Infrastructure in the News: January 23, 2013
BAF IN THE NEWS:
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett Featuring Scott Wong and Kathryn A. Wolfe
BUILDING AMERICA’S STATES: Infrastructure advocacy group Building America’s Future is tracking all the transportation and infrastructure references in the 2013 round of “state of the state” speeches given by governors around the country. It’s a pretty exhaustive list so far, featuring snippets from 16 speeches — and more will roll in as the speeches unfold. Give it a look: http://bit.ly/VilCbw
Bunkerport News: U.S. port capacity continues to slip behind global competitors, Building America's Future says http://www.bunkerportsnews.com/News.aspx?ElementId=3c9da6af-6a16-4d24-beb7-3b6859ee362b
U.S. ports continue to fall behind in infrastructure compared with other countries, and port traffic in Shanghai, China, last year outpaced the top eight U.S. ports combined, according to an updated report released by Building America's Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials who advocate a new era of U.S. infrastructure investment.
Bloomberg: LaHood Says He’s Staying On as Transportation Secretary
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he will stay on for an indefinite period in President Barack Obama’s second term.
Cato Institute: Infrastructure Investment: A State, Local, and Private Responsibility
Despite huge and ongoing budget deficits, some policymakers are proposing to increase federal spending on infrastructure. President Obama, for example, has called for passage of a $50 billion plan for new infrastructure investment. The president and other leaders believe that more federal spending on roads, rail, and other assets would boost growth and create jobs.
CNN: Four other priorities for Obama's next four years (besides the economy)
(CNN) -- Fixing the economy has long been at the top of everyone's presidential wish list.
DC Streetsblog: Today’s Transit Dreams May Come True — 78 Years From Now
By the looks of it, my humble hometown of Washington, DC is winning the transit space race. The region currently has 45 transit projects either planned or underway — and one that’s stalled. You may have heard of the Silver Line to Dulles Airport, but a new map from Reconnecting America proves that that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to transit starts in the DC area.
FastLane: Port of Los Angeles railyard upgrades to speed movement of goods, cut congestion and emissions
The U.S. is home to more than 300 ports, and each is a vital piece of our national economy. It’s important that they operate both efficiently and competitively; that’s why I’m excited to see the Port of Los Angeles’ West Basin Railyard beginning construction.
Associated Press: EXODUS OF INAUGURAL WATCHERS JAMS DC SUBWAY STOPS
WASHINGTON (AP) — Crowded subway stations and a disabled train caused major headaches Monday for thousands of rail riders trying to get home from President Barack Obama's second inauguration.
NRDC Switchboard: Access over Ownership: Millennials and Public Transportation
I grew up in Montclair, New Jersey a suburb 12 miles west of Manhattan and when my mom and dad (born and raised in Manhattan and Queens, respectively) made the move to Montclair they chose a house with a bus stop 50 feet from the door. Access to public transportation into Manhattan was as important to them as the size of their new home’s kitchen, the number of bedrooms and whether the basement tended to flood. Twenty-two years later I considered the same exact factors as I made the move from Montclair to Washington, D.C. For over a month, the majority of my time online was spent on Craigslist searching for the perfect group house or apartment to move into. The ads that stuck out most to me were those that bragged about the house’s close proximity to bus lines and metro stops as well as its walk-score of 90 or higher with supermarkets, restaurants and bars just around the corner. The vast majority of ads that highlighted these types of public transportation options made it clear that it wasn’t just me who found them to be important.
Slate: A Broken Bus-Arrival App Demonstrates a Key Problem With Open Government Data
People are becoming dependent on their cellphones, and when NextBus, a popular transportation app in Washington, D.C., stopped functioning in December, many commuters were thrown into a frenzy. There are a number of iPhone apps that communicate bus arrival times in the capital, but NextBus has been among the most efficient. Its makers received more than 7,000 frustrated emails in response to the blackout. As one of the approximately 30,000 users of the NextBus app, I’d relied on it to decide how to get to work, and the morning it failed, I kept flicking my thumb across the screen, dismayed by the incessant “connection error.” Today, the app is still down, and it isn’t expected to start working again for at least a few weeks.
Sustainable Cities Collective: City Groups Partner to Promote City Transit Solutions & Urban Sustainability
World Resources Institute, led by its sustainable transport center, EMBARQ, and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) established a partnership today that will further their mutual goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from urban transportation. The partnership focuses on scaling up solutions and enhancing C40 cities transport efforts related to sustainable urban planning, bus rapid transit systems, and non-motorized transit initiatives.
New York Times: Cuomo Builds Proposed Budget With Cuts, Gambling and Fees
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed on Tuesday to balance the state budget with a combination of spending cuts, gambling revenue, and new or extended taxes and fees.
New York Times: Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers, Now a Public Attraction
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh exists for three reasons: the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio.
New York Times: The School Bus Mess
New York City mayors have long tolerated one of the most inefficient school transportation systems in the country — made so by a labor agreement that undermines competitive bidding and poorly designed bus routes.
Washington Post: Md. Senate president proposes new gasoline tax for transportation
Maryland’s powerful Senate president sought Tuesday to jump-start a stalled debate over transportation funding, offering a plan to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and urging the governor to work harder on an issue “crying out to be addressed.”
Washington Post: Everyone wants change in transportation system, but most don’t want to pay for it
With both Maryland and Virginia puzzling over how to come up with billions of dollars for transportation, local transportation planners have found little public support for an alternative to the gasoline tax that could raise a lot of money.
Washington Post (Associated Press Reprint): Neb. governor notifies federal officials he approved new Canadian pipeline route through state
LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman approved a new route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Tuesday that avoids the state’s environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.
WNYC News: Cuomo Details Some Sandy Expenditures in Budget Address
Governor Andrew Cuomo is offering more details on how he'd like to spend federal Sandy recovery funds -- even though Congress hasn't yet passed the legislation. When he unveiled his $142.6 billion budget Tuesday, Cuomo laid out how the state will allocate a hoped-for $30 billion in aid, including spending for inflatable bladders to protect transit tunnels and building new dunes on beaches.
Atlantic Cities: Traveling the Entire Length of California by Local Transit
Local transit maps tend to stay local. Some designate connections to other lines or systems but it's not really their purpose to expand the map beyond the metropolitan area — say, the way road atlases do. Recently a California design team did what local agencies don't: created a statewide rail map with more than 500 destinations served by ten rail authorities plus Amtrak, ferry, and major bus connections.
Transportation Nation: An Oral History of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge
After eleven years of construction, the Bay Bridge’s new eastern span is set to open to traffic this fall.
Wall Street Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
By MARK PETERS
Amtrak is shifting costs for some of its shorter passenger-train routes to the states, forcing them to decide between paying more or cutting back on rail services that many have been trying to expand.
States from California to Vermont are just now starting to tackle the cost increases, which kick in later this year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed Tuesday setting aside $44 million to ensure service on a variety of routes, including ones from New York City to Buffalo and to Albany. States such as Pennsylvania and Indiana are considering cutting service instead of picking up all of the new costs themselves, officials said.
"We are put in the position of either paying for the Amtrak services or having no Amtrak services," said Tim Hoeffner, director of the office of rail for the Michigan Department of Transportation.
He estimates the state's annual cost for Amtrak service could more than double to $25 million, with most of that on its route between Chicago and Detroit. The state has been working to speed up that line and increase ridership on it.
In 2008, Congress approved shifting to states the costs Amtrak pays for routes under 750 miles, while exempting the heavily traveled corridor between Washington, D.C., and Boston. The requirement starts this fall.
Most Amtrak routes require subsidies because revenue collected through ticket sales is less than the cost of providing the service.
Amtrak officials say the decision to increase the contribution of several states reduces its costs, while making Amtrak's support of rail service more uniform nationally. Amtrak traditionally has subsidized some local routes, while leaving others up to the states to support.
Pennsylvania transportation officials expect state costs for Amtrak service to more than double to $19.2 million a year for two major lines. While the state likely will pick up some of the new costs to keep the same service, it will be a challenge to do so for all the routes, said Toby Fauver, deputy secretary for local and area transportation for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
He said, for example, the route between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh is slower than driving and would need considerable updates to become competitive. "It is a struggle for me to want to pay for that service," Mr. Fauver said.
But the state is expected to face pushback from residents of western Pennsylvania. A ridership group held a rally last fall to start drumming up support for the route, which has stops in small towns and cities such as Altoona, Johnstown and Latrobe.
The loss of service would hit Huntingdon, Pa., particularly hard. The town is home to Juniata College, a growing population of retirees and two prisons, but has no other form of public transportation, said Thomas R. Kepple Jr., the college's president.
"There is a lot of us here in the wilderness, too," said Mr. Kepple, who said he takes the train several times a year.
Amtrak hasn't cut major routes since 1997, although it shuttered service between New Orleans and Orlando, Fla., in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. At the same time, Amtrak has been expanding service in the Pacific Northwest, Virginia and North Carolina.
Maine added service between Portland and Boston a decade ago, recently extending the line farther north to Brunswick. The state supports the service itself, hiring Amtrak to run the trains, while handling marketing and food service on its own, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.
She expects the cost shift over the next year will make states become more involved in their train service and look for ways to become more efficient. They also are likely to push Amtrak to become more efficient and could look elsewhere for certain services.
"It will force states who haven't paid attention to take a closer look," Ms. Quinn said.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett Featuring Scott Wong and Kathryn A. Wolfe
SANDY IN THE SENATE: With the Senate back to work this week, the back-and-forth over the Hurricane Sandy bill could finally draw to a close. Senators worked all day Tuesday toward an agreement to bring the House-passed $50.6 billion package up for a vote, so don’t be surprised if it comes up on short notice today. But in the meantime, the Senate started the Rule 14 process on the bill, which would let it hit the floor as soon as Thursday if a deal can’t be reached before then. For those with a social life: Rule 14 is a Senate parliamentary rule that can be used to bypass committee and put bills directly on the Senate calendar by having a senator object to a bill’s further reading. CRS has all the wonky details: http://bit.ly/146bvqB
BOXER GETS TO WORK: Senate EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer sure isn’t wasting any time in the 113th Congress. The committee’s first hearing will be on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and the first markup will be a new WRDA bill, she told reporters. She also has a Thursday meeting with House T&I Chairman Bill Shuster on the agenda; the two will chat about ways to shore up the depleted Highway Trust Fund ahead of the September 2014 due date for a new surface transportation bill. Among the ideas: indexing the gas tax to inflation, a sales tax on gasoline and even a carbon tax that would send some of its revenue to transportation projects. “If you hang your hat on the gas at the pump, it’s not really fair in a way because as people move away from guzzling cars to electric cars, they don’t pay a penny,” she said of the gas tax and hybrid cars (she owns one). “So there has to be a way, if you’re going to keep the gas tax, there has to be some way for other people like me. I hardly use any gas anymore, and I’m using the roads. Something’s got to give here.” Darren Goode has the Pro story: http://politico.pro/Yl4VNE
THE SHUSTER T&I FAMILY TREE: This morning the House T&I committee gets down to business with its first official meeting. Ranking member Nick Rahall said there won’t be any bills marked up, but there will still be plenty of interesting storylines as Bill Shuster’s chairmanship begins. Take his gavels: One will be made out of wood that Bill chopped for his dad (and former T&I Chairman) Bud at Thanksgiving time, the other out of a 150-year old beam from the family’s farm in Pennsylvania. Bud will be in attendance today — and he told MT that, essentially, his son’s job boils down to one thing. “There’s a very strong desire to build more infrastructure and there’s a very strong desire not to spend any money to it,” Bud said. “That’s Bill’s job, that’s his major assignment. That’s his challenge: To figure out how to get money.” Get up to speed on the Shuster family values with Burgess’s story, coming today for Pros.
Subcommittee rosters: Some of the subcommittee assignments started leaking out the day before the organizational meeting. Former Chairman John Mica seems to have nabbed three panel seats: Highways and Transit, Railroads and Economic Development, according to WMFE. http://bit.ly/10sbF89
Dems set panel leaders... Rep. Rick Larsen locked up the top Dem spot on the Aviation panel and John Garamendi will take the Coast Guard panel’s ranking spot that Larsen is vacating. The rest of the subcommittee ranking spots will remain the same: Peter DeFazio on Highways, Corrine Brown on Railroads, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton on Economic Development, and Tim Bishop on Water Resources.
...And GOP picks vice chairmen: Rodney Davis on Aviation, Steve Southerland on Coast Guard, Blake Farenthold on Economic Development, Reid Ribble on Highways and Transit, Richard Hanna on Railroads and Rick Crawford on Water Resources. All are second-term members except the freshman Davis.
Not to be forgotten: There was some action in the upper chamber too, folks. The Senate Republicans made their committee leaders official. No surprises: David Vitter will be ranking member on EPW, John Thune on Commerce, Mike Crapo on Banking, Richard Shelby on Appropriations and Orrin Hatch on Finance.
GROVER VS. BOB, ROUND ONE: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s ambitious plan to boost his state’s transportation funding and become the first state to ditch the gas tax has run into a serious roadblock — Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform. “It’s not a transportation plan. It’s a massive tax increase,” the ATR founder and president told MT in an interview. But what if the governor’s ambitious plan goes up in flames? “Virginia’s transportation program would end up looking like Washington’s budget,” Sean Connaughton, the state’s transportation secretary, told us. Norquist has no doubt it’s a tax increase, but it’s a matter of linguistics — Connaughton said that getting more revenue from one year to the next doesn’t mean it’s a tax increase. “We’ve kept the rates the same, yet I will have more gas tax revenues next year than I do this year, at the current rate. Is that a tax increase? No.” Much more from both men in Adam’s Pro story: http://politico.pro/11PuXJF
In other state transpo news: A Michigan Republican is pressing for a plan that would let voters decide their transportation fate in a May 7 ballot question. Voters would pick between a plan to hike the state gas tax and vehicle registration fees and a proposal to raise the sales tax by 2 percent, with the extra money going to transportation. The Detroit Free Press has more: http://on.freep.com/10pySYu
CALIF. HSR NOT PLEADING FOR MONEY...YET: MT caught up with the leadership team of the California High-Speed Rail Authority — CEO Jeff Morales and Chairman Dan Richard — last week when they were in Washington, and the big takeaway was that they weren’t here asking for money. “We don’t need new federal money for about two more years,” Morales said during an interview at the Capital Hilton. “We’re not here asking for a new round of funding right now. Having said that, we do need — over the long run — some form of ongoing stable federal support.”
Do the BART-man: Richard, a former BART board member, said the private sector has always been a part of the plan. “BART was built as a government program, entirely with government grants, run entirely with public employees. That is not the business model for high-speed rail. … Our business plan counts on the innovation of the private sector coming in.” New Railroads Chairman Jeff Denham isn’t so sure. “They’re looking at anywhere from $40 to $70 billion from the federal government. If that is the amount of funding that they need, how is this president going to come up with that money?” Burgess catches you up, either at this link (http://politico.pro/11QGKHB) or in POLITICO’s dead tree edition.
DAILY DREAMLINER UPDATE: Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller is calling for congressional hearings on the 787 saga. “It’s just astounding,” he told reporters. “I don’t know if different parts of the plane were made in every state or every country — I have no idea. But how can something like that by a company like Boeing be so bad? So we’re going to have a hearing on that.” No date has been set, but Rockefeller said it could be a full committee hearing or a hearing of the aviation subcommittee that examines why — on two separate 787 planes — lithium-ion batteries on board began smoldering or caught fire. Scott Wong has the Pro story: http://politico.pro/XxqrZs
T&I committee stance (Rs): "The Committee is closely monitoring the recent events involving the 787 Dreamliner and has been receiving updates from the FAA, the NTSB, and Boeing. We will continue to monitor developments and act accordingly,” a committee aide says.
T&I committee stance (Ds): New Aviation ranking member Larsen said when it comes to the ongoing troubles with the planes, "right now I think Congress's job is to let the FAA do its job. The people at the FAA are qualified to do this review," he told Kathryn.
RAPI-PROBE: House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul told MT he plans to look into how much money was spent on those Rapiscan machines that were removed last week. “I want to have a hearing on, OK, how much did this mistake cost us?” he said. “Those machines are pretty expensive. I don’t have a figure yet.” Burgess fills you in: http://politi.co/XVyzoB
CABOOSE — T&I on the small screen: You may have missed it last weekend, but you’ll get another chance in February to see Railroads ranking member Corrine Brown portrayed in a Lifetime movie. Per a 1997 Sun-Sentinel story (http://bit.ly/11F8hvB), Brown helped free a woman trapped in Ecuador after she was imprisoned for alleged drug smuggling and will be depicted in “Left to Die,” according to the Orlando Sentinel (http://thesent.nl/XkcH3r). The next showing is Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. Bring the popcorn.
THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ)
- New Reconnecting America interactive map charts 721 fixed-guideway transit projects. http://bit.ly/VokQpH
Politico Pro: Boxer, Shuster to huddle on revenue
By Darren Goode
Sen. Barbara Boxer will huddle with her House transportation counterpart this week for talks that will include setting a strategy to kick-start a discussion on increasing revenue streams for the next surface transportation bill.
Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Tuesday that she will meet Thursday morning with House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster. One of the central issues on the agenda is talks about shoring up the Highway Trust Fund, which is no longer collecting enough gas tax receipts to pay for the spending lawmakers want.
The duo’s revenue menu includes possibly indexing the existing 18.4-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax to inflation, instituting a sales tax on transportation fuels and taxing carbon emissions. In the case of a carbon tax, a portion of the revenues would go toward the Highway Trust Fund.
Boxer stressed to reporters that the gasoline tax — which hasn’t been updated since 1992 — is a “diminishing source” of revenue for the trust fund. Drivers are simply driving less than they used to, and those who are still driving are increasingly using more fuel efficient cars.
And Boxer — who drives both a plug-in hybrid and a regular hybrid car — acknowledged that she and others who drive alternative fueled cars aren’t paying their fair share into the trust fund.
“If you hang your hat on the gas at the pump, it’s not really fair in a way because as people move away from guzzling cars to electric cars, they don’t pay a penny,” she said. “So there has to be a way, if you’re going to keep the gas tax, there has to be some way for other people like me. I hardly use any gas anymore, and I’m using the roads. Something’s gotta give here.”
In the past Boxer has said she won’t support a gas tax increase, though she has supported indexing. On Tuesday Boxer said she can’t predict whether she would support a gas tax increase, but said her preference is to replace the gasoline tax “with a more reliable funding mechanism.”
Another idea that could be part of a broader revenue package is one being promoted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Outgoing AASHTO President John Horsley proposed a new percentage sales tax on transportation fuels at the source as a gas tax replacement.
“It’s very important that we encourage people to move to these clean cars, but at the same time … we’re not paying enough into the trust fund,” she said.
A tax on carbon emissions with some of the revenue going into the Highway Trust Fund may also be in the mix.
“There may be a way to even do away with the tax at the pump if you can do a carbon tax,” she said.
However, nearly all Republicans have been steadfastly opposed to the idea, a reality Boxer acknowledged. “Would there be enough people in favor right now? I doubt it,” she said.
Boxer said that no final decisions have been made in terms of what revenue tactic might emerge at the top of the heap. However, she said both sides agree they don’t want to do any further transfers from the general fund.
She also predicted another bipartisan deal eventually for the next transportation bill.
“Shuster and I work very well together,” and new EPW ranking member David Vitter (R-La.) also “very much wants to solve this as well,” she said. “So I think we’ve got a good dynamic.”
Politico Pro: California not rushing for federal HSR help
By Burgess Everett
California’s landmark high-speed rail line won’t require cash from Congress for at least two years. But at some point it will.
That’s the message the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s leadership team is sending to Washington about the massive $68 billion project set to break ground this year.
The planned statewide system is about $60 billion short, some of which will undoubtedly need to come from Congress. But CEO Jeff Morales and Chairman Dan Richard — in town last week for meetings during the U.S. Conference of Mayors — said they didn’t come to the capital with hat in hand.
“We don’t need new federal money for about two more years,” Morales said during an interview at the Capital Hilton. “We’re not here asking for a new round of funding right now. Having said that, we do need — over the long run — some form of ongoing stable federal support.”
But does the authority need a Democratic takeover of the House and another speakership from noted rail booster and current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to make the eventual connection of Los Angeles and San Francisco a reality? Richard says no, and he is bullish Republicans will eventually come around to the project’s economics.
“We have a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. But we have a program and a story to tell that is very consistent with the policy principles that they care about,” he said.
The $6 billion, 130-mile initial segment in the Central Valley will begin construction this summer, a huge milestone in a decades-long effort to bring the fast trains enjoyed all over the world to the United States. It is an effort with strong backing from the Obama administration to the tune of $3.3 billion, and from California taxpayers, who are pitching in $2.7 billion after a dramatic vote in the state Legislature last summer cemented the project’s future. Another $2 billion is going to urban rail connections in the state.
Among the big questions that will hang over Richard, Morales and the entire project for years: Where is the other $60 billion going to come from?
The answer is “we don’t know,” Richard said, emphasizing that step-by-step funding is the only viable path to such a large number. And California is taking precautions to make sure that even the Central Valley segment will be useful immediately for the Amtrak system in the state, an effort to avoid the “train to nowhere” moniker still popular among opponents.
“There have only been a few multigenerational transportation projects in history. And no one knew at the outset where those dollars were coming from,” Richard said. “There’s nothing unique about us not being able to identify every penny at this point.”
The project’s leaders are still strategizing long-term. They see the private sector eventually being able to fund perhaps as much as $20 billion, money that will start to reveal itself in five years when trains are gliding across the brand-new rail segment in the Fresno region and producing revenues.
“This project will throw off operating cash surpluses. Well, that then makes it very attractive for a private sector operator to be able to come in and bid for the right to be able to operate” the system, Richard said.
From there, the state will try to finance subsequent pieces of the network, which could mean using the right-of-way for running fiber optic wire, charging for parking service, selling advertisements and leasing land out for solar and other energy power. The idea perpetuated by opponents that the entire project will rely on the feds and California taxpayers’ wallets is off-base, said Richard, a former board member for Bay Area Rapid Transit.
“BART was built as a government program, entirely with government grants, run entirely with public employees. That is not the business model for high-speed rail,” he said. “Our business plan counts on the innovation of the private sector coming in. They are the ones that are going to put up the train sets, collect the fares and operate and maintain the system.”
And when the train needs more federal funds in 2015, the authority’s political apparatus isn’t going to Washington or Sacramento looking for a lump sum to complete the entire 800-mile system.
“We’re not looking for 20, 30, 40, 50 billion dollars from anybody at any one time. We’re looking for much more discrete amounts of money,” Morales said.
Newly installed House railroads subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) isn’t so sure. He said his “frustration” with the state’s effort comes from lack of transparency about where the many billions still needed will come from.
“They’re looking at anywhere from $40 to $70 billion from the federal government. If that is the amount of funding that they need, how is this president going to come up with that money?” Denham told reporters Tuesday. He said to count on committee hearings probing the project as well.
Morales also noted that two Republican mayors, Ashley Swearengin of Fresno and Jim Ledford of Palmdale, are two of the strongest supporters of the project. They want the construction jobs that will come with the massive new undertaking, but they also pine for the new development, downtown revitalization and commerce the rails promise to bring. The hope is that a similar sentiment eventually settles with Republicans in Congress.
“This can only be looked at as a true public-private partnership. That’s our approach, that's our philosophy,” Richard said. “We think that's attractive to the leadership in the House.”
The lower chamber isn’t there yet. House GOP No. 3 Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Denham are together pushing an amendment to the next spending bill to cut off further federal funds from going to California’s burgeoning rail system. And though it’s going to take a serious blow of litigation or legislation to halt the project now, the two penned a recent op-ed in the Sacramento Bee that suggests it’s still imperative to “cut our losses” on the project.
Denham is simultaneously making moves to cut costs and construction time on the rail line while plotting its demise. That will include pushing the waiving of some environmental regulations while forcing the issue on a prohibition of federal funding.
“High-speed rail has a future in our nation. As we continue to plan and grow, high-speed rail has to be part of the solution,” Denham said. On the other hand, he “will continue to offer that amendment and push it forward in any transportation bill as long as they continue to hide their business plan from the public.”
Adam Snider contributed to this report.
By Scott Wong
The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee has called for congressional hearings into safety issues plaguing Boeing’s new Dreamliner 787 jets.
“It’s just astounding,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t know if different parts of the plane were made in every state or every country — I have no idea. But how can something like that by a company like Boeing be so bad? So we’re going to have a hearing on that.”
No date has been set, but Rockefeller said it could be a full committee hearing or a hearing of the aviation subcommittee that examines why — on two separate 787 planes — lithium-ion batteries on board began smoldering or caught fire.
After the second incident last week, the FAA ordered all Dreamliners operating in the U.S. to be grounded until the issues can be identified and resolved. Airlines around the world soon followed suit and parked their 787s.
Upon exiting a Democratic caucus lunch, Rockefeller said he passed Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) a note about the need for a hearing on the Dreamliner jets. But such a high-profile event could put Cantwell in a politically tricky spot.
Boeing is a major employer in her state and manufactures the Dreamliner planes at a plant in the city of Everett. But she also serves as chairwoman of the aviation subcommittee that has oversight over airplane safety issues.
A Cantwell spokesman was checking with the senator to see whether she’d be open to leading such a hearing.
“The hearing would bring it out, and we would get people who would have to tell us the truth,” Rockefeller said. “It at least ought to be a subcommittee hearing.”
Another senior member of the Transportation Committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), said she supported the panel holding hearings. The 787 planes had been flying to and from Mineta San Jose and Los Angeles international airports until they were grounded.
“I think it would be good to see what exactly is going on,” Boxer said. “It’s very important and I’m grateful that the FAA has acted.”
“Railroad iron is a magician’s rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water.”