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INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE NEWS 10.13.16

NATIONAL NEWS

 

Washington Post Editorial: Hillary Clinton for president

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/hillary-clinton-for-president/2016/10/12/665f9698-8caf-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html?utm_term=.08877f4cb973

But most of her agenda is commendable, and parts may actually be achievable: immigration reform; increased investment in infrastructure, research and education, paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy; sounder family-leave policies; criminal-justice reform.

 

Washington Post: Hillary Clinton, Paul Ryan and the relationship that could shape Washington

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/two-wonks-one-question-could-hillary-clinton-and-paul-ryan-work-together/2016/10/12/f5bdb73a-8f06-11e6-9c52-0b10449e33c4_story.html

One such area could be an infrastructure spending bill, which Clinton has said would be an immediate priority. Ryan, too, has in the past year privately reached out to top Democrats about beginning infrastructure talks, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other pillars of the Republican establishment have championed.

 

The Hill: Transportation chief: Agencies struggling to implement safety technology

https://origin-nyi.thehill.com/policy/transportation/300684-transportation-chief-public-transit-agencies-face-greater-challenge-in

Transit agencies have struggled to adopt a potentially life-saving train technology because they are often operating on “thin margins,” the head of the Department of Transportation (DOT) said Wednesday.

 

Engineering News-Record: Viewpoint: US Infrastructure Needs Disruption

http://www.enr.com/articles/40509-viewpoint-us-infrastructure-finance-needs-disruption

Studying each major party candidate’s infrastructure plans—good intentions notwithstanding—reminds me of what it must have been like to participate in military strategy debate in 1939: There is a depressing “fighting the last war” sense to the plans.

 

PoliMedia: Manufacturers to Next President and Congress: Be Bold on Infrastructure; Build to Win

http://polimedia.press/2016/10/12/manufacturers-to-next-president-and-congress-be-bold-on-infrastructure-build-to-win/

Today, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the largest manufacturing association in the United States, is releasing “Building to Win,” an ambitious, new initiative to revitalize our nation’s failing infrastructure. In a vote by the 121-year-old association, the initiative was unanimously adopted by the NAM Board of Directors.

 

Washington Post: Uber and Airbnb helped expand the gig economy. These researchers think they’ve measured how much.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2016/10/13/uber-and-airbnb-helped-expand-the-gig-economy-these-researchers-think-theyve-measured-how-much/

Many economists and labor experts say the so-called “gig economy” has grown in recent years as ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, and home-sharing sites, such as Airbnb and HomeAway, have gained popularity with consumers.

 

STATE NEWS

 

The New York Times: New Jersey Transit, a Cautionary Tale of Neglect

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/14/nyregion/new-jersey-transit-crisis.html

In the 1990s, New Jersey Transit was riding high.

 

Associated Press (Seattle): New Seattle Freight Lab Tackles Urban Delivery Congestion

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/10/12/us/ap-us-seattle-delivery-dilemma.html

In this city where residents can get practically anything delivered to their doorsteps — often within hours — trucks, bikes, cars and buses regularly jostle for space on Seattle's streets.

 

Star Tribune (Minnesota): Ride sharing: 10 years of freedom in personal transportation

http://www.startribune.com/ride-sharing-10-years-of-freedom-in-personal-transportation/396869561/

Ten years ago, “ride sharing” was something parents did driving kids to soccer practice. How times have changed. Today, Uber and Lyft are household names for pairing you with strangers who will safely drive wherever you want to go.

 

SI Live (Staten Island, NY): Transportation Week starts Monday, exploring our roads, commute times and more

http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/10/transportation_week_starts_mon.html

Borough residents all have a story to tell when it comes to transportation on Staten Island.

 

The Town Talk (Louisiana): Transportation dollars still limited

http://www.thetowntalk.com/story/news/local/2016/10/12/transportation-dollars-still-limited/91945888/

There is optimism among many that the state government is more committed to addressing Louisiana's critical infrastructure needs than it has been in years.

 

WUFT (Florida): Florida Department of Transportation Awards $44.4 Million For Trail Expansions

http://www.wuft.org/news/2016/10/12/florida-department-of-transportation-awards-44-4-million-for-trail-expansions/

The Florida Department of Transportation announced that bicycle and pedestrian trail expansion projects received $44.4 million under the Shared-Use Nonmotorized (SUN) Trail Program within the next year.

 

The Pitt News: Give Pittsburgh’s infrastructure a makeover

http://pittnews.com/article/112247/opinions/columns/pittsburgh-infrastructure-makeover/

Along with countless others, I drove across the Liberty Bridge on the morning of Sept. 3. Beyond the construction covering the bridge, made of steel and concrete — not especially flammable building materials — it was a normal day.

 

News-Sentinel (Indiana): Editorial: In search of an infrastructure solution

http://www.news-sentinel.com/opinion/Editorial--In-search-of-an-infrastructure-solution

Indiana has stumbled along too long taking care of its infrastructure piecemeal, and it shows on our roads, streets and bridges. Legislators have appropriately made finding a long-term solution a top priority in the coming session of the General Assembly. They should stay determined and not close the session without approving a plan.

 

Washington Post: Congress warns Metro: Don’t use federal money for short-term budget fix

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/10/13/congress-warns-metro-dont-uses-federal-money-for-short-term-budget-fix/

As Metro stares down an expected $275 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2018, Congress is issuing a warning to the agency’s board: Dip into federal funding for short-term needs, and there will be longterm consequences.

 

Washington Post: For Metro riders, two evening commutes provide back-to-back misery

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/for-metro-riders-two-evening-commutes-provide-back-to-back-misery/2016/10/12/0afc770a-90a9-11e6-9c85-ac42097b8cc0_story.html

Track issues near Metro’s inner core made for miserable — and, at times, scary — back-to-back midweek commutes for riders on several rail lines.

 

Washington Post: Region’s leaders split over 1-cent regional sales tax to pay for Metro

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/a-1-cent-regional-sales-tax-for-metro-top-leaders-are-told-it-would-cover-the-need/2016/10/12/134e79a8-8f23-11e6-a6a3-d50061aa9fae_story.html

A new, 1-cent regionwide sales tax would cover Metro’s long-term funding needs, according to a private presentation Wednesday to the Washington region’s top three elected officials.

 

Washington Post Editorial: Metro moves — slowly — toward a safer system

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/metro-moves--slowly--toward-a-safer-system/2016/10/12/f213e21e-8cc5-11e6-875e-2c1bfe943b66_story.html?utm_term=.95dc9404e8bd

METRO HAS so many hoops to jump through in order to slow its death spiral that celebrating just one, and calling it a milestone, is ill-advised.

 

By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/13/2016 05:37 AM EDT

With help from Katy O'Donnell, Lauren Gardner and Jennifer Scholtes

WIKILEAKS: CLINTON TALKED INFRASTRUCTURE IN PAID SPEECHES: Hillary Clinton seemed to support the idea of giving multinational corporations a tax cut if they repatriate overseas profits and invest in a national infrastructure bank, when she gave a paid speech two years ago at the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, as Pro Tax's Katy O'Donnell reports. Clinton's campaign didn't respond to POLITICO's questions about the authenticity of the partial transcript of the speech, which was among the WikiLeaks dump of hacked emails.

A lower rate, in exchange for investment: "A number of business leaders have been talking to my husband and me about an idea that would allow the repatriation of the couple trillion dollars that are out there," Clinton said, according to an excerpt. "And you would get a lower rate - a really low rate - if you were willing to invest a percentage in an infrastructure bank." Clinton said she has met "with lots of corporate executives" and "they all complain about our infrastructure," including railroads, airports, roads and ports. Two months before her speech at CIAB, Clinton spoke at a software summit sponsored by Nexenta and said executives have told her they would be open to investing some of their repatriated profits in an infrastructure bank.

Clinton's campaign proposals: The Democratic nominee has promised that her administration would spend $275 billion on infrastructure over five years, $25 billion of which would go toward establishing an infrastructure bank. She has said she would "fully pay for these investments through business tax reform," but has given no other details. President Barack Obama has included the creation of an infrastructure bank in his budget proposals, but the idea has never gotten off the ground in Congress.

Stepping in for FedEx, UPS: As secretary of State, Clinton intervened on behalf of FedEx and UPS when they had licensing issues in China, Clinton said during other paid speeches. As our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros, Clinton said FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith called her personally to ask for help. After Clinton and the State Department pressured the Chinese government, China promised to grant more licenses to the companies.

IT'S THURSDAY: Good morning and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Please send tips, feedback and, of course, song lyrics to bgurciullo@politico.com or @brigurciullo.

"Mirrors sideways. Who cares what's behind. Just like always. Still your passenger."

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SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx declined Wednesday to talk about whether he would accept a request from the Clinton administration to stay in government should the Democratic nominee defeat Donald Trump next month. "That's a really interesting question that I cannot answer, really because I don't know the answer," Foxx said during a pen-and-pad discussion with reporters at DOT headquarters. "I certainly have my plate full with stuff that President Obama has asked me to do, and so if that conversation ever happens, I'll have to reserve the answer for the person I'm talking to." As our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros, Foxx endorsed Clinton for president in January.

To-do list: Before the Obama administration ends, Foxx is "optimistic" that DOT will release a long-awaited proposed rule on vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Foxx also said that DOT wants to include a 15-point safety assessment for autonomous vehicles in a future rulemaking. The assessment is now voluntary as a part of NHTSA's new guidance for driverless cars. But it'll probably be up to regulators in a new administration to decide how to move forward, Foxx said.

About that Metro ... : Foxx reiterated some of his frustrations with the D.C., Maryland and Virginia governments over the need to establish a state safety oversight agency for Metrorail before a February 2017 deadline, saying the legislative process is "like watching paint dry." He said, "I'm not going to say it's not being taken seriously, but it sure isn't happening quickly." Foxx noted that he thinks Metro's new leaders are doing the best they can but likely face a long road ahead. "I hate to sound as crass as this, but you know, I would far rather that they reduce operations and operate safely than to keep operations at a full but unsafe level," he said.

CLINTON TRANSITION TEAM RECRUITS MONJE: DOT's Carlos Monje has joined Clinton's transition team. Monje, the assistant secretary for transportation policy, is overseeing the groups that focus on ensuring a smooth transfer of power at federal agencies, POLITICO's Andrew Restuccia reports. Monje previously served as counselor to Foxx and chief of staff at the White House Domestic Policy Council.

AMTRAK'S PTC COST BURDEN TO FREIGHTS COULD BE $350 MILLION: Freight railroads that share their tracks with Amtrak have told the government-backed company it may be on the hook for as much as $350 million for positive train control installation and maintenance, as the railroads wrangle over how much of a burden each should bear for the federal PTC mandate, our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros. PTC is required on rails where passenger trains or trains carrying certain hazardous material run. For areas where freights install the technology solely because Amtrak operates there, the passenger railroad may have to reimburse them for at least some of the costs.

A more precise estimate: The amount was disclosed in an Amtrak inspector general report released last week. Two earlier reports by the IG only referenced ranges Amtrak officials had estimated the company may need to pay freights, and a source familiar with the issue told Lauren that some in the company fear its negotiating position will be negatively affected by the report's revelation of the $350 million figure.

Nudge nudge: But there appears to be a level of frustration within the IG, since its most recent report notes that the office had previously recommended that Amtrak include those potential liabilities in its financial planning and overhaul its PTC program management - suggestions Amtrak had agreed to but never implemented. "The company has not yet fully estimated and budgeted implementation costs, which we recommended in 2012 and 2015," the IG griped, later adding that omitting the possible reimbursement costs "affects the accuracy and usefulness of the company's budgets and federal grant requests." Amtrak agreed with the IG's reissued recommendations.

YOUR ID IS NO GOOD TO ME: For the dozens of states still lagging behind the Real ID mandate, another judgment day has come and gone. And although the status quo has mostly been maintained, five states have been added to the "noncompliant" list this week - a distinction that actually has a real impact on those states' residents.

Access denied: As our Jennifer Scholtes reports , "DHS has not yet publicized the actions but told POLITICO on Wednesday that 17 states were granted one-year extensions this week, while four were granted extensions through June 6, 2017. A handful of others - Kentucky, Maine, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina - were denied requests for extra time to comply. The denials mean residents in those five states won't be able to use their driver's licenses to get through airport security come Jan. 22, 2018, unless their states comply with federal ID standards before that deadline. More immediately, those residents won't be able to use their driver's licenses to get into secure federal buildings or military bases after January of next year."

THE BRAKING POINT: A GAO report with a typically convoluted title has sparked a much snappier squabble between the Federal Railroad Administration and the industry the agency oversees. "DOT's Rulemaking on Electronically Controlled Pneumatic Brakes Could Benefit from Additional Data and Transparency" - talk about a header that screams "snoozer." But that 72-page report has hit a nerve in the broader battle over crude-by-rail mandates.

Two wrongs: In the new report out this week, GAO calls into question DOT's claims of the great benefits of special brakes for trains hauling flammable liquids, as Jen reports for Pros. While the federal watchdog doesn't say DOT is necessarily wrong about the perks of electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, GAO says there's just no way for outsiders to be sure since DOT hasn't disclosed data essential for a third party to replicate its modeling and the rail industry hasn't provided much ECP information either.

The juicy part: Not long after the report made its debut, the FRA came out swinging, issuing a statement saying that the rail industry currently uses a "Civil War era" braking system and is only concerned about the cost of the ECP alternative. And then of course the rail industry batted back, saying the GAO report proves that DOT should withdraw its brake rule because the report validates the rail industry's claim that DOT "had negligible data or testing results" to justify the mandate to begin with.

LOAD UP THE TRUCK: By 2027, the American Trucking Associations expects its industry to haul almost 30 percent more goods. Overall freight tonnage will increase 35 percent in that time, ATA projected in a report released Wednesday. As Jen reports for Pros, the trade group estimates that pipeline transport's share of the freight economy will swell from about 11 percent to more than 17 percent as the energy sector grows - which means truck, rail and maritime will lose market share.

THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):

- "Toyota and Suzuki say they are considering an alliance." The New York Times.

- "Official: Plane crash appears to be suicide try; 1 dead." The Associated Press.

- "Metro inspections failed to capture dangerous track conditions prior to July derailment, documents show." WAMU 88.5.

- "These stations and bus routes face service cuts if Metro can't balance its budget." The Washington Post.

- "Hanjin Shipping's Asia-U.S. route assets to be put on sale." The Wall Street Journal.

- "Elon Musk's wild ride: Biographer Ashlee Vance examines the troubles at Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity." Bloomberg.

- FMCSA issues a final rule to "ease the transition of military personnel into civilian careers driving commercial motor vehicles." The Federal Register.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 57 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 351 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 25 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,451 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

9 a.m. - The FAA's Office of Hazardous Materials Safety and PHMSA's Office of Hazardous Materials Safety hold a meeting to prepare for ICAO's Dangerous Goods Panel meeting later this month. FAA headquarters, FOB 10A, 2nd Floor, Bessie Coleman Conference Room, 800 Independence Ave. SW.

12 p.m. - The Unified Carrier Registration Plan Board of Directors holds a meeting via conference call.

2 p.m. - The United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board meets via teleconference.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at transpocalendar@politicopro.com.

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/10/wikileaks-clinton-talked-infrastructure-in-paid-speeches-019611

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Clinton floated lower taxes on repatriated funds in exchange for infrastructure investments Back

By Katy O'Donnell | 10/12/2016 03:46 PM EDT

Hillary Clinton appears to have endorsed pairing a tax cut for multinational corporations with infrastructure spending in a paid speech in 2014, according to a partial transcript recently released by WikiLeaks.

Clinton voiced support for giving corporations a "really low [tax] rate" to repatriate overseas profits and invest in infrastructure during a speech at the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers in October 2014.

"A number of business leaders have been talking to my husband and me about an idea that would allow the repatriation of the couple trillion dollars that are out there. And you would get a lower rate - a really low rate - if you were willing to invest a percentage in an infrastructure bank," she said, according to the curated transcript.

The excerpts are included in an 80-page internal review of "HRC paid speeches flags" posted online by WikiLeaks. The Clinton campaign did not respond to questions from POLITICO about the authenticity of the documents and whether her position has changed.

Clinton had raised the repatriation-infrastructure idea in a speech at a software summit sponsored by Nexenta two months earlier, saying she wanted to find "creative ways" to bring back profits stuck overseas.

"It doesn't do our economy any good to have this money parked somewhere else in the world and it's not really being put to use there either. So I would like to figure out ways of getting it back and figuring out some creative ways," she said.

The comments likely will not sit well with liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who called for an end to tax deferral as a means of bringing back money held overseas. The Clinton campaign has said it would pay for infrastructure spending with "business tax reform," but has provided no details.

Back

Clinton: I 'went to bat' for FedEx, UPS in China Back

By Lauren Gardner | 10/12/2016 04:57 PM EDT

Hillary Clinton told Wall Street bankers in a paid speech that she intervened as secretary of State on behalf of FedEx and UPS when they were faced with licensing issues in China, according to excerpts released by WikiLeaks.

Clinton said FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith called her personally to ask for the U.S. government's help after China moved to add requirements for companies like theirs to operate within the country.

"And the move was widely seen, I think correctly, as a way for Beijing to put its thumb on the scales for the state-controlled China Post. Both FedEx and UPS rightly worried they would receive severely restrictive licenses that would curtail where and how they could do business," Clinton said, according to an excerpt. "And they kept doing their best to make the argument in Beijing to anybody they could buttonhole, but they weren't making much progress."

The call from Smith, whom Clinton noted she's "known since Arkansas days," was "one of many times that American businesses came looking for assistance in competing on a level playing field, and, in fact, where they were competing was anything but level. So our diplomats in Beijing raised the issue at the highest levels of the Chinese government but to no avail. I brought the matter up directly with then Vice Premier Wang Qishan."

Clinton said State kept up the pressure, which eventually resulted in the Chinese vowing to grant more licenses to the American companies.

"And although the issue is far from settled, both FedEx and UPS are still operating in China and have a base that they still expect to be able to expand from," she said.

The Clinton campaign declined to comment about the authenticity of the document, with spokesman Glen Caplin saying, "By dribbling these out every day WikiLeaks is proving they are nothing but a propaganda arm of the Kremlin with a political agenda doing Putin's dirty work to help elect Donald Trump."

Back

Foxx prospects under Clinton? 'I cannot answer' Back

By Lauren Gardner | 10/12/2016 02:46 PM EDT

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx declined to comment today on whether he would serve in Hillary Clinton's government if she's elected president next month.

"That's a really interesting question that I cannot answer, really because I don't know the answer," he told reporters at DOT headquarters when asked if he would remain in government if asked to stay in some capacity, should the Democratic nominee win.

"I certainly have my plate full with stuff that President Obama has asked me to do, and so if that conversation ever happens, I'll have to reserve the answer for the person I'm talking to," Foxx said.

Foxx endorsed Clinton in January 2016.

Back

Foxx: Driverless car safety assessment rule won't come until next administration Back

By Lauren Gardner | 10/12/2016 04:19 PM EDT

DOT plans to incorporate the 15-point safety assessment included in NHTSA's new self-driving car guidelines into a future rulemaking, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said today.

"While it's voluntary today, we intend to move it through the rulemaking process going forward," he told reporters.

However, Foxx said he anticipates that process wouldn't begin until early in the next administration, which means it would ultimately be up to the next cadre of transportation regulators to decide how to proceed. He noted that NHTSA first must get through the 60-day comment window currently open, and the agency will be holding regional meetings to gather input.

Foxx also said he is "optimistic" the department will issue a proposed rule on vehicle-to-vehicle communications by the end of the Obama administration, despite a long delay.

Back

Top Obama transportation official joins Clinton team Back

By Andrew Restuccia | 10/12/2016 06:24 PM EDT

Carlos Monje, a top Transportation Department official and a veteran of President Barack Obama's White House, has joined Hillary Clinton's transition team, sources familiar with the hire told POLITICO.

Sources said Monje is overseeing the Clinton transition operation's agency review teams, which are charged with ensuring a smooth transfer of power at dozens of federal agencies.

Monje currently serves as assistant secretary for transportation policy. Before that, he was counselor to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, chief of staff at the White House Domestic Policy Council and deputy policy director at Obama for America. Monje also worked on homeland security and veterans affairs issues for Obama while he was an Illinois senator.

Monje is the latest person of color to join Clinton's transition team, which has set a goal of hiring minorities and women to serve in a Clinton administration if she wins the White House in November.

POLITICO reported last month that Clinton's transition team tapped the Rev. Leah Daughtry, the CEO of the 2016 and 2008 Democratic National Convention Committees, to help lead the transition operation's personnel team. The transition also recently hired former White House Hispanic outreach aide Stephanie Valencia Ramirez and John Jones, chief of staff to Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Though it had a slow start, the Clinton transition team is staffing up as polls show Clinton is likely to win the White House. The team is led by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Other staffers include Clinton aides Ed Meier and Ann O'Leary.

The Clinton campaign declined to comment and Monje did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Back

Amtrak looking to cut down $350 million PTC burden on freight-owned tracks Back

By Lauren Gardner | 10/12/2016 03:35 PM EDT

Amtrak may be on the hook for up to $350 million to install and maintain positive train control on some tracks owned by freight railroads - a cost burden the government-backed corporation is trying to whittle down.

The figure, revealed last week in an Amtrak inspector general report, comes at a time when the passenger railroad has increasingly shrunk its operating loss as the company attempts to become less of a drain on federal funds.

Amtrak and states responsible for subsidizing passenger service are negotiating with freight railroads to try to lower the price tag. However, an Amtrak spokeswoman wouldn't elaborate on their strategy for cost-savings, which freights are involved or how the $350 million was calculated, citing confidentiality concerns.

Amtrak's PTC cost burden has been a longstanding question mark, considering the many route-miles it shares with freights. Amtrak has installed and activated PTC along the Northeast Corridor and tracks it owns in Pennsylvania and Michigan, the IG said, accounting for about two-thirds of the 900 route-miles for which the company is responsible.

But since much of Amtrak's traffic runs on rails owned by freights, those companies can foist PTC implementation costs onto Amtrak in situations where the technology is required solely because Amtrak trains operate on those tracks. This would primarily mean segments where freights don't carry hazardous materials.

Amtrak spokeswoman Chelsea Kopta declined to comment on which routes are affected in the $350 million figure.

The IG has long critiqued Amtrak for what it has called incomplete and unreliable cost estimates for Amtrak's PTC implementation burden on freights - which it hit Amtrak for again in its most recent report.

"The company has not yet fully estimated and budgeted implementation costs, which we recommended in 2012 and 2015," the IG griped.

This most recent report is the first to peg a single dollar amount; previous studies published in 2012 and 2015 estimated the potential reimbursement costs to Amtrak in ranges, noting that company officials warned that publicizing them could impede Amtrak's negotiating position.

A source familiar with PTC cost negotiations said Amtrak officials fear the latest report may have "inflated" the eventual payments the company will make to freight railroads by making a net dollar figure public.

While Amtrak spent about $183 million on PTC implementation through June 2016 and projects an additional $35 million for those efforts through 2018, the IG said those numbers don't tell the whole story because they don't account for the potential reimbursements to freights. Amtrak hasn't incorporated those possible costs into its financial plans, the IG wrote, an omission that "affects the accuracy and usefulness of the company's budgets and federal grant requests."

There's also a question of whether Amtrak is on the hook for even more of these costs thanks to a court settlement that changed the baseline year for which lines are required to have PTC installed on them.

A 2010 final rule on PTC implementation could have required some freights to install PTC on track segments where toxic- or poisonous-by-inhalation materials were transported in 2008, even though they'd no longer be used for that purpose by the end of 2015, the original deadline for PTC implementation. Freights sued FRA over the rule.

As part of a settlement, FRA amended the rule to essentially set 2015 as the baseline year for freights to determine which tracks met the law's mandate that PTC be installed. The IG noted in its 2012 report that the change "could allow host railroads to reroute hazardous materials shipments, thereby exempting them from having to install PTC on lines that would no longer carry trains with hazardous materials."

"If these lines now require PTC installation solely because of Amtrak trains," the IG continued, "this could cause Amtrak to bear the costs for installing PTC on these lines."

But Amtrak's Kopta indicated freight railroads haven't exploited that opening on a large scale.

"Host railroads make adjustments to their traffic flows and routing patterns for many reasons," Kopta said. "But Amtrak has not so far seen a concerted effort by host railroads to redirect traffic flows to push PTC costs onto Amtrak."

Amtrak and freight railroads can both avoid PTC costs by applying for exemptions from the mandate in instances where at-risk rail traffic is low.

FRA may grant a "limited operations exception" for track segments where no more than four passenger trains operate per day and where less than 15 million gross tons of freight traffic moves per year. And, indeed, the agency acknowledged in the amended rule that some of the passenger-bearing tracks that freights indicated would no longer be sharing tracks with trains carrying hazardous materials by the end of 2015 may qualify for such an exemption.

Amtrak and freight railroads have already gotten approval for exceptions in PTC implementation plans that have been filed with FRA for years. The extent to which more exceptions may be sought is unclear, as well as how much money the earlier exclusions saved the railroads.

Amtrak has already resolved at least one case where a railroad quarreled with the corporation over its PTC burden.

Amtrak cut a deal with Kansas City Terminal Railway and Missouri in July 2015 for an undisclosed amount after threatening to reroute or cut service on two passenger lines in the state. Kansas City Terminal, a smaller freight railroad not typically subject to PTC requirements, had argued that its $30 million PTC bill should be borne by Amtrak because its trains had triggered the mandate. However, some Class I freights own Kansas City Terminal.

"Anytime that info is published it establishes a price, and whoever lost the negotiation has an incentive to not let that happen," a source familiar with the issue said.

Back

DHS cracks down again on Real ID Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 10/12/2016 04:26 PM EDT

The Department of Homeland Security has denied Real ID extensions to five states and granted new leeway to 21 others as air travel restrictions for violators loom just 16 months away.

DHS has not yet publicized the actions but told POLITICO on Wednesday that 17 states were granted one-year extensions this week, while four were granted extensions through June 6, 2017. A handful of others - Kentucky, Maine, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina - were denied requests for extra time to comply.

The denials mean residents in those five states won't be able to use their driver's licenses to get through airport security come Jan. 22, 2018, unless their states comply with federal ID standards before that deadline. More immediately, those residents won't be able to use their driver's licenses to get into secure federal buildings or military bases after January of next year.

Those five states now join the likes of Minnesota, Missouri and Washington, whose driver's licenses are already being denied at certain federal facilities.

Meanwhile, states like New York began informing residents this week that they are among the lucky group given more time to comply with the Real ID law, enacted more than a decade ago to enshrine recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. And the way New York has worded its public explanation suggests state officials expect to get yet another extension once that one expires.

"The extension's 2017 expiration is no cause for concern, as DHS grants extensions only on an annual basis and New York State anticipates having a REAL ID extension until becoming fully compliant with the Act," the state's DMV posted on its website. "That means New Yorkers can continue to use their current state-issued driver license or ID card to enter federal buildings or board a domestic flight until October 1, 2020."

Despite the DMV's confident tone, New York is not guaranteed another extension next year, however, meaning that its residents might be denied entry at federal facilities in a year and prohibited from passing through airport security in early 2018.

In many cases, states are actually barred from complying with Real ID requirements by state law. But some of those state-level blockades started to falter after DHS announced early this year that travelers won't be able to get through airport security come Jan. 22, 2018, without compliant identification.

KTUU in Alaska reported this week that Gov. Bill Walker says he plans to introduce legislation during the upcoming legislative session that will allow the state's DMV to issue both Real ID complaint and non-compliant driver's licenses, bucking a previously enacted state law prohibiting the use of state funds to comply with the federal mandate.

To get an extension, states must show that they are making progress toward compliance.

For Kentucky, that case wasn't strong enough this time. And some are blaming Gov. Matthew Bevin, who vetoed a Real ID compliance bill during this year's legislative session to "allow time to understand the implications" of the federal law, according to the governor's office.

"While I question whether Real ID provides an improved level of security that justifies the costs, Kentucky simply can't ignore the law," Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said in a written statement on Wednesday. "It's unfortunate that Gov. Bevin vetoed the bicameral, bipartisan agreement that would have prevented further headaches for Kentucky travelers and residents."

For their part, state-level officials in Kentucky are accusing DHS of overlooking steps they have taken to change their driver's license system to become compliant.

"It's disappointing that the federal government is basically turning a blind eye to recent progress we've made in improving our systems," John-Mark Hack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Vehicle Regulation, said in a statement Wednesday.

Under the Real ID law, states must subject driver's license applicants to facial recognition scans, verification through the Social Security Administration and immigration checks, among other requirements.

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GAO: Data lacking in DOT and freights' arguments on ECP brakes Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 10/12/2016 04:39 PM EDT

Special brakes for trains hauling flammable liquids might not be as beneficial as the DOT claimed in its rule last year strengthening protections for crude-by-rail, the Government Accountability Office reported this afternoon.

DOT has argued that electronically controlled pneumatic brakes not only allow trains to stop faster but also save money by reducing fuel consumption, operational inefficiency and wear. But GAO says those conclusions were based on limited data - at least in part because the information railroads have shared on their use is itself limited.

"Industry stakeholders claim that DOT overestimated benefits," GAO stated in its report. "DOT's use of limited data adds uncertainty to the estimates that DOT did not always acknowledge in the rule and its supporting analysis."

The railroad industry has deployed its own studies finding essentially the opposite.

It may not be possible to determine which side's studies are most accurate, considering GAO found DOT's modeling "lacked transparency as the information published may not be sufficient to enable an independent third party to replicate it." GAO also dinged industry studies that suffered from the same lack of data: "only two out of five railroads provided GAO extensive quantifiable data to support these claims."

DOT contends GAO's argument is lacking and has disagreed with its recommendations that DOT "acknowledge uncertainty" in revising its economic analysis on ECP brakes, collect data from railroads on their use of the technology and publish more information on brake modeling.

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FRA knocks 'Civil War-era' crude-by-rail systems Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 10/12/2016 05:50 PM EDT

The Federal Railroad Administration argues that electronically controlled brakes are indisputably safer than the current rail industry standard and that rail operators just don't want to pay for them.

Firing back after GAO published a report unflattering to the agency, the FRA characterized the braking system the rail industry currently uses as "Civil War era."

"Even the rail industry acknowledges that electronically controlled brakes work better," the FRA said in a written statement. "What the industry doesn't like about electronic brakes is the cost."

But the Association of American Railroads stands by its contention that the brakes are marginally safer.

"Industry research and years of experimenting in real-world operating environments show ECP brakes are unreliable and have a minimal safety impact over conventional braking systems currently in place," AAR President Edward Hamberger said in a written statement.

AAR is calling on DOT to withdraw its ECP brake rule because of the GAO report, saying that the federal watchdog's conclusions "validate the freight rail industry's position that the DOT had negligible data or testing results to justify the mandating of ECP brakes."

FRA argues that more information will only show the agency is right.

"As always, DOT welcomes additional data on braking systems because we know it will prove once again that electronically controlled brakes stop trains faster, keep more tank cars on the tracks and reduce the number of tank cars punctured in an incident," the agency said.

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Trucks estimated to haul 30 percent more over next decade Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 10/12/2016 02:39 PM EDT

The trucking industry will move nearly 30 percent more goods over the next decade, the American Trucking Associations predicts.

In its latest forecast, released today, the trade group estimates that overall freight tonnage will grow by 35 percent between 2016 and 2027, and the amount of freight moved by trucks will grow about 27 percent over that time.

ATA predicts that truck, rail and maritime transportation modes will lose market share to pipeline transport - a sector estimated to see its share of the freight economy grow from about 11 percent to more than 17 percent by 2027.

Truckload volumes are expected to grow about 2 percent annually between 2016 and 2022, and 1.6 percent over the following five years, according to ATA.

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