Infrastructure in the News: February 12, 2013
BAF IN THE NEWS:
Reuters: Rebuilding our economic backbone
We’re getting beat by Estonia. Not that there’s anything wrong with the tiny state on the Baltic Sea. But the nation that built the Hoover Dam, pioneered the Interstate Highway System and created the best aviation system in the world, is rapidly sliding toward the bottom of the list when it comes to infrastructure.
Progressive Railroading: House transportation committee hearing to examine federal role in infrastructure
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing Feb. 13 on the "federal role in America's infrastructure."
The Trucker News Services: House Transportation Committee schedules first hearing of 113th Congress
WASHINGTON — The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold its first hearing of the 113th Congress Wednesday entitled “The Federal Role in America’s Infrastructure.”
The Land Line: Federal role in transportation subject of first T&I hearing
The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is dedicating its first hearing of the 113th Congress to discussing the federal role in infrastructure, and for good reason.
StreetsBlog: Cycling Advocates to President: We’d Like Another Ray LaHood, Please
Next month, outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will speak at the National Bike Summit — he never misses one — and I’ll bet the standing ovation lasts 10 minutes. His support for biking and walking has been unprecedented at U.S. DOT. Now cyclists are worrying about who could replace him, and whether that person will bring the same zeal for livability and sustainable transportation.
New York Times: Airline Industry at Its Safest Since the Dawn of the Jet Age
It will be four years on Tuesday since the last fatal crash in the United States, a record unmatched since propeller planes gave way to the jet age more than half a century ago. Globally, last year was the safest since 1945, with 23 deadly accidents and 475 fatalities, according to the Aviation Safety Network, an accident researcher. That was less than half the 1,147 deaths, in 42 crashes, in 2000.
Washington Post: Is Congress really going to miss its free lunch on infrastructure?
Since the election, there have been hints that we could be entering a period with some actual productive, bipartisan dealmaking, most explicitly on immigration reform. But the Republican reaction to Obama’s expected proposals on infrastructure in Tuesday’s State of the Union address may be a better indicator of whether we are in for a year of real legislative give-and-take—or a return of the ugly politics of the last several years.
Washington Post (Associated Press Reprint): In State of the Union, Obama to stress the economy, announce withdrawal of 34k troops
WASHINGTON — Seeking to focus on nation-building at home, President Barack Obama will use his State of the Union address to call for more spending on infrastructure and manufacturing, while also announcing the withdrawal of 34,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan within a year.
Governing Magazine: This Week Critical For Virginia Transportation Bill
The prospects for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's ambitious transportation funding package -- which has received national from the infrastructure community -- were dealt a serious blow this week when the state Senate shot down its version of the legislation.
The Hill: Unions want big transportation push in State of the Union
The largest collection of unions that represents transportation workers is urging President Obama to go big on their industries in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Transportation Issues Daily: Transportation Issues and President’s State of the Union
Every January transportation stakeholders hope that the President’s State of the Union speech will include a focus on transportation issues.
Times-Ledger: 5 things to watch for in the State of the Union
President Barack Obama on Tuesday gets his second high-profile opportunity in less than a month to set the agenda for his second term.
"That's what the President will talk about tonight. The President has always viewed his Inaugural Address and the State of the Union Address as two acts in the same play, and you can expect him to expand on the issues he raised in the Inaugural. He will continue to push for many commonsense initiatives that have been historically supported by both Democrats and Republicans in the past. He'll lay out his plan for balanced deficit reduction. He will unveil some new initiatives in manufacturing, infrastructure, education and clean energy. And there might even be a surprise or two along the way."
RobertReich.com: Why We Need an Investment Budget
Part of the President’s State of the Union message and of his second term agenda apparently will focus on public investments in education, infrastructure, and basic R&D.
Greater Greater Washington: Idea Exchange moves DC toward transportation fun
If you missed the moveDC "Idea Exchange," an all-day workshop about the future of transportation in the District and the first step in a year-long project to build a transportation master plan for DC, there were three themes you can take away from the session:
StreetsBlog: Mayor Mark Mallory on How Smart Growth Helped Turn Cincinnati Around
About seven years ago, when Mayor Mark Mallory came on the scene, Cincinnati was at a low point. To convince the crowd at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Kansas City last week of the gravity of the situation, Mallory started off with a story about livestock.
Salt Lake Tribune: Lawmakers want federal gas tax lowered —to raise state gas tax
SCR6 • Utah legislators took the first step Monday to send Congress a message: Please reduce the federal gasoline tax to allow states to raise it by the same amount.
Washington Post: Virginia’s governor says he’s prepared to cut a deal on transportation
RICHMOND — A key committee meeting Tuesday could offer a glimpse of what a possible compromise on Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s transportation funding plan would look like.
Washington Post: Md. General Assembly wades into battle over utilities, likely sending gas bills higher
ANNAPOLIS — If you live in Maryland, your natural gas bill is likely to rise by $2 a month under a bill expected to pass the General Assembly as early as this week.
Quad-City Times: Iowa rail advocates concerned freight lines being overlooked
DES MOINES — Iowa rail advocates expressed concern Monday that the state may be walking away from a $100 million upgrade for freight lines that would boost shipping capacity and lessen the traffic demand on interstate highways.
Next City: “More Park, Less Way”: Re-Urbanizing Philly’s Ben Franklin Parkway
Last week, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter proclaimed the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to be his city’s “most important” civic and cultural space.
Next City: Philly to Take First Look at Capping Waterfront Highway
Interstate 95, looking toward Center City Philadelphia. Credit: Flickr user HGruber
A call has gone out for proposals to cap a small portion of highway that runs though Philadelphia.
KUHF-FM: Houston METRO Conductor Beautifies City's Walls
He’s also an artist, whose specialty is murals. And chances are good that you’ve seen some of his work, especially if you’re a regular METRO passenger.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett Featuring Kathryn A. Wolfe
OBAMA’S BIG SPEECH: In case you’ve been living in a cave, President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address is tonight. Nobody in the transport world is expecting anything huge — some references to the need to rebuild our infrastructure or a shot at corporate jets might be the best we get. Even Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller isn’t hopeful of a big transportation splash tonight. “One gets the feeling it’s going to be mostly economic, but it’ll be long,” he told MT. “I want him to talk about raising revenues, because all the stuff we have to do needs it.” When MT pointed out that the president hasn’t exactly been specific on transpo revenues before and asked if this time would be different, Rockefeller took the diplomatic approach: “Well, I hope so.” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood seems to be of the same mind — after announcing his departure last month he said Obama is “focused on a few other issues right now, like trying to fill his Cabinet posts, like gun control, like immigration” and said “there will be plenty of time for him to focus on infrastructure.”
Now is the time: AFL-CIO TTD’s Ed Wytkind: “The debate has changed on the vital role of transportation in our economy because of the president’s leadership. But now is the time to advance a vision that includes a long-term plan to pay for these critically needed investments.”
WHAT TO WATCH THIS MORNING, EVENING: POLITICO LIVE’s special coverage of State of the Union 2013 kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with Rachel Smolkin and Jonathan Allen, plus analysis from Jim VandeHei and an interview with Gene Sperling at the White House. Primetime coverage continues at 8:30 p.m. with Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, John Harris, Lois Romano & more. Tune in on politico.com/live or D.C. News Channel 8.
TAKE IT TO THE BANK: One of Obama’s go-to transportation proposals is a national infrastructure bank that would help fund major, cross-jurisdictional projects that are too large for a single state or city to handle. But the idea has gone nowhere in Congress, and two of its biggest advocates — Sens. John Kerry and Kay Bailey Hutchison — have moved on out of the upper chamber. But that hasn’t quieted the calls for the bank. BlueGreen Alliance head David Foster said the bank should be on Obama’s list: “We need to focus on new solutions such as an infrastructure bank that supports long-term viability of our nation’s transportation programs,” he said in rolling out a six-point wish list the environmental group wants in the big speech.
Delaney pitches bill: Inspired by Bill Clinton, frosh John Delaney said he plans to introduce a bill within the next month that would create an Office of Infrastructure Investment and an American Infrastructure Fund within the Treasury Department. We’d provide you with the text, but an aide tells us they are still drafting it. More of the proposed bill: http://1.usa.gov/1575AmA
ALSO TODAY — 3407 anniversary: Today is the 4th anniversary of the fatal crash that led to Congress approving pilot rest and training rules — in an FAA stopgap, nonetheless. Policy changes in a routine extension are rare, but the public outcry swelled so large that the Hill had to act. To mark the sad day, families of the crash victims will gather on the Hill for a press conference — including expected appearances from New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand — and a remembrance event later that day. They’ll press for faster FAA implementation of the rest and training rules that were part of the 2010 stopgap. “The law looks great on paper, but unless we get these overdue final rules completed on pilot qualifications and crewmember training, much of our effort will have been for naught,” said South Carolinian Scott Maurer, who lost his daughter in the crash.
NOT THAT IPA, THE OTHER KIND: The union representing pilots at UPS says the FAA’s cost-benefit analysis used to justify excluding cargo carriers from new pilot fatigue rules is flawed. As required by statute, the FAA has finalized a rule for the first time in decades that revises the regulations governing pilot fatigue. However, pilots at all-cargo outfits are exempted from the rule, which creates new 10-hour minimum rest periods and eight- or nine-hour daily flight-time caps, among other things. Robert Travis, president of the Independent Pilots Association, said the FAA’s cost-benefit analysis issued as part of a pilot fatigue rule overestimates the costs of including cargo pilots in the rule and underestimates the benefits. IPA commissioned a study, which Travis said “corrects these errors and demonstrates that applying these rules to cargo will be a net benefit to aviation safety.” Kathryn has the Pro story: http://politico.pro/X0x7D2
HERSMAN WATCH: NTSB Chairwoman Debbie Hersman, by all accounts, would win wide support and praise if she’s nominated to succeed Ray LaHood as transportation secretary. But in one area — cell phones in cars — she could butt heads with the auto industry. NTSB recommended banning all cell phones — even hands-free devices — in December 2011. The auto industry, as diplomatically as possible, disagrees with that idea and even LaHood has said it’s the act of holding a phone that is the biggest distraction. MT got this comment from a Ford official: “Extensive research shows that when a driver’s eyes are away from the road for an extended period — such as when texting — the risk of an accident increases substantially. The key is for drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. That is why Ford was the first automaker to support a federal ban on the use of handheld devices.”
Debbie donor: Though it won’t come as a surprise to those that have been doing their homework, the NTSB chair and rumored DOT secretary frontrunner has given President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns a total of $1,250 since 2008. The lifelong Democrat gave $500 in 2008 and $750 last fall, according to OpenSecrets (http://bit.ly/156gkls). She gave an additional $500 to the Obama Victory Fund PAC in 2008, according to the Sunlight Foundation (http://bit.ly/Z5xn6t). She’s also given small amounts of money to Bob Wise, a former T&I member who was her first boss as well as John Ashley Cooper, a former Commerce staffer who ran for Lt. governor of South Carolina.
UNEVENTFUL EVENT WATCH: Boeing flew its second 787 test flight Monday, with an 11-person crew spending an hour and a half aloft in a flight the company called “uneventful.” The plane, equipped with special testing equipment, monitored the performance of the lithium-ion batteries at the center of a federal probe.
Filed: The airplane maker said in its SEC filing that the problem will hurt their bottom line — but they don’t know how much since things are still being worked out. “We are unable to reasonably estimate a loss or a range of loss at this time because such estimates are dependent on the ultimate finding as to cause and the timing and conditions surrounding a resolution and return to flight,” Boeing said. Read the filing: http://bit.ly/Z5RscZ
REGULATION-BAG: The FTA has increased the fines for violations of hazmat transportation laws, in accordance with MAP-21. In a notice posting in today’s Federal Register, the agency boosts the maximum civil penalty from $50K to $75K for violations. Fines for accidents that involve a death rise from $100K to $175K and minimum civil fine of $250 is eliminated but the $450 minimum for training violations still stands. Read all the details: http://bit.ly/Z5BJdS
REPORT-BAG — Vital signs: The Washington Metro system is meeting 10 of 12 performance targets, according to the annual Vital Signs report that will be presented to the Metro board on Thursday. Read the report: http://bit.ly/Y4IXbk
Seguridad: There’s also a crime update. http://bit.ly/U6MYQw
THE DAY AHEAD: All day — High Speed Rail Summit D.C.; Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood speaks at 8:30 a.m. and John Mica at 4 p.m. 1100 New Jersey Ave. SE.
8:30 p.m. — President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress. U.S. Capitol. Watch: http://politi.co/12GP11j
CABOOSE — Ride the (virtual) streetcar: D.C. streetcars are coming back, but some of us still pine for the good old days. Greater Greater Washington highlights this video of a ride on the 82 streetcar from downtown to College Park. It’s from somewhere between 1956 and 1962 (when the city’s streetcars were discontinued). GGW has a map of the route and the video: http://bit.ly/Y56WqV
THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ)
-- Senate Banking transportation subcommittee membership announced. http://1.usa.gov/YmDXzI
-- DOT fines United $130K for tarmac rule delay. The consent order: http://1.usa.gov/XxEWwc
- State, local transpo spending up slightly in 2012, ARTBA analysis finds. http://bit.ly/X3qCMC
American infrastructure includes over 300 ports and 19,000 airports.