Infrastructure in the News: November 8, 2012
BAF IN THE NEWS:
--“Mayor Bloomberg’s critical support results in 20 key victories across the country” – Independence USA release: “Mayor Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC pursued an ‘enter late, enter big’ strategy in highly competitive races and proved critical in helping independent minded candidates to victory. The $10 million effort successfully took on the NRA’s anti-gun safety agenda and other issues to build support for common sense policies. … By entering a range of highly contested contests, many late in the cycle, with a combination of mail and television, Independence USA PAC succeeded in ‘making it clear that leadership will be supported and rewarded by voters,’ said Independence USA PAC spokesman Stefan Friedman.
Think Progress: It’s Obama: Now What For Climate And Clean Energy?
After months of speeches and debates, and billions of dollars of campaign ads, the elections are over and President Obama has won a second term in office. Now comes the hard part: how to move forward in a polarized political environment where the two major parties don”t agree on the overall role of government, on most policies, and all too often, not even on the facts.
New York Times: Manage the Damage: Preparing for Natural Disasters
Overview | Is it possible to protect ourselves from the damage caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters? In this lesson, students research different ideas to protect New York City from future hurricane damage and determine which they believe is the best option. Then, students research local hazards, and develop plans for mitigating impacts to housing, transportation, utilities and more.
New York Times: On Wall Street, Time to Mend Fences With Obama
Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund titan, right, backed Barack Obama in 2008, but Mr. Romney in 2012.
Del Frisco’s, an expensive steakhouse with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Boston harbor, was a festive scene on Tuesday evening. The hedge fund billionaires Steven A. Cohen, Paul Singer and Daniel Loeb were among the titans of finance there dining among the gray velvet banquettes before heading several blocks away to what they hoped would be a victory party for their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
Washington Post: Obama may levy carbon tax to cut U.S. deficit, HSBC says
Nov. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama may consider introducing a tax on carbon emissions to help cut the U.S. budget deficit after winning a second term as president, according to HSBC Holdings Plc.
Washington Post (Associated Press Reprint): More weather misery for Sandy’s victims as new storm bears down on New York City, NJ, NE
NEW YORK — Areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy are dealing with new outages after a nor’easter left a blanket of snow that snapped storm-weakened trees and downed power lines.
TIME: How to Rebuild Trust–And Infrastructure
Over the course of this campaign, commentators on both sides of the political divide seemed to agree on one point: this was a campaign about nothing. Barack Obama’s supporters wanted him to lay out a detailed and ambitious agenda for his second term. Mitt Romney’s fans wanted to hear more about the radical restructuring of government. But in fact, by the standards of most elections, this was a campaign about something very big.
The Hill: Transportation observers unclear on LaHood's future
Transportation observers are unclear of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's future in President Obama's second term.
The Hill: Obama victory likely to preserve highway, Amtrak funding
President Obama's reelection is likely to ensure efforts to privatize Amtrak service and cut transportation funding will be unsuccessful.
The Hill: 25 problems facing Obama, Congress
A slew of thorny issues awaits President Obama and Congress in the lame-duck session, ranging from taxes to defense to Medicare.
The Atlantic: Why Barack Obama Will Be a Better Progressive in His Second Term
At the Democratic National Convention in September, Michelle Obama told the crowd, "Being president doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are."
Streetsblog: Election Reveals Who Will Shape the Next Transportation Bill
Yesterday’s election made history on many different fronts: gay marriage, immigration, consumer protection, and more. But America also voted to maintain essentially the same balance of power in Washington that has brought about so much gridlock. In the transportation arena, that gridlock meant three years of dithering on a national bill and, ultimately, a new law that failed to make many of the reforms needed to help the country build a greener, safer, 21st century transportation system.
Politico Pro: Shuster officially targets top T&I spot
By Burgess Everett
It's official: Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is running for the chairmanship of the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
One day after he easily won election to his seventh term in the House of Representatives, Shuster notified fellow members of the lower chamber Wednesday afternoon that he would be seeking one of the most coveted posts in Congress.
“I look forward to working together to promote competitiveness and economic growth, reform programs, focus our resources where they are needed most, and better manage our federal assets,” Shuster wrote to GOP House members declaring his intention to seek the gavel. “I am prepared to take on the tough challenges ahead and ask for your support to serve as chairman.”
In the letter obtained by POLITICO, Shuster wrote that his experience atop or as ranking member on two T&I subcommittees “demonstrated principle-driven, inclusive leadership” and a “strong record of accomplishments.” He also cited his success pushing for reform and working with leadership and fellow Republicans.
Barring a longshot waiver request from current Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), Shuster is expected to easily win support for the job.
Washington insiders have long expected Shuster to seek a gavel once held by his father, who is remembered fondly for a bipartisan streak on getting legislation through the House. Congress will need to address an expiring passenger rail bill in 2013 and a year later produce a new transportation bill. The new transportation law signed by President Barack Obama originated in the Senate, much to the chagrin of House members accustomed to taking the lead on infrastructure legislation.
Under the John Boehner doctrine of letting committees do their work, a GOP leadership aide said Shuster should have a “fair degree of autonomy” in writing legislation. His work educating freshmen on the conference committee could make the next big bill a less frustrating endeavor for House leaders, who were forced to shelve the legislation Mica wrote earlier this year once it became clear it was impossible to marshal 218 Republican votes.
“We’re confident that he’s going to do a lot of the stuff without a lot of handholding,” the aide said.
Chairmanships on the Aviation and Highways and Transit Subcommittees, as well as Shuster’s current post on railroads, will be up for grabs, but those important posts won’t be chosen until after the full committee’s chairman is selected. Something to watch will be whether Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Jim Duncan (R-Tenn.) remain in prominent slots or whether Shuster elevates some of the rising second-term lawmakers to head panels.
Mica, the current chairman, also easily won reelection on Tuesday night but is term-limited from the leadership post. A Mica aide was unsure if he and Shuster had spoken about Shuster’s decision.
The Florida lawmaker has not ruled out seeking a waiver. House Republican rules require members who have served atop committees and subcommittees or as ranking members for three terms to seek rare waivers, although GOP leadership is expected to grant one to defeated vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for the House Budget Committee post.
Mica also has indicated he may seek a leadership role on another panel but has not yet publicly stated his intentions after successfully guiding both new FAA and surface transportation bills to the president’s desk after years of stopgap bills.
The leadership aide said a Mica gambit for another term atop T&I or a play for the gavel of the House Oversight Committee is “unlikely” to affect Shuster’s path to the chairmanship. Shuster is expected to run like it’s a toss-up even though his support within the GOP conference is expected to be broad.
“I don’t think you ever take anything for granted,” the aide said. “I’m not aware of anyone else that’s in against him. But I think he’s going to run like he’s got plenty of competition.”
Adam Snider contributed to this report.
Politico Pro: Highway Trust Fund sees post-election push
By Kathryn A. Wolfe and Adam Snider
The ink isn’t even dry on President Barack Obama’s win yet, but a transportation lobbying heavyweight is already calling for a renewed focus on shoring up highway spending — including through the dreaded “T” word.
Pete Ruane, the head of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, said in a statement Wednesday that lawmakers should turn their attention to the need for greater infrastructure investment, calling it “wholly consistent with the economic and budgetary priorities shared by both parties.”
And though he doesn’t mention it by name, Ruane also suggests Congress needs to take a hard look at increasing the gas tax, saying the discussion “begins with the establishment of a dedicated and sustainable transportation-related revenue source” that doesn’t “add to the deficit or detract from other government programs.”
With an Obama win, fans of devolving federal transportation spending to the states will likely be disappointed for another four years. But it remains to be seen exactly how policymakers will tackle refilling the Highway Trust Fund’s coffers before the current law expires in less than two years. The basic problem is that people are driving less, so gas tax revenues aren’t growing enough to meet infrastructure spending needs.
A gas tax increase remains the favored proposal among traditional concrete and asphalt interests, as well as with groups representing states. But with the past as prologue, it’s unclear whether there will be any greater political appetite for a gas tax increase now than there was before the election, when it was the equivalent of the third rail of transportation policy — including among some Democrats.
There may be some wiggle room around the edges as the 113th Congress convenes, however. Republican Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said this summer that they’d be open to indexing the tax to inflation, a position taken in the past by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
While indexing won’t provide nearly enough money, advocates of increased spending say it’s a step in the right direction and are hoping an eventual gas tax hike would also include an indexing provision. Asked about the issue months after the Senate Finance Committee markup that included the indexing debate, Enzi told POLITICO that he hadn’t heard any opposition to his plan — but added that he hadn’t gotten any support either. “And by support, I’m only talking about colleagues that could actually vote for it,” he added.
Ruane also suggests that the 2010 Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction proposal may light the way to long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, including maintaining its “user fee principle.” In other words, like other groups ARTBA is staking an early line in the sand opposing any attempts to significantly restructure the program, particularly if that would result in it no longer being funded by the gas tax or some other direct user charge. That rules out scrapping the Highway Trust Fund in favor of letting infrastructure needs compete year to year as part of the Appropriations cycle.
When Simpson-Bowles was introduced, other aspects of the report took the national spotlight, but transportation groups and gas tax advocates cheered. It ended up going nowhere on the Hill, but the upcoming fiscal cliff of sequestration and expiring tax cuts offer another chance for supporters to press for a tax increase as part of a grand bargain.
In any case, a gas tax increase remains a political hot potato. In one of the country’s incumbent-on-incumbent showdowns, GOP Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa beat Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa. The gas tax came up at a public debate between the two, with Boswell in favor of a bump. Latham, like his close ally and friend House Speaker John Boehner, opposes an increase.
Politico Pro: Voters show split decision on transit
By Jessica Meyers
The nail-biter this election turned out to be transit.
Voters pushed back against plans to downsize public transportation, agreed to hike sale tax for greenways and looked to enhance bus and rail service in a number of communities. But support still waned for the most transformative ballot measures, sending a jarring signal in a year filled with local transit success.
“The fundamental narrative is when voters are presented with the opportunity to make investment decisions in transit, an overwhelming majority of the time they say yes,” said Jason Jordan, the executive director of the Center for Transportation Excellence. “But it’s a hard case that has to be made every single time in every single community. And that requires a heavy lift.”
The most prominent defeats occurred in big cities. Two California proposals that would have extended a half-cent sales tax slipped away by mere votes. And a unique plan in Memphis to boost the gas tax got staunchly rejected. Both served as a wincing reminder of Atlanta’s failed campaign earlier this year to add a one-cent sales tax and assist the region with its relentless sprawl.
Even with the more noticeable setbacks, transportation initiatives have fared well this year. The passage rate hit 85 percent before the election — the most successful yet. Even with Tuesday’s losses, it shouldn’t drop much below 80 percent.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association counted voter approval on nearly 70 percent of measures intended to increase or extend funding for highways, bridges and transit.
“I don’t think that yesterday’s results being somewhat mixed do much to obscure the longer term trends that we are seeing,” Jordan said.
As federal dollars get harder to snag, these trends reveal an increased willingness among voters to front infrastructure costs themselves.
In a sign of expanded regional rail, North Carolina’s Chapel Hill community on Tuesday became the second of three “Research Triangle” counties to approve a half-cent transportation sales tax that will link the region. Virginia Beach agreed to move forward on a light-rail plan. Townships in Michigan, Ohio and Maine decided not to pull out of their transit agencies.
Voters in Arlington, Va., agreed to support $100 million worth of bond measures for transit and community investments. Philadelphia voters decided to borrow $123 million for capital improvements on transit, streets and neighborhood development. Stephenson County, Ill., demanded a county-wide transit system. And Michigan refused a referendum that could have halted construction of a publicly owned bridge between Detroit and Canada.
Some of the more significant proposals passed or failed on slim margins. Perhaps the most anticipated, a Los Angeles County measure that would have added a 30-year extension on a half-cent transportation sales tax just avoided approval. A cornerstone of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s plan to move the city away from cars, Measure J would have helped shape the future of transportation funding. It needed a two-thirds vote to pass and lost by barely more than a percentage point. A similar measure in Alameda County requiring a supermajority also just missed.
Some measures remained so close they had no verdict a day later. As of Wednesday afternoon, it looked like Richland County, S.C., might add a “transportation penny” sales tax for road and bike projects. A .3 percent sales tax near Tacoma, Wash., would salvage the region’s public transportation system but appeared too close to call.
Transportation advocates took the tight races as a positive sign. “The results are disappointing but actually the numbers are really heartening,” said Brookings Institution researcher Adie Tomer, especially about the L.A. vote. He said better-run campaigns or more devoted attention could make the difference.
“This speaks to a broader perspective that hope has picked up, not just in surface transportation, but the idea of helping those who help themselves,” he said. “Places all across the country are picking themselves up from their boot straps and saying, ‘We’ll build out what we want here, tangible investment.’”
He predicts more changes as sales tax revenue picks up, a key aspect in funding local transit agencies.
Even with the bigger losses, transportation advocates note the significance of proposals appearing at such a tax-adverse time. Almost 20 transportation-related measures landed in a dozen states this November alone.
“We still have a national story out there of people wanting to invest locally in transit,” said Andrew Austin, the executive director of Americans for Transit. “That should be a signal to the federal government that this is something popular.”
Politico Pro: More gridlock for transportation?
By Kathryn A. Wolfe
November 8, 2012
Many with a stake in federal infrastructure spending had a reason to celebrate on election night: Democrats kept the keys to the White House.
(Also on POLITICO: 12 takeaways from Obama's win)
President Barack Obama has championed high price tag spending for infrastructure in his budgets, and on the campaign trail, he repeatedly sounded off on the idea that building roads and bridges creates jobs, bolsters the economy and is a worthwhile investment for the country.
But those infrastructure boosters, in particular the transportation unions that backed Obama, may find a victory short-lived. The balance of power in Congress appears poised to stay largely the same, most likely spelling more gridlock at least in the short term. Republicans maintained control of the House, and Democrats still hold the Senate.
(Also on POLITICO: No clarity on fiscal cliff after election)
A Democratic White House and a divided Congress couldn’t agree to more than a two-year transportation bill. While the bill was desperately welcomed after so much hand-wringing and wrangling over financing, it was by all accounts deemed a modest effort that did little more than postpone difficult financing decisions.
The Republican presidential ticket did hold some appeal for those with transportation interests: Mitt Romney most likely would have taken a hard line against the sort of regulations that businesses complain can gum up productivity and harm profits. But running mate Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which proposed holding infrastructure spending to what the Highway Trust Fund can sustain without raising the deficit, caused significant heartburn. And in the absence of more specifics from Romney himself, Ryan’s plan became a proxy for the ticket.
With a Congress that’s likely to be even more polarized, transportation stakeholders will be looking for the White House to play a leadership role in pushing forward a plan to shore up the ailing Highway Trust Fund — a task in which, so far, the White House hasn’t engaged.
While Obama has put forward budgets with big-ticket transportation spending figures — his last budget called for $476 billion in spending over the next transportation bill — he has yet to produce a realistic way to pay for that spending. His fiscal 2012 budget contained no pay-for; his fiscal 2013 budget suggested paying for the spending with the “peace dividend,” which has repeatedly been rejected in Congress.
The president’s budgets in the past have also included $50 billion in “immediate investment” in roads, rail and aviation, a rehashed proposal for which Congress has shown no appetite. And he’s also repeatedly called for creating a national infrastructure bank despite similar congressional opposition to the idea.
Obama’s first budget proposed that the infrastructure bank be located under the Transportation Department; his last budget instead proposed it as an independent agency to be initially capitalized with $30 billion of unspecified funding.
An Obama White House will very likely continue to focus on his signature program — high-speed rail — in which the country has invested $10.5 billion so far. Though the desire to keep spending that kind of money seems to have dwindled in Congress, Obama and his administration continue to talk up the idea of building out a nationwide network.
He also has championed the consolidation of infrastructure programs, a Republican mantra. And he has adopted a “fix it first” focus, prioritizing maintaining what’s already there instead of focusing on new projects.
Barring some big reveal later this year, Obama’s next opportunity to make a major statement about transportation will come with his budget, which will be released early next year. It remains to be seen, however, how much of these ideas his budget for transportation might rehash considering that many of them have repeatedly been rejected by lawmakers.
Obama’s second term also raises the question of what will happen to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Months ago, LaHood said he wasn’t interested in serving a second term, but lately, he’s made comments suggesting that could change depending on the president’s preference.
The dynamic for transportation in the House will be little changed except for possibly an even more conservative tilt to the body, which could complicate efforts to push through the next transportation bill.
Some transportation stakeholders are holding out hope that a long-term revenue fix for the Highway Trust Fund might be included as part of any impending deal on the fiscal cliff, but hopes for any kind of lame-duck deal appear to be dwindling. And the House GOP’s position on holding the line on taxes appears to be hardening at least in the short term, which will make finding enough revenue to slake the thirst for infrastructure spending all the more difficult.
The biggest race facing members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this cycle was the contest between the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, and his challenger, Rick Snuffer.
Rahall managed to avoid the fate of the former chairman of the committee, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who was knocked off by Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack, who lost a difficult race this year. Unlike Oberstar, who political observers believe didn’t take his challenger seriously until it was too late, Rahall went all in on his contest from the outset and managed to hold on to his seat.
The committee is expected to have new leadership as its current chairman, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), is term-limited out of his gavel. Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster is widely expected to take his place. Shuster is a reliable Republican who has been concerned with fiscal restraint while also preaching the gospel of infrastructure investment. He also took a run at privatizing Amtrak earlier this year, an effort that had to be abandoned in the face of dissatisfaction from industry, labor and even some Republicans.
In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee, which will write much of the highway financing mechanisms for the next transportation bill, will have a new leadership dynamic at play. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who was instrumental in pushing through the last bill, is expected to be partnered with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). Vitter will replace Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the current ranking member on the committee, as Inhofe is term-limited from the leadership spot at year’s end.
Vitter is not as vocal a booster for infrastructure spending as Inhofe has been, though he has trumpeted the benefits of the last transportation bill back home. And Vitter was involved in writing the bill last time around, which he co-sponsored and praised. But how he and Boxer may work together as they write the next bill remains to be seen.
Vitter will be well-positioned to advocate for inclusion of some sort of life cycle cost analysis for transportation projects in the next bill. He’s been a vocal proponent of the practice, which prices into the creation of a project not only the construction costs but also repair and maintenance over many decades. Vitter had introduced a bill that would’ve required a life cycle cost analysis of projects with a federal cost share exceeding $5 million.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Burgess Everett and Adam Snider
Featuring Jessica Meyers and Kathryn A. Wolfe
November 8, 2012
SHUSTER MAKES IT OFFICIAL: Bill Shuster is moving quickly to marshal support for his run at the Transportation & Infrastructure chairmanship. In a letter sent to the House GOP conference on Wednesday afternoon, Shuster officially declared his candidacy: “I look forward to working together to promote competitiveness and economic growth, reform programs, focus our resources where they are needed most, and better manage our Federal assets. … I am prepared to take on the tough challenges ahead and ask for your support to serve as chairman." The letter: http://bit.ly/RG05pi
The path is clear: A House leadership aide told MT that he wasn’t aware of anyone mounting a challenge to Shuster. Rep. John Mica is term-limited out, and the aide said even if Mica were to seek a waiver it would be “unlikely” to affect Shuster’s path to the top; a Mica source was not sure if the two had spoken about Shuster’s decision to run for the slot. Even if he doesn’t draw a strong challenger, Shuster is expected to run hard to establish a base of support within the GOP. “I don’t think you ever take anything for granted,” the leadership aide said. “I’m not aware of anyone else that’s in against him. But I think he’s going to run like he’s got plenty of competition.”
How he will lead: Shuster’s experience educating first-term committee members on Congress’s role in federal transportation policy could potentially make the next bill an easier sell to Republicans, most of whom will be back in January. In fact, the dynamics between House Republicans and Dems are expected to be almost identical for the next two years, and the leadership aide said Shuster is ready to hit the ground running with a “fair degree of autonomy” to steer the committee in a bipartisan fashion. The aide said Shuster is expecting to unite, not divide: “He’s a got a great ability to bring people together and get along with people.” Burgess has the scoop: http://politico.pro/VTGG2x
NUMBER CRUNCHING: Now that the House races have largely shaken out, the Democrats have added about a half-dozen seats to their minority, which as MT calculates MIGHT shake up the membership distribution on the T&I committee to add one seat to a committee the Democrats lost in 2010. Either way, more than one-fifth of the committee is not coming back after Tuesday night losses by Reps. Chip Cravaack, Laura Richardson and Leonard Boswell. Toss in the nine members who already were leaving and a vacancy from (now-defeated) Frank Guinta’s move to Financial Services, and you get 13 open slots, nine for the Dems and four for the GOP. Of course, there’s one more T&I member who could yet lose (more on that below).
Alumni prevail: A couple of T&I members are going on to bigger things. Mazie Hirono will represent Hawaii in the Senate and Bob Filner is the new mayor of San Diego.
THE OTHER TAX FIGHT: The Bush-era tax cuts will dominate lame-duck action in the tax realm, but a heavyweight transportation group didn’t waste any time yesterday in stirring up talk of a gas tax increase — something that’s drawn wide industry support even though the issue died down a bit during the heat of the campaign. ARTBA head Pete Ruane in a Wednesday statement said that with the election out of the way, lawmakers should now turn their attention to the need for greater infrastructure investment, calling it “wholly consistent with the economic and budgetary priorities shared by both parties.” He didn’t mention the tax by name, but there sure was a strong hint, as Ruane said the discussion “begins with the establishment of a dedicated and sustainable transportation-related revenue source” that doesn’t “add to the deficit or detract from other government programs.” There have also been some signs of growing acceptance on the Hill: GOP Sens. Mike Enzi and Tom Coburn have both said they’re open to indexing the tax to inflation, which won’t raise near enough money but many view as a good first step. Kathryn and Adam have the story: http://politico.pro/TwFthQ
Boehner opens door: House Speaker John Boehner, speaking on the Hill on Wednesday, said House Republicans are open to raising revenue to deal with the upcoming fiscal cliff. From his remarks: “Because the American people expect us to find common ground, we are willing to accept some additional revenues, via tax reform. There’s a model for tax reform that supports economic growth. It happened in 1986, with a Democratic House run by Tip O’Neill and a Republican president named Ronald Reagan.” Know what else was approved under Reagan and a Democratic House? A five-cent gas tax increase in the 1982 lame-duck session.
Indexing perspective: Hopefully we all know the gas tax hasn’t increased since 1993. But MT’s here to offer some fun stats that our readers seem to love. In the nearly 20 years the tax has remained stagnant, the price of a first class stamp rose from 29 cents to 45 cents. And if indexing had been included in the 1993 boost, the rate would now be about a dime higher — exactly what some stakeholders are calling for. Tax Analysts has a great history of the gas tax, if you’re in the mood to read more: http://bit.ly/TwFrGE
TRANSIT’S GOOD ELECTION DAY: The nail-biter this election turned out to be transit. Voters pushed back against plans to downsize public transportation, agreed to hike sale tax for greenways and looked to enhance bus and rail service in a number of communities. But support still waned for the most transformative ballot measures, sending a jarring signal in a year filled with local transit success. The most prominent defeats occurred in big cities. Two California proposals that would have extended a half-cent sales tax slipped away by mere votes. And a unique plan in Memphis to boost the gas tax got staunchly rejected. Both served as a wincing reminder of Atlanta’s failed campaign earlier this year to add a one-cent sales tax and assist the region with its relentless sprawl. Even with the more noticeable setbacks, transportation initiatives have fared well this year. The passage rate hit 85 percent before the election — the most successful yet. Even with Tuesday’s losses, it shouldn’t drop much below 80 percent. Jessica has Pros covered: http://politico.pro/RX7U6P
Smart ballots: Smart Growth America has a look at more transportation ballot measures. Check it out: http://bit.ly/TwH3A7
Bogged down: Lobbying/law firm Patton Boggs is out with a comprehensive look at what the elections mean for a number of key areas. The report notes that the Obama administration and 113th Congress “will have a full transportation and infrastructure agenda.” That includes, as MT has often reminded you, a new Amtrak bill in 2013 and another surface transportation measure in 2014. The PB report includes a lot more, so you might as well check it out for yourself (transportation section starts on page 109): http://bit.ly/RX7PzY
SANDY STICKING AROUND — New York: The New York subway continues its long slog back to normalcy. MTA resumed limited service on the G line between Queens and Brooklyn yesterday morning. Track signals are still being replaced and the trains have to take it slow, so the agency is running longer trains less often (every 12 minutes instead of every 8 minutes). MTA also has another video of signal and track work post-Sandy on L train, which still isn’t up and running: http://youtu.be/DpfikZ-5mOw
Here’s the latest map of service: http://bit.ly/YLXrkD
New Jersey: Good news for Mayor Cory Booker and Co. came in Wednesday, by way of the reopening of the Newark subway. Now all of NJT’s light-rail services are back up in some fashion, though the River Line in South Jersey is the only one running as regularly scheduled.
Amtrak: Amtrak will reopen three tunnels into and out of Penn Station in New York that were damaged by flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy, the railroad said late Wednesday. The tunnels should be open by late tomorrow, which will also help overcrowded commuter rail lines into and out of the city from the New York, Connecticut and New Jersey suburbs resume more regular service, although fewer trains will still be running under New York City. Amtrak said those limitations are the result of damaged electrical equipment, which means fewer trains can be supported in an effort to keep the railroad's power supply from getting overloaded. Though Amtrak President Joe Boardman called the newly reopened tunnels a “major milestone,” the railroad made it clear in a statement that there is more work ahead before the tunnels are at 100 percent capacity.
Just a thought: This is a time that some people waiting for crowded buses and trains in New Jersey might be reflecting on Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to shelve a new rail tunnel under the Hudson.
Va. port: The Port of Virginia announced Wednesday that it is no longer receiving diverted ships or cargo and will focus on moving the goods that ended up in Virginia due to Hurricane Sandy. Virginia has handled up to 6,500 extra containers and 3,500 cars meant for the Port of New York and New Jersey. Most of the cargo will travel by rail.
VITTER MAKES IT OFFICIAL, TOO: Sen. David Vitter plans to ascend to the top Republican spot on the EPW committee, an aide confirmed to MT yesterday. With Democrats maintaining control of the Senate, current ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe is term-limited from serving in that role next year. Vitter would work atop the committee with EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, who despite differences on environmental policy worked with Inhofe to pass a new transportation law this year — a bill that Vitter was also a co-sponsor and key negotiator on.
THE ELECTION ISN’T OVER YET: It will be a lot more manageable, but we’re still watching one more race with major transportation implications. RAMP Act author Rep. Charles Boustany and T&I member Jeff Landry are headed to a runoff on Dec. 8 (yes, that’s a Saturday). The numbers looked better for Boustany, who took a plurality of the vote (44.7 percent) despite falling short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. But both sides are confident heading into another month of campaigning in what has turned out to be full of mudslinging by both sides. “Last night, the people of South Louisiana made it clear on who they wanted to be their voice on Capitol Hill,” Boustany said in a statement, noting that “there is much work left to be done as we march confidently toward the runoff.” Landry took a shot at the media, saying in his statement that “the print media in this campaign has yet to cover what I say objectively or to hold my opponent accountable for what he has said or done.” Voters, Landry said, “have spoken. They said this is their seat not his; this is their country not Washington's; this is our time.”
CABOOSE — Our kind of publication: Roads and Bridges magazine has selected our hometown 11th Street Bridge as the No. 1 bridge in the whole dang country. The span is a big deal, creating a long-sought-after connection between the Southeast Freeway and 295 as well as making the whole Anacostia waterfront a more accessible place. DDOT says the bridge also will help “preserve the beauty and delicate ecology of the Anacostia River.” But we think figuring out how to keep the tons of trash and sewage that flows into the river every day might make more of a dent in the unswimmable river. DDOT: http://1.usa.gov/VTyFL0
THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ)
— GAO issues new report, “Excise Tax Distributions to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and the Highway Trust Fund.” http://1.usa.gov/RX4BMY
Washington Post (Associated Press Reprint): Former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening to speak on sustainability, growth
LAUREL, Md. — Former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening plans to speak in Laurel on sustainability and growth.
Washington Post: John Delaney, Md.’s newest congressman, says deficit and infrastructure lead his agenda
ROCKVILLE, Md. — Democratic congressman-elect John Delaney emphasized his pursuit of political togetherness Wednesday by invoking both Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Bill Clinton as leaders he hopes to emulate while representing Maryland’s 6th District.
Chicago Tribune: Chicago should benefit from friendly White House
As he looks ahead to President Barack Obama's second term, Mayor Rahm Emanuel expects funding for roads and mass transit and a push for education reform to be high on the White House's to-do list.
Boston Business Journal: MBTA gets credit downgrade as red ink continues to flow
Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the credit rating on $3.8 billion in bonds issued by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority due to the transit system’s sluggish operating performance and reliance on state sales tax revenue that has been stagnant for the better part of a decade.
“There’s never been a better time to build….”