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Infrastructure in the News 10.14.16



The American Prospect: Could Clinton Tame Congress?

With a Senate majority, Democrats could hold infrastructure hearings and run a messaging campaign that puts pressure on the House. “I think if she’s president and Democrats control the Senate, that there’s the best chance in decades that we actually get something done,” says Marcia Hale, president of Building America’s Future, a bipartisan infrastructure coalition of elected officials.


The Observer: Clinton Wants to Bypass Governors and Funnel Federal Funds to Mayors, Campaign Says

Acting as an ambassador for the Clinton campaign to the U.S. Conference of Mayors panel this afternoon, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell said the former secretary of state and senator from New York was interested in finding ways to get money directly to urban areas, without intermediaries.


NY Daily News: Trump campaign is a no show at Manhattan presidential forum

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell repped Hillary Clinton at the forum, and touted her $275 billion infrastructure plan.


The Oklahoman: Trump campaign ignores urban-issues forum led by OKC Mayor Mick Cornett

The Clinton campaign sent Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania who served as Philadelphia's mayor from 1992 to 2000, to the event, the news release said.




GovTech: Future of Transportation: Shared Vehicles Could Dramatically Alter City Landscapes

Visionaries, innovators and futurists of all sorts convened in Pittsburgh on Oct. 13 at the inaugural Frontiers Conference to discuss the future of science and technology in the country, one of which honed in on the future of transportation in urban centers.



The White House's first-ever Frontiers Conference is underway in Pittsburgh, gathering ideas across science, technology, and robotics. Which now also includes transportation. The Urban Transportation Future panel discussed issues related to driverless cars and an autonomous future.


UPI: DoT awards $65M to cities nationwide to advance transport tech

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $65 million in grants to several cities nationwide, including Dallas, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, to advance transportation technologies.


TechCrunch: Department of Transportation to provide $165M to make U.S. cities smarter

At the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh today, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced new funds that will help it roll out smart city technologies in places across the U.S., as part of the White House’s Smart Cities Initiative. $165 million in funding, including $65 million in public funding made available through two new grants, and $100 million in matching funds targeted for advanced transportation tech will help push the Smart Cities Initiative forward in cities including Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Buffalo and Marysville.


Logistics Management: Infrastructure cannot afford to be ignored in this election

Somewhat lost in the shuffle in this Presidential election season perhaps like no other we have witnessed in our lifetimes, for a whole host of reasons, has been the onus, or lack thereof, of where each candidate stands on their respective plans to fix and repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, specifically transportation infrastructure.


Washington Examiner: Correcting the record on water infrastructure

There are those in the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe industry who are engaged in efforts to persuade legislators, water authorities, and the general public that PVC pipe is the solution for replacing aging water systems. While advocacy for their product is understandable, their claims are cause for concern.


Associated Press: Disability rights group sues Uber over wheelchair access

A Chicago disability rights group sued Uber Thursday over wheelchair accessibility, arguing that the mobile ride-hailing company’s adherence to federal disability laws “ranges from token to non-existent” despite its expanding role in the nation’s transportation system.




Associated Press: Damage to crashed New Jersey train hampering investigation

Heavy damage to the front of a commuter train that slammed into a station last month, killing a woman and injuring 100 other people, is hampering the investigation into what went wrong.


Associated Press: Brakes Were Working in New Jersey Commuter Train Crash: Report

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday the brakes were working on a crowded New Jersey Transit train that crashed into the Hoboken Terminal on Sept. 29, killing one and injuring 110 people.


Associated Press: NJ Transit Tops List of Accidents, Safety Fines

The railroad whose rush-hour train slammed into a New Jersey station last month, killing a woman and injuring more than 100 people, has had more accidents and paid more in fines for safety violations than any other commuter railroad in the country over the past five years, federal safety data show.


Associated Press: Matthew road costs to top $2 million

Hurricane Matthew will cost Virginia more than $2 million in bridge and road damage and cleanup costs.


Bloomberg: New Jersey Transit Picks Insider to Lead Agency After Crash

New Jersey Transit’s new executive director referred to unspecified “challenges” for the nation’s third-biggest mass-transportation provider as he prepares to navigate a crash investigation, congestion, delays and a budget crisis.


TechCrunch: Los Angeles is a transportation tech powerhouse

Los Angeles is famous for two things: entertainment and traffic. Back in the 1950s, any association with “stars” and “cars” would be the envy of any modern city. But today, that’s sometimes overshadowed by images of aggressive paparazzi and gridlocked freeways.


Maui Now (Hawaii): Transportation Department Reduces Federal Pipeline to 16 Year Low

The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation has reduced its unexpended federal obligation balance, also known as the “Pipeline” by more than $108 million, department officials announced today.


Washington Post: Metro board members don’t see light at the end of the SafeTrack tunnel

Metro officials acknowledged for the first time Thursday that SafeTrack’s repairs won’t be enough to stanch bleeding ridership, and board members fear fare hikes and service reductions may only accelerate the system’s downward spiral.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/14/2016 05:41 AM EDT

With help from Jennifer Scholtes

ON THE ATTACK: Amid a tighter-than-expected race, Rep. Bill Shuster's challenger is reviving a charge about the Transportation Committee chairman's love life in a new attack ad this week. Art Halvorson, who lost the Republican primary to Shuster but jumped into the general as a Democrat, is again spotlighting Shuster's relationship with Shelley Rubino, an Airlines for America VP, our Jennifer Scholtes reports for Pros. Shuster has dated Rubino while pushing for major changes to the nation's air traffic control system, which A4A has lobbied hard to support. "Shuster's record in Congress doesn't match our values, because he serves the special interests giving his campaign millions," the ad says.

Criticizing the 'Shuster dynasty': The ad also dredges up misconduct allegations against Shuster's father, Bud, who represented the same Pennsylvania district from 1995 to 2001. "It's time to end the corrupt, self-serving Shuster dynasty," the ad says. Casey Contres, Shuster's campaign manager, told Jen that Halvorson "showed his true character, as he decided to run a negative TV ad about Bud Shuster, who isn't even on the ballot." Contres also pointed out that Bud's wife and Bill's mother, Patricia Shuster, died two weeks ago.

Shuster's campaign ads: The House T&I chairman's campaign has put out its own ads, including one in which Shuster's ex-wife, Rebecca, knocks Halvorson for "shameful attacks" on their family. "He's a dedicated dad. Bill has fought for our values and has been a tireless advocate for our communities," she says in the ad.

HAPPY FRIDAY: 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 or @brigurciullo.

"In the home of the brave, Jefferson turning over in his grave. Fools glorifying themselves, trying to manipulate Satan. And there's slow, slow train coming up around the bend."

Want to keep up with all of MT's song picks? Follow our Spotify playlist.

HOBOKEN TRAIN HAD FUNCTIONING BRAKES: Investigators found that the air brake system seemed to be working properly on the train that crashed into New Jersey Transit's Hoboken terminal last month. The damage to the system was minor and fixed so it could be tested. "A friction brake test was completed using the rear locomotive to apply the brakes. The brakes functioned as designed," according to a preliminary NTSB report released Thursday. Investigators plan to conduct follow-up tests. One woman died and more than 100 people were injured in the Sept. 29 crash, during which the train was traveling at double the 10 mph speed limit.

AP: NJ TRANSIT NO. 1 FOR ACCIDENTS: The Associated Press took a look at federal data and found that NJ Transit's trains have been involved in more accidents than those of any other U.S. commuter railroad from January 2011 to July 2016. NJ Transit trains have been a part of 157 accidents in the past five years, including 75 derailments. The accidents have resulted in 13 customers injured and damage worth $6 million. Human behavior played a role in 57 percent of the incidents. NJ Transit has paid over $500,000 in fines for safety violations during that span, more than any other commuter railroad in the nation.

NYT: NJ TRANSIT 'IN CRISIS': The New York Times is out with a story about NJ Transit's growth in the 1990s and fall under Republican Gov. Chris Christie. "Today, New Jersey Transit is in crisis," the Times reports. "Its aging tracks and trains need billions of dollars in improvements. Delays and fares are rising along with ridership, with passenger cars packed to the breaking point. The century-old tunnel that carries its trains to New York is crumbling. And the agency has gone nearly a year without a permanent leader."

'A tale of neglect': "The story of how the nation's third-busiest commuter railroad declined so rapidly is a tale of neglect and mismanagement that represents an ominous symbol of the challenges facing mass transit systems across the United States in an era when governments are loath to raise taxes," the Times reports. "The agency's troubles are especially perilous because it serves the country's most crowded region, where hundreds of thousands of commuters depend on mass transit; the loss of productivity from the many wasted hours commuters endure on delayed trains is impossible to calculate."

OBAMA ON DRIVERLESS CARS: President Barack Obama recently chatted about artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles with Wired's Scott Dadich and Joi Ito from MIT. "We have machines that can make a bunch of quick decisions that could drastically reduce traffic fatalities, drastically improve the efficiency of our transportation grid, and help solve things like carbon emissions that are causing the warming of the planet," Obama said. But the president noted a challenge: How will technology make life-or-death decisions? "It's a moral decision, and who's setting up those rules?" Obama said.

'A relatively light touch' from government: When asked about the government's role in such ethical issues, Obama said regulators should get involved gradually. In the beginning stages of a new technology, "the government should add a relatively light touch, investing heavily in research and making sure there's a conversation between basic research and applied research," Obama said. "As technologies emerge and mature, then figuring out how they get incorporated into existing regulatory structures becomes a tougher problem, and the government needs to be involved a little bit more. Not always to force the new technology into the square peg that exists but to make sure the regulations reflect a broad base set of values."

MT MAILBAG I: Seven Democratic senators want the FAA to reject a proposal to require commercial co-pilots to only complete as few as 500 flight hours in training. The lawmakers - Kirsten Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Robert Menendez and Bob Casey - sent a letter Thursday to Administrator Michael Huerta asking him to "consider alternative methods to increasing pilot employment rates in a manner that does not endanger the lives of American citizens."

As our Jennifer Scholtes reports for Pros, they pointed to the 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 that killed 50 people. Investigators determined that the cause of the crash was pilot error. Following the accident, lawmakers directed the FAA to issue a rule establishing a requirement of 1,500 flight hours. "We are extremely concerned that the FAA could now consider rescinding these same regulations that are essential to passenger safety and preventing future tragedies," the senators wrote to Huerta.

MT MAILBAG II: Victor Mendez, the deputy secretary of Transportation, spoke Thursday evening at a private reception highlighting the restoration of Union Station's Main Hall. The same day, Vice President Joe Biden sent a letter to the people behind the restoration saying the Main Hall "is the most beautiful hall in one of the most beautiful stations ever built." Biden wrote, "Today, that beauty is clear for all to see - thanks to your commitment to this station and to the many visitors who pass through its halls."


- "Misconduct complaint against Christie has merit, judge finds." The New York Times.

- "Airlines tackling risks from electronic devices." The Wall Street Journal.

- "Congress warns Metro: Don't use federal money for short-term budget fix." The Washington Post.

- "Prosecutors wrap up their case in Bridgegate trial." POLITICO New Jersey.

- "Hyperloop One aims for full-scale test with new $50 million financing." Reuters.

- "Some XPO Logistics workers vote to unionize." The Wall Street Journal.

- Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx unveils almost $65 million in grants to fund local projects that focus on taking advantage of new technologies. DOT.

- American Airlines responds to ProPublica's story about American's merger with U.S. Airways.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 56 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 350 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 24 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,450 days.


Nothing on our radar for today.

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Stories from POLITICO Pro

Shuster challenger seizes on lobbyist relationship Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 10/13/2016 04:53 PM EDT

The TV sets of southwest Pennsylvania are newly aglow with attack ads in the ongoing campaign showdown between Rep. Bill Shuster and his now-Democratic challenger, resurrecting a familiar charge about Shuster's love life.

Art Halvorson - politically reincarnated as a Democrat after narrowly losing the Republican primary against Shuster - is out with a scathing campaign ad this week that points to the House Transportation Committee chairman's ties to a lobbyist for the airline industry. It also dredges up 15-year-old misconduct allegations against Shuster's father.

Shuster hasn't remained idle in the ad wars. His ex-wife served as a character reference in an ad calling out Halvorson for "shameful attacks" on Shuster and his family.

"You've heard a lot of misinformation recently about my family and my ex-husband, Bill. So I thought it was time to speak out," Rebecca Shuster says in the ad. "Bill and I raised our children, Ali and Garrett, in a loving home. He's a dedicated dad. Bill has fought for our values and has been a tireless advocate for our communities."

Halvorson's new ad harps on the same themes he has been driving home for months. Primarily, that is the congressman's relationship with Shelley Rubino, vice president for global government affairs for Airlines for America, whom Shuster has dated while pushing forward an FAA overhaul containing a controversial change to air traffic control that the group has lobbied hard to realize.

"Bill Shuster collected $100,000 in campaign cash from airline corporations, while he dated their lobbyist," the ad says. "Then he muscled legislation through Congress to impose a new airline tax on us, while letting his corporate friends ride free. Shuster's record in Congress doesn't match our values, because he serves the special interests giving his campaign millions."

The ad also notes that the sitting congressman's father, Bud, was accused of misconduct after allegedly accepting gifts from and giving preferential access to a lobbyist during his own tenure in Congress.

"After he resigned, party leaders rigged the installation of his son, Bill Shuster, as our congressman," the ad says. "But the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. ... It's time to end the corrupt, self-serving Shuster dynasty."

Shuster's campaign manager, Casey Contres, said Halvorson "showed his true character, as he decided to run a negative TV ad about Bud Shuster, who isn't even on the ballot."

Contres noted that Patricia Shuster - Bud's wife and Bill's mother - died two weeks ago.

"It's really a new low even for Art Halvorson," Contres said in a written statement. "This despicable behavior proves he will do or say anything to get elected even if that includes attacking a man that just a day before buried his wife of over 60 years."

Shuster's campaign is also out this month with a new ad striking a more positive tone that features the congressman's daughter talking about how he's a family man.

Halvorson's campaign manager, Joe Sterns, told POLITICO that "we have to stop electing corrupt career politicians like Hillary Clinton and Bill Shuster, otherwise we will continue to have government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, for the lobbyists."


Senators caution against reduced pilot training time Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 10/13/2016 04:58 PM EDT

A group of Democratic senators is asking the FAA to reject the idea of reducing training standards for commercial pilots.

In a letter today to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, the lawmakers urged the agency chief to think twice before accepting an industry working group proposal to lower the bar on minimum flight training to as few as 500 hours for co-pilots.

"We find the news that the FAA would consider weakening requirements that exist to protect passenger safety extremely alarming, and write to strongly urge you to consider alternative methods to increasing pilot employment rates in a manner that does not endanger the lives of American citizens," says the letter, signed by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

The senators hearken back to the crash in 2009 of Colgan Air flight 3407 and the heightened pilot training requirements that followed.

"We are extremely concerned that the FAA could now consider rescinding these same regulations that are essential to passenger safety and preventing future tragedies," the letter says. "The families of the victims of the Colgan Flight 3407 fought to ensure that other families would not have to suffer as they did."

The FAA published a notice of proposed rulemaking this month intended to improve airline pilot training.


Prosecutors wrap up their case in Bridgegate trial Back

By Ryan Hutchins | 10/13/2016 03:31 PM EDT

NEWARK - Federal prosecutors on Thursday finished presenting their case against two former allies of Gov. Chris Christie who are accused of orchestrating the George Washington Bridge lane closures.

In U.S. District Court in Newark, the prosecutors played a lengthy video showing Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a defendant in the case, testifying before a legislative committee in Trenton.

Baroni claimed at the time that the lane closures were the result of a poorly-planned traffic study. In reality, the lanes were closed to punish a local Democratic mayor who refused to endorse the governor, according to David Wildstein, the admitted mastermind of the closures and the star witness in the case.

Baroni and the other defendant in the case, Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff to the New Jersey governor, were indicted last May on charges of conspiracy, fraud and civil rights violations.

The prosecutors ended their presentation with testimony from an FBI special agent who had examined emails that were used as evidence in the case. The line of questioning allowed the assistant U.S. attorneys to display numerous pieces of evidence, including an email Kelly sent that came to symbolize the scandal: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

The agent also testified that a number of the emails were not found in Kelly's own email account, suggesting they had been deleted.

Baroni's defense attorney, Michael Baldassare, called his first witness on Thursday afternoon: Charles McKenna, the governor's former chief counsel. McKenna was a federal prosecutor for nearly two decades, including when Christie was the U.S. attorney in New Jersey.

Baldassare and Michael Critchley, Kelly's defense attorney, questioned McKenna about when he learned about the lane closures and whether he pressed for answers. McKenna said repeatedly that he bought into the idea that it had been a traffic study and that the "world changed" on Jan. 8, 2014, when Kelly's "traffic problems" email was leaked to the press.

McKenna sparred with Critchley, who suggested it was odd a former prosecutor wouldn't ask "who, what, why, when" questions as the scandal was unfolding. McKenna said that wasn't his job and that he wasn't curious, even as he met with Wildstein in December, 2013 to ask for his resignation.

"I was under the impression this was a traffic study. A traffic study that didn't go well, but a traffic study nonetheless," McKenna said on the witness stand. "If you want to say I'm stupid, I get it."

McKenna, now the chief executive of the state Schools Development Authority, takes the stand again Friday morning.

This story has been updated with more news from the trial.