Infrastructure in the News: November 20, 2012
BAF IN THE NEWS:
New York Times: Bloomberg Gets High Marks for His Handling of Hurricane
Less than two years after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s approval ratings tumbled to an eight-year low, in part because of his poor handling of a Christmas holiday blizzard, the mayor has bounced back, thanks to his handling of Hurricane Sandy, according to a poll released on Tuesday.
Reuters: Some cities find small steps key to storm protection
In the aftermath of the historic floods caused by Superstorm Sandy, some city leaders have begun to argue for the construction of sea walls capable of shielding the U.S. coastline from ever more intense
Reuters: TEXT - Fitch says fiscal cliff could trigger 2 pct decline in GDP
Nov 19 - The Fiscal Cliff could trigger a second recession, a 2% decline in GDP to flat 0.4% growth, and increased unemployment to upwards of 10%, all which would dramatically affect demand for U.S. transportation assets, according to a new report by Fitch Ratings.
New York Times: The Rising Sea, and the Urge to Fight It
In an article in The Times, my colleague Felicity Barringer and I explore the issue of whether it makes sense to keep rebuilding, largely at the expense of federal taxpayers, in hazard-prone coastal areas. We made passing reference to a debate over the causes of beach erosion in Dauphin Island, Ala.
NRDC: Fighting Oil Addiction: Ranking States' Gasoline Price Vulnerability and Solutions for Change
Energy policy and prices remain front and center in the American consciousness, particularly as national election consequences play out and the fragile economy continues to make many Americans feel more vulnerable. Americans continued to feel the painful pinch of gasoline prices in 2011 -- and they still do today. To curb America's perilous oil addiction, we continue to need effective government policies that will increase the availability and use of efficient vehicles and clean fuels, as well as promote smart growth and public transit.
Detroit FreePress: Electric car buyers are smart, rich, study says
Owners of plug-in electric cars are well-off, well-educated people who want to wean themselves and the nation off high-price oil, according to a pair of new reports.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Burgess Everett and Adam Snider
Featuring Jessica Meyers
VILLARAIGOSA HEARS RUMORS BUT FOCUSED ON CURRENT JOB: You’ve heard it and MT’s heard it: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is the top man to replace Ray LaHood at DOT should LaHood make good on rumors to soon step down. So we brought those rumblings to the man himself, and he followed theblueprint for serious cabinet contenders to a T. “It’s always nice to be talked about, but my only focus right now is finishing my job. And I want to finish it strong,” he told MT from the top floor of the Center for American Progress’s HQ in downtown D.C. “The best way to ensure a bright future is to make sure you’re doing your job that you have now.” Villaraigosa’s trajectory has been aimed firmly upward ever since he joined the state’s general assembly. With his time atop L.A. now running into term limits, word on the (K) street is that he’s a top choice for DOT, Commerce or even the DNC. But he told MT the White House has not come calling yet, and until it does his focus remains solely on Southern California. “I’m not thinking about any of these other opportunities. The best way for me has always been focus on your job. Don’t look so far down the line that you trip on yourself.” Burgess brings it home: http://politi.co/TNJuwf
MOMENTUM BUILDS FOR HUERTA: With about six weeks tosqueeze through his nomination to a five-year job atop the FAA, the industry and even prominent House members are wondering what the holdup is. On Monday, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi called Michael Huerta a “wise” choice for the job and then indirectly asked Senate Republicans to lift their hold on him: “It is time the Senate moves to approve his nomination.” Top House aviation lawmaker Tom Petri seemed perplexed last week that Huerta still hasn’t been confirmed. “The administration is going to be there for four more years. He seems very competent,” Petri told MT. “It’s really helpful to have a confirmed person in place.” Petri described Huerta as having “a wonderful background in terms of managing” transformational change, citing Huerta’s work digging in NextGen, which some in the industry think is stalled without a confirmed head at FAA as well as a deputy — jobs that Huerta is juggling simultaneously. Presumed T&I chairman-in-waiting Bill Shuster agreed that confirming Huerta seemed logical at this point but also pointed out that the ship hasn’t exactly gone down in the past year: “There’s a lot of good professionals over there. It’s still running.”
Do you support his nomination? “He’s a fine person,” Shuster said. “And he’s the president’s choice.”
FISCAL CLIFF DROPS ON TRANSPO: The fiscal cliff could have a daunting effect on transportation assets, according to a new Fitch Ratings report that warns of a second recession. We’re in store for a 2 percent decline in GDP, a boost in unemployment and flat growth if the cuts kick in. Airport volumes could drop as much as 5 percent, the report states. The small upside: roads and bridges would probably suffer smaller declines than during the recession. Sign up to read the report: http://bit.ly/dJk8JS
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: With a transpo crisis of his own (crumbling roads, bridges, etc.), Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is floating a transportation funding plan during his last year in Richmond.That might even extend to indexing the gas tax to inflation, something Congress has yet to get around to doing. Free-Lance Star: http://bit.ly/T80mPL
But wait, there’s more! Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is set to ask the state legislature to increase the gas tax as well. Globe:http://bo.st/RIQpck
NHTSA REGULATORY REVIEW: The safety agency is asking for comments on its rules that might have a “significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.” NHTSA also wants to know how rules on passenger cars, buses, trucks and more can be easier to read and understand. It’s a routine check-in on agency rules mandated by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980. Comments are due in 60 days. There’s much more in the Fed Reg entry: http://bit.ly/TTZWNE
CLEAN CITIES: The Department of Energy announced the Clean Cities initiative on Monday, which will fund infrastructure upgrades to support alternative fuel cars and trucks. “These projects build on the important steps the Obama Administration has taken to expand the transportation options available for businesses and communities and improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles in the market today and for years to come,” DOE said in a release. Check out a list of the 20 projects funded: http://1.usa.gov/TcaPfi
MOVING TO PROTECT WORKERS: New York’s MTA is redoubling (http://bit.ly/UMTBrG) its efforts to protect transit workers, launching anadvertising campaign aimed at getting riders to report assaults on those who keep our subways and buses running. ATU’s Larry Hanley is also shining a light on the problem, with his organization calling for “safety shields to be installed on buses nationwide, tougher laws against attackers, and increased police patrols on buses.” Let us not forget WMATA is rerouting a bus near Anacostia due to repeated rock throwing assaults, some of which have injured drivers.
IT’S OFFICIAL: AASHTO formally approved FHWA veteran Bud Wright to be it’s new executive director, taking over early next year for John Horsley, who held the role for over a decade.
CABOOSE — Multimodal Pennsylvania Ave.: The broad avenue connecting the White House and the Capitol saw just about everything back in this great video from 1909. There’s cars, buses, pedestrians, bikers — and even a horse-drawn buggy. Check it out, via Ghosts of D.C.: http://bit.ly/NHtLOE
Politico Pro: Watchdog group seeks hearing on mpg claims
By Jessica Meyers
As the congressional countdown spurs a rash of last-minute hearings, a consumer advocacy group is pleading for one more — on window stickers.
Consumer Watchdog has asked both the Senate Commerce and the House Energy and Commerce committees to explore why Hyundai and Kia vehicles showed incorrect miles per gallon claims on some of their window stickers.
The request, sent to lawmakers in a letter Monday, comes a year after the organization contacted the EPA about fuel economy estimates plastered on the Hyundai Elantra. The watchdog group also pushed the White House to require EPA retesting.
The environmental agency announced earlier this month that it had found “discrepancies between agency results and data submitted by the company” for Hyundai and Kia vehicles even beyond the Elantra. This marks the most profound overstatement of fuel-economy ratings discovered by the agency.
The car company agreed to lower its MPG estimates for the majority of its 2012 and 2013 models, fix its stickers and reimburse customers. It will reduce most labels by one to two gallons, although the largest involves a 6 mpg decrease in the Kia Soul’s highway rating. The admission affects about 900,000 vehicles, or 35 percent of the 2011-13 model year vehicles sold through Oct 31.
“Americans deserve to know the whole truth when the fuel economy claims of a large number of vehicles have been misstated by one of the world’s largest automakers for the first time in American history,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said in the letter.
A Hyundai spokesman said they had not seen the letter and had no immediate comment. The popular South Korean car company has apologized and blamed the problem on “procedural errors” at joint testing operations.
Court argued that “deceptive” actions have disadvantaged American automakers and taxpayers. “We urge you to hold hearings in order to ascertain how Hyundai arrived at its ‘40 mile per gallon’ claims and whether the South Korean company’s business strategy led to falsified mileage estimates submitted to the EPA and incorrect window stickers,” he said.
A Senate Commerce aide said the committee is working to gather all the information on the issue but has no current plans to hold a hearing. Neither does the Energy Committee, a House aide confirmed.
Hyundai led an extensive advertising campaign for its “40 mile per gallon Elantra,” telling customers they could save with $4 per gallon gas.
Consumer Watchdog, which spat back a series of counter-ads, said drivers often got 10 miles per gallon less than advertised. Court, in his letter, points out that automakers often self-test their vehicles to determine the mpg estimate that EPA requires on window stickers.
The group has also sued on behalf of disgruntled Elantra car owners.
DC Velocity:Georgia Ports Authority cuts ribbon on expanded intermodal container station at Savannah
The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) opened on Friday an expanded intermodal container transfer facility at the Port of Savannah that port authority officials said would dramatically cut the transit times of railroads that serve the large containerport.
Atlantic Cities: The Urbanist Case for Keeping D.C.'s Height Restrictions
I’ve been procrastinating this one for a long time. I generally avoid taking stands on controversial local issues in Washington, where I have lived for over four decades, and I am especially uncomfortablebeing at odds with people I respect and consider friends.
Transportation Nation: (Audio) NJ Transit Assailed for Lack of Information, Poor Planning
New Jersey’s commuter rail system returned to its normal schedule on several lines today, but delays continue to hamper commuters, and three weeks after Sandy, there are still questions about how well prepared the agency was for the storm.
Transportation Nation: The H Train Rides Again in the Rockaways
The H train is rolling where the A train can’t. Starting Tuesday, residents of the storm-battered Rockaway Peninsula will get a freesubway shuttle known as the H train. To connect Beach 67 Street to Beach 90, the train will incorporate a piece of rarely-used track known as the Hammels Wye.
Washington Post: ICC users rack up unpaid tolls
Nearly one in three motorists who use the Intercounty Connector without an E-ZPass transponder don’t pay the toll later, making Maryland’s newest and most expensive highway home to a toll violation rate four times higher than the state average.
Washington Post: McDonnell weighs tying gas tax to price of fuel
Anyone trying to read the tea leaves on transportation funding in Virginia might want to take note: Within the space of 60 secondsMonday, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) mentioned not once, but twice, that the gas tax is the only major state levy that does not rise with prices.
Washington Post: The week ahead: Thanksgiving getaways, new Beltway lanes
Thanksgiving isn’t one getaway anymore. It’s a series of getaways, and we’re already in the middle of them. Interstate 95 seemed extra crowded Friday night, perhaps with drivers who had the entire week off and were making a fast exit from the D.C. area.
KHON 2: Fedsapprove funding for Oahu rail project
Honolulu is a step closer to receiving more than $1.55 billion in federal funding for rail, but it's not a done deal yet.
Fredericksburg.com: McDonnell preparing own transportation funding plan, considering indexing gas tax
Gov. Bob McDonnell told reporters today that he’s working on a transportation funding plan for the 2013 session, and said one of the things he’s considering is indexing the gas tax to inflation.
Public transit reduces gas consumption by 1.4 billion gallons each year.