Infrastructure in the News: November 14, 2012
BAF IN THE NEWS:
New York Times: Council Speaker Urges Stormproofing as the Civic Conversation Shifts
The Association for a Better New York breakfast is a mandatory pit stop on the road to higher office for local politicians, and for weeks, Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, had been planning to use her moment to talk about education proposals to help the middle class.
Atlantic Cities: A Simple Way to Reduce Urban Poverty: Pave Streets
A defining characteristic of cities in the developing world is the lack of basic services. Only about a third of homes in these regions have piped water, and maybe three in five have electricity, according to a 2003 United Nations report. Even fewer have adequate sewage or treated waste. Transport infrastructure, particularly surfaced roads and street lighting, is lacking too.
Atlantic Cities: We Shouldn't Be Surprised That Most Transit Referendums Won
Last week a number of cities across the country took it upon themselves to improve their transit networks. Of the 20 transit referendums on November ballots tracked by the Center for Transportation Excellence, 14 are considered wins for transit, for about a 70 percent success rate. A sales tax in Pierce County, Washington, remains too close to call but appears to be failing.
Huffington Post: Fixing America's Water Infrastructure: No Better Time Than Now
Hidden underground, the deterioration of our nation's water pipes and treatment systems has gone largely unnoticed. But as the recent devastation from Hurricane Sandy has made tragically visible, our country's water infrastructure is in critical need of greater investments and modernization. And what better time to revitalize our infrastructure than now, in the wake of this month's elections -- with a second administration for the President and a new Congress on the way? Let's take advantage of this moment to solve our water infrastructure challenges and protect a vital natural resource while there is a heightened sense of urgency about both our economic future and the fundamental safety of our people.
The Hill: Ford CEO to attend Obama meeting with business leaders
Ford CEO Alan Mulally will be one of the business leaders invited to meet with President Obama on Wednesday to discuss congressional budget negotiations, according to a White House office. Mulally will be joined by executives from companies such as American Express, Wal-Mart, General Electric and Procter & Gamble as the president tries to reset his relationship with the U.S. business community after an often-contentious first term.
The Hill: Mica waiting for leadership election to address Transportation Committee chairmanship
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) told reporters Tuesday that he is waiting for House Republicans to formally elect their leadership before he discusses the possibility of remaining chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Globe and Mail: Cities press federal government for $2.5-billion to pay for infrastructure
Canadian municipal leaders are pressing the federal government to commit to an annual $2.5-billion as part of a program to pay for critical repairs to infrastructure in communities across the country.
Bloomberg: Obama’s New Cabinet Can Make Trains Run on Time
Barack Obama selects his second-term Cabinet, all eyes are on the big departments -- State, Treasury, Defense and Justice. Yet he can set the tone for his new term with changes in a less-likely place: the Department of Transportation.
Wall Street Journal (Associated Press Reprint): Port Authority: Storm damaged 16,000 cars at port
November 13, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. — Superstorm Sandy has caused damage to thousands of cars in the Port of New York and New Jersey that were heading to vehicle sales lots around the region.
Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman says 16,000 cars were damaged in the storm.
The New York Shipping Association says Toyota and vehicle processor FAPS Inc., which handles foreign and domestic cars, were among those that suffered losses.
A call and email to FAPS did not go through. Coleman says their offices, including phones and computers, also may have suffered damage from the storm.
No one answered at the Toyota distributor based at the port.
According to the Port Authority's website, it is the leading port in North America for automobile imports and exports, handling 650,669 vehicles in 2011.
Wall Street Journal: Brooklyn Tunnel Reopens to Cars
By TED MANN
November 13, 2012
The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel between Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan partially reopened to car traffic Tuesday afternoon, more than two weeks after it was flooded by superstorm Sandy.
The tunnel, formerly known as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, carries 49,500 passenger vehicles in its two tubes on an average weekday. The restoration is limited to a single direction at rush hour: cars will be permitted to use one lane of the tunnel's eastern tube, with the other reserved for express buses. The western tube remains shuttered for what Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office called "extensive repairs."
But the restoration marks the first time that all major river crossings into Manhattan will be reopened since Sandy bore down on New York City.
Floodwaters inundated three of the city's four automobile tunnels, with only the Lincoln Tunnel remaining undisturbed by the storm. The eight subway tunnels flooded in the storm have been pumped clear and returned to service.
The Carey Tunnel is the longest continuous underwater tunnel in the U.S., making it particularly difficult to clear. As Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, storm surges rushed from the Hudson River into the mouth of the tunnel and filled its two tubes with what officials estimated was 86 million gallons of water.
Mr. Cuomo announced the reopening alongside U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota, whose agency manages the tunnel.
The same day, Mr. LaHood brought more good news to the city: $28 million in federal funding for a new Select Bus Service corridor on Nostrand and Rogers avenues in Brooklyn.
The federal aid, in addition to $12 million in matching funds from the city and state, will launch the first bus rapid transit corridor entirely within Brooklyn. Plans for the route—a joint effort of the MTA and New York City Department of Transportation—call for dedicated bus lanes and limited-stop, low-floor buses running from the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge down to Sheepshead Bay.
Other SBS routes operate on First and Second avenues in Manhattan, Fordham Road in the Bronx, and from Brooklyn's Bay Ridge section to the Staten Island Mall via Hylan Boulevard and Richmond Avenue.
Like its counterparts in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, the new Brooklyn line promises faster travel times. Stops will be made roughly every half-mile along the route shared with the existing B44, and fares are collected before passengers board in order to speed up each stop.
"It's fantastic and it's going to be a great addition to Brooklyn," DOT CommissionerJanette Sadik-Khan said Tuesday.
The MTA also announced it would resume partial weekday service on the Long Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which had been knocked out since the storm.
Across the Hudson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that some service would resume on NJ Transit's Montclair-Boonton commuter rail line, with hourly trains to New York's Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal during the morning and evening rush hours on Wednesday.
Politico Pro: Staff chief Jim Coon to leave transportation panel
By KATHRYN A. WOLFE
Jim Coon, the affable but tough staff director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is heading out the door.
Coon, who has been GOP staff director for the committee since 2007, is leaving Capitol Hill for one of the “alphabet soup” aviation trade groups, the National Air Transportation Association. There, he’ll serve as an executive vice president focused on government affairs. He’ll be leaving the committee at year’s end.
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the transportation committee chairman, who himself may not be at the head of the panel next year if he is denied a term-limit waiver, is sending Coon off with a glowing review.
“Jim Coon is a man of extraordinary talent who provided wise counsel, steady leadership and a steely determination to get things done in a very challenging operating environment,” Mica said in a statement to POLITICO. “His legacy on the committee is one of great achievement and on behalf of the entire committee, I thank him for his service and wish him the very best.”
Coon’s self-deprecating manner belies his nerve: He’s known as a tough and savvy negotiator and his departure will leave big shoes to fill. During his most recent tenure on the committee, Coon helped guide the transportation bill through a difficult course and also saw through to completion a contentious FAA reauthorization bill. He also helped bring up to speed an enormous segment of the freshman class that landed in the committee ranks in 2010. And thanks to his earlier tenure on the committee, he has had a hand in almost all of the aviation policies crafted since the mid-1990s.
His advice for whoever his successor might be? “Treat others as you want to be treated,” he said. “Understand that folks may have a differing opinion or view on policies, and you need to respect that — but at the same time, stay with your principles.”
The next staff director for the committee will have the same difficult task Coon did — trying to push through another surface transportation bill; the current one, enacted earlier this year, will expire in 2014. “It’s really important that Congress works on a long-term, fiscally responsible bill — it’s just too important not to get it done,” Coon said.
Snagging Coon is a huge get for NATA, which represents aviation service providers such as charter operators, aircraft management companies, maintenance and repair organizations, flight training outfits and fixed base operators.
Coon has a heavy aviation background: Prior to his time as staff director for the full committee, he was staff director for the Aviation Subcommittee beginning in 2004. Prior to that, he was director of legislative affairs for Boeing and also for the Air Transport Association (now Airlines for America).
Coon said he’s always been personally interested in aviation and has “by and large stuck with that throughout my career.”
He was working for ATA during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Coon helped steer the organization’s lobbying effort through the post-attack bailout of the airline industry as well as securing all-important war-risk insurance to shield airlines from liability related to terrorist incidents.
Prior to his industry work, Coon had a separate stint on the Aviation Subcommittee, as well as time in the personal offices of Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) and former Rep. Robert E. Smith (R-Ore.).
“It’s been a wonderful career; I have enjoyed so much working with so many people … bright, intelligent people, who are really tasked with an incredible responsibility,” Coon said.
Politico Pro: Mississippi River running on empty
By Jessica Meyers
This flood could come not from an act of God but an act of Congress.
Waterway groups want policymakers to intervene before the Mississippi River’s perilously low water levels further shrink, stymieing traffic and threatening the agriculture industry.
To combat the most devastating drought in decades, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to enact conservation measures this month that will reduce water flowing from the Missouri River into the once mighty Mississippi. This will impact a strip south of St. Louis and could thwart barge movement down to Cairo, Ill. Protruding rock formations may make travel even more dangerous.
The ripple effects will spread through December.
“This has never happened before in modern history,” American Waterways Operators President Tom Allegretti said. “We’re dealing with a natural disaster, but we have the ability to prevent it. And this translates to the president making a disaster declaration and then taking the constraints off federal agencies so they can manage to ensure commerce on the Mississippi is not halted during winter months.”
This silky stretch links Midwestern farms with coastal export centers. It serves as a thoroughfare for grain, steel, coal and a myriad of agricultural products. With 40 percent of all agriculture exports floating down the Mississippi, the storied river also assumes a "superhighway" label.
And it has dropped to its lowest levels since 1988.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has implored the federal government to take more action. In a letter to the Army’s assistant secretary last week, he demanded steps “to avert potential economic disaster on this vital avenue American farmers use to get their goods to the world market.”
Nixon pointed to previous instances when the corps has deviated from its initial plan.
The corps, along with the Coast Guard and industry representatives, will hold a press conference Friday to discuss navigation challenges.
The problem: No one can make it rain.
“There’s only so much you can do if there’s just no water,” said Mike Petersen, an Army Corps spokesman for the St. Louis district. “The long-term solution is more water in the system.”
In the short term, the corps would need approval from Congress or the White House to expedite rock-blasting plans or to make major water-transfer decisions. Even that gets tricky.
“The Missouri River Basin doesn’t just belong to one purpose,” Petersen said. “And as soon as you start releasing too much or too little you affect people’s water supply, hydroelectric power and environmental quality. And you’re impacting a significant recreational industry as well.”
Waterways Council President Michael Toohey insists that this year stands out. The Missouri River provided about 79 percent of the water along that Mississippi stretch, rather than the usual 60 percent.
“The effect of the corps’ annual decision to reduce water levels this year will have a catastrophic effect on the economy,” he said.
Just months ago, low water levels closed the river’s busiest lock for almost a week. The shutdown caused financial losses of about $2.8 million a day.
The Coast Guard hopes to avoid any closures, but it may need to establish draft restrictions up to a foot so barges don’t run aground. That would limit the amount of goods vessels could carry, impacting both carrier profits and consumer price tags.
“All of these restrictions, we only put in place in a few rare situations,” Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said. “When you are dealing with an industry whose profit margins are a ship, they’re talking inches. It’s digging into what it costs to ship.”
The Mississippi River, while never tame, has become a river of extremes. Last year’s record high water levels contrast with this year’s near record lows.
But its vitality ensures the livelihood of those who work on it, said AWO President Allegretti, who sees a need for humans to respond to nature’s vagaries.
“You have a river system that is the envy of the world,” he said, “and we can’t watch it shut down for lack of federal and state action.”
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Burgess Everett and Adam Snider
Featuring Jessica Meyers, Kathryn A. Wolfe and Caitlin Emma
November 14, 2012
DeMINT UNSURE ON HUERTA: MT buttonholed Jim DeMint, the Commerce Committee’s ranking member to-be, on where his hold of FAA administrator nominee Michael Huerta stands. The South Carolina senator seemed caught off-guard and was noncommittal: “I haven’t looked at what we’re going to do with that, so I’m not going to comment.” DeMint told MT in August when he announced the hold “you certainly don’t want to give someone a five-year term at the beginning of a president who we hope will have a little different philosophy.” He added then: “I don’t expect to have my way if [Obama] is reelected. If he wins, he’s in the driver’s seat.” Chairman Jay Rockefeller told MT on Thursday that he was under the impression the hold would be lifted if President Barack Obama was reelected. “But I’m not sure what that means. It’s a whole new ballgame,” Rockefeller said of the post-election situation. Stay tuned...
EU ETS BILL HEADS TO WHITE HOUSE: The House approved a Senate-passed bill exempting U.S. airlines from the EU’s emissions trading scheme by a voice vote last night. But the World Wild Fund is asking the president to veto the bill. WWF’s director of international climate policy Keya Chatterjee called the legislation the “first test of the Obama administration and how they will be acting on climate change” after the election. “He’s going to have a decision to make. We believe the president should veto this bill.” Sen. Claire McCaskill called on Obama to do precisely the opposite. “All that’s left to prevent the European Union from unfairly taxing American citizens is the president’s signature, and I urge him to support this commonsense measure,” McCaskill said. A White House official told MT on Tuesday morning that the administration has not taken a position on the bill. Burgess has more for Pros: http://politico.pro/T1TmXC
One-upping: MT took an elevator ride with Reps. John Mica and Nick Rahall, who had a funny exchange about who was featured in more ads with President Obama. “I had more than you did,” Mica joked to Rahall. While both survived the elections, their opponents sought to bring them down by tying them to the president. Mica’s primary opponent, GOP Rep. Sandy Adams, and Rahall’s general election opponent, Republican Rick Snuffer, both lost despite the effort.
NOLAN ‘CONFIDENT’ ON T&I: Who was walking through the Senate subway station Tuesday but Sen. Al Franken and his new Minnesota delegation mate Rick Nolan, who just defeated T&I member Chip Cravaack in one of the most expensive House races in the country. Nolan told MT that while the policy and steering committee process has to work itself out first, he has “reason to be confident” that he will land on the Transportation Committee. After all, he does have three terms of seniority under his belt, and Nolan cited the “strong tradition” of the northeastern corner of Minnesota having representation on the committee, from former Chairman Jim Oberstar to Cravaack. In Nolan’s favor: Members that he knew way back when that are still around tend to be at the high end of the Democratic totem pole, giving him allies in high places.
Golden State jockeying: PORTS caucus co-chair Janice Hahn gave us an “emphatic yes” when we asked if she would seek to get on the committee. “I’ve had my eye on this for some time,” Hahn told MT. She’s meeting with ranking Democrat Rahall today about it and has already told Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi she plans to seek a seat. Hahn said someone from California should have a seat on the committee. Speaking of which, John Garamendi wasn’t about to make any waves in this particular morning newsletter. The former T&I member was booted off when Republicans took the majority and he said it’s an important seat for his district on a critical committee but wouldn’t exactly answer our question. “Could I be any more evasive?” he said.
MICA’S RIGHT HAND MAN: Jim Coon, the affable but tough T&I staff director, is heading out the door. Coon, who has been GOP staff director for the committee since 2007 and helped guide major FAA and surface transportation bills through a tough congressional environment this year, is leaving Capitol Hill for the National Air Transportation Association. He'll serve as an executive vice president focused on government affairs and will leave the committee at year’s end. T&I Chairman Mica, who might be on his way out along with Coon unless he gets the rare term limit waiver, sent Coon off with a glowing review. “Jim Coon is a man of extraordinary talent who provided wise counsel, steady leadership and a steely determination to get things done in a very challenging operating environment,” Mica said in a statement to POLITICO. “His legacy on the committee is one of great achievement and on behalf of the entire committee, I thank him for his service and wish him the very best." Kathryn has the story: http://politi.co/RWVxJS
TWO MORE YEARS: Amtrak’s busy tunnels under New York City survived Hurricane Sandy. Now the railroad is bracing for two more years under a Republican-controlled House. Hill denizens remember bankruptcy-bound private passenger railroads screaming for federal support 40 years ago. “We know how we got Amtrak. The private sector threw it at us,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents D.C., where Amtrak is headquartered. “Yet we’ve been having hearings about how the private sector could take over.” Now they feel a sense of deja vu under T&I’s Mica, who Rep. Corrine Brown told MT wants to “destroy Amtrak.” Not the case, Mica told us.
Mica has ‘no problem’ with some subsidies: “If you didn't have an Amtrak, you would want an Amtrak, because you have to have someone that would decide how you have connectivity for a national system … I want to try to get them out of the operational business because they’re inefficient,” Mica said. Democrats are hoping for a different approach from Bill Shuster should he succeed Mica, though Shuster isn’t tipping his hand on future stewardship of the passenger railroad. “For the most part we’re coming out of a similar camp. The camp is not cut things. But it’s about reform,” Shuster said. Check out the rest from Burgess and Adam in POLITICO’s paper or right here: http://politi.co/RSVa4q
Scheduling change: T&I postponed its hearing on passenger rail scheduled for this morning due to possible scheduling conflicts with Republican leadership elections and meetings this week. More hearings are still likely on passenger rail and Amtrak, we hear, but they haven’t been scheduled yet. Mica had said to expect three during the lame duck, and he told MT on Tuesday that Sandy won’t change the hearing topics — he still plans to press ahead with HSR and Northeast Corridor hearings at some point this year.
Fast-train fix: If you want to take a step back and look at the challenges ahead for high-speed rail, the engineering feats that will be required to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco stands to be “the project of the century,” one engineering professor told the L.A. Times. http://lat.ms/QEuS7y
On the ground: AAA reports that holiday travel will tick up less a percentage point from last year, expecting that 43.6 million will travel 50 or more miles for Thanksgiving. Air travel, average distance and spending on travel will dip, AAA says: http://bit.ly/TH7Nhj
MEETING OF THE MINDS: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and MTA chief Joe Lhota to announce the reopening of the Hugh L. Carey tunnel for cars under the East River, a major milestone in New York City’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy. “We will be strong partners with Gov. Cuomo, with Joe Lhota and anybody else here that wants to get things done,” LaHood said. Cuomo called LaHood “a representative of the federal government that could not have been a better partner.”
Sandy service update: The Long Island Rail Road reopens limited train service between Long Beach and Lynbrook starting today, the first time Long Beach has had rail service since Hurricane Sandy. And on Tuesday, 13 senators from Sandy-battered states called on Obama to amend his budget request to include disaster relief money (read the letter here: http://1.usa.gov/X4yfYv). Amtrak said late Tuesday that an electrical substation in New Jersey critical to providing power for full service will be back up on Friday.
COMMEMORATIVE EDITION: WMATA is taking preorders for its Inauguration Day commemorative SmarTrip card featuring President Barack Obama. But hidden beneath the gold and black design is a good deal — the $15 card includes unlimited bus rides on Inauguration Day and a one-day rail pass on the first day it’s used (normally $14). Love him or hate him, D.C. Metro riders can save a few dollars with the new Obama card. WMATA: http://bit.ly/ZnvzDr
New coat: That’s not all we are doing in D.C. to gussy up for the inauguration. The District’s DOT is putting a new coat of asphalt on Pennsylvania Avenue NW — including the bike lane — beginning tonight. The work will take about two weeks and be done overnight as the famous road gets ready for the inaugural parade. WABA: http://bit.ly/WJ14t6
CABOOSE — Lego transit: Constantine Hannaher has built mini versions of a ton of D.C. area buses and more, using only Legos. Check it out on Flickr: http://bit.ly/SKfnqD (h/t Greater Greater Washington)
New York Observer: She Sells Infrastructure by the Sea Shore: Chris Quinn’s $20 B. Disaster Plan
“Millions of New Yorkers have stories” from the hurricane, Council Speaker Christine Quinn declared this morning during a soaring, post-Sandy speech at the Association for a Better New York. Among those stories was Ms. Quinn’s own.
Houston Chronicle: Houston engineers give roads, water lines low grades
Houston area roads and utilities suffer from uncertainfunding and growing demand that could curtail economic development in the six-county region, local engineers warned Tuesday.
The Tennessean: Transit plans drive economy
My family has long recognized the impact transit has on development. My great-grandfather built his H.G. Hill Food Stores business by putting a grocery store everywhere the old Nashville streetcar stopped. Each time the streetcar line expanded, he bought property and opened another store along the line.
Orlando Sentinel: Orange leaders no fan of regional transportation authority
A proposal for a regional transit authority that would take over Metro Orlando's road-building agency was largely rejected Tuesday by the Orange County Commission.
Fast Lane: Monterey BRT offers fast, innovative transit service
Yesterday, I was pleased to attend the grand opening of the Monterey-Salinas Transit JAZZ Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in California. The new BRT service, funded in part by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), will cut commuting times in half for riders on existing bus services and improve transit connections for thousands of others.
Washington Post: MWAA to vote on rates increases for Dulles Toll Road
The board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is expected to vote Wednesday to raise fees on the Dulles Toll Road.
Washington Post: Virginia officials exude confidence in Beltway express lanes
If success has a thousand fathers, political leaders and their senior officials must be very confident in the future of the Capital Beltway’s 495 Express Lanes. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) presided over a virtual ribbon-cutting and balloon drop that drew several hundred of them to the Sheraton Premiere at Tysons Corner on Tuesday morning.
New York Times: ‘Is the Subway Broken?’ Asks an 8-Year-Old
When Hurricane Sandy forced schools across New York City to close for an entire week, students at PS 11 were told to try to keep busy. For 8-year-old Gabriel Goldman, that meant whipping up a special report on the status of his favorite subject, the subway system.
Boston Globe: Governor Patrick details multifamily housing plan
Governor Deval Patrick detailed a plan Tuesday to produce 10,000 multifamily housing units a year through 2020 in an effort to keep young professionals from leaving Massachusetts.
Repairing existing roads and bridges creates 9% more jobs per dollar than building from scratch.