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Infrastructure in the News 10.20.16



The State Journal-Register (IL): Ray LaHood and Ed Rendell: Vote 'yes' on roads amendment

Across Illinois, many commuters face a daily slog getting to the office and the kids to school, from traffic jams and crowded buses or trains to roads filled with potholes or constantly in need of repair. It can feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, as Illinoisans spend more than $800 per commute each year in wasted time and fuel for the costs of growing disrepair.



Wall Street Journal: Tesla Expects to Demonstrate Self-Driven Cross-Country Trip Next Year (full article follows Morning Transportation)

Tesla Motors Inc., preparing for a future of self-driving cars, has begun equipping all its new vehicles with the hardware required to make them entirely capable of driving themselves.


Reuters: White House Seeks to Answer Complaints of Aggrieved Air Travelers

The White House announced efforts on Tuesday to improve air travel by requiring airlines to refund baggage handling fees if luggage is "substantially delayed" and requiring online travel agents to provide neutral search results.


Washington Post: How to build the better cities of tomorrow? It takes careful planning — and political science research.

More than 75 percent of the globe will live in cities by the year 2050. This week in Quito, Ecuador, Habitat III, the United Nations’ third Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, convenes to plan for continued global urbanization.


VentureBeat: Uber and Lyft made up 52% of business travel transportation expenses in Q3

Another quarter has passed and Uber and Lyft have once again become the preferred method of transportation for business travelers. According to Q3 2016 numbers released by online travel and expense management service provider Certify, 52 percent of those using transit for work-related purposes opted to use a ride-hailing service. This is the first time that ride hailing has made up the majority of the ground transportation expenses for business travelers.


BenZingA: Tesla And The Era Of Intelligent Transportation

The main message from Tesla Motors Inc's product announcement on Wednesday was that all cars, including the lower priced Model 3 sedan, will feature the necessary hardware for self-driving capabilities.


Reuters: Google, automakers object to California rules for self-driving cars

Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google unit and automakers objected on Wednesday to California proposals to set new, mandatory rules for testing self-driving cars in the state, which industry officials said could hobble their efforts in the home to much of self-driving vehicle testing and development.




Associated Press: Growing calls for railroad probe in wake of station crash

New Jersey’s commuter railroad is facing growing calls for more scrutiny at federal and state levels amid questions about its safety after one of its trains crashed into a station last month, killing a woman on the platform and injuring more than 100.


WBRZ (Texas): Transportation report reveals congestion costing drivers money

According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute report, commuters waste 25 gallons of fuel and spend an average of $1,262 per year due to traffic congestion. The trucking industry is expected to spend an additional $189 million annually due to local congestion.


CT Post: At ballot box, think transportation

I don’t trust politicians. They tend to over-promise and sometimes just plain lie, telling you what you want to hear and then doing the opposite.


ABC 13 (Colorado): Public comment begins on El Paso County transportation plan

The El Paso County Highway Advisory Commission gathered Wednesday to consider the first draft of the county's 2016 Major Transportation Corridors Plan.


The Watch (Colorado): New transit authority could coordinate area transportation

The San Miguel Authority for Regional Transport (SMART) was discussed in-depth Tuesday night at an open forum held at Rebekah Hall.


WCBD (South Carolina): FEMA approves reimbursement of Hurricane Matthew infrastructure costs for 4 more counties

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved four more counties for Individual Assistance, giving residents who suffered losses to apply for aid in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.


Washington Post: A video sneak peek at the future Reagan National Airport

Reagan National will be getting a major facelift in the next few months, part of $1-billion modernization of the 75-year-old airport. Plans include a new terminal to house short-hop flights on the north side of Terminal C, currently home to the airport’s executive offices.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/20/2016 05:43 AM EDT

With help from Jennifer Scholtes, Lauren Gardner, Nancy Scola and Ben Weyl

ALL NEW TESLA CARS WILL BE ABLE TO DRIVE ON THEIR OWN ... EVENTUALLY: In a move that would let you sit in a Tesla on true autopilot, the company announced Wednesday night that all of its new vehicles will have hardware for "full self-driving capability," including the coming Model 3. The big but: Tesla won't turn on the system until it finishes testing "using millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience," it said in a blog post . And during the testing phase, vehicles with Tesla's new hardware won't have features like "automatic emergency braking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control," which are available with the current hardware. "As these features are robustly validated we will enable them over-the-air, together with a rapidly expanding set of entirely new features," the post read.

On a conference call with reporters, CEO Elon Musk said a Tesla vehicle will by the end of 2017 be able to drive itself from Los Angeles to New York, Reuters reports. But Musk has missed his deadlines before.

What it means: The point, as MarketWatch reports, is to put Tesla in a good position to offer improved autonomous technologies after some fine-tuning. "This will provide a foundation for fully autonomous driving capabilities at some future point, once the software is validated and the regulatory requirements are met," Karl Brauer, executive publisher for Cox Automotive, told MarketWatch. "It's a big up-front commitment to self-driving technology that other automakers may not be willing to make at this point."

Tesla this summer became subject to scrutiny from safety regulators after a driver in Florida using its semiautonomous "Autopilot" program died in a crash. MT is wondering how regulators will react to the company's latest news.

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 or @brigurciullo.

"And I've been making promises I know I'll never keep. One of these days I'm gonna leave you in your sleep. I'll have to go when the whistle blows, the whistle knows my name. Baby, I was born on a train." (h/t Peter Denton at Mayer Brown)

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

As a Pro, you have access to Pro's transition-focused newsletter: Transition 2017. This new offering covers the who, what, when and why of the presidential transition, providing the insight you need to navigate the changing landscape in Washington. The first edition lands in your inbox Nov. 9 — and then every afternoon through early Spring. Sign up today.

WOMP: Sorry, fellow transportation nerds, infrastructure barely got a mention Wednesday night during the presidential debate. When answering a question about the economy, Hillary Clinton said, as she has before, that she wants her administration to "have the biggest jobs program since World War II," including jobs in infrastructure and manufacturing.

JOHNSON'S POST-DHS DREAMS: Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has made clear that he won't stick around for the new administration, whoever the president. But he hasn't shared many details of his vision for life after leaving the federal post — until now. The plan: to return to his "permanent home" in Montclair, N.J., and resume practicing corporate law, he told the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council on Wednesday. Johnson shared that with the roomful of academic leaders, respectfully refuting the suggestion that he might serve as president of Fisk University — the historically black institution where his grandfather was president after World War II.

Backup plan: If he decides against resuming his lawyer gig, the secretary could always fall back on his brief experience as a TSA screener.

WHEN IN DOUBT, GIVE A SHOUT: At the same Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council meeting, Johnson talked up the effectiveness of the "See Something, Say Something" campaign. He told the group that a woman who discovered one of the explosive devices in the New York City-area last month said she was motivated to call in the tip because she continually passes the "See Something, Say Something" signs in the city's subway stations. The campaign "does make a difference," the secretary said.

YOU TOLD US HOW YOU FEEL: Reactions keep coming in for DOT's announcement Tuesday of a suite of rules geared toward improving the airline consumer experience. Here's a sampling:

— Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat on the Commerce Committee, praised the rules for building on previous efforts to improve the flying experience for customers. Liberal watchdog Sen. Elizabeth Warren called the initiative "a good first step" but urged the administration to do more to address consumers' ability to shop for fares on online travel sites. "Transparency in the marketplace is critical to promoting competition in the increasingly consolidated airline industry, and I will continue to push DOT to take steps to protect consumers," she said.

— Steve Shur, president of the Travel Technology Association, applauded the department's request for information about whether airlines' moves to yank fare information from third-party sites like Expedia amount to "unfair business practices." "Ensuring that flight information is readily available in comparative search and shopping environments would be a welcome first step in protecting consumers," he said in a statement.

— Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents, said the rules would benefit passengers and travel agencies "on the whole." "At the same time, we are disappointed that DOT is further delaying regulation on the disclosure of fees for basic ancillary services at all points of sale, an issue it has been studying for over five years," Kerby said. "We have long urged the department to strike a decisive blow for consumers by requiring full transparency and 'transactability' for airline ancillary fees."

** A message from the National Association of Manufacturers' Building to Win infrastructure initiative: Whoa! Clinton and Trump actually agree on something: a major infrastructure investment from the next president in his/her first 100 days. The time is now. Join with the National Association of Manufacturers to advance a REAL plan that will create jobs, save lives and restore our infrastructure. **

SCHUMER'S PRIORITIES: If Chuck Schumer takes over as Senate majority leader in January, the first issues he'll want to tackle are immigration and infrastructure. "The two things that come, that pop to mind — because Schumer, Clinton, and Ryan have all said they support these — are immigration and some kind of international tax reform tied to a large infrastructure program," Schumer said in an interview with CNBC's John Harwood earlier this week.

'A trillion dollars of infrastructure': "If you can get overseas money to come back here, even if it's at a lower rate than the 35 percent it now comes back at, and you can use that money for a major constructive purpose such as infrastructure — if you did an infrastructure bank, for instance, you could get $100 billion in equity in the bank and get a trillion dollars of infrastructure," Schumer said. In 2014, Clinton said something similar during a paid speech. An excerpt of her remarks was included in the WikiLeaks release of supposedly hacked emails.

FIRST IN MT: A group of senators representing the Great Lakes region is asking DOT to conduct an analysis of bottlenecks and barriers in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence maritime transportation system, including dredging, locks and intermodal connections. The senators say the analysis will help implement a strategy to double maritime trade and reduce the environmental impact of the system, which is estimated to be operating at only half its full capacity.

The group, which sent the letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today, includes Sens. Gary Peters, Tammy Baldwin, Bob Casey, Joe Donnelly, Dick Durbin, Al Franken, Mark Kirk, Amy Klobuchar and Debbie Stabenow. An analysis by DOT "would lay the groundwork to help identify where future public and private investment would have broad, systemically significant impacts," they wrote.

COMING SOON: AUTOMATED TRANSPO PANEL: DOT announced Wednesday that it will create an advisory committee focused on automated transportation. After releasing guidance for driverless cars last month, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that the department is now "looking outside the government for innovative and thoughtful leaders to uncover [automated technology's] full potential across all modes."

Preparing for disruptive tech: The committee will make recommendations on technologies in transit, freight, aviation and drones. It will look at "emerging or 'not-yet-conceived' innovations to ensure the department is prepared when disruptive technologies emerge," according to the DOT's release.

NO LOVE FOR TRANSPO SECRETARY CANDIDATES: The Republican National Committee wants supporters to suggest nominees for a Donald Trump Cabinet, The Washington Post reports. In an email Wednesday, the RNC asked recipients to write in the names of people they would want Trump to nominate for secretary of State, White House chief of staff and other positions, using an online form. After participants clicked submit, they were sent to a fundraising page. One of the positions NOT listed: Transportation secretary.

EVERY CRS REPORT, FOR FREE: For years, open-government types have been agitating for the Congressional Research Service to make its much-prized research on everything from air pollution to the prospects for democracy in Zimbabwe available to the public rather than just to lawmakers. Nancy Scola reports for Morning Tech that this week advocates are taking matters into their own hands with the launch of , which features all the reports now available to Congress — 8,243 and counting. Two unnamed congressional member offices are scraping the reports from the Hill's in-house system and publishing them to the unsanctioned site (a project of progressive group Demand Progress).

Something to watch: Whether Carla Hayden, the newly installed Librarian of Congress, reacts by celebrating the go-get-'em-ness of the effort, or tries to squash it.

NEW AND IMPROVED APPROPRIATIONS WATCH: In more news you can use, POLITICO Pro has updated its Appropriations Watch tool with a cleaner look and feel, so it should be even easier to follow spending bills as they move from committee markups to the floor to the president's desk.

ARRIVAL LOUNGE: Sabrina Sussman has joined New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's federal legislative affairs team in Washington. As a senior policy adviser, Sussman will focus on transportation, housing and economic development. Sussman was most recently vice president for world congress and strategic forums at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. She previously served as chief of staff to the undersecretary for policy at DOT.


— "Google, automakers object to California rules for self-driving cars." Reuters.

— "Christie scheduled to appear in court over Bridgegate complaint." POLITICO New Jersey.

— "Underwater drone to investigate sonar contacts in MH370 hunt." The Associated Press.

— "Driver-screening firms draw scrutiny." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Brussels Airport boosts security measures." POLITICO Europe.

— "A video sneak peek at the future Reagan National Airport." The Washington Post.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 50 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 344 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 18 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,444 days.


8 a.m. — The National Boating Safety Advisory Council and its subcommittees begin three days of meetings. The Holiday Inn Arlington, Ballroom, 4610 North Fairfax Dr. Arlington, Va.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

** A message from the National Association of Manufacturers' Building to Win infrastructure initiative: Our country's crumbling infrastructure is a national embarrassment: We rank 16th in the world! While other countries modernize and move forward, we're sitting in traffic and stuck in the 20th century. This means lost jobs, lost economic output and lives at risk.

Thankfully, Clinton and Trump have caught on and want to do something about it. But manufacturers aren't going to sit by and hope for the best. We're going to be strong partners and make sure America gets the infrastructure it deserves.

The National Association of Manufacturers has developed a blueprint for the next president and Congress, "Building to Win." ( We identify the problems and the solutions—a rare thing in Washington.

Let's seize this rare moment of bipartisanship to secure our place of economic leadership in the world. Learn more and join the cause at **

To view online:

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Johnson will return to practicing law after DHS tenure Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 10/19/2016 07:20 PM EDT

Secretary Jeh Johnson has finally divulged what he will do after he leaves his post atop the Homeland Security Department.

His plan is to return to his "permanent home" in Montclair, N.J., and resume practicing corporate law, he told the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council today.

Johnson shared the news with the roomful of academic leaders, respectfully refuting the suggestion that he might serve as president of Fisk University — the historically black institution where his grandfather was president after World War II.

Before today, Johnson had only made clear that he wouldn't stick around for the next administration.


Christie scheduled to appear in court over Bridgegate complaint Back

By Katie Jennings | 10/19/2016 05:23 PM EDT

Gov. Chris Christie will appear in state Superior Court in Bergen County next month regarding a citizen complaint alleging that the governor committed official misconduct and was involved in the George Washington Bridge lane closures.

The Bergen County prosecutor's office is investigating the complaint, which was initially filed in Fort Lee Municipal Court.

It was filed by local activist Bill Brennan after recent testimony in the federal trial of two former Christie aides who are accused of shutting local access lanes to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing the governor's 2013 re-election bid.

Christie has denied having any knowledge of the scheme as it was occurring.

The governor is scheduled to appear in court in Hackensack on Nov. 23 at 1:30 p.m., according to papers filed state Superior Court on Monday. The initial appearance had been scheduled for Oct. 23, but prosecutors and the governor's attorney agreed to adjourn it until that time.

Last week, the governor's spokesman, Brian Murray, said Christie would "immediately" appeal the ruling by a municipal court judge which found probable cause to investigate the complaint. Murray did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Acting Bergen County prosecutor Gurbir Grewal was appointed by Christie in January and was nominated for a full term by the governor last month.

A spokesperson for the prosecutor's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Christie is being represented by Craig Carpenito, co-leader of the government and internal investigations group at Alston & Bird LLP in New York City.


Wall Street Journal: Tesla Expects to Demonstrate Self-Driven Cross-Country Trip Next Year


Tesla Motors Inc., preparing for a future of self-driving cars, has begun equipping all its new vehicles with the hardware required to make them entirely capable of driving themselves.


Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk announced the changes on Wednesday, saying his goal is to demonstrate a vehicle traveling in fully autonomous mode from Los Angeles to New York by the end of next year. Autonomous features will be introduced over time based on what he dubbed “Hardware 2,” he said.


Tesla cars already come with a semi-autonomous system called Autopilot. But having a fully autonomous car on the road by 2018 would put the Palo Alto, Calif., auto maker ahead of major car companies racing to develop their own self-driving models. Companies from Ford Motor Co. to BMW AG have proposed fully autonomous vehicles in 2021. Alphabet Inc.’s Google has a fully autonomous test fleet on public roadways, but the company hasn’t detailed its plan for the technology it has been working on for more than seven years.


The software that would make Tesla vehicles fully self-driving still needs to be validated, and the system hasn’t been approved by regulators. The company expects to reach those milestones in time, ultimately leading to vehicles that Mr. Musk said would be significantly less dangerous than current cars.


“It will take us some time into the future to complete validation of the software and to get the required regulatory approval, but the important thing is that the foundation is laid for the cars to be fully autonomous at a safety level we believe to be at least twice that of a person, maybe better,” Mr. Musk told reporters on Wednesday.


Tesla used a similar strategy to introduce the semi-autonomous Autopilot feature, rolling out the hardware before the software was complete. Vehicles built after October 2014 came equipped with the parts that Autopilot would eventually use, such as radar. Tesla turned on the feature in late 2015 using the company’s ability to update its vehicles’ software over the air.


High-end Model S and Model X vehicles equipped with hardware for full autonomy are already in production, and the Model 3, the company’s mid-priced sedan slated for delivery late next year, will have it as well, Mr. Musk said. Previously built vehicles without the new hardware won’t have the fully autonomous features.


The new hardware will initially lack some capabilities of Autopilot, including automatic emergency braking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control. Those and other features will be enabled as the company works to calibrate the new system, the company said.


That should take two or three months, Mr. Musk said. Thereafter, he said, the company plans to upgrade its autonomous capabilities every two or three months.


“It’s extremely impressive where they’ve gone, but if the technology can’t be used it seems like a moot point for most people,” said Jessica Caldwell, an industry analyst with, a website that tracks new cars. “It’s hard to get excited about something you can’t do, and you can’t really utilize this.”


Tesla’s effort to introduce the next generation of autonomous driving capability comes as the auto maker faces increasing scrutiny over the semi-autonomous Autopilot system. The current version uses cameras, sensors and radar to control vehicle speed and steering under certain driving conditions. While not a fully self-driving system, it is regarded as a major step toward that end.


However, some observers worry that the technology lulls drivers into complacency behind the wheel. Germany’s Transportation Ministry has asked Tesla not to use the term Autopilot in ads describing the system and the California Department of Motor Vehicles has issued draft rules that would prohibit the use of “auto pilot” in marketing materials for systems similar to Tesla’s.


U.S. regulators are investigating a fatal crash that occurred in May in Florida, which Tesla has said was the first known fatality involving Autopilot. An update to Autopilot’s software last month may have prevented that crash, Mr. Musk has said. The changes included making the system more reliant on radar to navigate.


Mr. Musk expressed his frustration with the large amount of attention received by Autopliot crashes relative to automobile crashes in general. “It does not reflect well upon the media,” he said. He noted that a negative story dissuading people from using autonomous vehicles was effectively “killing people” since the technology made driving safer.


The new system has eight cameras, compared to one in previous Tesla vehicles, providing 360 degrees of visibility up to 250 meters in range, while the on-board computer has more than 40 times the computing power of the previous generation, according to Tesla. The software is being developed in-house, Mr. Musk said.


Customers will be offered two options when buying a Tesla vehicle, Mr. Musk said: Fully autonomous mode and an enhanced Autopilot mode that has improved cameras and computing power to perform more complex maneuvers, such as navigating freeway on- and off-ramps.


Corrections & Amplifications:

Tesla expects to demonstrate a vehicle traveling in fully autonomous mode across the country by the end of next year. The headline on an earlier version of this story incorrectly said it would be by year-end. (Oct. 19, 2016)