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Infrastructure in the News 10.5.16



Bloomberg Govt: Op-Ed by Secretary Ray LaHood & Governor Ed Rendell: A rare moment of bipartisan agreement needs more scrutiny

If you were one of the millions of Americans watching Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debate on Monday night, it is likely that you strongly agreed with one candidate and disapproved of the other.




USA Today: Feds set goal: No traffic deaths within 30 years

The Obama administration on Wednesday committed to a goal of eliminating traffic deaths within 30 years, setting a timeline for the first time on an ambitious agenda that relies heavily on the auto industry's development of self-driving cars.


Washington Post: 19 things Donald Trump knows better than anyone else, according to Donald Trump

14) Infrastructure. "Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump." — July 2016


Washington Post: The real reason Donald Trump’s favorite airports are so much better than America’s

In the first presidential debate Monday night, Donald Trump praised the gleaming airports of Dubai, Qatar and China, holding them up as a counterpart to grungy American airports such as LaGuardia, Kennedy, LAX and Newark. “Our airports are like from a Third World country,” he said.


Vox: The one thing Trump and Clinton agree on is infrastructure. This economist thinks they’re both wrong.

About the only thing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agree on in this election is the need for the federal government to spend a lot more on America’s infrastructure. Clinton has proposed $275 billion over five years for roads, transit, airports, and other public works, paid for with higher corporate taxes. Trump has vowed to “at least double” that.


Wall Street Journal: Photography That Brings Attention to the Global Water Crisis

Mustafah Abdulaziz’s ‘Water Stories’ runs through Oct. 12 on the East River waterfront




Associated Press: Investigators Analyze Data Recorder From NJ Train Crash

Federal investigators are working to analyze data and video recorders from a New Jersey commuter train that crashed last week, killing a woman and injuring more than 100 others.


Washington Post: Official: Investigators estimate train in crash was speeding

Federal investigators estimate a commuter train was traveling two to three times the 10 mph speed limit when it slammed into a New Jersey rail station last week, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Tuesday.


Washington Post Opinion: Don’t blame Washington for the way New Jersey spends transit money

Don’t blame Washington for how New Jersey Transit decides to use federal assistance when it comes to installing positive train control.


Washington Post Opinion: I survived the Hoboken train wreck. It scares me to think it could happen again.

I was in the lead car of the New Jersey Transit train that crashed Thursday in Hoboken, N.J., sitting about eight rows from the front, on the left side, and as we entered the station the lights went out, I felt the car leave the rails and my first thought was: This is a train crash — duck and cover.


KTVU (California): Oakland mayor releases transportation plan with emphasis on equity           

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other city officials released an ambitious transportation plan today that aims to repair and update city streets, provide more equitable access to jobs and services and eliminate traffic deaths.


MySA (Texas) Opinion: Keep transportation options open

Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen is famous for his hit about the road going on forever, but the fact is Texas roads aren’t as limitless as we might hope.


LaCrosse Tribune (Wisconsin): Transportation forum to focus on transit, highway alternatives

A coalition of nonprofit advocacy groups will host a transportation forum Wednesday to focus attention on mass transit and other transportation alternatives for La Crosse area residents.


ABC2 (Wisconsin): Senate candidates discuss economy, infrastructure and their opponent

Now about 10 days away from their first debate, things are heating up between Senator Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold who’s looking to take his seat.


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

With help from Lauren Gardner and Tanya Snyder

REPORT: N.J. TRAIN POSSIBLY TRAVELED WELL OVER SPEED LIMIT: The commuter train that crashed into New Jersey Transit's Hoboken terminal Thursday could have been moving at 20 to 30 mph, double or triple the posted speed limit, an anonymous official appraised of the ongoing investigation told The Associated Press. Investigators made the estimate based on the damage from the crash that killed a woman and left over 100 people injured.

NTSB doesn't confirm: Jim Southworth, NTSB investigator-in-charge, declined to comment on the AP's report during a press briefing Tuesday afternoon. Investigators recovered the event data recorder and video recorder from the front cab Tuesday morning, our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros. It took longer to retrieve the devices than usual because of the damage at the scene. The recorders are now at NTSB's lab here in Washington, and Southworth said they could provide information about the train's speed, throttle and brake positions.

IT'S WEDNESDAY: 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.

"I drove into Seattle rain, fell in love then missed the train. That could have took me right back home to you." (h/t FTA's Bonnie Graves)

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

NOT MUCH T&I IN VEEP DEBATE: Transportation and infrastructure didn't get many mentions at the vice presidential debate. During a segment on the economy, Mike Pence touted his record as governor of Indiana. "We cut taxes, we've made record investments in education and in infrastructure, and I still finished my term with $2 billion in the bank," Pence said. Tim Kaine highlighted Hillary Clinton's economic plan, including a promise to "invest in manufacturing, infrastructure, and research into clean energy jobs of tomorrow," he said.

NTSB: FMCSA CAN DO MORE TO CURB DRUG USE: The NTSB thinks the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should urge companies to better screen job candidates for drug use after finding that DOT's testing program failed to detect a pattern of substance abuse. As our Tanya Snyder reports for Pros, the independent agency made the recommendation Tuesday after an investigation into a 2015 multi-vehicle crash near Chattanooga, Tenn., in which six people died and four were injured. A fatigued truck driver who was under the influence of methamphetamine failed to react when traffic slowed by a work zone.

A slew of recommendations: The safety board also recommended that the agency require motor carriers to consider job applicants' crash records, determine whether carriers use FMCSA's Pre-Employment Screening Program and share best practices for vetting. NTSB repeated its past recommendation that FMCSA launch an investigation into drug use among truck drivers.

MT MAILBAG: A man who lost four family members in the Tennessee crash called on DOT to do more to prevent truck crashes. Rick Watts, a volunteer for the Truck Safety Coalition, wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx that the government "has a double standard for safety," with a zero-tolerance policy for commercial plane crashes but not truck accidents. Watts urged Foxx to prioritize writing regulations to mandate crash avoidance features in big trucks, consider increasing the minimum levels of financial responsibility for carriers and focus on writing a rule for a drug and alcohol clearinghouse for drivers. Watts also criticized DOT's proposed speed limit rule for heavy vehicles, calling it "exceedingly weak."

"We urge you to use your remaining time of 4 months as Secretary to direct NHTSA and FMCSA to issue regulations that will make trucking safer for all of us sharing the road - truck drivers, motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians," Watts wrote. "We also urge you to oppose any efforts in Congress to attack the [hours of service] rule in the government spending bill."

CLOSE THAT DOOR GENTLY: NHTSA is probing whether a recall is necessary after receiving three complaints that side airbags in some Nissan Versa cars can inflate when the doors are slammed shut, The Associated Press reports. The agency's investigation encompasses about 155,000 cars from model year 2012.

BRAKES, DOORS AND STEERING SYSTEMS - OH, MY! NHTSA is also probing complaints about model year 2015 and 2016 Ford F-150s. Consumers say the pickup trucks can suddenly fail to brake properly, your MT host reports for Pros. The investigation involves 282,000 vehicles. In addition, the agency is looking into complaints of 2011 to 2013 model year Ford Edge SUVs that always have their "door ajar" light on and 2010 model year Ford Fusions that have steering problems.

SHIFTING GEARS: Luis Rosero is leaving Toyota Motor North America Inc. to serve as vice president of government affairs at NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, our friends at POLITICO Playbook report. Rosero was director and co-founder of the Hispanic business strategy group at Toyota.

The board of the American Trucking Associations has elected Kevin Burch as chairman. Burch, the president of Jet Express Inc., replaces Pat Thomas, UPS's senior vice president for state government affairs.


- "Henrik Fisker launches new electric car company." Reuters.

- "Uber's self-driving cars are already getting into scrapes on the streets of Pittsburgh." Quartz.

- "Global Entry is expanding to 9 more airports." USA Today.

- "Bridgegate witness says Cuomo and Christie discussed cover story." POLITICO New York.

- "Some Metro employees still denying federal inspectors access." The Washington Post.

- "Futuristic Dubai dreams of hyperloop transit tubes." The Associated Press.

- "Fiat Chrysler ordered to face dealerships' antitrust suit." Bloomberg

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 65 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 359 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 33 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,459 days.


8:40 a.m. - DOT and the National Safety Council announce a plan to reduce traffic deaths. A conference called "Road to Zero" will follow. Association on the United States Army Conference Center, 2425 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, Va. Livestream here.

12 p.m. - TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger delivers keynote remarks at the U.S. Air Cargo Industry Affairs Summit. Capital Hilton, 1001 16th St. NW.

12 p.m. - William Ford Jr., the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, speaks at the Economic Club of Washington D.C. The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Atrium Hall, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

1 p.m. - David Friedman, assistant secretary of the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, speaks about the department's hydrogen and fuel cell program. National Press Club, 13th Floor, 529 14th St. NW.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

To view online:

Stories from POLITICO Pro

NTSB mum on Hoboken train speed, pulls recorders from wreckage Back

By Lauren Gardner | 10/04/2016 04:45 PM EDT

NTSB's lead investigator on the Sept. 29 New Jersey Transit crash declined to comment today on a report that the train may have been traveling two to three times faster than the posted speed limit before colliding into the Hoboken terminal.

The Associated Press had reported that federal investigators estimate the commuter train was moving at 20 to 30 miles per hour based on the damage at the scene, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

"We're not prepared to make that statement right now," Jim Southworth, NTSB investigator-in-charge, said today of the train's speed at the time of the crash.

Investigators retrieved the event data recorder and the video recorder from the front cab of the train this morning, which took longer than usual because of the treacherous damage it wrought.

Officials hope the devices, which arrived at NTSB's Washington lab this afternoon, will provide information about the train's speed, throttle and brake positions, along with about 100 other data points, Southworth said.

Investigators also recovered the engineer's cell phone from his backpack, which was stored in the lead cab, Southworth said.


NTSB recommends that FMCSA tighten rules on employee screening Back

By Tanya Snyder | 10/04/2016 02:03 PM EDT

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should push motor carriers to do a better job pre-screening potential employees for risk factors like drug use and prior crashes, the NTSB said today.

The recommendation came as part of its investigation into a 2015 multi-vehicle crash in Chattanooga, Tenn., that killed six and injured four. A truck driver who was fatigued and under the influence of methamphetamines, did not react when traffic slowed near a work zone. The NTSB investigation found a pattern of drug use not identified by DOT's drug testing program.

NTSB also recommended:

- that FMCSA require carriers to consider a driver's crash record and past traffic violations when evaluating candidates, and that they give "great weight to violations - such as speeding, reckless driving, and operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs - that indicate the driver has exhibited a disregard for public safety."

- that FMCSA find out whether carriers are taking advantage of the agency's Pre-Employment Screening Program, which provides electronic crash records and inspection histories for job applicants, and determine why or why not.

- and that FMCSA collect and publish best practices for pre-employment investigations, as well as educating carriers about hair testing for drugs.

In addition to the new recommendations, NTSB reiterated a previous one - to which FMCSA's response was deemed "inadequate" - that the agency investigate the prevalence of drug use among drivers and develop a plan to reduce it.


NHTSA probing Ford F-150 brake complaints Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 10/04/2016 02:42 PM EDT

NHTSA is investigating complaints that some Ford F-150 trucks can suddenly fail to brake properly.

The probe involves about 282,000 vehicles that are model year 2015 and 2016. The agency says it has received 10 complaints about 2015 model year trucks and 15 complaints about 2016 trucks.

Ford recalled model year 2013 and 2014 F-150s with 3.5 liter engines in May because of a front brake issue. "Ford reported the problem was caused by the loss of brake fluid from the brake master cylinder reservoir into the brake booster, which can lead to visual and audible warnings of low brake fluid level to the operator," according to NHTSA.

Now the agency is receiving similar complaints about model year 2015 and 2016 vehicles.

NHTSA is also investigating 1,560 complaints of 2011 to 2013 model year Ford Edge SUVs that constantly have their "door ajar" light on. And it's looking into about 550 complaints of 2010 model year Ford Fusions with reported steering problems.


Bridgegate witness says Cuomo and Christie discussed cover story Back

By Ryan Hutchins | 10/04/2016 12:03 PM EDT

NEWARK, N.J. - Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie personally discussed how to handle the fallout from the George Washington Bridge lane closures, even agreeing to release a report covering up the incident, according to the admitted mastermind of the political revenge scheme.

Cuomo's administration - referred to in testimony as "Albany" - told the top official at the bistate Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to "lay off" Christie following the incident, former Port official David Wildstein testified here in U.S. District Court.

Wildstein said he was told of the conversations between the governors of New York and New Jersey by David Samson, the former chairman of the agency's board, and Bill Baroni, its former deputy executive director and now a defendant in the case.

Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, who was appointed by Cuomo and remains at the agency, had been investigating the September 2013 lane closures.

Cuomo, a Democrat, and Christie, a Republican, agreed that the agency would release a report washing over the incident, saying the lane closures were the result of a traffic study commissioned by officials on the New Jersey side of the agency and that there had been a "failure of communications," Wildstein testified.

"My understanding was Governor Christie and Governor Cuomo has discussed this," Wildstein told defense attorney Michael Critchley. "That if there was a report that was issued, that if New Jersey side accepted responsibility, that Mr. Foye would sign off on that."

That was supposed to "put an end to this," Wildstein said.

The report, which eventually became the basis for testimony Baroni delivered to a legislative committee in Trenton, was never released.

Wildstein said he believed the order was lifted after Christie won his reelection in November, and that he soon after received a call from a reporter asking about his own involvement in the lane closings.

A Cuomo spokesman issued a flat denial of Wildstein's account.

"The only role New York played in this episode was a positive one: it was our executive director who blew the whistle and ordered the bridge reopened," said the spokesman, John Kelly, in a statement. "To be clear, no such conversation between the governors happened, in fact no report of any kind was ever done, and whatever the admitted bridgegate architect thought or dreamt about New York's involvement has no basis in fact. Anyone can say anything, especially a convicted felon spinning a tale, but it's just false and delusional."

Foye's lawyer, Eric Corngold, later issued a statement saying Wildstein's testimony "is not accurate."

Wildstein is testifying in the trial of Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff. They were indicted last May on charges of conspiracy, fraud and civil rights violations.

They are accused of closing local access lanes to the bridge - the world's busiest - to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie in his reelection bid. The bridge is located in Fort Lee, and the lane closures caused days of gridlock in the Bergen County town and surrounding communities.

Christie, who is currently a top adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, has denied any knowledge or involvement in the incident. But Wildstein said last month that the governor was told of the traffic gridlock on the third day of the lane closings.

Wildstein, who was the Port's director of interstate capital projects, has already pleaded guilty and implicated the two others.

The Wall Street Journal reported shortly after the scandal broke that the governors had spoken privately about the incident, citing "a person familiar with the matter." The report said Christie had called Cuomo to complain about Foye's handling of the lane closures.

Christie's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In court on Tuesday, Wildstein said Christie's top aide, then chief of staff Kevin O'Dowd, got involved as lawmakers in Trenton began poking around the lane closings in the fall of 2013.

"Mr. Samson told me Mr. O'Dowd was working on it, he was on top of it, he was working with legislators to make the issue go away," Wildstein testified.

But invitations had gone out to top Port officials requesting they testify before the Assembly Transportation Committee in Trenton. Among those invited was Foye, who had ordered the end of the lane closures and promised to get to the bottom of what happened.

O'Dowd, Wildstein said, got in touch with Cuomo's top aide at the time, Secretary Larry Schwartz. The two discussed telling Foye "not to accept the invitation" to testify, Wildstein said, recalling what he'd been told by others.

The claim was backed up by text messages Wildstein received from Michael Drewniak, then Christie's top spokesman, after a Wall Street Journal article reported that Foye was suspicious about the incident and stepped in to end the lane closures. Wildstein said he had forwarded the story to Drewniak, who said he'd speak to O'Dowd about it.

"I briefed O'Dowd on the Foye madness," Drewniak texted in one message read aloud in court. "He gets it and is taking seriously."

--additional reporting by Linh Tat and Dana Rubinstein.

NOTE: This article has been updated with the comment from Cuomo's office and Foye's attorney, and with testimony from later in the day.