Infrastructure in the News: November 9, 2012
BAF IN THE NEWS:
Bloomberg: Obama’s Next Transportation Chief Faces Highway-Funding Quandary
The next U.S. Transportation secretary -- whether it’s Ray LaHood or someone else -- will confront a highway system starved for cash and financed by a gasoline tax almost no one wants to raise.
National Journal: Obama's Cabinet: 6 Seats Likely to Change
President Obama and his staff have been tight-lipped about possible changes to the Cabinet in a second term. But if history is a guide, Obama’s team could see substantial turnover this year: on average, in the five two-term presidencies since World War II, only one of two Cabinet officers have stayed for eight years. Some on the team, such as Education Secretary Arne Duncan, have already publicly said they’ll stick around. Others, including Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, have been more opaque: last summer Shinseki told The New York Times he will “serve at the pleasure of the president.”
Politico: Morning Transportation
Gas rationing: To combat long lines and fuel shortages following Hurricane Sandy, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has imposed a gas rationing rule that goes into effect at 6 a.m. Friday, The New York Times reported (http://nyti.ms/UcePsR). Drivers with even-numbered plates can buy gas only on even-numbered days and vice versa for odd-numbered plates. Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk counties have announced the rule as well. New Jersey already has the rationing plan in place.
BBC: New York Mayor Bloomberg imposes post-Sandy fuel ration
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered number plate-based petrol rationing, 10 days after Storm Sandy ravaged the city.
New York Times: Mayor Mandates Rationing of Gas to Ease Shortage
New York City will begin rationing gasoline on Friday for the first time since the 1970s, in response to a persistent gas crisis that has shuttered hundreds of gas stations and forced desperate drivers to wait in line for hours to fill their tanks.
Scientific American: How to Improve Coastal Cities Climate Resilience: A Q&A with Cynthia Rosenzweig
Climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig has been studying the impacts of global warming on New York City since the 1990s, and was part of a group that analyzed the unique risks faced by the Big Apple way back in 2001. The group's report predicted what a once-a-century superstorm like Hurricane Sandy proved: the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel between major boroughs flooded, La Guardia Airport runways were underwater, and so on.
USA Today: U.S. businesses seek a more competitive economy
Yet the Washington political drama over year-end tax increases and spending cuts will eventually end, as all do. Some business leaders are already looking past it to a more difficult challenge: the decline of U.S. competitiveness.
CBS: Obama's economic policies: Stay the course or change?
(MoneyWatch) With the economic recovery plodding along, and with signs of accelerating growth in recent months, the presidential candidates had reason to believe that economic conditions would improve steadily, and that whoever won would get credit for the change. Had Romney won, for example, he would have been able to claim that by changing the direction of economic policy, he had improved the economy -- even if it was really just the natural recovery taking hold. Obama, on the other hand, could claim vindication for his approach if the cycle turned.
Chicago Tribune: Saving the economy
The election is over. President Obama says he wants to work with Republicans, who say they want to work with him. Here are some modest steps they can take to demonstrate their willingness to buck their contributors for the sake of the country.
The Hill: Advocates claim 70 percent success rate for transportation referendums in 2012 elections
Transportation groups are claiming a nearly 70 percent success rate for transportation referendums in this week’s elections.
Smart Growth America: Voters say ‘yes’ to great neighborhoods, transportation choices via Tuesday ballot initiatives
Voters decided more than a president last night, with dozens of local decisions across the country to fund or approve important transportation and land-use ballot initiatives.
The Economist: What Sandy did next
CHRIS CHRISTIE, New Jersey’s governor, ordered Atlantic City’s 12 casinos to close before superstorm Sandy came ashore. When Hurricane Irene caused a similar three-day shutdown last year, the casinos lost $45m-worth of business. This time Moody’s Investors Service expects the earnings of Atlantic City’s casinos to fall by 40-50% over the next two quarters. Little wonder then that, within 90 minutes of Mr Christie lifting Atlantic City’s evacuation order and allowing the casinos to resume operations on November 2nd, the Golden Nugget reopened. Others soon followed. Still, many casino floors remain quiet. And some guests at the Golden Nugget are not gamblers. The hotel is housing Red Cross staff, out-of-state coastguard members and teams from Alabama Power, who are working in the area to restore electricity.
Bloomberg Businessweek: Sewage Backups, Water Leaks Threaten Municipal Budgets
Century-old water pipes backed up in a storm in Washington D.C.’s Bloomingdale section, sending water and sewage cascading into basements. When it happened twice more in nine days last summer, a torrent of complaints flowed.
Bloomberg Businessweek: Obama’s Next Transportation Chief Faces Highway-Funding Quandary
The next U.S. Transportation secretary -- whether it’s Ray LaHood or someone else -- will confront a highway system starved for cash and financed by a gasoline tax almost no one wants to raise.
Washington Post: Meeting the transportation needs of aging baby boomers could once again change society
WASHINGTON — Baby boomers started driving at a young age and became more mobile than any generation before or since. They practically invented the two-car family and escalated traffic congestion when women began commuting to work. Now, 8,000 of them are turning 65 every day, and those retirements could once again reshape the nation’s transportation.
National Journal: The Issues: What to Expect in Obama's Second Term
Politicians and their operatives like to stress the high stakes of an election. That, after all, is how you drive turnout. But often this strategy turns campaign arguments into abstractions: The government should help, not hinder, the private sector; the safety net must protect the neediest citizens while encouraging personal responsibility; we should defend the homeland but must do so affordably. Crucial debates, for sure—but ones that don’t say much about how governing looks on the ground.
The Hill: Rep. Shuster announces bid for House Transportation Committee chairmanship
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has formally announced his intention to seek the chairmanship of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Fast Lane: Sandy recovery efforts continue as latest storm moves on
Despite the arrival of another storm last night, hurricane recovery efforts continue throughout the Northeast. For DOT, this means working with state and local officials to help commuters get where they need to go and ensure families have access to housing and other resources they need.
Fast Lane: On Veterans Day and every day, DOT honors America's heroes
This Sunday, November 11, is the day Americans have set aside to honor our Veterans, the heroes whose sacrifices have kept this nation safe and preserved the liberty we hold so dear.
Project-Syndicate: Underinvesting in Resilience
CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphNEW YORK – The hurricane on America’s eastern seaboard last week (which I experienced in lower Manhattan) adds to a growing collection of extreme weather events from which lessons should be drawn. Climate experts have long argued that the frequency and magnitude of such events are increasing, and evidence of this should certainly influence precautionary steps – and cause us to review such measures regularly.
Infrastructure USA: The Infrastructure World Responds to Obama’s Victory
“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it’s never been clearer how important publicly-built infrastructure is to our mobility, economy, safety and quality of life…We look forward to working with President Obama and the 113th Congress to help ensure federal investment in transportation infrastructure remains a national priority in 2013.”
The New Republic: What’s Next? Remaking Federalism
So, what’s next? As the fever pitch of the presidential campaign subsides, many Americans are wondering just that—and often with a lot of pessimism.
Switchboard: Election 2012: Transit Wins
Most Americans who are fed up with traffic don't buy the notion that the way to ease congestion is to build more roads; they prefer more public transportation instead. (Check out NRDC's nationwide opinion poll.) Of course, we live in a time of serious fiscal constraint when it comes to funding transportation. The federal gas tax -- which hasn't risen since 1993 -- doesn't generate nearly enough money to fill the hole in the government's transportation budget. And the states find their revenues woefully short of their mounting transportation needs as well.
Politico Pro: Shuster lays out broad T&I agenda
By Burgess Everett
Rep. Bill Shuster laid out an ambitious agenda for a potential chairmanship of the House transportation committee on Thursday, promising to work both with Democrats and his own party and suggesting that infrastructure funding may factor into Congress’s fiscal cliff confrontation.
The Pennsylvania lawmaker said he plans to take a look at legislation regarding nearly every mode in the country. But he also acknowledged that his ascent to the coveted slot is “not a done deal yet,” partially because current Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) hasn’t said whether or not he will seek a waiver and put up a fight to serve another two-year term.
Instead of waiting for that answer, Shuster is moving forward and already looking at the most pressing issues in the transportation sector.
He called federal transportation funding a “significant issue that we have to address” and “a priority.” He did not rule anything out, including looking at the gas tax, but also made no commitments on how Congress should address the imbalance between gas tax receipts and what Americans expect from the federal government.
“I don't want to box myself in,” Shuster said, ticking off other trust funds that need reform, such as Inland Waterways and Harbor Maintenance. “I think you need to look across the spectrum.”
Shuster also expects the committee to get a seat at the table of any grand bargain negotiations and indicated he may continue to pursue House Speaker John Boehner’s vision of using new royalties from gas leases to finance infrastructure.
Should Shuster win the position, a busy two-year calendar looms, including a passenger rail bill in 2013 and a surface transportation bill in 2014. But Shuster aspires to take on more in what he predicted would be a “very, very busy committee” under his leadership.
“One of the first things we’re going to have to deal with is the WRDA bill,” Shuster said of water resources legislation, which Senate EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has said she plans to introduce this year. “When we talk about international trade, you can't talk about trade without talking about harbors.”
The son of former Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster wants to dig into the airline industry, too.
“We’ve treated them as a piggy bank since 9/11,” he said, calling the sector the “most regulated deregulated industry in the United States.”
That sort of laundry list of legislative labor will require plenty of cooperation, not only with Democratic leaders like reelected ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) but also less seasoned Republicans, many of whom Shuster got up to speed during the transportation bill negotiations. He sounded familiar infrastructure themes Thursday, speaking of the promises made in the Constitution on the upkeep of the nation’s backbone.
Shuster said he believes in a federal role regarding roads, bridges, rails, harbors and airports, but he also added that the “role needs to change somewhat” and that it could include more control for states — a popular issue among conservatives.
“Chairman Mica did a good job on the reforms in MAP-21,” Shuster said of the recent transportation law, replete with GOP-prescribed “streamlining” on project delivery measures. “I think we can go forward. There’s more to be done especially to free-up our states.”
Now Shuster just needs to make sure he wins the chairmanship. He said he’s been speaking to leadership members as well as the rank-and-file to gauge support, which he called “encouraging,” and cited his status as a member of the whip team and his senior role on the committee in recent years as factors in his favor. He’s also dialed up Mica and said the two had a “positive” conversation and maintain a “very good relationship.” Still, the current railroads panel chair said there is some uncertainty on whether Mica will pursue a rare waiver from GOP leadership to serve the committee past his term limits.
“He said he may ask for a waiver. It’s a decision he will have to make,” Shuster said.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett
Featuring Kathryn A. Wolfe, Jessica Meyers and Tal Kopan
November 9, 2012
THE LEDE: It was a bustling day in transportation land Thursday, setting up a busy lame duck and 113th Congress. Thursday afternoon, Rep. Bill Shuster spoke with reporters eager to find out how he will govern the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee if he wins the chairmanship. The EU ETS exemption bill for airlines looks primed for House action next week. And would you look at that: EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer is moving ahead on a WRDA hearing in a week’s time.
SHUSTER’S LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: Current Railroads panel chief Shuster isn’t waiting on T&I Chairman John Mica to announce his intentions and Shuster is already assembling a to-do list. There’s funding of course, “a priority” that he said will get a close look, though he didn’t rule out (or commit) to a particular path. The gas tax might be in play, as are the Inland and Harbor trust funds, as the fiscal cliff looms, but Shuster chose his words carefully: “I don’t want to box myself in. … I think you need to look across the spectrum.” A busy two-year calendar looms, including a passenger rail bill in 2013 and a surface transportation bill in 2014. But Shuster aspires to take on more in what he predicted would be a “very, very busy committee” under his leadership. “One of the first things we’re going to have to deal with is the WRDA bill,” Shuster said of water resources legislation, which Boxer is moving on as well. He wants to dig into the airline industry, too. “We’ve treated them as a piggy bank since Sept. 11,” he said, calling the sector the “most regulated deregulated industry in the United States.” Shuster added surface reforms will continue in the 113th and “there’s more to be done, especially to free up our states.”
How he will lead: “I’m not looking back; I’m looking forward,” Shuster of working with the minority, who decried what they saw as increased partisanship on the committee this term. Shuster said up first is building consensus and working with the Democratic ranking members on the committee, with whom he said he already has good relationships.
SHUSTER SAYS CHAIRMANSHIP ‘NOT A DONE DEAL’: Shuster acknowledged that his ascent to the coveted slot is “not a done deal yet,” partially because current Chairman John Mica hasn’t said whether or not he will seek a waiver to serve again. Shuster said he dialed up Mica recently and the two had a “positive” conversation and maintain a “very good relationship.” Still, the whip team member said there is some uncertainty on whether Mica will pursue a rare waiver from GOP leadership to serve the committee past his term limits. “He said he may ask for a waiver. It’s a decision he will have to make,” Shuster said. “That’s a good question for him if he’s going to pursue it.” Mica was mum again Thursday. Burgess has more on Shuster’s big day: http://politico.pro/XnxLeN
Gingrich weighs in: The news that Paul Ryan will get a waiver has some people wondering if other term-limited members — like, say, Mr. Mica — might see their fortune improve. But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says that might unwind a whole new ball of yarn. “If he gets a waiver, who else will get a waiver?” Gingrich said of Ryan. Gingrich was then asked by WaPo’s Karen Tumulty about Mica’s situation. “They’ll have to work that out.” http://wapo.st/TapExi
Don't hug me bro: At a speech in his district, Shuster gave a glimpse into the leadership style he may bring to the new post. "The extremes are ‘hammer’ and ‘hugs,’” he told a breakfast crowd. "I'm not a big hugger, I'm probably in the middle." Shuster was contrasting his style to his father Bud's take-no-prisoners tactician role when he was chairman of the same committee. Altoona Mirror: http://bit.ly/UzfC7E
ETS LIKELY TO SHOW UP ON WHIP NOTICE: Kathryn snooped around and discovered that the House is likely to pick up where the Senate left off before skipping town and take up a bill intended to shield U.S. airlines from the EU’s emissions trading scheme. We heard over recess the GOP was trying to move the bill by voice vote, but detractors stymied the effort. That’s likely to change as suspension votes resume next week. Nothing has been officially scheduled, but a House Republican aide confirmed that the lower chamber should move a copy of a bill already passed by the Senate as soon as Tuesday. Pros know the drill: http://politico.pro/SxB4tJ
EMERGENCY LANDING: A commercial flight made an emergency landing at Dulles late last night. United told D.C. radio station WTOP that Flight 662 from Denver landed safely after a disorderly passenger refused to follow landing procedures. WTOP said reports of a fighter jet escorting the flight in may have been due to the plane coming in “rather quickly.” http://bit.ly/SGRfp6
SCOOPLET — WRDA hearing Thursday: EPW will hold a legislative hearing Thursday on the Water Resources and Development Act, news uncovered just a few hours after Shuster said it would be among the first items on his agenda. Congress last authorized the bill in 2007, and this is the first try in the post-earmark era. The hearing will be at 10 a.m. in Dirksen 406. And you know what? We even have some draft bill text for y’all to peruse: http://bit.ly/SyhqOq
“Used to be the freight line right here in old D.C. …” http://youtu.be/TnUEaoD2q9k
FIRST LOOK — Transit and jobs in D.C.: The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program puts out a new report today that looks at access to transit, jobs and how the two are connected in the D.C. region. Among the key findings: 90 percent have access to either bus or rail transit and the dense core is the best-served as service declines in the suburbs. There’s also a strong economic trend, as the study finds that transit does a better job of connecting “high-skill” workers and jobs than it does for low- and medium-skilled workers. That has led to the less-skilled workers being priced out of the dense but more expensive areas that have the best transit service. Fun figures from the report: 15 percent of area residents commute via transit, triple the national average. And there’s a wide range of transit use in the diverse region — from a high of 40 percent for District residents all the way down to 2 percent for Frederick and Loudoun counties. The report goes live at 8 a.m. right here: http://bit.ly/TxGoON
Related: Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa writes Mayor Vincent Gray on D.C.’s height restrictions, which in some built-out areas limit affordable access to transit by creating market scarcity. The letter: http://1.usa.gov/RS8XoB
Pros, cons: GGW has a nice look at the height limit and how it interacts with transportation — but did they really have to bash Rosslyn? We like to call it Manhattan on the Potomac over here at MT. http://bit.ly/SPEJG7
BY THE NUMBERS: Democrat Jason Kendall, who lost to Mica on Tuesday, took to Facebook to break down the vote totals and spending in a race that saw Mica prevail with a 17 percentage point margin. “I spent $4,000 in the general. That equals to 32 cents a vote,” he posted on Thursday, noting that he lost by 55,583 votes and would have needed to flip 27,792 of Mica’s supporters to win. “That is the closest anyone, except for Mica's first run in 1992, has gotten to beat him. I also did by spending less money than any other candidate,” Kendall wrote. http://on.fb.me/Tw1yKZ
ANOTHER TRANSPO BALLOT MEASURE: South Carolina’s Richland County has passed a “transportation penny” referendum for road, bike and greenway projects. The decision will add a one-cent sales tax to a region that includes Columbia. Vote counting extended through Wednesday due to delays at the polls, and the measure passed by more than 9,000 votes. Transit advocates consider the initiative a substantial win as it may indicate an increased willingness among red states to fund infrastructure — though MT notes that Columbia is one of the state’s few Democratic areas.
Analyzed: ARTBA’s election analysis finds that 19 ballot measures generating $2.4 billion were approved on Tuesday. Their roundup also notes that with THUD ranking member Rep. John Olver retiring, Rep. Ed Pastor is the next in line who doesn’t already have a subcommittee chairmanship, making him the DOT panel’s likely top Dem next year. Check out much more on the House, Senate and White House implications for transportation: http://bit.ly/XnAbKu
Measure J: A 30-year extension of L.A.’s half-penny transit sales tax isn’t officially dead yet, with 800,000 provisional and mail-in ballots yet to be counted, but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is already looking at alternatives, the L.A. Times reports. “I'm hopeful, but this isn't my first election; I'm also realistic,” he said. But if the vote falls short in the end, the 30/10 pioneer and TIFIA backer said: “We're going back to the toolbox. We have some very innovative ideas about how we can accelerate transportation funding in this state.” http://lat.ms/XnB8Tc
DAILY SANDY UPDATE: Two more pieces of the post-Sandy New York area transportation landscape are back. MTA has started running limited trains on the L line between Brooklyn and Manhattan, one of the last major connections to come back after the storm. And starting this morning, the Queens Midtown Tunnel will reopen to traffic, but trucks aren’t allowed. The Long Island Railroad will run on a regular weekend schedule this weekend, except for the Long Beach Branch, another sign of emerging normalcy in the Big Apple.
Watch the map grow: WNYC has a nice animation of the subway map coming back to full strength a piece at a time along with a look at the man responsible for updating the map as service was restored. Check it out: http://wny.cc/RLhn2R
A CIVICS LESSON: Bloomberg Businessweek is out with their “Civic 50,” a ranking of “companies that best use their time, talent, and resources to improve the quality of life in their local communities and beyond.” The list includes some transportation-related companies near the top: No. 9 General Electric, No. 12 FedEx, No. 13 Allstate and No. 20 Southwest Airlines. And the top dog, No. 1 IBM, has worked on transportation issues as part of its “Smarter Planet” campaign. Check out the full list: http://buswk.co/Rm0RGv
THE LONG WEEKEND ON METRO: The D.C. area transit system’s work schedule is fairly light this weekend. There’s single-tracking on small parts of the Green and Red Lines. The Orange Line is the most affected: There’s one section single-tracking and buses will replace trains between East Falls Church and Clarendon. And for the rail-riders going out Monday for Veterans Day, remember Metro is running a Sunday schedule, meaning less frequent trains and no trains at all on MARC and VRE. WMATA has the skinny: http://bit.ly/TXuYIQ
THE MIGHTY MISS: The American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council Inc. are warning of potential problems that could halt cargo traffic on the Mississippi River. The amount of water coming from dams that eventually feed into the river will be scaled back next month, creating problems with the Mississippi’s water level.
MAILBAG — Don’t forget us: A coalition of aviation groups — including leaders representing airports, airlines and general aviation — wrote FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta yesterday to ask that the FAA focus on safety and airspace coordination as unmanned aircraft and drones are integrated into the skies. The industry leaders asked Huerta to carefully consider how the national airspace will be affected by the new technology. “FAA must aggressively protect its preeminent role as manager of the national airspace system,” the letter reads. “It is important that the FAA ensure that the focus on UAS integration does not hinder agency progress on areas like certification of civil aircraft, repair stations or operators where delays are already too commonplace or program improvements are lagging.” http://bit.ly/YRlIWd
AIRLINES ON TIME: In the first nine months of the year, airlines hit their second highest on-time arrivals in nearly two decades, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports. The 82.2 percent rate only trails the same period in 2003. The cancellation rate during that time was also the lowest it’s been in 18 years. September was the 10th highest on-time performance ever. At 89 percent, Salt Lake City had the most on-time arrivals from January to September. Newark, at 69 percent, held the lowest. There were also no lengthy tarmac delays, according to DOT.
PEDALING ONWARD: Caron Whitaker, the campaign director for America Bikes, will be taking on a new role as vice president of government relations for the League of American Bicyclists, effective Dec. 1. She will continue to be the lead contact for the America Bikes coalition. The move comes after her four years of guiding the organization through the transportation bill reauthorization, which resulted in this summer’s MAP-21.
And going long: Amtrak has named Doug Varn to the newly created position of general manager for long distance services, making him the point person for Amtrak's much maligned, money-losing long distance trains. In that role Varn will be accountable for "safety, customer satisfaction, ridership, on-time performance, and financial results for the Long Distance business line." Varn has headed up Amtrak's Auto Train and did a stint as vice president of planning and finance for Amtrak's former Intercity business unit.
CABOOSE — More Sandy pictures: Second Ave. Sagas has a great set of pictures of damage to New York MTA’s A line and the old Long Island Rail Road infrastructure the storm revealed. Check it out: http://bit.ly/Tw0jLZ
New York Times: New York Subway Repairs Border ‘on the Edge of Magic’
Inside a sprawling Manhattan command center, a board that detects subway activity by sensor had gone quiet. No trains were running; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had shut the system down as Hurricane Sandy approached.
Streetsblog: Suburban Voters Wisely Reject Proposals to Withdraw from Regional Transit
Job markets are regional. So in order to serve a metropolitan region’s workers and by extension the local economy, transit must also be regional, seamlessly serving both central cities and their suburbs, whose share of employment has grown. Almost everyone recognizes that.
Detroit News: Moroun not backing off bridge legal fight
Lansing — A spokesman for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun raised the specter Wednesday of legal challenges against Gov. Rick Snyder's Detroit River bridge plan.
“After all, innovation is what America has always been about…..and nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy.”