Infrastructure in the News: February 20, 2013
BAF IN THE NEWS:
Washington Post: Gray: Plan would make District ‘healthiest, greenest and most livable’ city
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray is vowing to make the District the nation’s “healthiest, greenest and most livable” city within 20 years and is launching dozens of initiatives to curb energy use, reduce traffic and boost access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Progressive Railroading: House transportation committee highlights federal role in transportation
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held its first hearing last week of the 113th Congress to underscore the importance of transportation infrastructure to the U.S. economy.
New York Post: Mayor wired for change: Can EVs work for NYC?
Robert Bryce has a clear view of the future, as opposed to a century ago, when Thomas Edison gave up on electric vehicles because of the limitations of contemporary battery technology (“A Mayor Unplugged From Reality,” PostOpinion, Feb. 18).
The Record Herald: From the Capitol: Shippensburg Public Library; Veterans License Plates; Transportation
Pennsylvania House of Representatives State Rep. Rob Kauffman, a Republican whose district includes Franklin and Cumberland counties, recently announced a $500,000 grant through the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund for upgrades and repairs to the Shippensburg Public Library.
Fleet Owner: Hearing highlights federal role in infrastructure
The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held its first hearing of the 113th Congress on Feb. 13 focusing on the importance of infrastructure to the U.S. economy and examining the role played by the federal government in ensuring safe, efficient, and reliable infrastructure.
Construction Equipment Guide: LIUNA Calls for Strong Federal Role in House Transportation, Infrastructure Hearing
America’s infrastructure — roads, bridges and highways and water systems - are in a state of crisis. Across the United States, 26 percent of all bridges — are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
Terry O’Sullivan, general president of LIUNA — the Laborers’ International Union of North America — testified Feb. 13 on the need for strong federal leadership to address the nation’s basic needs for good roads, safe bridges, clean drinking water and safe and efficient airports before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Mainline Media News: Ed Rendell discusses why we are 'a nation of wussess'
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell spoke to a group of more than 100 people at Radnor Middle School on Tuesday night to discuss why the United States has become, “a nation of wusses,” which is also the title of his 2010 memoir, A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make us Great.
The White House: Fact Sheet: The President’s Plan to Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Infrastructure
Investing in infrastructure not only makes our roads, bridges, and ports safer and allows our businesses and workers to be as competitive as they need to be in the global economy, it also creates thousands of good American jobs that cannot be outsourced. Since the President took office four years ago, America has begun the hard work of rebuilding our infrastructure. But there’s more to do, and that’s why the President’s plan ensures that the money we invest in infrastructure is spent wisely by adopting a “fix-it-first” policy.
New York Times: Obama to Flesh Out Plans for Infrastructure Projects
The White House on Wednesday will flesh out the plans President Obama announced in the State of the Union address to repair the nation’s ailing infrastructure, a White House official said.
New York Times: A Great Debate
This is the year of what should be a decisive debate on our country’s spending and debt. But our political “debates” seldom deserve the name. For the most part representatives of the rival parties exchange one-liners: “The rich can afford to pay more” is met by “Tax increases kill jobs.” Slightly more sophisticated discussions may cite historical precedents: “There were higher tax rates during the post-war boom” versus “Reagan’s tax cuts increased revenues.”
New York Times: Uniting for Cyberdefense
The discussion on cyberthreats has finally gone public. For years, governments have treated damage from cyberattacks as classified information, while the private sector has kept damage secret in order not to scare off customers and investors.
New York Times: New Dreamliner Headache: Parking Space
With the Federal Aviation Administration’s grounding of the 787 Dreamliner fleet in its fifth week, Boeing now faces a problem of where to store the airplanes that continue to roll off the assembly line at its giant factory 30 miles north of Seattle. Boeing, reluctant to shut down its production lines at Everett, Wash., and at a factory in Charleston, S.C., is producing 787s at a rate of slightly more than one a week. At the time the fleet was grounded, 50 Dreamliners were in service.
eNews Park Forest: Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $12.5 Million to Improve Access to America’s National Parks and Protected Areas
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday announced $12.5 million in grants for 29 projects in 20 states to improve access to America’s national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. The selected projects will help reduce traffic congestion and make it easier for millions of visitors to enjoy the nation’s scenic Federal lands. The funds are provided through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks program, which awarded $40.8 million for similar projects in January 2012.
Washington Post: Erskine Bowles: ‘Being far out front of the president on revenues wasn’t something I wanted to do again’
Erskine Bowles was co-chairman of the Simpson-Bowles commission, and is author, with Alan Simpson, of a series of deficit-reduction plans. His most recent proposal — summarized here — came out Tuesday, and we spoke that afternoon.
Washington Post: Gas Tax Hikes Or Pay-Per-Mile: How Should The U.S. Fund Roads?
After 20 years, we may finally be getting a raise -- and by "raise", we mean "an increase on the federal gas tax". A growing number of voices suggest that, though not perfect, an increase on the tax that motorists pay for gasoline is the best way to bring America's infrastructure up to snuff and keep the U.S. fatality rate hovering near record lows.
The Hill: Obama: Sequestration would result in airport delays
President Obama warned on Tuesday that airline passengers might face longer travel times if automatic budget cuts known as "sequestration" are allowed to take effect.
FastLane: Transit in the parks preserves a democratic idea; moves America forward
In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama called on us to upgrade our nation’s transportation infrastructure to help grow our economy and create jobs. Yesterday, our Federal Transit Administration took a big step forward on both fronts with $12.5 million in grants for 29 transit projects in 20 states to improve access to America’s national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.
DC Velocity: Keep on trucking (by rail)
Arguably, the most exciting development for the railroads since the invention of the diesel engine has been the growth in intermodal freight movements. The intermodal concept is an old one and actually originated when the Chicago Great Western Railway put the first trailer on a flatcar in 1936. It wasn't until 1952, however, that a major carrier, the Canadian Pacific Railway, introduced intermodal as a regular, ongoing service.
New York Times: This Charleston Harbor Battle Is Over Cruise Ships
CHARLESTON, S.C. — In this Southern coastal city that runs on history and hospitality, a raucous civic debate belies a genteel veneer. Like several communities that hug the nation’s coastline, Charleston is struggling to balance the economic benefits of cruise ships against their cultural and environmental impact.
Washington Post (Associated Press Reprint): Verizon spends more than $752 million on Virginia’s telecommunication infrastructure in 2012
RICHMOND, Va. — Verizon Communications Inc. spent more than $752 million to improve its wire line telecommunications and information technology infrastructure in Virginia during 2012
Washington Post: George Washington would surely notice Maryland traffic congestion, O’Malley says
A speech delivered by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Presidents Day included the kind of lofty rhetoric one might expect when the topic is George Washington’s legacy. But in his address to the Maryland Senate, O’Malley also managed to work in a plug for something more mundane: dealing with traffic congestion.
Washington Post (Associated Press Reprint): House, Senate negotiators appear to be closing in on a historic transportation reform accord
RICHMOND, Va. — Legislative negotiators are closer to a transportation funding reform compromise that could get full House and Senate votes by week’s end.
The Hill: NY lawmaker says fixing covered bridge to nowhere in Ohio an 'insult to taxpayers'
Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) on Monday blasted a decision by the Department of Transportation to spend $520,000 to repair an historic covered bridge in Ohio that will not be open to traffic.
Transportation Nation: NJ Gov Christie: “Chewed Away” Shore Road Will Be Rebuilt
Speaking Tuesday in the shore town of Lavalette, Governor Chris Christie said the state has received federal funding to rehabilitate a 12.5 mile stretch of Route 35 running from Point Pleasant Beach to Island Beach State Park. The road, which is a block from the Atlantic Ocean, “sustained some of the most severe damage in the state,” said Christie. “Thousands of truckloads of debris and sand” were removed in the days after the storm, he said, and the road was “chewed away” in places.
Seattle Times: Inslee names Oregonian as new head of Transportation
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said he picked a new transportation secretary who shares his vision for boosting public transit, increasing the capacity of existing highways and reducing carbon emissions from traffic. Inslee on Tuesday named Lynn Peterson, a highway engineer and adviser to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, to the job.
Boston Globe (Associated Press Reprint): NH lawmakers: Legalize gambling, no gas tax hike
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Sponsors of a Senate bill to legalize casino gambling in New Hampshire said Tuesday they hope the state’s share of gaming revenue will pay for planned highway improvements and make it unnecessary to raise the gas tax. New Hampshire has toyed with the idea of casino gambling for many years. While gambling proposals have passed the Senate on several occasions, none has ever passed the House.
WSOCTV: Charlotte progresses on light rail, more appealing to renters
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte city leaders promise an economic boost for north Charlotte when construction on the light rail extension starts next year, and Channel 9 discovered a new project that could be one of the first. Eyewitness News noticed construction on an empty lot at Caldwell and Twelfth Streets and found out what will go there.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Burgess Everett and Adam Snider Featuring Scott Wong and Kathryn A. Wolfe
OBAMA’S TRANSPO PUSH: President Barack Obama sits down today for eight separate interviews with local TV stations, including ones in San Francisco, Honolulu and Oklahoma City. Get ready for some infrastructure lines — the White House says he will “announce a plan to cut federal review and permitting timelines for construction projects such as highways, bridges, railways, ports, waterways, pipelines and renewable energy. In talking with local anchors, he will also have the opportunity to discuss specific, important projects in their communities that stand to benefit from these initiatives.” Obama also will tout his “Fix it First” and Partnership to Rebuild America programs he mentioned in the State of the Union. Jennifer Epstein has more: http://politi.co/VuINNU
MULLING REVENUE OPTIONS: Now is the time for Congress to begin batting ideas back and forth about how to finally (finally!) close the gap between federal transportation revenues and spending. And Peter DeFazio is doing just that by pitching a pair of proposals that take a different tack to avoid the terrible optics presented by a simple, immediate upward adjustment to the federal gas tax. The top Democrat on the Highways and Transit panel has been sharing his plans with T&I Chairman Bill Shuster, who declined to rule either out when MT asked specifically about them: “I’ve said over and over again. I’m not ruling anything in and I’m not ruling anything out. We’ve got to consider it all.”
Pair o’ plans: DeFazio’s preferred option would be to index the gas tax to the CPI or a different DOT construction index and bond that money to generate billions upfront for immediate projects. “That could be $120, $140 billion upfront into the [Highway] Trust Fund right now to begin to deal with the backlog of projects. And people would see construction activity everywhere in America,” DeFazio said. The other — endorsed with an “I’m all for it” by ranking Dem Nick Rahall — would be to assess a tax on producers on a per-barrel basis. “It has a number of merits. One is foreigners would be paying for part of our infrastructure investment,” DeFazio said. “People wouldn’t mind that too much.”
Enzi’s story: Across the chamber (and the aisle), DeFazio might have an ally in Mike Enzi, who said he tried to get a vote on his proposal to peg the rate to inflation last year as the Senate Finance Committee struggled to raise billions to fill Highway Trust Fund shortfalls in the last transportation bill. He said he was denied that vote by the Democratic leadership — and he described the eventual funding package as a plan to “steal money from other places and not tell anybody where it’s coming from.” He added: “I’m talking about funding a use legitimately. If you drive, you need gas. If you need gas, you pay a tax. The tax has to go just to taking care of transportation.” Right now, he says, “we’re just doing phony accounting.” Burgess has the story right here or in the POLITICO paper, with an Adam assist: http://politi.co/Y6lhHC
INDUSTRY GROUPS SUPPORTIVE, NOT SPECIFIC: MT checked with two major transpo lobbying groups — both were pleased by any talk of ways to raise the needed money, but neither wanted to get too specific about individual proposals. AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright gave this comment to MT: “AASHTO’s Board of Directors has agreed that an increase in funding for transportation is a critically important part the federal reauthorization process. We are very supportive of having the discussion around various funding options. At the end of the day, what we need is a long-term, sustainable source of funding for the federal surface transportation program.”
Skin the cat: “The most important thing here is that people are trying to solve the problem,” a transpo lobbyist from another major group told MT. But with that said, it’s too early to parse each proposal in detail, especially since we’re at least a year from a transportation bill hitting the House or Senate floor and lawmakers have remained largely mum aside from saying all options should be on the table. “Going over the pros and cons of each proposal, I’m not sure, is really productive. There are 10 to 15 ways to skin this cat,” the source said.
SEQUESTER TALK — Not in my backyard: In some lawmakers’ minds, there’s no stopping the sequester. So they’re making a plea to the Obama administration: Don’t cut in my backyard. With the automatic budget cuts set to strike all aspects of the federal government on March 1, members of the House and Senate are lobbying administration officials in private and during public hearings to try to spare key projects and employment hubs back home. One example of many in Scott’s story: Sen. Roger Wicker recently asked the Army Corps of Engineers’ top official if she had a way to prioritize looming cuts to the agency, making the case that Obama can’t boost exports by underfunding water projects along the Mississippi River. “I’m almost relishing the moment all these tough-talking guys say: ‘Can you help me with my base?’” said Lindsey Graham, one of the most vocal critics of the cuts. “When it’s somebody else’s base and district, it’s good government. When it’s in your state or your backyard, it’s devastating.” Scott Wong takes it away for all to read: http://politi.co/133a91Z
Obama on sequester: “Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country,” he said yesterday. Epstein again: http://politi.co/131OpUe
SIMPSON-BOWLES II SILENT ON TRANSPO REVENUE: A new fiscal proposal (http://bit.ly/139918H) by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson calls for a “highway bill to bring transportation spending and revenues in line,” but contains no hint of how that might be paid for. However, in accompanying documents (one-pager: http://bit.ly/XrBVQC; Q&A: http://bit.ly/XrBYvO), the two distanced themselves from the old proposal, saying this one isn't intended to be a “2.0” but rather is “meant to show what is possible in the current political environment that could still put the country on a fiscally sustainable path.” Elsewhere the document references “increasing various user fees” but contains no specifics. It also notes that this is intended to be a framework of ideas that will be fleshed out “in great detail ... in the coming weeks.” The duo’s famous 2010 report called for a 15-cent gas tax hike implemented gradually — a penny a month — between 2013 and 2015, which would help cut the deficit by ending the need for future general fund bailouts of the Highway Trust Fund.
Heed ye, heed ye: AED President and CEO Toby Mack said “Congress should heed the call” from the duo, adding that “the only acceptable way to do that is by fixing the revenue shortfall, by raising the gas tax, and/or identifying other new user fee revenues.”
'Pissed': Speaking at POLITICO’s Playbook breakfast, Bowles said the public will be outraged at the effects of sequestration, including cuts to airport security that will lead to increased wait times. “When you guys have to go out here to Reagan Airport and wait in line three hours to get through security, you’re going to be pissed,” Bowles said. “And so is everybody else. And you can use lots of different stories like that,” he said, referring to public reaction to the cuts.
FCC MOVES ON SPECTRUM: No, you’re not reading Morning Tech by mistake. Today the FCC will take up a new spectrum shift that groups argue could impede connected vehicle and drone technology. A huge coalition wrote the agency a week ago raising their connected car concerns, if you care to refresh your memory (http://bit.ly/YaqGLv). And our colleague Brooks Boliek looks at drone angle and points out that the FAA also uses some of the spectrum for weather radars. Check out his Pro story: http://politico.pro/133hjDw
MAILBAG — Bike gang: A big coalition on bike and pedestrian groups wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking that, in setting up new safety metrics called for in MAP-21, the agency create a separate standard for noncars. While highway deaths have largely been trending downwards (but more on that below), bike deaths have spiked recently. “Setting safety performance measures for nonmotorized transportation will ensure that as states revise their strategic highway safety plans, that they examine the state’s data on bicycle and pedestrian safety and, where appropriate given the data, determine steps suitable to their communities to reduce fatalities and serious injuries,” the groups write. Give it a read: http://bit.ly/ZqnS26
HIGHWAY DEATHS UP: Motor vehicle traffic deaths increased last year for the first time in seven years, according to a preliminary estimate (http://bit.ly/W81qV9) from the National Safety Council. The council estimates that 36,200 people were killed on the roads in 2012, a 5 percent bump over 2011. Texas showed the largest increase in deaths from 2011 to 2012, from 2,933 to 3,339. NHTSA said in December that traffic deaths were up 7.1 percent in the first nine months of 2012.
CABOOSE — Elevated subway: One of MT’s favorite parts of the Capitol are the subways that ferry members and reporters between the House and Senate office buildings and the Capitol itself. MT reader Jim Brewer, a lobbyist at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, passes along this picture of the Russell subway that’s been elevated this recess week, likely to do some maintenance on the manually-operated train. Check out a picture: http://bit.ly/XszehX
- Lynn Peterson named new Washington state transportation secretary after Paula Hammond resignation. Transpo Issues Daily rounds up some reactions: http://bit.ly/VuKUBe
- Reagan (DCA) sets traveler record with 19.7 million passengers in 2012, beating 2011’s 18.8 million. MWAA: http://bit.ly/VuaBC7
By Brooks Boliek
Federal regulators are expected on Wednesday to start opening up big swaths of the nation’s airwaves for Wi-Fi through the 5 GHz band.
The FCC will begin considering a series of proposals aimed at expanding the use of the technology in the band. Commissioners, in the first formal step in the process, are expected to approve a notice of proposed rulemaking to free up new frequencies currently occupied, to a great extent, by government agencies for things like airport weather radar and drone operations.
In 2012, Congress ordered the FCC to figure out how to open up the band for Wi-Fi while allowing current occupants to operate. Once an afterthought, Wi-Fi has become a critical piece of the communications infrastructure. It also has been a spark for innovation as more devices get connected to the Internet.
The commission is expected to eventually make 195 MHz available for Wi-Fi that is currently unavailable, as well as propose action that would change the way it governs some of the 550 MHz in the band where Wi-Fi uses are already allowed.
There is a feeling among some of the commissioners that the FCC can put more airwaves to use faster by altering some of the rules that restrict Wi-Fi use.
Like the traditional licensed airwaves for uses, such as with cell phones, Wi-Fi has become a crowded place. Poor service and service interruptions have occurred particularly at major events where large numbers of people attempt to send and receive everything from a text to full-motion video.
Policymakers hope that dedicating more of the nation’s airwaves to Wi-Fi will ease the crunch.
More Wi-Fi may be a laudable policy goal, but there are some who have a frequency claim to stake.
The FAA uses some of the same airwaves for terminal weather radar, and a small flock of agencies, including the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security, use them for unmanned aerial systems. NASA wants a slice for its advanced communications mobile terminal project.
NTIA chief Larry Strickling told the commission in a Feb. 19 letter that some of these users might be unable to share the frequencies and could have to be moved.
Automakers and the transportation industry are worried that the final plan could make it more difficult to roll out their smart systems that use radio waves to warn drivers about the dangers of the road.
“With over 30,000 deaths on our nation’s roads every year, we also believe it is critical that efforts to open up additional spectrum do not come at the expense of revolutionary life-saving technologies,” a coalition of transportation executives told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a Feb. 12 letter.
In addition to its vote on 5 GHz band, the commission is also expected to approve new regulations that will allow the use of commercial wireless signal boosters.
Retrofitting public buildings to be greener would create as many as 800,000 jobs.