Infrastructure in the News:January 16, 2013
Infrastructure in the News: January 16, 2013
BAF IN THE NEWS:
Gothamist: Cool Infrastructure Video: Building A Platform Over West Side Railyards
One of Mayor Bloomberg's biggest development initiatives has been the Hudson Yards project, which turns space over the West Side rail yards into commercial and residential buildings. Developer Related Properties is working the parcel west of 10th Avenue while Brookfield Properties is tackling a lot between 9th and Dyer Avenues and West 31st and 33rd Streets. Brookfield, which calls the project, Manhattan West, broke ground on its $680 million platform above the rail yards—and the building will occur while trains are still moving in and out of Penn Station. Check out this video showing the deck engineering:
SILive.com: House approves $50.5B Sandy aid bill
WASHINGTON -- The House has approved a $50.5 billion measure for Hurricane Sandy victims.
New York Times: Global Economy Brightens With Modest Growth Ahead, World Bank Says
WASHINGTON — Some of the darkest clouds threatening the global economy have started to lift, according to the World Bank’s periodic update to its economic forecasts.
Washington Post (Associated Press RePrint): Officials respond to House approval of $50.5 billion in Superstorm Sandy aid
Here’s is how officials in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut reacted to the U.S. House of Representative’s approval of $50.5 billion in emergency aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy:
Washington Post: Paying Sandy’s big bill
ON TUESDAY, the House approved another $50 billion for expenses related to Hurricane Sandy. Assuming the Senate signs on, that would bring the total federal lawmakers have authorized for Sandy relief to about$60 billion, and that might not be the last of it.
The Atlantic Cities: Do Cities Really Take the Lead on Climate Change?
Climate change is at least a distant fifth in line for attention from the federal government, behind sequestration, debt ceiling, gun control, and immigration. Couple that position with the fact that many Congressional lawmakers don't even think warming exists, and the United States isn't likely to take meaningful climate action anytime soon. That means it's up to localities to take the lead — states in a general sense, but really cities themselves when it comes to the details.
FastLane: Partnership for Sustainable Communities visits Cincinnati, Indianapolis
The new year is only a couple of weeks old, but readers of this blog know that DOT has hit the ground running. Bridge, tunnel, port, and transit projects are starting. We continue pursuing safety as our top priority. And we're working hard to make sure Americans have the transportation system they deserve.
FastLane: TRB toasts University Transportation Centers program on its 25th anniversary
As I wrote yesterday, my TRB-week kicked off with a High Speed Rail Workshop last Sunday. Another TRB event that I was happy to participate in that day was the 25th anniversary celebration of our University Transportation Centers program.
The Hill: Transit group wants House to pass Hurricane Sandy relief bill
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is calling for the House of Representatives to quickly pass funding for restoring transit systems that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Kansas City Star: Appeals court turns down Chastain light-rail plan
Kansas City does not have to put Clay Chastain’s latest light-rail proposal before voters, the Missouri Court of Appeals confirmed Tuesday.
Transportation Nation: Smart Growth Collides With Transit Planning In Alexandria
(Michael Pope, Alexandria Virginia — WAMU) What happens when the principles of smart growth collide with transit planning? That’s the case on Jefferson Davis Highway in Alexandria, where a new affordable housing complex is planned, but it comes saddled with a paid parking lot.
Next City: NJ Transit Has More Passengers — and a Greater Need for State Funding
With New Jersey Gov. Christie set to announce the 2014 budget sometime in late February, recently released data from NJ Transit makes a compelling case for increasing funding for transit operations in the state.
The Star-Ledger: Editorial: Commuting in crowded N.J. stinks, but tax credit for mass transit riders helps
There has been a dearth of practical programs issuing from Congress of late. Initiatives leaving few sore losers in their wake, the kind hailed as “win-win,” are increasingly rare.
Boston.com: Commuter rail riders buy more than $1m in mobile tickets during program's first two months
Commuter rail riders have purchased more than $1 million worth of mobile tickets since the program launched about two months ago, according to MBTA officials.
Oregon Live (Associated Press RePrint): Washington state Sen. Rodney Tom says he would support gas tax increase
Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom says he would support an increase in the state's gas tax to fund road projects.
The Daily Press: Democrats' counteroffer: Raise gas and sales tax
RICHMOND – Senate Democrats offered a rival transportation funding plan Tuesday that would increase both the state's gasoline tax and sales tax.
Capital Gazette: Economist to lawmakers: Delay hiking the gas tax
The top economist for a leading economic forecaster told a group of lawmakers Tuesday to delay increasing the gas tax because the tax burden on middle-class earners is heavy enough.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Decaying infrastructure costing families $3,100 a year, engineers warn
A leading organization of engineering professionals issued another warning Tuesday about the condition of the nation's infrastructure,saying that current investment trends threaten millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in economic activity.
Wyoming’s K2 Radio: Legislative Committee Passes Fuel Tax Increase Bill [AUDIO]
The house revenue committee voted 7-2 to recommend approval of a bill to hike fuel taxes by a dime. The tax would increase from 14 cents to 24 cents a gallon on gasoline.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Burgess Everett and Adam Snider, Featuring Kathryn A. Wolfe
MT SCOOPLET — T&I leaders announced today: House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster will reveal his committee leadership team in a release today, a source familiar with the chairman’s thinking told MT. That list — which we don’t have, we promise — includes chairs for the panel’s six subcommittees. This much we know: Former Chairman John Mica won’t be getting one of the seats — he’s already snatched up a subcommittee gavel on Rep. Darrell Issa’s oversight committee.
SANDY SUPPLEMENTAL MOVES FORWARD: Nearly three months after the storm ravaged the East Coast, a multibillion-dollar aid package took another stepforward yesterday with House passage. But there’s still more work to do — the House and Senate now must reconcile their differing versions, including some major discrepancies on transportation funding. The Senate will likely take up the package on Tuesday, a Democratic aide said, adding that passage was likely provided there were no “problematic amendments.” House T&I Chairman Bill Shuster (who voted against the final bill and its $13 billion for transportation) told MT before the bill passed that he thinks a resolution is in sight. “The differences, I guess, can be worked out,” he told us. But New York Democrat Jerry Nadler is still holding out for a higher overall funding figure. “I hope the Senate will exceed the House bill,” he said when MT asked him about the House-Senate divide. Adam and Burgess have all the funding differences and much more in the Pro story: http://politico.pro/13Bx2at
JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH LaHOOD NEWS? The parlor game of speculating about Ray LaHood’s future has gone on too long for some DOT-watchers. Many had expected to see the Transportationsecretary announce his departure ahead of President Barack Obama’s second term. But with just days to go before the inauguration, LaHood hasn’t gone anywhere — or even said definitively whether he’s leaving or staying.
Publicly coy: LaHood has long been privately telling people that he plans to leave at the end of Obama’s first term, sources tell POLITICO. But with the president’s inauguration taking place Monday, LaHood will almost surely miss that deadline. The White House and DOT are equally mum on his future — 1600 Penn. says they’re “not really getting into speculation” and DOT refers us back to a December comment where LaHood said he and the president agreed “to continue talking.” Reached by email on Monday, LaHood simply said, “Nothing to report.” Pick up today’s POLITICO paper or read the Burgess/Adam production with a Reid Epstein assist right here: http://politico.pro/X2ZHPK
Groan: In a moment of groan-inducing genius, our editor Bob King put this pun-of-the-year headline on our story: “Ray LaHood: Waiting for GoDOT.”
Double groan: One of our intrepid fellow journos at the White House asked press secretary Jay Carneyabout the four unaccounted-for cabinet positions, including LaHood. The answer: “I think you can expect, broadly speaking, the president to make announcements when he’s ready to make them with appropriate haste, but also with the appropriate amount of consideration. In other words, no answer. (Laughter.)”
SENATOR RAHALL? Top T&I Dem Nick Rahall plans to keep Democrats on pins and needles until about “mid-year,” when he says he will publicly announce a decision on whether or not he willpursue Jay Rockefeller’s Senate seat in 2014. Rahall told MT he’s already feeling a push from those in his party urging him to run. “I have to decide what would best serve the people of the district I’m representing and the state of West Virginia,” Rahall said in an interview. “I was at our governor’s inauguration today and obviously a great deal of support was expressed there.”
T&I calculations: But there’s more to think about than just if Rahall can win the Senate seat. Does he want to go from being one of most senior members of the entire House to a freshman senator? “That’s a definite consideration. I have to decide what would best serve the people,” he said. And what about the T&I committee? If the House flips control and Rahall runs for Senate, he would miss out on chairing one of the most coveted committees in the House, and Peter DeFazio could end up with the gig. Burgess breaks down what’s on Rahall’s mind, and how it affects the transportation world: http://politico.pro/10wOLCn
MORE COMMITTEE SHUFFLES — House THUD lineup: House Appropriations Republicans have set their subcommittee lineup for the 113th Congress, including four new members to the panel with jurisdiction over DOT. The new panel members are Reps. Kay Granger, Tom Cole, former T&I-er Jaime Herrera Beutler and David Joyce. Tom Latham will keep his gavel and Reps. Frank Wolf and Charlie Dent will keep their subcommittee seats.
T&I panel staffers: T&I Chairman Shuster has chosen his six subcommittee staff directors, includingfive staffers from Mica’s chairmanship. Mike Friedberg is moving over from Appropriations as staff director of the railroads panel. The other five staff directors are T&I veterans: Holly Lyons on Aviation, John Rayfield on Coast Guard, Dan Mathews on economic development, Jim Tymon on Highways and Transit and John Anderson on water resources.
AUDITING CSA: DOT’s inspector general has started an audit of FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability trucking program. The program, which aims to measure truck safety through crash and other data, has drawn rebukes from Republicans and the trucking industry for how it measures and scores truck safety. The audit will look at whetherFMCSA has implemented “adequate controls to ensure the quality of the data used” and how the agency handles enforcement issues. DOT IG: http://1.usa.gov/13zdYun
FAILURE TO ACT: The country is estimated to be on track to only fund about 60 percent of its infrastructure needs through 2020, dropping to 53 percent of its needs by 2040, according to a report (http://bit.ly/ZTvxkg) released yesterday by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It finds that not addressing the funding gap will cost America $3.1 trillion in lost GDP, 3.5 million lost jobs and a decrease in household disposable income of $3,100 per year through 2020. The report is the last in ASCE's “Failure to Act” series and serves as the prelude to its new infrastructure report card, which will be released in March.
CABOOSE — Minnesota rail: This one’s a circa 1899 picture in Tracy, Minn., of the engine of the South Dakota division, Chicago & Northwestern R.R. Shorpy: http://bit.ly/VYY21z
Politico Pro: House passes $50.6 billion Sandy package
By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett
1/15/13 7:41 PM EST
Nearly three months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, a spending package designed to aid victims and rebuild damaged infrastructure has taken one more crucial step toward becoming law. But it’s not there yet.
The House passed a $50.6 billion package Tuesday evening, setting up negotiations with the Senate. Talk of next steps will likely start informally, as the upper chamber won’t return to session until next week and the House is taking the rest of this week off for a Republican retreat.
A Senate Democratic aide said the upper chamber will probably address the Sandy aid bill next Tuesday, and that passage was likely provided there were no “problematic amendments.”
House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), speaking to POLITICO before the bill passed, said the differences between the two chambers aren’t insurmountable. “The differences, I guess, can be worked out,” he said.
New York Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler is still holding out for a higher overall funding figure. “I hope the Senate will exceed the House bill,” he said when asked about the House-Senate divide.
But no matter how much money comes, Nadler said that the delay has had repercussions throughout the region.
“I can’t quantify it, but some small businesses that might have survived won’t. It means that people are having a harder time rebuilding, that they have to live for a few more weeks before they can get a loan or sign a contract to rebuild, and that will mean it’s weeks more before they can move back in, which is more suffering,” Nadler said.
A coalition of Republicans and Democrats were able to handily defeat an amendment from Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) that would have slashed spending across the board to pay for $17 billion of the bill, a provision that could have created a serious bicameral rift.
While the overall spending levels are comparable — $10 billion in flood insurance money was passed by the House last week and can be dropped from the Senate bill — there are some major differences in the line-by-line. Among the transportation provisions, the House allotted about $1 billion more than the Senate to pay for emergency road repairs on the East Coast, setting the figure at about $2 billion. The Federal Aviation Administration gets $30 million for repairs in the House bill.
The House bill will provide $13 billion total for transportation, with $11 billion designated for emergency relief to transit systems, most visibly the still-damaged subway system in New York, where regular service is not expected to restart at some stations in lower Manhattan and the Rockaways anytime soon.
Amtrak sees the biggest cut from where the Senate started at $336 million; instead the House will deliver $118 million. And $86 million of the money is subject to a provision that reflects conservative wariness over Amtrak’s money-losing long-distance routes, which states that “none of the funds may be used to subsidize operating losses.”
Kathryn Wolfe contributed to this report.
Politico Pro: Ray LaHood: Waiting for GoDOT
By Burgess Everett and Adam Snider
1/15/13 2:56 PM EST
The parlor game of speculating about Ray LaHood’s future has gone on too long for some DOT-watchers.
Many had expected to see the Transportation secretary announce his departure ahead of President Barack Obama’s second term. But with just days to go before the inauguration, LaHood hasn’t gone anywhere — or even said definitively whether he’s leaving or staying.
“I get asked almost daily what I think Ray LaHood is going to do,” said Janet Kavinoky, the top transportation lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.“And Ray LaHood has said he doesn't have any answers for us.”
That holding pattern has essentially been in place since the fall of 2011, when the Chicago Tribune reported, without a direct quotation, that LaHood said he would be “staying in that job for one term only.” The Chicago Sun-Times picked up a similar theme Tuesday, citing a “top Obama source” to report that LaHood is “definitely” leaving office, perhaps in the next few months.
LaHood has long been privately telling people that he plans to leave at the end ofObama’s first term, sources tell POLITICO. But with the president’s inauguration taking place Monday, LaHood will almost surely miss that deadline.
Neither the White House nor the Department of Transportation is offering any answers in public.
“We’re just not really getting into speculation on personnel announcements or discussion of internal decision making,” a White House official said, directing further inquiries to DOT.
DOT in turn pointed to comments LaHood made to reporters in December, when he said he and Obama had agreed after the election “to continue talking.” Reached by email on Monday, LaHood said simply, “Nothing to report.”
Though he has grown visibly tired of fielding endless questions on the topic, LaHood isn’t doing much to assuage reporters. At an event at a Washington public school Friday, LaHood referred to that same post-election chat he had with Obama, but was again vague about his future.
“I did have a good meeting with the president after the election, I sure did,” he told several reporters. “We talked a lot about what we’ve been doing the last four years and talked about high-speed rail. So we’ll see where it takes us.” LaHood declined to give a timeline on when he will make a decision.
But LaHood, who’s typically outgoing and friendly with reporters, might be under a gag order when it comes to breaking news about the future of DOT’s leadership. “I think it’s very clear that the White House is controlling the timing,” said a transportation source who knows the secretary.
Many observers had expected that after addressing the fiscal cliff and nominating the top tier of Obama’s new Cabinet —Defense, State and Treasury — the administration would pivot to filling out the next level of top advisers, including the Transportation secretary.
Instead, the lack of solid leads is causing some rampant tea-leaf reading.
Last week, for example, the White House’s confirmation that three Cabinet members would return for a portion of Obama’s second term prompted speculation about what that implied about LaHood, who wasn’t on the list.
Instead, it became obvious in the past few days that the list was far from comprehensive — it also omitted Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who it turns out are staying on.
It’s not just K Street and the media in the dark. Former and current aides to the secretary plead ignorance on the timeline for LaHood’s departure, as do Illinois political insiders.
The last legitimate change in the storyline occurred in December, when House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) broke the news that LaHood hadinformed the new chairman that they would be working together for “a while.”
In follow-up comments, LaHood said he would continue discussions with Obama on the subject and predicted that more clarity would come after a deal on “fiscal matters.” It’s open to interpretation whether the tax-relief bill passed on New Year’s Day addressed those matters — or whether they’re still waiting for the upcoming fight about the debt ceiling, sequestration and a possible government shutdown.
Externally, LaHood has signaled business as usual.
He wrote an item on his DOT blog last week that essentially served as a note to Congress expressing optimism about working together. And after a holiday lull in his public-speaking duties, he resumed a typically packed schedule this week that has him crisscrossing the country as one of the administration’s chief messengers on job creation and the tangible things Washington is doing to improve life way outside the Beltway. He was in Detroit on Monday and heads back there again on Friday, with several appearances at the Transportation Research Board conference in between.
In some ways, though, the damage has been done.
One Capitol Hill publication floated the name of retired Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) as a replacement at DOT, although she told POLITICO in late December that she would “never” serve in the Obama administration. Nevertheless, the tidbit was picked up by major Texas newspapers. Similar speculation has surrounded National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Debbie Hersman — who said she already has the “best job” in D.C. — and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who told POLITICO he is focused on his current job but admitted that “it’s always nice to be talked about.”
It looks unlikely that former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) would consider the Navy Yard digs, even though he’s a bit of a dream candidate for the transportation industry. The moderate-minded, plainspoken former House member would fit the LaHood mold, but he will have his hands full steering the centrist Main Street Partnership and dipping his toes into lobbying.
Truth is, the next secretary is likely to be someone who has received little or no speculative ink — just like LaHood in 2009, when he surprised the transportation community as part of the final tranche of Obama Cabinet announcements, appearing alongside the nominee for U.S. trade representative, Ron Kirk. LaHood had just stepped down from his House seat with plans to return to Peoria, Ill. — and few saw his pick coming.
Reid Epstein contributed to this report.
Politico Pro: Rahall to decide on Senate run by ‘midyear’
By Burgess Everett
1/15/13 11:40 AM EST
West Virginia’s longest-serving active member of Congress is seriously eyeing a run for the Senate in 2014, but first he’ll weigh whether his seniority in the House is more advantageous to his state.
Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, two months after surviving another challenge on his southern West Virginia House seat, said he plans to make a concrete decision on whether to run for the seat by “midyear,” though Democrats are already urging him to vie for the perch that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) will leave in 2014.
“I have to decide what would best serve the people of the district I’m representing and the state of West Virginia,” Rahall said in an interview late Monday. “I was at our governor’s inauguration today and obviously a great deal of support was expressed there.”
Between Rockefeller’s retirement and the death in 2010 of Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia is set to lose 80 years of Senate experience over a span of just five years. With that in mind, Rahall sounds like he is calibrating an electoralpitch that shows he can jump in with Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and get to work in the Senate right away.
“To lose those two individuals with all their seniority is devastating. It’ll take decades for somebody who doesn’t know the process there,” he said. Rahall said he can “jump right in on Day One and not go through the learning process.”
There’s also the question of how the decision by Rahall — the top Democrat on the Transportation Committee and former chairman of Natural Resources — would affect House politics.
The expectation on the Hill is that Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon would be next in line to lead Democrats on Transportation. Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) hasknown Rahall for more than a dozen years, a relationship that goes back to when Shuster’s father chaired the panel in the 1990s. DeFazio is seen on the Hill as more fiery than the amiable Rahall, but Shuster said he has good working relationships with both.
The political winds will also play a huge factor for Rahall. Should the House flip control in 2014 and he remain in the lower chamber, he would be set to chair one of the body’s most coveted committees during the last two years of a Democratic White House and put an exclamation point on his dozens of years working on the Transportation panel. Does Rahall want to go from one of themost influential members of the House’s committee machinery to a junior senator?
“That’s a definite consideration. I have to decide what would best serve the people,” he said.
Pressed on which direction he was leaning, Rahall demurred and said he is going through a listening period in a state whose politics are trending toward the GOP.
“They’re changing, no question about it,” Rahall said of the dynamic.
But his experience navigating those politics may appeal to national Democrats. Rahall has fended off spirited challenges from the National Republican Congressional Committee’s candidates in the past two election cycles, evading efforts to tie him to President Barack Obama on health care and coal policy.
Rahall has even drawn praise from a potential Senate opponent, Rep. David McKinley(R-W.Va.), for working to fight regulation of the state’s coal industry.
But Rahall’s success holding his seat through tough times also raises another question: Is he the only West Virginia Democrat equipped to win election to the House? He says no.
“My district may take a different Democrat than me, but it would be a Democrat,” he said, citing favorable registration numbers.
The open Senate seat could attract waves of potential Democratic candidates, according to the Charleston Gazette, including former Gov. Gaston Caperton and Carte Goodwin, who temporarily served in Byrd’s seat until Manchin’s election.
Rahall can examine Republican competition at his committee’s hearings: Fellow Transportation Committee member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) is running for the seat, and is seen as a strong contender given her fundraising prowess and lineage as the daughter of a former governor.
That rules out any party-line crossing from Rahall’s old friend Shuster, who said he holds Rahall in “high regard” but quickly promoted Capito’s candidacy when asked about a potential Sen. Rahall.
“He’s running against someone that’s formidable. She’s Mrs. West Virginia,” Shuster said.
Then there’s legacy. Though he’s 20 years short of Rep. John Dingell’s “Dean of the House” status, Rahall’s seniority in the House could become legend should he stay out of the Senate race. Elected to the body in the late 1970s, he’s already in the top 10 longest-serving active members. Given that he was elected to the House while still in his 20s, the 63-year-old Rahall is still younger than some House freshmen even though he’s on his 19th term.
Politico Pro: Inauguration: Metro says it’s ready for its close-up
By Kathryn A. Wolfe
1/16/13 5:21 AM EST
Presidential inaugurations are like the D.C. transit system’s Olympics — a spectacle that draws a massive influx of people to a concentrated area every four years.
But transit officials say they’re ready.
Dan Stessel, a spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said WMATA will be pushing every available subway car and bus out onto the system and running an enhanced service schedule.
Metrorail will open at 4 a.m. Monday, three hours earlier than it normally would on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and stay open until 2 a.m. on Tuesday.
“From the time it opens at 4 a.m. we’re running rush hour service levels for 17 hours,” Stessel said.
President Barack Obama’s first inauguration shattered Metro’s previous ridership records and still stands as the single-busiest day for WMATA, with 1.1 million taking the subway and 400,000 riding buses.
Stessel said that typically, second-term inaugurations draw fewer people than first-term inaugurations, but Metro plans to use the same level of service as it did in 2009 for Obama’s first swearing-in. He said the service worked well that day, with just one operational issue involving a woman who fell onto the tracks at Gallery Place and was rescued by a police officer, which caused ashort Red Line delay.
“Generally, once people got into the system, you might have had to let a train or two go by because it was so full, but generally the system ran well that day,” Stessel said. “We’d be lucky to replicate that.”
The Washington Post offered much the same verdict at the time, writing that “the crush of inauguration attendees pushed the region's transit system to its limit,” causing hours-long waits for trains at some stations, forcing WMATA to close the Federal Triangle Station for four hours and provoking an outbreak of “shoving, yelling and cursing” at Federal Center SW. But the newspaper added that “for the most part, the regional transportation plan outlined by officials worked as it was supposed to.”
George W. Bush’s first inauguration drew more than 600,000 Metrorail riders, but his second fell to just over 583,800. Bill Clinton’s first inauguration drew more than 811,000 Metrorail riders, but his second fell to just under 455,000.
Metrorail normally transports 700,000 people on an average weekday, but that’s distributed across two rush hours and 86 stations. Part of the challenge Metro faces with the crush of people expected for the inauguration is that they will be clustered on the National Mall, and all arriving or leaving at relatively the same time.
“Halting trade through America’s ports, even briefly, is like cutting off our lifeline. Because international trade is central to our economic well-being and seaports connect us with the rest of the world, keeping them modern, navigable, safe and properly supported is a core priority...”