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Infrastructure in the News 10.4.16

NATIONAL NEWS

 

Associated Press: US construction spending fell again in August

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-construction-spending-fell-again-in-august/2016/10/03/e57dca98-8972-11e6-8cdc-4fbb1973b506_story.html

U.S. builders trimmed spending on construction projects in August for a second straight month with housing, non-residential and government activity all seeing declines.

 

Associated Press: US Factory Activity Picked Up in September

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/10/03/us/politics/ap-us-economy-manufacturing.html?_r=0

U.S. manufacturing rebounded in September after contracting in August. New orders and production at factories increased, although employment fell — a sign that manufacturers have yet to fully stabilize after a difficult year.

 

NPR: A Revolution That Didn't Happen: Personal Rapid Transit

http://www.npr.org/2016/10/03/494569967/a-revolution-that-didnt-happen-personal-rapid-transit

In 1975, a novel transportation system called Personal Rapid Transit, or PRT for short, started operating in Morgantown, West Va. It was supposed to usher in a new age of public transit.

 

Yahoo! Finance: Transportation industry executives say cyber and data privacy breaches are the sector’s top risk

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/transportation-industry-executives-cyber-data-130500136.html

Executives in the transportation industry say the increased security threat from cyber and data privacy breaches is the primary risk to their business, according to a new ranking released today by Willis Towers Watson (WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.

 

New Yorker: JUNO TAKES ON UBER

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/10/juno-takes-on-uber

A startup’s business model centers on getting drivers to defect from rival car services.

 

STATE NEWS

 

Associated Press: Crews work to recover data recorder from train after crash

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/crews-work-to-recover-data-recorder-from-train-after-crash/2016/10/04/9482638a-89e8-11e6-8cdc-4fbb1973b506_story.html

Crews are continuing to work to recover a data recorder from a commuter train that crashed in New Jersey, killing a woman and injuring more than 100 others.

 

New York Times: What New York Can Learn From Barcelona’s ‘Superblocks’

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/nyregion/what-new-york-can-learn-from-barcelonas-superblocks.html

Imagine if streets were for strolling, intersections were for playing and cars were almost never allowed.

 

Washington Post: Cracked rail brings single-tracking on Red Line

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/10/04/car-on-tracks-causes-delays-on-vre-commuter-train-in-virginia/

A cracked rail near the Friendship Heights station on Metro’s Red Line is causing delays.

 

Washington Post: DC lawmakers to consider new Metro oversight board

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-lawmakers-to-consider-new-metro-oversight-board/2016/10/04/1bf0ae9a-8a01-11e6-8cdc-4fbb1973b506_story.html

The D.C. Council is considering a bill to create a new, more robust oversight body for the Metro transit system.

 

NewsOK (Oklahoma): Bridges at center of Oklahoma transportation plans

http://newsok.com/article/5520918

An 80-year-old span over a creek in the heart of Guthrie will be replaced, the Oklahoma Transportation Commission decided Monday as it continued efforts to shorten the state's long list of obsolete bridges.

 

Desert News Opinion: In our opinion: Utah recognized for transportation infrastructure investment

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865663907/In-our-opinion-Utah-recognized-for-transportation-infrastructure-investment.html?pg=all

Motorists who find themselves frustrated by frequent confrontations with a slalom course of orange barrels along a stretch of road repair should look on the bright side — Utah is gaining a national reputation for taking care of its transportation infrastructure in a way that has made other states envious, and it has enhanced its image as a top place for new business growth.

 

McClatchy (South Carolina): As Columbia Grows, Regional Transportation Center Could be Part of the Equation

http://www.masstransitmag.com/news/12264357/as-columbia-grows-regional-transportation-center-could-be-part-of-the-equation

A vision for the future of Columbia and the Midlands must include a conversation about transportation, local leaders believe.

 

Washington Post: FTA: ‘There was no traffic pattern’ during some SafeTrack surges

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/10/03/fta-there-was-no-traffic-pattern-during-some-safetrack-surges/

Metro riders: If your train schedules have seemed a bit random during SafeTrack, you’re not imagining things.

 

By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/04/2016 05:40 AM EDT

With help from Lauren Gardner, Tanya Snyder and Jennifer Scholtes

THE EARLY BIRD ... : Rep. Bill Shuster won't hit the term limit for his chairmanship until 2019, but that hasn't stopped two members of the House Transportation Committee from starting to make their separate cases for the job. As our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros, the fact that Reps. Jeff Denham and Sam Graves are already jockeying for the gavel is noteworthy as Shuster faces a tougher-than-expected reelection contest this year.

The case for Graves: The Missouri Republican is more senior than Denham, but the House GOP doesn't dole out chairmanships based on seniority alone. Graves chairs the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, which is largely seen as a stepping stone to the full committee chairmanship. Graves is also a pilot and co-chair of a caucus that advocates for private flight interests. He voted against Shuster's FAA bill, which included an air traffic control overhaul that made general aviation groups cringe. But it's unclear whether that decision could affect his bid. Rep. Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the maritime subcommittee, has signaled support for Graves.

"Obviously, we believe Sam's leadership and experience speak for itself," said Wes Shaw, Graves' press secretary. "He's worked behind the scenes to pass the first long-term highway bill in a decade, he's a leader on national river issues, and he successfully ran the Small Business Committee for six years. The record is there, and that can't be overlooked or understated."

The case for Denham: A Republican from California, Denham chairs the subcommittee on railroads and successfully pushed to include several passenger rail provisions in the FAST Act. He's also gotten attention for his loud opposition to federal funding for California high-speed rail. Denham is close to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and has proven more generous in sharing money with his Republican colleagues than Graves. Two committee members have already indicated backing for Denham.

"I think he's well-respected within the committee, up and down the ranks," one member said. "Sam's a hard worker and knows his stuff - not quite as outgoing as Jeff, and if I was therefore lining up prospects at this point, I'd give a slight edge to Jeff."

IT'S TUESDAY: 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.

"So I'm sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin'. And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain. I have my ship and all her flags are a' flyin'. She is all that I have left and music is her name."

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

ATA LOOKS BEYOND GAS TAX HIKE: The American Trucking Associations is branching out from advocating for a gas tax increase after years of the idea failing to gain political traction. New CEO Chris Spear said in a "state of the industry address" Monday that "cubicle-dwelling ideologues" are to blame for a lack of compromise on the issue. And as our Tanya Snyder reports for Pros, he's now asking ATA's highway policy committee to pitch a new way to fund infrastructure projects. ATA and Spear have already spoken out against a vehicle-miles-traveled fee and additional tolling.

In the meantime: ATA is pushing for a fix to an hours-of-service issue after the change failed to hitch a ride on the continuing resolution. The next best option is a government funding bill that Congress will need to pass in December. The group is also lobbying to prevent new state regulations on meal and rest breaks.

TSA'S SEARCH FOR PRECHECK CONTRACTORS FACES LEGAL CHALLENGE: As TSA looks for more companies to help enroll airline passengers in its PreCheck program, the company with a lock on that work is challenging the agency's request for applications in court. The company, MorphoTrust, points out in its lawsuit that language in the FAA extension signed in July requires DHS and GAO to ensure a contractor's proposed risk assessment for screening PreCheck applications is "equivalent to a fingerprint-based criminal history records check" conducted by the FBI. But MorphoTrust argues that no equivalent vetting process exists, as our Jennifer Scholtes reports for Pros.

The lawmakers who wrote the FAA bill could have a say in whether MorphoTrust is misconstruing their language to hinder TSA's effort to hire other companies. But it's a tricky situation, as they don't want to be seen as trying to help or hurt applicants trying to land the contract.

SENATORS TO NHTSA: WHAT IF TAKATA IS RESTRUCTURED? If car parts maker Takata declares bankruptcy or is sold, how will regulators make sure the company follows through on its pledges to fix faulty airbags and compensate U.S. consumers? That's what Democratic Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, both members of the Senate Commerce Committee, want DOT to outline now, Jennifer reports for Pros.

"We have reason to believe that the circumstances surrounding Takata's financial viability have deteriorated," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to NHTSA. "We remain extremely concerned that in the event of Takata's bankruptcy or significant restructuring, it could be consumers who are left with the costs of repairing their defective vehicles, and additionally that past or future victims of this safety defect may also be left behind as other creditors lay first claim to Takata's assets."

THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):

- "Planners: Cuomo's Penn Station plans are nice, but not nice enough." POLITICO New Jersey.

- "FTA: 'There was no traffic pattern' during some SafeTrack surges." The Washington Post.

- "Metro's public hearing on late-night service cuts will be nearly 10 hours long." The Washington Post.

- "Juno takes on Uber: A startup's business model centers on getting drivers to defect from rival car services." The New Yorker.

- "JetBlue is turning supermarket clerks and baggage handlers into pilots." Bloomberg.

- "What New York can learn from Barcelona's 'superblocks.'" The New York Times.

- "Maersk unlikely to buy troubled Korean container ship operators." The Wall Street Journal.

- "Dubai to become world's busiest airport this decade, CEO says." Bloomberg.

- "Balloon fiesta grounds pilots a day after power line crashes." The Associated Press.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 66 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 360 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 34 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,460 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

8 a.m. - The two-day U.S. Air Cargo Industry Affairs Summit begins. Capital Hilton, 1001 16th St. NW.

8:45 a.m. - Chris Gerdes, chief innovation officer at DOT, speaks at Government Executive Media Group's "Fedstival." Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol St. SE.

9:30 a.m. - The NTSB holds a meeting to determine the probable cause of a multi-vehicle crash near Chattanooga, Tenn. NTSB Board Room and Conference Center, 429 L'Enfant Plaza SW.

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

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/10/graves-denham-prepare-to-toss-hats-into-ring-for-house-t-i-gavel-019454

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Graves and Denham jockey for Shuster's job - two years early Back

By Lauren Gardner | 10/03/2016 04:16 PM EDT

Rep. Bill Shuster still has another two years on his tenure atop the House Transportation Committee - but at least two lawmakers on the committee are already eyeing his gavel, even though Shuster won't be term-limited until 2019.

Normally, it would be considered impolite at the very least to begin openly campaigning for someone's job when they still have lots of time left, but Shuster (R-Pa.) will be term-limited by his party's rules during the 116th Congress. And his exit is all but pre-ordained - it's possible for GOP chairmen to get a waiver, but those are rarely granted.

So it's perhaps no shock that over the summer, Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) began making their case to colleagues and K Street for why they should each get the gavel, according to sources tracking the burgeoning race.

Of course, it's not unusual for members to lay the groundwork for committee promotions well ahead of time. But the posturing is notable given Shuster's tight reelection contest next month; if he loses, it would accelerate the timeline for Denham and Graves to formally campaign for the chairmanship.

Both members told POLITICO they're interested in the job once it's available.

"I've met with - continue to meet with - members of the Steering Committee, as well as just working with my colleagues to show leadership in the committee," Denham said.

He later added through a spokeswoman that his "only focus is on supporting Chairman Shuster to enact long-term FAA reauthorization and working to conference WRDA with the Senate before the end of the year."

Graves said he'd "absolutely" like to move up the committee ladder, but didn't get into specifics.

On paper, neither candidate appears to have a clear edge.

Graves, who has served in Congress since 2001, is more senior than Denham, who was elected during the 2010 GOP wave. However, the House GOP does not base ascension on seniority alone.

Graves was chairman of the Small Business Committee before taking on the high-profile Highways and Transit Subcommittee chairmanship in 2015. That's a position widely seen as a stepping stone to the top post, and he's no doubt helped by having shepherded a long-term surface transportation into law last year.

Graves isn't a show horse, preferring to work behind the scenes on legislation. A pilot, Graves is also a respected voice on general aviation issues and currently co-chairs the congressional caucus dedicated to advocating for private flight interests.

A spokesman for Graves did not respond to a request for additional comment.

Denham's resume is also competitive. As chairman of the panel focused on railroads, he spearheaded work on passenger rail legislation that ultimately was wrapped into the FAST Act, a title that contained sweeping changes to Amtrak's accounting structure and to loan programs for rail projects. And the law includes other Denham priorities, such as a pilot program to allow small dogs and cats on Amtrak trains and provisions to expedite the environmental review process for local transportation projects.

Denham is dynamic and has shown he's not afraid to pick partisan fights - chief among them an appropriations rider to prevent federal money from going to California high-speed rail. While the effect of the rider has been nonexistent - with the House under Republican control, there's never been any hope for the project to receive new money, restrictions aside - it has given him a platform from which to blast the program.

Denham also may have the advantage when it comes to personal relationships and fundraising prowess.

He's close to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a home-state colleague, and serves with him on the Republican Steering Committee - he and Graves must woo the influential group for votes when it comes time to decide the next committee leader. Shuster also sits on the panel, though sources say they believe he is staying neutral for now.

And Denham is adept at pulling in donations for his campaign and for his leadership PAC. Of the $361,341 he's raised so far in 2016 through his PAC, he's spread $148,441 around to more than 50 House Republicans and former GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Meanwhile, Graves has raised $72,000 this cycle and given $24,000 to 23 House Republicans and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, according to CRP.

Graves has taken a quieter approach to laying the groundwork for a chairmanship bid, with his staff seeking advice off the Hill about policy issues he could take the lead on, according to one industry lobbyist who closely tracks the committee's work. While Graves is a known quantity on aviation issues, the lobbyist said, when he took the gavel of the highway subcommittee, he wasn't well-known by highway groups.

"He's not a glad-hander-type person," the lobbyist said.

It's also unclear what effect Graves' vote against Shuster's FAA bill, which contained a major overhaul to air traffic control, may have on his bid. His position reflected general aviation groups' leeriness toward the bill, but bucking the chairman on his top legislative priority may not help his cause.

It's difficult to handicap the race under Speaker Paul Ryan's leadership. But in the one contest he's had to weigh in on - the Ways and Means chairmanship - Ryan supported the more-senior Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) in an 11th-hour endorsement that won the Texan enough steering committee votes to win. He had faced early favorite Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a prolific fundraiser known for his connections to K Street.

Ryan's office also told Brady's and Tiberi's staffs to cut any mentions of their fundraising abilities from their pitches for the job.

Some committee members are already signaling support for Denham.

One said he's worked closely with Denham on several issues and thinks he's "extremely easy to work with and very inclusive in his deliberative process."

"If it were to come down to the votes of members on the committee, I think he would find an overwhelming support there," he said.

Another GOP panel member also threw the edge to Denham, citing his "rather engaging style" of collaboration.

"I think he's well-respected within the committee, up and down the ranks," the lawmaker said. "Sam's a hard worker and knows his stuff - not quite as outgoing as Jeff, and if I was therefore lining up prospects at this point, I'd give a slight edge to Jeff."

But some members are sure to support Graves given his seniority and years of experience. One Transportation subcommittee chairman - California Republican Duncan Hunter - already has signaled his backing for the Missouri Republican despite his friendship with Denham, and believes both would make good panel leaders, according to Hunter's chief of staff Joe Kasper.

In the end, both candidates will need to articulate a vision to their colleagues for the Transportation Committee's future as policymakers continue to grapple with how to sustainably pay for infrastructure projects.

"Just because you want to hold the gavel is not a good reason, or shouldn't be a good enough reason, for you to get the gavel," said Stephen Martinko, a former T&I staffer now at K&L Gates. "What would you do once you have it? What's your plan?"

Back

Trucking leader looks beyond the gas tax Back

By Tanya Snyder | 10/03/2016 03:17 PM EDT

The head of the American Trucking Associations said today that his group will look for a new infrastructure funding proposal to get behind, in recognition of the "realities on Capitol Hill" regarding the gas tax.

After years of stalemate on the gas tax issue - which he blames on "cubicle-dwelling ideologues" who refuse to compromise -- new ATA CEO Chris Spear said he's directing his group's highway policy committee to put together a proposal for a new means of funding infrastructure.

ATA has opposed a vehicle-miles-traveled fee; Spear called additional tolling "a disease" and "extortion." He also protested high corporate tax rates on trucking, asking that trucking pay less, "especially when the trucking industry is already taxed at the pump and fighting multiple federal and state proposals to add new tolls."

The organization's top priorities for the lame duck are a permanent fix to the federal hours-of-service issue and the prevention of additional state regulations on meal and rest breaks. The hours-of-service fix is a likely candidate to be added to a government funding bill in December.

Spear also touted the potential of driverless trucks to improve safety, save fuel and reduce congestion, but cautioned that trucking needs to ensure it has a seat at the table while new regulations are being developed.

"This playbook for how autonomous technology will be regulated is currently being written by auto OEMs and their federal and state regulators," Spear said. "The trucking industry cannot afford to concede an entire regulatory framework to another mode of transportation, especially one that we'll ultimately inherit."

Back

TSA contractor drags FAA bill into PreCheck legal dispute Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 10/03/2016 05:00 AM EDT

What should be a relatively straightforward search for companies to help TSA enroll more people in PreCheck is getting gummed up in a fight over corporate protectionism and congressional intent.

Last October, at Congress' urging, TSA embarked on a new hunt to find companies to help enroll people in PreCheck, which has been criticized as a slow process in some cities. But now, in an ironic twist, the company that currently has the PreCheck contract is using a newly-enacted congressional mandate to challenge the agency's solicitation.

MorphoTrust, which currently has the sole contract for collecting fingerprints and personal information from PreCheck applicants, claims the request TSA put out is both "illegal and defective," and has taken its accusations to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

And one of the company's main arguments for scrapping the solicitation is language tucked into an FAA extension Congress enacted in July.

The legislative text MorphoTrust cites in its complaint requires the Department of Homeland Security and the Government Accountability Office to review PreCheck contracts and make sure the company's proposed risk assessment for vetting PreCheck applicants is "equivalent to a fingerprint-based criminal history records check" conducted by the FBI.

But according to MorphoTrust, there's no such thing as an "equivalent" check.

So by contending that no commercial database is as accurate as the FBI's fingerprint-based checks, MorphoTrust argues that TSA is acting illegally by even requesting that companies come forward with ideas for vetting travelers who want to sign up for PreCheck.

"In fact, the only way to perform a criminal history records check using an applicant's fingerprints is to channel the prints through the FBI's database," MorphoTrust's complaint states. "There is no purely commercial option for fingerprint-based checks. As a result of Congress' passage of FESSA, which requires the contractors' criminal history records check to be equivalent to the FBI's fingerprint-based system, the RFP's more flexible requirements allowing for use of commercial services are contrary to law."

Whether that logic holds up from a legal standpoint will be up to the court to decide. And lawmakers who penned the FAA extension could also weigh in on whether the company is misconstruing their language in an effort to stop, or at least slow, TSA's movement toward hiring another company to help run PreCheck.

But so far, nobody on Capitol Hill is eager to get involved in the sticky dispute, for fear that publicly clarifying their legislative intent could be seen as trying to help or hurt companies vying for a major government contract.

Aides on the House Homeland Security Committee, which wrote that section of the FAA extension, have declined to comment. And Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), who chairs the Homeland Security subcommittee in charge of TSA, told POLITICO that he is still reviewing MorphoTrust's complaint.

Meanwhile, the French company that owns MorphoTrust has just entered into exclusive talks to sell it to an American private equity firm. Sources with a vested interest in MorphoTrust losing its PreCheck contract observe that the company's legal maneuverings may be intended to stall TSA's new solicitation in order to maintain its foothold while closing the deal.

MorphoTrust did not respond to a request for comment.

Back

Senators warn Takata rejiggering could leave consumers hanging Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 10/03/2016 06:22 PM EDT

Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal want to know how DOT plans to force Takata to uphold its promises to fix airbags and compensate consumers if the company is sold, goes bankrupt or is majorly restructured.

The two Democratic senators sent a letter to NHTSA today asking for the agency to report back on how it intends to make sure airbag fixes and consumer payouts are made before Takata evens up with other creditors and investors.

"We have reason to believe that the circumstances surrounding Takata's financial viability have deteriorated," the senators wrote. "We remain extremely concerned that in the event of Takata's bankruptcy or significant restructuring, it could be consumers who are left with the costs of repairing their defective vehicles, and additionally that past or future victims of this safety defect may also be left behind as other creditors lay first claim to Takata's assets."

The senators have for two years been bird-dogging NHTSA to hold Takata accountable for defective airbags, calling in 2014 for the agency to issue a nationwide recall on cars with Takata airbags, voicing concerns that NHTSA wasn't hard enough on the airbag manufacturer, urging the agency last year to outline a plan for dealing with compensation if Takata goes bankrupt and calling NHTSA's progress in replacing defective airbag inflators "completely unacceptable" in December.

Back

Planners: Cuomo's Penn Station plans are nice, but not nice enough Back

By Dana Rubinstein | 10/03/2016 03:20 PM EDT

The critical consensus continues to take shape: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plans to remake the old James A. Farley Post Office Building into a soaring train hall for Amtrak commuters, and also some Long Island Rail Road ones, are nice but could be a bit more ambitious.

On Monday afternoon, the city's two most venerable planning organizations - the Regional Plan Association and the Municipal Art Society - said in a joint statement that Cuomo's plans "won't go far enough."

"In order to provide capacity for future growth and unlock the economic development potential of our region, much more needs to be done by all the partners with a stake in our future," they said. "We call on all interest groups and decision makers - both public and private - to advance ideas that address long-term concerns while these new measures are being implemented."

But Cuomo spokeswoman Abbey Fashouer said the administration is "taking action."

"After 20 years of stalled plans advanced by many of these same groups, Governor Cuomo is taking action to transform Penn Station and the James A. Farley Post Office into a world-class transportation hub capable of meeting the demands of future generations of New Yorkers," Fashouer said in a statement. "Penn-Farley is part of the Governor's $100 billion statewide plan to revitalize our infrastructure from the ground-up, including the rapid completion of a new Gateway Tunnel. While an open dialogue is central to the success of this project, simply talking about it has gotten us nowhere."

The criticism is the second hit Cuomo's plan has taken in three days.

In Friday's opinion section, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman wrote that, "even with the announcement this week, there's still a long way to go." On the same page, architect Vishaan Chakrabarti presented an idea that would require the relocation of Madison Square Garden from atop Penn Station to make way for more light and air.

So, too, in its statement, the Municipal Art Society and Regional Plan Association argue that the state should develop a vision that incorporates "the eventual relocation of Madison Square Garden so Penn Station and the surrounding area can be transformed into a welcoming, modern destination that meets the mobility needs of our growing region."

It's a notion that urban planners hold dear, despite Cuomo's aversion to the idea.

The organizations also urge leaders to get on with building a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River, and as part of that project, enable trains to run though from New Jersey to Penn Station and then all the way to Long Island and Connecticut.

Cuomo's vision, which he announced at a luncheon last week, prioritizes transforming the old post office on the west side of Eighth Avenue into a train hall, one he says will serve both Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road passengers, though it's not clear how many of the latter, since there aren't many LIRR tracks beneath Farley. (Chakrabarti wrote in his op-ed that "under the governor's plan, approximately 80 percent of Penn Station commuters will continue to use the tracks and platforms under the Garden.")

The chairman of Amtrak, which controls Penn Station, told POLITICO New York last week that the issue is primarily one of staging - in order to do Penn Station properly, the Farley train hall must happen first.

"It would be one thing if we were building a train station in the middle of a cornfield," Anthony Coscia said. "But we're building one in the busiest train station in North America. So the only way you could possibly do anything meaningful with Penn Station is if you find a way to vacate significant portions of the station that are currently being used."

Read the full statement below:

We congratulate Governor Cuomo for his leadership in taking an important first step toward a new Penn Station. The plan announced last week addresses some of Penn's most visible deficiencies: low-slung ceilings, rundown public spaces, poor signage, limited amenities and cramped corridors. Governor Cuomo's initiative will ensure that Moynihan Station is built - and soon.

These upgrades will certainly improve the experience at the transit hub, but by themselves, they won't go far enough. In order to provide capacity for future growth and unlock the economic development potential of our region, much more needs to be done by all the partners with a stake in our future. We call on all interest groups and decision makers - both public and private - to advance ideas that address long-term concerns while these new measures are being implemented.

Specifically, MAS and RPA ask our federal, state and local elected leaders; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Amtrak; the U.S. Department of Transportation; NJ Transit; MTA, LIRR, NYCTA, and Metro-North; and business leaders and property owners to commit to the following:

Build Gateway, a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River connecting New York to New Jersey and linking the entire Northeast. This is the single most important infrastructure investment in the nation, and needs to move ahead immediately. As part of the Gateway project, Amtrak and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey must examine operations at Penn Station and study alternatives - such as through-running trains from New Jersey to Long Island and Connecticut and integrating routes, scheduling and frequency - that could improve efficiency at the station and provide greater regional connectivity.

Develop a long-term vision and strategy for the complete redevelopment of Penn Station, including Moynihan Station, that focuses on critical track and platform improvements. That vision also should incorporate the eventual relocation of Madison Square Garden so that Penn Station and the surrounding area can be transformed into a welcoming, modern destination that meets the mobility needs of our growing region.

Develop a comprehensive planning framework for West Midtown, examining options for future development, land use, value capture potential and historic preservation. With just seven years remaining on Madison Square Garden's operating permit, we urgently need a robust plan for the district.

The improvements contemplated as part of the Penn-Farley Complex address very real and urgent needs of the present, and they should move forward. As Governor Cuomo said at his announcement on Tuesday, "New York's tomorrow depends on what we do today." To that end, it is imperative that we not simply address immediate needs at Penn Station, but holistically and intentionally plan for the long-term future of our city and region.