Infrastructure in the News: January 7, 2013
BAF IN THE NEWS:
Financial Times: Destructive storm offers constructive lessons
Images of lower Manhattan plunged into darkness after superstorm Sandy swept through New York and New Jersey were a dramatic illustration of the connection between climate change, energy security and business continuity. The question for business schools is how to equip future leaders to manage in a world where success will increasingly depend on understanding these links.
CBS: One-in-8 U.S. bridges structurally deficient: Gov't.
America's bridges are getting weaker every day. The federal government says one-in-eight of them is considered structurally deficient, including New York's Tappan Zee Bridge. Jeff Glor reports.
National Journal: FAA's High-Tech Next Steps
The Federal Aviation Administration finally got a break. The acting administrator for the last year, Michael Huerta, was confirmed by the Senate to a five-year term to run the agency last week. His nomination finally cleared when Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., lifted his objection to the nomination. (DeMint now heads the conservative Heritage Foundation.)
Transportation Issues Daily: Does Fiscal Cliff Deal Reduce Odds for a Federal Gas Tax Increase?
Does the fiscal cliff deal make it easier or harder for Congress to raise the gas tax?
Does the last-minute fiscal cliff make it easier or harder to increase the federal gas tax in this Congress?
Transportation Nation: INTERVIEW: Author Jeff Speck Explains What Makes a City Walkable
(Sarah Gardner — Marketplace) What makes a city walkable? According to Jeff Speck, the author of “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step At A Time,” a walk has to be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting if you’re going to get people out of their cars and onto the sidewalks.
NPR: Mapping A History Of The World, And Our Place In It
Author Simon Garfield loves maps. His home in London is full of them — that's where they're stocked, hanging on walls and piled on shelves. So when Garfield was looking for a new topic to write about, not surprisingly, maps won out.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett, Featuring Kathryn A. Wolfe and Jessica Meyers
T&I IN 2013: MT and our loyal readers are itching to know what the House Transportation Committee will be tackling this year, but the panel’s leaders either don’t quite know yet or aren’t saying. One thing we know for sure is the agenda will lack definition until the committee’s organizational meeting and subcommittee leaders are sorted out. Chairman Bill Shuster told MT on Friday that the organizational meeting will likely come the week of Jan. 21 and that he’s waiting for the Dems to sort things out: “They’re trying to figure out who’s going where, as we are,” saying “it’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.” Ranking member Nick Rahall told us that he hopes the subcommittee leadership spots will be worked out in the two-week stretch that starts next week. Beyond that, Shuster and Rahall are only talking in very general terms. “We’re talking about some hearings,” Shuster told MT. “When we come back, hopefully we can give you something.” Rahall took a similar tack: “The chairman and I have talked informally and off the record,” he told MT.
Triple play: Both Shuster and Rahall listed the same three T&I issues of the most concern: a new WRDA bill, an Amtrak/passenger rail bill and starting work on the next surface transport measure. The WRDA bill should be up first, followed by the Amtrak measure, with work on the highway/transit bill scattered throughout the year. But Rahall wants to get an early jump on MAP-21’s successor. “I would hope we start immediately on reauthorizing the transportation bill,” he told MT on Friday. “I recognize WRDA will be a higher priority in the early stages, but certainly it’s not too early to start on reauthorizing the federal aid to transportation bill.”
LOWENTHAL DENIES HSR VENDETTA: New Rep. Alan Lowenthal told MT that what happens in California stays there. We’d heard from multiple sources that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was unhappy that Lowenthal had voted against California’s high-speed rail money last summer, particularly because in the state’s upper chamber he had been a thought leader on high-speed rail and the state stood to lose billions from the feds if the vote had failed. Lowenthal told us he had indeed been pining for a T&I spot, but said he lost out because of oversubscription, not because he angered Pelosi with his high-speed rail vote. “I had spoken to the leader about my vote on high speed rail. And I don’t think it was at all a concern,” he said. “I never felt there was any retribution. But I’d tell you if there was, because I stood up to Pelosi [on the rail vote].”
Moving forward: Now that he’s in Congress, the fight is rail or no rail, not one plan or another. Lowenthal said that makes him a booster and he’s ready to take on Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Denham as they try to prevent federal dollars coming to the project. “I’m all in. I’m all in. … What am I going to do? Leave it out there? No. I’m going to be a champion.” Burgess has more: http://politico.pro/105Hp8H
MT EXCLUSIVE — Inhofe staffs up: Alex Herrgott has returned to Sen. Jim Inhofe’s staff as legislative director, and the two seem set to work on transportation issues despite Inhofe being term limited out of the top GOP spot on the EPW Committee. Here’s part of a statement from Inhofe offered up to MT: “Our nation has many infrastructure needs, from highways to Corps and water projects, and I believe that Congress must be bold in reforming and refocusing our limited resources to our nation’s greatest needs. … I look forward to working with Chairwoman [Barbara] Boxer and ranking member [David] Vitter to ensure that monumental reforms, environmental permit streamlining provisions and accountability measures that served as a hallmark of the recently passed MAP-21 are implemented by the administration as the authors intended.” Herrgott says it was “a difficult decision to leave the Chamber” and has some nice words about his time there: “The experience I gained there will be beneficial as I return to legislative making process. The Chamber is a highly effective advocate for local chambers of commerce. Since many of those are located in Oklahoma, I look forward to continuing to work with them in my new capacity.”
GAVEL UP: Freshman Rep. Richard Hudson will chair the House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation Security panel, which has jurisdiction over TSA. Full committee Chairman Mike McCaul also singled out the much-maligned agency in his statement, saying that, among other things, he will “ensure” the TSA “effectively protects travelers.” Rep. Candice Miller will chair the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee and former Chairman Pete King will keep a gavel on the Counterterrorism panel.
Hawaii’s senior senator to Commerce: Sen. Brian Schatz was named to the Senate Commerce Committee on Friday. Schatz, who was appointed by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill the seat of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, will be last in seniority among the committee’s Democrats. But another seat should soon open up with the expected resignation of Sen. John Kerry, who will soon be formally nominated for secretary of State.
SANDY UP FIRST IN SENATE ... IN TWO WEEKS: Sen. Chuck Schumer said at a press conference Friday afternoon that the Senate will promptly take up a Hurricane Sandy aid bill as soon as the upper chamber returns the week of Jan. 21. The House is expected to pass a comprehensive Sandy aid bill the week of Jan. 14. Majority “Leader [Harry] Reid has promised it will be the first thing we take up when we get back,” Schumer said. Northeastern members of Congress are seeking billions of dollars to restore transit stations, roads and railroads, and Schumer said he is already in talks with House Appropriations leaders on putting together the “best bill possible” that can quickly clear both chambers.
CRAPO MULLS DUI ADS: Sen. Mike Crapo lost his driver’s license for a year after pleading guilty to DUI (http://politi.co/133ETyh). Our colleagues Scott Wong and Manu Raju turn up an interesting transportation angle to it: “Aides say Crapo, who has now sworn off alcohol, is trying to figure out the best way to spotlight drinking and driving, including possible public service announcements.” http://politi.co/UPdg8e
HOUSE GOP TWEAKS PLANE RULES: The House adopted its rules package for the 113th Congress last Thursday. Transportation-watchers might have missed one small tidbit: changes to how charter plane trips are expensed. Members and staff can now prorate and divvy up the cost, according to a Rules spokesman: “It provides more flexibility. A lot of our members are in rural districts and they can’t do a lot of travel commercially, or it’s not as flexible traveling commercially, so this allows that.” Kathryn has the story: http://politico.pro/ZlMzvS
BACK IN THE AIR: Republican Rep. Michael Grimm and Democrat Tim Bishop have reintroduced a bill that would apply passenger pilot rest rules to cargo pilots, as well. The bill would end the so-called “cargo carveout” that exempts cargo pilots from fatigue regulations set to go in effect in 2014. The bill is similar to one introduced by Bishop and former Rep. Chip Cravaack in the last Congress. Here’s the new bill if you need a refresher: http://bit.ly/Up0RdQ
BUS IT BABY: Intercity bus service was up 7.5 percent in 2012 as compared to 2011, and carriers like BoltBus and Megabus were up 30 percent, according to a new DePaul bus study out on Sunday, which concludes it’s the fastest growing travel mode in the country. And this will be music to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s ears: The study found that after DOT’s takedown of some shady bus operators last year, “conventional and discount carriers appear to be benefitting from the notoriety” of those bad actors, driving traffic to lines like Greyhound and BoltBus. Read the full report: http://bit.ly/X6MUOE
Speaking of LaHood: Freshman Democratic T&I member Cheri Bustos has already met with LaHood, saying “we spent probably a good half an hour talking about how we can work in a good, bipartisan nature.” Peoria Journal-Star: http://bit.ly/13bRzSZ
- In-car tech makes the auto industry a player at the Consumer Electronics Show. Tony Romm: http://politico.pro/VFeSCo
- Fitch reaffirms Ohio Turnpike Commission debt in spite of new bonds. Fitch: http://bit.ly/TBG9Vv
- Motorcycle sales up in 2012 for first time in six years. Trib: http://trib.in/115iy3W
- Gas tax increase a tough sell in Maryland. Again. WaPo: http://wapo.st/Xsq0W4
Politico Pro: Lowenthal says California rail vote didn’t torpedo committee spot
By Burgess Everett
A new member of the House of Representatives says that, contrary to political chatter, he was not denied a coveted spot on the House Transportation Committee because of his vote against the California high-speed rail project.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), who chaired the state Senate’s Transportation Committee from 2009 until 2011, had been a key voice in the development of the state’s rail plan, but voted against a bill in the state Senate last summer that authorized billions of California’s money to a new high-speed segment in the Central Valley and rail improvements in urban areas. Lowenthal said he had soured on the bill that emerged, and he unsuccessfully pitched a Plan B that would have focused fast trains in California’s big cities.
With the outcome of the bill that would start the high-speed rail system in the middle of the state hanging in the balance, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lobbied to get the funding approved, fearing California would lose a federal match with an unsuccessful vote. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had said without that the Senate vote — which did pass — the feds would have had to move the money elsewhere.
But the hot rumor in the Golden State’s political circles that he was the victim of retribution on committee assignments simply isn’t true, Lowenthal said in an interview. Instead, he, along with about 30 other new members of Congress, asked for one of the 10 remaining seats on the House Transportation Committee. And with veteran California Reps. Janice Hahn and John Garamendi, both Democrats, securing a spot on the panel, the door closed, he said.
“I had spoken to the leader about my vote on high speed rail. And I don’t think it was at all a concern,” he said. “I never felt there was any retribution. But I’d tell you if there was. Because I stood up to Pelosi [on the rail vote].”
Aides in Pelosi’s office did not responded to phone and email messages.
Lowenthal acknowledged he’s been the subject of talk back home ever since that July vote. One California lobbyist wrote to POLITICO after the Transportation Committee list came out sans Lowenthal and surmised the former state senator was “getting coal for Christmas” from House leadership. And a fellow California Democrat confirmed recently that Pelosi was unhappy with Lowenthal’s vote.
“I certainly have heard those rumors,” Lowenthal said, adding that he was happy to receive spots on Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources.
Instead, Lowenthal said he went with his gut on the vote, siding with state Republicans, because he feared too much money was committed to the Central Valley portion without any assurance of further funding.
“I had a fiscal responsibility to people in California, even though I was a great advocate for it. I wanted to vote for it. But I just couldn’t,” the Long Beach representative explained.
Now that Lowenthal’s career is in Washington and not Sacramento, the calculus has changed. Instead of hoping to reshape the state Legislature’s plan toward his proposal for urban areas, the fight now is now just to keep the high-speed rail effort alive.
Led by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), some Republicans seek to include an amendment to the next spending bill that would block the administration from supplying any more money for California’s fast-train project. That is not something Lowenthal wants to see.
“Once the state, the governor and the leadership here decided to go with this high-risk strategy, that was it. I’m all in. I’m all in,” he said. “What am I going to do? Leave it out there? No. I’m going to be a champion.”
Politico Pro: New rules ease some private plane limits
By Kathryn A. Wolfe
As part of its new rules package for the 113th Congress, the House is loosening up a little when it comes to members jetting off on a private plane.
Most of the rules change is intended to harmonize the House’s ethics rules with those of the Senate in this area, said Doug Andres, spokesman for the House Rules Committee. That includes a tweak to how members and their staff can use charter planes.
For example, Andres said under the old rules, if 10 members and their staffs chartered a flight somewhere, with a total price of $10,000, each passenger would have to pay $10,000. The changes, Andres said, allow members and staffs to split the price or otherwise pro rate it for each person.
“It provides more flexibility. A lot of our members are in rural districts and they can’t do a lot of travel commercially, or it’s not as flexible traveling commercially, so this allows that,” Andres said.
It also will allow members to use personal or office funds to reimburse the value of flights taken on planes owned by another member.
And it allows the chairman and ranking member on the House Ethics Committee to issue a waiver on the prohibition against private air travel at their discretion. According to a summary of the rules package, this is intended to “facilitate the use of private aircraft in extraordinary circumstances, such as in an emergency or in the aftermath of a natural disaster.”
Sacramento Bee: Transit chief to announce $135 million for light rail
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will be in Sacramento on Monday to formally announce $135 million in federal funding to extend the Regional Transit light rail to Cosumnes River College.
Northwest Public Radio: Taxing Carbon To Pay For Transportation Infrastructure
Keeping up with transportation infrastructure isn’t cheap. The Washington State Transportation Commission estimates that in the next 20 years around $200 billion needs to be put towards the maintenance of roads, ferries and more.
Post-Tribune: Growing number of intercity travelers boarding the train
More travelers are boarding trains to travel between cities in the Midwest, spurring new efforts to upgrade to higher-speed travel along Amtrak rails.
Taunton Daily Gazette: ROBERT DeLEO: Transportation infrastructure a top priority in 2013
WASHINGTON — EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpted version of Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s speech to the House, after he was re-elected as Speaker on Wednesday.
The Commercial Appeal: Editorial: MATA subs 'Bus Rapid Transit' routes for light rail
With no possibility of building a light-rail system any time soon, the Memphis Area Transit Authority is embarking on a cheaper alternative to whisk passengers along designated routes.
Recordnet.com: Transit district penalized $35K, Bus emissions not properly tested, recorded
STOCKTON - The San Joaquin Regional Transit District will pay a $35,250 penalty for failing to adequately monitor emissions from its diesel buses, according to a settlement agreement.
Transportation Nation: NYC Adds Bus Service, in First Transit Expansion in Years
New York City will get more buses. Starting Sunday, the NY MTA is increasing the frequency or extending the routes of 17 bus lines. Another four routes will grow later in the month. (Scroll down for the full list.)
Lohoud.com: Transit options studied for new Tappan Zee Bridge
As a member of a new task force charged with devising transit solutions for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, White Plains Mayor Tom Roach sees the potential to leave a legacy of infrastructure.
Washington Post (Associated Press Rep-Print): Fishing industry looking for help with storm losses with post-Sandy disaster declaration
MIDDLETOWN, N.J. — While Superstorm Sandy did highly visible damage to homes, boardwalks and roads, it also walloped the Northeastern fishing industry, whose workers are hoping for a small piece of any future disaster assistance that Congress might approve.
New York Times: Storm Panel Recommends Major Changes in New York
A new commission formed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, charged with figuring out how New York should adapt in the long term to cope with worsening storms amid climate change and population growth, has recommended an extensive menu of programs: it includes turning some of the state’s industrial shoreline back into oyster beds, hardening the electric and natural gas systems, and improving the scope and availability of insurance coverage, according to a draft version obtained by The New York Times.
Next City: Slowly, Chicago’s Infrastructure Trust Tries to Change the Funding Game
This past March, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled an initiative he called the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. Ambitious yet vaguely defined, the trust would enable private companies to invest in public infrastructure projects, earning a return while helping the city finance public works that may otherwise be unaffordable to taxpayers.
Freight tonnage is estimated to increase 88% through 2035.