on the damage that was sustained by transit systems last month during Hurricane Sandy.
National Journal: A Meaningful Stimulus Starts With Infrastructure
The United States is now in its third straight recovery from a recession in which economic growth has revived but job growth hasn’t followed at anywhere near the same pace. First 1991, then 2001, now the Great Recession—jobless recoveries appear to be the economy’s default setting, and a damaging one. Since mid-2009, gross domestic product has climbed by 3.6 percent in the United States (on a per capita basis) while employment has fallen by 1.8 percent, economists Nir Jaimovich of Duke University and Henry Siu of the University of British Columbia reported in a research paper in November. This is why more than half of Americans still believe the recession hasn’t ended.
Fast Lane: DOT takes further steps to enhance transit on tribal lands
Since I took this job, the Department of Transportation has made great progress developing infrastructure on tribal lands. The Obama Administration has listened intently over the last four years to the transportation concerns of tribal leaders, and today we've taken another big step forward.
Star-Telegram: BNSF chief says short-term budget deal likely to avoid fiscal cliff
FORT WORTH -- Leaders in Congress are likely to reach a short-term budget deal with the Obama administration to keep the country from going over the "fiscal cliff," the chief executive of Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway said Thursday.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett, Featuring Jessica Meyers and Kathryn A. Wolfe
DeMINT OUT, THUNE IN? By now we assume MT readers are aware of yesterday’s big news: the resignation of Sen. Jim DeMint to head up The Heritage Foundation. That’s a big deal for the transportation world, which had been skeptical of how the conservative firebrand would mesh with Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller as ranking member. But since this is Washington, we’ve already moved on to who will ascend to the Republican top spot of the powerful Senate panel that oversees rail and aviation issues. John Thune is in line for the job, seniority-wise, but Hill staffers and even members were still trying to process whether or not the Senate Republican Conference chairman could also head up the GOP side of an ‘A’ committee at the same time.
But will he multitask? MT’s reporting suggests he can do both, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will. When asked about it, Thune said he was interested in the Commerce ranking membership — but he’s going to be patient. “It’s all part of the committee selection process, which does not ultimately get ratified, I think, until January. But you know, it probably doesn't get ultimately resolved until then,” he said. Other senior members we queried said he’d be a good fit for the bipartisan-minded committee. The pre-election legislative committee work of DeMint and Thune are truly a contrast. Thune worked with Sen. Claire McCaskill to pass bipartisan legislation beating back the EU’s aviation emissions program; DeMint held up FAA’s Michael Huerta for months — a nominee with the backing of both parties. Burgess has more on the latest parlor game: http://politico.pro/VJXpXH
A sigh of relief: Numerous industry groups quietly applauded DeMint’s departure, and those that weren’t clapping didn’t appear particularly miffed. “This is going to be a big deal,” said a commercial vehicle safety industry source. “It’s going to be very positive for us.” Groups are still assessing Thune’s record and his potential influence. But even if it’s too early to determine substance, there’s the matter of style. The friendly South Dakotan doesn't have the fiery demeanor of his South Carolina counterpart, another aspect some find soothing. “DeMint is such a flash,” the safety person said. “He’s so to one side that this will have to be a step in the middle. ... Thune is still fairly conservative, but he’s a little bit more understanding of the importance of the federal role.” An aviation industry source said Thune “is much less confrontational and more collegial, and that atmosphere is probably a good thing.” Jessica covers the industry reaction for Pros: http://politico.pro/VMCjHZ
DENHAM, LaHOOD SCRAP OVER CALIF. HSR: A day after David Rogers broke the story of the feud over language blocking federal funds for the Golden State’s high-speed rail network, the tiff spilled into the public arena. Thursday’s House T&I hearing included a heated back-and-forth between Rep. Jeff Denham and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I’ll just be honest with you, Mr. Denham,” LaHood said. “I would hope you could find members of Congress that wouldn’t prohibit the federal government from funding high-speed rail projects. That’s a good first start. As long as there’s language in bills that prohibits us from funding, we’re going nowhere. So if you would withdraw your language in the appropriations bill, or tell Mr. [Kevin] McCarthy to do that, that would be a good first start for us. We’re not going to get one dollar as long as there’s language in appropriations bill that says that no federal money can be spent on California high-speed rail. That doesn’t help us.” Denham’s reply: “The amendments are meant to stop this project until we see a plan.”
Objection not withdrawn: LaHood said the last time he and Denham talked about the issue, he offered to set up a meeting with California High-Speed Rail Authority President Dan Richard to talk about the plan. “If he does that will you withdraw your language?” LaHood asked at the hearing. “When you can show me that this project is fully funded and we have a private investor,” Denham said before LaHood cut him off. “We’re not going to get it fully funded as long as there’s language in bills that says you can’t have any money,” LaHood said while raising his voice — a rarity for the typically diplomatic former congressman. “How do we fully fund it?” Adam’s story has much more: http://politico.pro/VME2xd
Swan song: T&I Chairman John Mica said his committee will hold a hearing on the Northeast Corridor next week, his last as chairman. His first committee hearing (not counting the organizational one) with the gavel was on Jan. 27, 2011, in Grand Central Terminal in New York City, on — you guessed it — the Northeast Corridor.
NOT SAYING NO: There is no infrastructure piece as part of the House Republicans’ rough, one-page counter-offer to President Barack Obama in the fiscal plunge negotiations, a top House GOP aide told MT. But if the president wants to include transportation and infrastructure growth investments in his next offer, he is free to do so, the aide said. That doesn’t sound like a “hell no” to MT, but we generally prefer coffee to tea leaves, anyway.
SANDY TRANSPO HEARING: East Coast transportation gurus descended on Washington on Thursday to detail the damage done to their transit systems. MTA head Joe Lhota told a Senate panel that preliminary damages hit $5 billion, Amtrak head Joe Boardman counted $60 million in total impact to the rail system, and N.J. Transit executive director James Weinstein estimated repair costs alone would reach $400 million. The hearing didn’t delve into specifics on a supplemental aid package and Lhota refused to discuss the numbers with reporters until he had an exact figure. He also avoided talk about his potential New York mayoral bid. “I've been reading the papers and I've been quite surprised about what's there,” he said, adding that he hasn't thought about it at all. “The time will come when I make a decision, but right now my No. 1 focus is getting the MTA up and running again.”
PRIVATE VS. FEDERAL: A GAO study (http://1.usa.gov/VzPNuw) out yesterday finds that private security screener performance at the handful of airports currently allowed to use them were largely a wash compared to TSA screeners. Private screeners performed slightly better than the baseline in some task categories and slightly worse in others. But GAO says these results aren’t entirely caused by screener type — for instance, airports that serve a lot of tourists may have an inherently longer wait time because they fly less frequently.
CABOOSE — Boozy humor: Sen. John Boozman attended Mica’s portrait hanging on Wednesday but said he had to leave a bit early before he was recognized. The former ranking member on Water Resources told MT that Bill Shuster messed with him a little bit, referring to Boozman as a former House member — not a current senator. “Just to dig at me,” Boozman said with a laugh.
- Reconnecting America has a new report on transit in mid-size cities. Read it: http://bit.ly/SBhn6m
Politico Pro: Thune exploring top GOP spot on Commerce
By Burgess Everett
Within hours of the news that Sen. Jim DeMint is leaving the Senate and the coveted top GOP slot on the Commerce Committee that awaited him, the next most senior member indicated he’s patiently pursuing the job.
South Carolina Republican DeMint's move to head up The Heritage Foundation, combined with the impending retirements of current ranking member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), means Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is next in line to ascend to a dais seat next to Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). However, there is some question among Republicans about whether he would first have to give up his Senate Republican Conference chairmanship, the third highest ranking job in the upper chamber’s GOP leadership structure.
Republican sources and members said they don’t believe the party’s rules prohibit Thune from serving in the job. That doesn’t mean the job is automatically his — but it also doesn’t mean he can’t do both. Fellow members of leadership are still figuring out how this affects the Senate power structure and did not have immediate answers.
“You know, I don’t know the answer to that,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the incoming minority whip, when asked if Thune can or will do both jobs.
Thune said he is “interested” in the job when asked by POLITICO. Though some members expected the committee and leadership situation to shake out within hours, Thune said he expects the process to take longer.
“You know there’s a process that we follow. Obviously it involves consultation with colleagues on the committee, and it’s up to the conference in the end. But yes,” he said of his interest. “It’s all part of the committee selection process, which does not ultimately get ratified, I think, until January. But you know, it probably doesn't get ultimately resolved until then.”
One GOP member, along with a senior Republican aide, remembered several instances of members serving on leadership and in top committee slots concurrently. The member said regardless of who takes the Commerce top spot, there will be a domino effect on the subcommittees. DeMint is the top Republican on the Aviation panel and Thune on Surface Transportation, which opens up opportunities for other senior members such as Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
Should Thune not get the job, Wicker would be next in line. He told reporters that he would soon meet with leadership to determine how he would serve on Commerce and called the DeMint move a “complete surprise.”
Isakson said he was sitting back to see how things would shake out but said Thune “would be a great one” to help lead the committee, as did Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who described himself as “a seniority guy” and noted that Thune “appears to have the seniority.”
“He’s great at leading the conference, but he’d also be a great leader on Commerce,” Boozman said in an interview.
Jessica Meyers contributed to this report.
Politico Pro: DeMint exits, some transpo groups exhale
By Jessica Meyers
Here’s how to sum up much of the transportation industry’s sentiment to Sen. Jim DeMint’s sudden departure: “Goodbye and good luck.”
Numerous industry groups quietly applauded the South Carolina Republican’s announcement Thursday that he will leave for The Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. And some who weren’t clapping didn’t appear particularly miffed.
DeMint, who would have served as ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, has gained both admiration and animosity for his unyielding position on spending and his business-friendly views.
Safety and labor groups are exhaling the loudest at the news.
“This is going to be a big deal,” said a commercial vehicle safety industry source. “It’s going to be very positive for us.”
Safety advocates had fretted about DeMint’s position on regulatory oversight, as the committee handles the safety components of transportation. This includes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which serves as the federal auto safety watchdog. DeMint recently proposed an amendment that would have stripped $50 million from the bus and truck safety bill sponsored by outgoing ranking member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and another to the transportation bill eliminating a commercial vehicle mandate for electronic on-board recorders.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the next most senior Republican on the committee, said Thursday that he is interested in the job. Questions linger over whether he will need to give up his Senate Republican Conference chairmanship to accept the spot, although that appears increasingly unlikely.
Industry groups are still assessing Thune’s record and his potential influence. But even if it’s too early to determine substance, there’s the matter of style.
The friendly South Dakotan doesn't have the fiery demeanor of his South Carolina counterpart, another aspect some find soothing.
“DeMint is such a flash,” the safety person said. “He’s so to one side that this will have to be a step in the middle. ... Thune is still fairly conservative, but he’s a little bit more understanding of the importance of the federal role.”
An aviation industry source said Thune “is much less confrontational and more collegial and that atmosphere is probably a good thing.”
Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Hutchison had an amicable relationship that proved useful in moving legislation. Many feared Rockefeller and DeMint would not share that same connection — or level of productivity. One transportation-watcher had predicted the “end of the two-minute markups” and speculated that DeMint would focus as much on setting the Republican Party apart from Democrats as crafting policy.
Rockefeller’s goodbye to DeMint was polite but terse. In a statement, he congratulated DeMint and said he looked forward to working with “whomever the Republicans select” in a bipartisan manner.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) was less diplomatic. “I can think of many smart remarks, but I’m not going to use them here,” Commerce’s surface transportation subcommittee chairman told POLITICO. “Someone will fill that position.”
If Thune doesn’t take the spot, a senior Republican outside the committee could make a go for it. But it would probably fall to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a possibility that has maritime groups enthralled. Some had worried about DeMint’s protectionist attitude and his anti-union stance.
The Gulf Coast senator “would be ideal,” a maritime insider said. “But either of these guys would be much better for maritime in general than DeMint.”
DeMint may have spent more time on bills he disliked than the ones he did, but he was an unabashed championed for his conservative colleagues and stayed committed to fiscal restraint.
By year’s end the committee will have lost its top three Republicans and — as is often the case in Washington — much remains speculative.
“There is a sense that perhaps this could be positive,” the aviation source said. “But it depends on what actually happens.”
Politico Pro: GOP hits high-speed rail funding, LaHood fights back
By Adam Snider
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham publicly sparred Thursday over controversial language that would block federal funds for California’s high-speed rail project, a day after reports of a private feud surfaced.
At a sparsely attended House Transportation Committee hearing — the House has already adjourned for the week — Denham used two rounds of questioning to hammer LaHood over cost overruns, changes in the construction schedule and the lack of private-sector investment in the project to eventually link Los Angeles to San Francisco with trains going 220 miles per hour.
As first reported by POLITICO, Denham, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans want the prohibition included in an omnibus appropriations measure being drafted. The language, originally offered by Denham, was passed as part of the House’s transportation funding bill, which along with other spending bills has since stalled.
A former colleague said LaHood, a Republican, was “very agitated” by the push, and it showed at the hearing.
“I’ll just be honest with you, Mr. Denham. I would hope you could find members of Congress that wouldn’t prohibit the federal government from funding high-speed rail projects. That’s a good first start,” LaHood said. “As long as there’s language in bills that prohibits us from funding, we’re going nowhere. So if you would withdraw your language in the appropriations bill, or tell Mr. McCarthy to do that, that would be a good first start for us. We’re not going to get one dollar as long as there’s language in appropriations bill that says that no federal money can be spent on California high-speed rail. That doesn’t help us.”
“The amendments are meant to stop this project until we see a plan,” Denham responded.
But that only irked LaHood further. “The last time we talked about it, I suggested that you sit down with Mr. Richard, [California High-Speed Rail Authority President Dan Richard], and go over the plan and review it. I’ll be happy to have Mr. Richard call on you and sit down with you and review in detail what the plan is,” LaHood said. “If he does that will you withdraw your language?”
“When you can show me that this project is fully funded and we have a private investor,” Denham replied before LaHood cut him off.
“We’re not going to get it fully funded as long as there’s language in bills that says you can’t have any money,” LaHood said while raising his voice — a rarity for the typically diplomatic former congressman. “How do we fully fund it?”
The Denham language is mostly about message — Republicans have blocked any additional federal money for high-speed rail since taking back the House in the 2010 election. And it’s not the only “poison pill” Democrats aren’t happy with — the underlying bill also includes language by Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) that would prevent DOT from even studying a vehicle miles traveled fee, which many experts say is one of the best long-term alternative to the current gas tax. But the next appropriations package will last only six months — from the end of March through September — so the Denham and Cravaack provisions, if they make the cut, would be up for debate again next summer when Congress works on a full-year funding bill.
After the hearing, speaking to a crowd of reporters, LaHood said he has been in touch with his former House colleagues about the language but would not venture a guess on the outcome. “I have no idea. I wouldn’t predict what happens around here,” he said.
In Denham’s first, less fiery round of questioning, he asked LaHood about waivers of the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act that govern construction projects. Denham noted that California has waived CEQA for the construction of several sports stadiums, including AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play.
LaHood said he hasn’t talked with California officials about waiving the state law. “I’ve never had any discussions with anybody about this, including my own staff. First I’ve heard of it,” he said.
Denham wasn’t satisfied. “It should seem that this would be a very simple topic that should be at the top of both the state and federal government’s interest point if we’re going to get this project done,” he said.
McCarthy and California Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn both spoke at the hearing before LaHood. McCarthy left immediately after his testimony, but Hahn stuck around and took a seat on the dais after Chairman John Mica allowed them to participate in the hearing.
Speaking to POLITICO after his testimony, McCarthy said the appropriations bill approved earlier this year including the Denham prohibition is “the will of Congress” and that the language will be included in a House spending bill “at the appropriate time.” As for whether Californians should be concerned that they will be left with a stub line in the Central Valley because federal funds are needed to be complete the entire system, McCarthy said it's preferable to the alternative of more debt being applied to the system’s ballooning costs.
“We’re in a fiscal debt right now. It was passed before the [California] voters that you’d have private funding,” McCarthy said. If you are “not capable of building in the way you passed it to the voters, then don’t build it at all.”
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.
Politico Pro: Heitkamp expected to join Banking as Dems shuffle lineups
By Patrick Reis and Zachary Warmbrodt
Incoming North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp will likely join Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee next session, according to multiple sources.
At a private fundraiser at the Phoenix Park Hotel on Thursday, Banking Chairman Tim Johnson told donors that he had heard that Heitkamp would be joining the panel, the sources tell POLITICO.
Heitkamp — a former North Dakota attorney general — will replace Democrat Kent Conrad in January after defeating Rep. Rick Berg by fewer than 3,000 votes in the November election.
Massachusetts Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin are expected to fill seats being vacated by retiring Sens. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.
But multiple sources say Democrats will have a third seat to fill when a current committee member jumps to the Senate Finance panel.
Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Sherrod Brown of Ohio — as well as Mark Warner of Virginia — are being mentioned as possible candidates to make the move to the tax-writing committee.
A Brown spokeswoman declined to comment on the rumors, saying only that panel placements were not yet final. Warner’s office also declined comment. Aides to Bennet did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Star-Ledger: NJ Transit head puts Sandy damage estimate at $400M
NJ Transit has come under criticism for leaving trains in rail yards that ended up under water during the hurricane, including Hoboken and Kearny. In all, 62 locomotives and 261 rail cars were damaged.
Courier Post Online: Christie meets with Obama, lawmakers on Sandy aid
WASHINGTON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday to talk about the billions in federal funding his state is seeking to recover from Superstorm Sandy.
Washington Post: Members of Congress say they expect to hold hearings on cause, aftermath of NJ derailment
CLARKSBORO, N.J. — Federal regulations require inspections of rail bridges and other infrastructure and reports on accidents, but leave it to freight railroad owners to do the work themselves.
Washington Post: D.C. offers new plan to divert storm runoff before it floods Bloomingdale, LeDroit Park
D.C. Water and city government officials are proposing to divert runoff from severe storms into holding facilities before it threatens to inundate the Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park neighborhoods of Northwest Washington in response to flash floods last summer.
New York Times: Transit Officials Ask Congress for Billions in Storm Aid
WASHINGTON — It will cost more than $7 billion to repair the damage that Hurricane Sandy did to the New York area’s antiquated transit systems and billions more to upgrade the systems to withstand major storms in the future, officials from the region told a United States Senate panel on Thursday.
Seward City News: Future Looks Grim for Alaska Railroad
In the Alaska Railroad Corporation’s newly released “2013 Report to the State,” ARRC predicts a bleak financial outlook for 2013 and the next five years. In its long-range capital improvement plan for 2013-2017, railroad President & CEO Christopher Aadnesen lists a number of factors causing the outlook for the railroad, whose net income is expected to drop from an estimated $11.6 million by the end of this year to just $2.9 million in 2013.
Bloomberg: NJ Transit Had $400 Million in Hurricane Sandy Damage
New Jersey Transit, the second- largest U.S. public transportation system, sustained $400 million in damage from Hurricane Sandy and needs twice that amount to prevent damage from future storms, its executive director told a U.S. Senate panel today.
The United States spends less than China and Europe on infrastructure.