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Infrastructure in the News 11.10.16

BAF IN THE NEWS

 

Politico Pro: After the Trumpquake, an infrastructure 'healing?' (BAF quoted – full article follows Morning Tranpsortation)

https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/11/infrastructure-healing-020067

Donald Trump's victory is inspiring optimism among supporters of transportation spending, heartened by his call for a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure push — and newly hopeful that he can get the Republican Congress to commit to a major building binge like Washington hasn't seen in decades.

NATIONAL NEWS

 

Washington Post: Trump’s sweep could be a big setback to Tesla and Elon Musk

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/11/09/trumps-sweep-could-be-a-big-setback-to-tesla-and-elon-musk/

The Republican party's sweeping victory at the polls Tuesday may deal a difficult blow to one of America's most closely watched companies: Tesla, the electric car maker that's trying to revolutionize the auto industry.

 

USA Today: States, counties, cities approve $200B for transportation projects

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/11/09/states-counties-cities-approve-200b-transportation-projects/93563452/

Transit projects in Los Angeles County and in the Seattle area were among the big winners Tuesday, as voters approved $200 billion worth of ballot initiatives for transportation projects across 22 states, according to a group of contractors and government officials.

 

WIRED: US Cities, Spurned by Washington, Fund Transit Themselves

https://www.wired.com/2016/11/us-cities-spurned-washington-fund-transit/

HERE, A WELL-DESERVED break from the presidential election post-mortems: Some November results that may well change your life that have nothing to do with chyrons, Twitter feeds, or exit polls. On Election Day, Americans in cities and regions across the US approved some $170 billion in public transit funding, plus billions more to improve roads, rail, ports, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

 

WIRED: Trump’s Infrastructure Fix: Let Somebody Else Spend $1 Trillion

https://www.wired.com/2016/11/trumps-plan-american-infrastructure-get-people-spend-trillion-dollars/

IN HIS FIRST address as president-elect, Donald Trump played the platitudes. He spoke of being a president for all Americans, of healing divisions, of unleashing potential. He avoided specifics of any kind beyond a few key areas, including infrastructure.

 

The Verge: Voters still like public transportation so they gave it close to $200 billion

http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/9/13573920/public-transit-ballot-measures-72-percent-success

Millions of Americans just voted in favor of ballot proposals to improve and expand public transportation in their communities, a silver lining in a mostly miserable election cycle. There were a record 48 ballot proposals across the country that would have raised up to $200 billion for better trains and buses, more bike-sharing and ride-sharing services, and more walkable cities. Thirty-three of those measures passed, for a success rate of 69 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

 

Transport Topics: Trucking, Rail Industries Welcome Trump Administration

http://www.ttnews.com/articles/basetemplate.aspx?storyid=43860&t=Trucking-Rail-Industries-Welcome-Trump-Administration-

Republican Donald Trump’s victory is an opportunity to craft a long-term fix for freight infrastructure projects, the leadership of the trucking and rail associations said Nov. 9.

 

Wall Street Journal: Investors Pile Into Infrastructure Stocks After Election

http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2016/11/09/investors-pile-into-infrastructure-stocks-after-election/

Construction and engineering stocks are catapulting higher on Wednesday as investors prepare for beefed-up U.S. government spending by a Republican-controlled White House and Congress.

 

New York Times: What Trump, Clinton and Voters Agreed On: Better Infrastructure

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/nyregion/what-trump-clinton-and-voters-agreed-on-better-infrastructure.html?_r=0

At the end of a stunning and divisive election that left many Americans feeling further apart than ever, there was perhaps one area of common ground: infrastructure.

 

STATE NEWS

 

KPCC: LA says 'yes' to tax increase for transportation

http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/11/09/66020/la-votes-on-measure-m-tax-increase-to-fund-transpo/

A transportation building boom is set to bring a wave of rail, bus and highway projects to gridlocked Los Angeles County after voters approved Measure M on Tuesday.

 

The Advocate: Tolls, public/private partnerships win support of governor's transportation panel

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/weather_traffic/article_9f384942-a686-11e6-9b31-8729f7a2747c.html

Just ahead of a key vote, a panel named by Gov. John Bel Edwards endorsed two ways to finance state transportation projects Wednesday, including a new bridge over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge.

 

The San Diego Union-Tribune: County transportation measure fails to gain two-thirds threshold

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/elections/sd-me-election-transportation-20161106-story.html

Measure A, the half-cent sales tax to fund public transit and freeway projects in the county, fell short of the needed two-thirds vote.

 

The San Diego Union-Tribune: Divisions emerge in wake of transportation tax defeat

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/elections/sd-me-measurea-folo-20161109-story.html

The tension over funding freeways versus public transit in San Diego County is ratcheting up following Tuesday’s ballot defeat of a half-cent sales tax that would have provided $18 billion in spending for everything from roads to trolleys to open-space preservation. 

 

Ventura County Star: County transportation sales tax measure defeated

http://www.vcstar.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/11/09/county-transportation-sales-tax-measure-defeated/93254178/

A Ventura County half-cent transportation sales tax measure was defeated Tuesday, falling about 10 percent short of the two-thirds voter approval threshold needed to win passage.

 

10WAVY (Virginia): VDOT seeks public input on prioritizing transportation projects

http://wavy.com/2016/11/09/vdot-seeks-public-input-on-prioritizing-transportation-projects/

The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) will hold nine public meetings on prioritizing transportation projects throughout Virginia.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 11/10/2016 05:40 AM EDT

With help from Lauren Gardner, Tanya Snyder, Jennifer Scholtes and Kathryn A. Wolfe

INFRASTRUCTURE 'HEALING'? Donald Trump's pledge to use tax breaks to spur up to $1 trillion in infrastructure investment has set Beltway hearts aflutter and inspired calls from House Democratic leadership to make a "robust" infrastructure bill a central focus of his early administration. It's an issue that could help bridge the partisan divide and give both parties a win, our Kathryn A. Wolfe and Lauren Gardner report for Pros.

Reality check: Though fixing shoddy infrastructure writ large is an easy goal for both parties to get behind, details matter. What Trump has promised — tax breaks to incentivize the private sector — may require little to no federal money and would do little to fix the Highway Trust Fund. Democrats, meanwhile, may prefer a package of spending that requires new revenues. And transportation boosters, even the ones most bullish on a GOP presidency, say financing tools and P3s alone aren't enough. So when the rubber meets the road, kumbayas may be harder to find.

Don't you forget about me: The Senate Banking Committee's top Democrat, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, reminded all in a statement Wednesday that his committee's jurisdiction includes transit and urban development — key issues to any infrastructure deal. "Both presidential candidates proposed badly needed infrastructure investments that will help get Americans back to work, so infrastructure should be a top priority for the committee next year," he said. "And I look forward to learning more about the president-elect's plans for revitalizing our cities."

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

"I have been out wanderin'. I have traveled far. One conclusion I have made is God don't own a car. He don't wear no fancy clothes. He'd rather take the bus. He would pay a tourist fare, so He could sit with us." (h/t Paul Dean at Virginia Railway Express)

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

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REPATRIATION REBORN? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell isn't getting too specific about what the Republican-led Congress could do in partnership with the incoming GOP president. But he has been quick to suggest action on an overhaul of the tax code. For those in the transportation world, the obvious next question is whether rejiggering the country's tax rules could result in any kind of windfall for infrastructure projects. And while Trump is all about repatriating business cash that's been stashed abroad, that idea hasn't been sold as a fundraiser for the Highway Trust Fund in the way that it had been shopped around during the current Congress.

New take: "I think we can all agree this is a stunning election and clearly an indication that the American people would like something new," McConnell said Wednesday. "We're going to be working with the new president on legislative priorities, but he talked about tax reform. And you know I think this is really important."

THIS IS THE REMIX TO TRANSITION: Shirley Ybarra, a former Reason Foundation senior transportation policy analyst, seems to be leading Trump's approach to managing DOT, Pro Technology's Tony Romm reports. Trump has six teams planning for transitions at federal agencies, according to an organizational chart obtained by POLITICO. DOT falls under the "domestic issues" team, led by former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell.

All for those P3s: Ybarra is a clear proponent of public-private partnerships. She was Virginia's secretary of transportation from 1998 to 2002. ARTBA gave her its "Public-Private Ventures Entrepreneur of the Year Award" in 2001. Earlier in her career, she wrote Virginia's Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995, according to her Reason Foundation bio. In the 1980s, she was senior policy adviser and special assistant for policy when Elizabeth Dole was DOT secretary.

NOW, ABOUT THAT GOVERNMENT FUNDING: Still shell-shocked from the final throes of the election, lawmakers return next week to complete the last four weeks of scheduled legislative business in the 114th Congress. Their main mission: to clear a new spending bill so the government doesn't run out of dough come Dec. 9. In a post-election press conference on Wednesday, McConnell told reporters that he would like to "wrap up the business of funding the government in this fiscal year, this calendar year."

The great unknown: "We'll be talking with the speaker and with the president about how to wrap up the spending this year," McConnell said. "I don't know the answer to it right now. ... Exactly how to achieve that over a three-week period is always a matter for discussion."

Two tracks: As Ben Weyl reports in the Pro Budget and Appropriations Brief, "two competing strategies are emerging for how the GOP should handle government funding bills in the lame duck. One approach calls for kicking the can and passing a stopgap measure that continues government funding into next year. ... The other option is for the GOP to finish up fiscal 2017 appropriations in the lame duck in order to clear the decks for unified Republican rule next year."

DOWN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BALLOT: Transportation ballot referenda had an Election Night like never before, our Tanya Snyder reports for Pros. Of the 280 ballot measures in 22 states tracked by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's "Transportation Investment Advocacy Center," 69 percent were victorious, together worth more than $200 billion. The big kahuna of the night was Los Angeles County's Measure M, a mammoth $120 billion package of rail lines, bus improvements and road expansions. "It was about positioning L.A. to be a truly global city," said Rob Puentes, executive director of the Eno Center for Transportation. "And to be a global city you need a multimodal, robust transportation system."

Not to be upstaged: Seattle voters approved the $54 billion ST3 measure for new transit. Atlanta checked "yes" on not just one but two measures to fund transportation projects in the city. And Illinois and New Jersey put transportation funds in a "lockbox," away from the hands of legislators looking to fund other programs. But not all initiatives fared so well. Fifteen of 16 Nevada counties that voted on a measure to index the gas tax to inflation nixed the idea. And Detroit's 27th attempt to build a regional transit system was still not the charm.

Federal uncertainty looms: State and local measures are thriving in part because federal transportation funds have been drying up for years and jurisdictions have to get creative. But if federal funding gets even tighter, it could pose a problem. Even these local measures often rely on a federal match of some kind. But, as Puentes warns, "the GOP platform talks about wanting to zero out federal support for transit."

REACTION TIME: Groups representing transportation and infrastructure industries were quick Wednesday to make commitments to work with Trump and Congress, bragging about their connections to the presidential transition team as well as lawmakers in both parties and their staffs. Here are some of their statements:

Airlines: Nick Calio, the president and CEO of Airlines for America, said his organization would try to work with Trump on spinning off air traffic control from the FAA, a longtime crusade by A4A and House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster. The group, which includes the major U.S. airlines except Delta, argues that such a transformation would ensure "politics don't impede hiring and training more air traffic controllers and equipping our facilities with" new technologies, Calio said. "We want to see a reliable ATC funding model — funded by the system users, not political gamesmanship — so that we can plan for the long-term capital improvements the system needs to grow," he added.

Air traffic controllers: Speaking of ATC, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association had endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Similarly to A4A, the group's president, Paul Rinaldi, and executive vice president, Trish Gilbert, said it would lobby to "secure a stable, predictable funding stream" for the National Airspace System.

General aviation: The National Business Aviation Association's president and CEO, Ed Bolen, sent out a brief statement saying his group would "promote proposals that recognize the industry's value and protect its interests." Important to note: The general aviation lobby has staunchly opposed Shuster's plan to separate air traffic control from the FAA.

Airports: Airports Council International-North America's president and CEO, Kevin Burke, pointed out a need for over $75 billion in airport infrastructure investment. "Airports stand ready to work with the new administration and the new Congress to modernize our nation's airport infrastructure, provide effective security and enhance the overall travel experience," Burke said.

You down with PFC? Todd Hauptli, the president and CEO of the American Association of Airport Executives, said: "We expect that a modernized Passenger Facility Charge will play a critical role in narrowing the infrastructure investment gap in this country and we look forward to Congress returning to the mindset that prevailed for generations that infrastructure investments should be differentiated from other spending and that 'concrete knows no political affiliations.'"

Pilots: The Air Line Pilots Association-International said it "recognizes the commitment of President-elect Trump to a trade agenda that promotes the United States." The union said it would continue its "call for the enforcement of U.S. air transport agreements and fair competition for U.S. airlines and their workers by opposing Norwegian Air International's foreign air carrier permit application."

Transit: The American Public Transportation Association emphasized transit's outsize effect on moving workers: "As nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, we believe that a significant portion of his infrastructure proposal should be dedicated to public transportation," said APTA's chair, Doran Barnes, and acting president and CEO, Richard White.

Trucks: The trucking industry transports about 70 percent of U.S. freight, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear pointed out, adding that the group looks "forward to working with President-elect Trump on a host of issues, including long-term, sustainable infrastructure funding, tax reform and fair and free trade."

Freight rail: Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger urged Trump to lower corporate tax rates, "review and reform" the "broken regulatory system" and embrace "fair and open trade" — all of which, he said, "are critical to enacting much of Mr. Trump's agenda, including public infrastructure investment."

Don't forget chemicals: The American Chemistry Council said "outdated freight rail policies can no longer be allowed to shield the rail industry from the free market at the expense of manufacturers, farmers and energy producers and our ability to grow the U.S. economy." ACC promised to work to "ensure the Surface Transportation Board uses its congressional mandate to adopt meaningful reforms that will promote greater competition among rail carriers."

Travel and tourism: The U.S. Travel Association's president and CEO, Roger Dow, said his organization is "encouraged that Mr. Trump's extensive business and hospitality background — not to mention that travel accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. exports and creates jobs in every single congressional district — will make him a ready and receptive ear for our agenda."

The Cuba embargo: James Williams, the president of Engage Cuba, said his coalition is "hopeful that Mr. Trump, who has previously supported engagement with Cuba as a businessman and a politician, will continue to normalize relations that will benefit both the American and Cuban people."

AYOTTE OUT: New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte conceded Wednesday to Gov. Maggie Hassan, who won by just over 1,000 votes. As our Tanya Snyder reports for Pros, Ayotte chairs the Senate Commerce subcommittee on aviation. "In that post, she shepherded through the FAA reauthorization that passed this summer," Tanya reports. "Insiders say the contest to replace her at the top of the subcommittee is 'wide open,' with no obvious successors lining up, though Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) has been mentioned as one possibility."

NEW YORK ON MY MIND: The Gateway Program has a chance at gaining the backing of the Trump administration. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the chairman of Trump's transition team, has shown support for Gateway, as POLITICO New York's Dana Rubinstein reports. Rich Bagger, the team's executive director, is a commissioner on the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is a program partner.

John Porcari, the interim executive director of the Gateway Development Corporation, said the partners are "pleased that President-elect Trump has identified infrastructure investment as one of his top policy priorities." Porcari previously served as deputy Transportation secretary under Ray LaHood and Anthony Foxx.

Confirmation implications? Gateway includes a project to construct a new rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River. Last month, Sen. Chuck Schumer said that as long as he has "a position in the Senate, the next secretary of Transportation won't get confirmed unless they're as enthusiastic about this project" as Foxx.

MT TIP JAR: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who chairs the Senate Appropriations THUD Subcommittee, wrote in House Speaker Paul Ryan's name for president. "It was important to her to choose a senior elected Republican official who was already in the line of succession for the presidency," a source tells MT. "Sen. Collins was impressed with how Speaker Ryan conducted himself as the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate in 2012, and while they do not agree on everything, she believes he has substantive and creative policy ideas for how to address many of our nation's challenges, including poverty."

SAFETY FIRST: The FAA is prohibiting planes from going lower than 2,999 feet in the area around Trump Tower in New York City, unless they're military, police or emergency aircraft. The restrictions will be lifted on Jan. 21, The Associated Press reports.

SHIFTING GEARS: Sen. Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, picked Daisy Letendre to take the place of Donelle Harder as his communications director. Letendre previously served as press secretary.

THE AUTOBAHN:

— "Trump's sweep could be a big setback to Tesla and Elon Musk." The Washington Post.

— "American goes all in on faster Wi-Fi." Bloomberg.

— "Trump victory jolts automakers, lifts Caterpillar, railroads." Reuters.

— "Police: 7 killed in London early morning tram derailment." The Associated Press.

— "Shipping industry feels shock waves from Donald Trump election." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Belgium ramps up effort to lock down trains, boats and buses." POLITICO Europe.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 29 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 323 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,423 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

9 a.m. — NHTSA holds a public meeting on its driverless car guidance. GSA Regional Office Building, 301 7th St. SW.

1 p.m. — Transportation for America holds an expert panel discussion in Minneapolis on the election's effects on transportation policy. Registration for a livestream is here.

4 p.m. — FRA and NJ Transit hold an open house in New Jersey on the Hudson Tunnel Project.

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

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/11/infrastructure-healing-020067

Stories from POLITICO Pro

After the Trumpquake, an infrastructure 'healing?' Back

By Kathryn A. Wolfe and Lauren Gardner | 11/10/2016 05:00 AM EDT

Donald Trump's victory is inspiring optimism among supporters of transportation spending, heartened by his call for a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure push — and newly hopeful that he can get the Republican Congress to commit to a major building binge like Washington hasn't seen in decades.

Infrastructure supporters from both sides of the aisle said they'll push for action within the first few months of the Trump administration, but they would have to win over the fiscally conservative Republicans who trashed President Barack Obama's $832 billion stimulus and have resisted his calls for tens of billions of dollars in extra spending on roads, railroads, airports and bridges.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats on Wednesday that the party wants to work with Trump "to pass a bill very fast," according to a source on a conference call. The group Building America's Future — co-founded by former Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, former Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — pledged to work with Trump and Congress "to tackle this unifying issue in the first 100 days."

Pete Ruane, CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, invoked Trump's post-election comments about "healing" after a bruising campaign, saying that "the bipartisan aspect of this is compelling."

Transportation may be one of the few policy initiatives that Trump could pursue with little antagonism between the parties, especially given his history as a developer in major cities that depend on efficient roads and transit systems. And one GOP industry lobbyist said Trump's vocal buy-in can certainly help.

"I think that the X factor, the missing ingredient, has been in presidential leadership," one GOP industry lobbyist said. "It's been a real champion at the White House who really puts his or her shoulder into it."

"He gets all of that instinctively," another transportation lobbyist said. "That's all very positive."

Trump has offered few details about his "revenue-neutral" infrastructure proposal, however, and the few specifics he's floated have suggested to transportation experts that his financing methods could involve little if any new federal money. He also hasn't suggested any way to fix the long-running shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund, the main federal pot of money to help states and cities pay for road and transit programs.

Skipping any such nuances, Trump heartened transportation boosters by giving infrastructure a prominent place in his victory speech early Wednesday — using the same kind of job-creation language that Obama has used in his pleas to Congress.

"We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals," Trump said. "We're going to rebuild our infrastructure — which will become, by the way, second to none — and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it."

Lamenting the "crumbling" state of the nation's roads, rails, airports and waterways has been a bipartisan pastime for years. Both Trump and Vice President Joe Biden have lamented the "Third World" condition of New York's LaGuardia Airport, where the president-elect often lands his private jet, and Hillary Clinton offered her own five-year, $275 billion infrastructure proposal during this year's campaign.

But Congress has been stuck for years on the question of how to pay for such projects, with suggestions such as bonds, enhanced revenues from tax reform, some hoped-for peace dividend or a hike in the federal gasoline tax coming and going with no action.

Trump will most likely have great sway with the GOP-held Congress, however, especially after his surge in the polls helped Republicans retain control of the Senate. Having the same party in charge of the Congress and the White House certainly opens "the opportunity to solve a critical problem in a way that has lasting benefits and impact," said Katie Thomson, a former general counsel at the Department of Transportation who now works at the firm Morrison Foerster.

As Pelosi's remarks show, Democrats may also be eager to sign onto a bill that promises to boost domestic spending. "There is a potential irony here in that his more natural allies on specific items may actually be Democrats," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said.

Still, it's unclear how much Trump's proposal would actually boost federal dollars.

His pledge for the $1 trillion in investment, according a proposal crafted by economist Peter Navarro and billionaire financier Wilbur Ross, talks about a "bold, visionary plan. ... in the proud tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower." But it would rely heavily on private funding that's driven by a tax credit — whose cost they say would be offset by tax revenues reaped from the resulting jump in business activity. That tax scheme would apply only to money-making infrastructure projects like toll roads and airports.

In Trump's 100-day "action plan," he says his proposal "leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years."

To experts in transportation policy, that language suggests relatively little — in fact, possibly no — investment on the federal level, relying instead on tax breaks to entice the private sector into opening up its wallet.

"Clearly the devil is in the details, but I think that whatever Trump comes up with, you're probably going to see a fair amount of involvement from the private sector," the GOP lobbyist said.

Trump initially floated a much different version last summer, telling the Fox Business Network the government would borrow as much as $550 billion and "make a phenomenal deal with the low interest rates." Pressed on the cost, he added: "We have bridges that are falling down. I don't know if you've seen the warning charts, but we have many, many bridges that are in danger of falling."

"Donald Trump Proposes $550 Billion in New Government Debt," the resulting Wall Street Journal headline read, suggesting the difficulties such a plan could face in a Republican Congress that has spent eight years lambasting Obama over deficit spending.

But his new talk about financing and "leveraging" doesn't offer any fix for the structural deficits facing the Highway Trust Fund. And for many transportation boosters, a plan that doesn't do that is a halfway solution.

"Financing is a nice piece of the puzzle," said Bud Wright, executive director of the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials. But he added: "We certainly believe that we need additional federal investment, but really finding funding to do that — using some traditional or creative sources to generate new revenues is important."

The only way to fix the Highway Trust Fund long-term, experts said, is to generate reliable, recurring new revenues. Thomson pointed out that it's something that's been out of reach for some time — through both Democratic and Republican administrations.

For example, it's been 23 years since Congress last increased the gasoline tax, a levy that isn't indexed to inflation and hasn't kept pace with the nation's needs. Obama never advocated such a hike, despite pleas from his first transportation secretary.

"It's a political problem regardless of who's" in power, Thomson said. "There's a fundamental unwillingness to make politically difficult choices."

Ed Mortimer, executive director of transportation infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said his group will make a case to the Trump administration that some kind of sustainable funding fix should be part of whatever plan the new president offers.

"We're very optimistic that we're going to find a way to come up with some long-term, sustainable funding," Mortimer said. "We got a great shout-out last night."

John Risch, national legislative director for the SMART-Transportation Division union, expressed cautious optimism about the incoming Trump administration's posture on infrastructure spending, noting remarks he made earlier this year praising high-speed rail.

But Risch added that rail labor will be watching closely for any revenue-raisers that would deviate from the "user pays" philosophy, a move he said would put freight railroads — which typically cover their own track and equipment upgrades — at a competitive disadvantage to trucks.

"I don't think the sky is going to fall, but it might tilt a little," Risch said.

Natural allies on any infrastructure bill would include House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who won reelection Tuesday, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who will give up the helm of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the next Congress. Both lawmakers have successfully built broad bipartisan support for infrastructure measures in recent years, with both chambers overwhelmingly passing a water resources measure in September and a highway bill last year.

Even some of the party's most hardline fiscal conservatives backed those measures, including Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who has thrown his hat in the ring to take leadership of the House Freedom Caucus that he co-founded. Both Inhofe and Meadows, an active member of Shuster's panel, have argued that the federal government has a proper role in promoting infrastructure.

As for the Hill Democrats, any existing goodwill between them and the incoming administration on infrastructure could be bolstered — or snuffed out — by whom Trump appoints to run DOT and its agencies.

Heather Caygle and Annie Snider contributed to this report.

Back

New details emerge on Trump transition organization Back

By Tony Romm | 11/09/2016 04:21 PM EDT

New details are emerging about the defense, national security and domestic policy teams set up by President-elect Donald Trump, as the GOP victor turns his sight on staffing and managing the government's many sprawling federal agencies.

An organizational chart obtained Wednesday by POLITICO — shared by multiple sources on K Street — shows Trump roughly has set up six prongs for "agency action" under the leadership of Ron Nicol, a senior adviser for the Boston Consulting Group. (A reproduction of the chart is available here.)

Some of the names on the list are familiar to Trump watchers: former Rep. Mike Rogers, for example, is leading up national security; David Malpass is heading up the team focused on economic issues, along with Bill Walton. Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state, is charge of domestic issues, and Keith Kellogg, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, is leading defense.

More specifically, though, the Trump transition team has assigned aides to specific agencies. James Carafano, the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, appears focused on the State Department. Steve Hart, chairman of the law firm Williams & Jensen, is listed as studying the Labor Department. Shirley Ybarra, a former senior transportation policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, appears tasked with the Department of Transportation.

Jeffrey Eisenach, a top analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, is following the FCC, as sources previously told POLITICO. And Myron Ebell, the director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy at CEI, is eyeing EPA.

Back

Transit wins big at the ballot box Back

By Tanya Snyder | 11/09/2016 12:57 PM EDT

The biggest Election Day ever for local transportation initiatives has yielded a windfall for projects nationwide at a time when federal transportation dollars are stagnant.

About $250 billion was on the line in 250 state and local initiatives Tuesday — more than 100 times the Election Day total in 2012 — and the vast majority were approved. Previously this year, 76 of 82 transportation-related measures that came up for a vote were approved at the state and local level.

The lion's share of that tab — about $174 billion — goes to two West Coast measures that primarily involve transit investments, making transit Tuesday's big winner.

"We expected a historic year for transit measures going into Election Day," said Jason Jordan, executive director of the Center for Transportation Excellence, which tracks transit-related ballot measures, "and we have certain gotten those results."

It's a truism that people generally are more willing to tax themselves if they see a tangible benefit in their backyards, and the success of these measures is no different.

But Robert Puentes, president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, warned that many of the proposals will still depend on some federal support. But it's an open question whether some of them — primarily transit measures — can depend on adequate federal investment in a Washington where Republicans will control every lever of power.

"It isn't that ballot measures are a repudiation of the federal level — it's about partnerships," Puentes said. "But the GOP platform talks about wanting to zero out federal support for transit."

Los Angeles County brought home the biggest prize: "Measure M," a $120 billion project to primarily fund new rail lines and extensions, a new station at Los Angeles International Airport, a rail tunnel, new bus rapid transit lines and a downtown street car, along with other highway improvements.

Opponents had labeled the massive package a "forever tax," but residents agreed to the measure handily anyway, voting to raise sales taxes by a half cent and indefinitely extend another half-cent sales tax.

"It's a matter of mathematics," said Art Guzzetti, vice president for policy at the American Public Transportation Association. "With capacity constraints on other alternatives, they have to do it."

"You figure, a majority of non-users are voting for this because they see this as a vision for their community," Guzzetti said. "The expression often used — 'Some of us ride it, all of us need it' — applies."

In any other year, the victory for Seattle's $54 billion "ST3" transit package would have been the headline-grabber. Though it fell short in one county, the aggregate vote across all three counties was 55-45, assuring its passage.

Voters approved a mix of property tax, sales tax and motor vehicles excise tax increases to fund public transportation. The city will get 62 miles of new rail and 37 new stations, along with commuter rail and bus rapid transit improvements.

Beyond big-spending transit projects, New Jersey and Illinois voters decided to put gas tax revenues in a "lockbox" for transportation, becoming the fourth and fifth states to explicitly tell lawmakers to forget trying to use transportation funds for other purposes.

Bucking a recent trend of state-level gas tax increases, 15 of Nevada's 17 counties rejected an attempt to index the gas tax to inflation. Washoe County is already doing it and Clark County, which includes the city of Las Vegas, voted yes to a plan that could raise the tax rate to 98 cents by 2026.

Another loss was the initiative Puentes called "arguably the most important transportation measure" of the year — a proposal to fund a regional public transportation system in Detroit.

It was the city's 27th failed attempt to build a regional transit system, though it failed narrowly.

Though Detroit has a relatively new regional transit authority, it is still the largest major metropolitan area without a connected regional transit network — meaning its four distinct systems stop at jurisdictional borders without coherent connections and the typical worker can access only 3 percent of the area's jobs within an hour's transit commute.

Atlanta, which has a troubled history around transportation planning, was another story, however. Four years after defeating an ambitious transportation funding initiative, Atlanta voters approved two sales tax measures for a package of road improvements and public transportation service extensions.

"They refocused on a more localized approach," said Jordan of CFTE. With the referendum four years ago, the state had mandated a region-wide vote, but this year Atlanta petitioned for authority to put the transportation package to a vote within the city's borders — and was rewarded with landslide victories.

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Ayotte concedes to Hassan Back

By Tanya Snyder | 11/09/2016 06:12 PM EDT

Sen. Kelly Ayotte has conceded the New Hampshire Senate race to Gov. Maggie Hassan after a long night of uncertainty and a bruising, months-long campaign. Hassan had declared victory this morning, and New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner confirmed this afternoon that Hassan had won, but Ayotte did not concede — and The Associated Press did not call the race — until later in the afternoon.

In the end, just 1,023 votes separated the two, according to Gardner.

Ayotte served as the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Aviation in the 114th Congress. In that post, she shepherded through the FAA reauthorization that passed this summer. Insiders say the contest to replace her at the top of the subcommittee is "wide open," with no obvious successors lining up, though Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) has been mentioned as one possibility.

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POLITICO New York: Gateway tunnel builder expresses hope for Trump administration Back

By Dana Rubinstein | 11/09/2016 06:39 PM EDT

The day after Donald Trump was elected president, the Democrat running the most important transportation project in the New York metropolitan region, if not the country, struck an optimistic tone when asked what Trump's presidency might portend for the project's fate.

"The Gateway Program partners are pleased that President-elect Trump has identified infrastructure investment as one of his top policy priorities," said John Porcari, interim executive director of the Gateway Development Corporation, the federal and state group spearheading the more than $20 billion project that is supposed to, among other things, string a new rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York City.

Porcari, President Barack Obama's former deputy transportation secretary, said in a statement that he and his colleagues "look forward to working with [Trump] and his administration to help build the world-class transportation network America needs for the future."

The existing tunnel connecting New York's Penn Station to New Jersey is more than a century old and was falling apart even before Hurricane Sandy inundated it with brackish water.

State and federal officials are scrambling to build a new tunnel before the old one no longer works, hobbling the region and perhaps prompting a recession.

Back in the heady days of October, when many believed Chuck Schumer was poised to run the U.S. Senate in partnership with a Democratic president, the senior senator from New York set an ultimatum: He would not approve a transportation secretary who didn't support building the new rail tunnel — a project identified by the Obama administration as one of this country's most vital.

"As long as I have a position in the Senate, the next secretary of Transportation won't get confirmed unless they're as enthusiastic about this project as you," he told outgoing transportation secretary Anthony Foxx at a press conference in New York's Penn Station.

As it turns out, Schumer will not be the Senate majority leader, Hillary Clinton will not be president, and as far as anyone knows, Trump has yet to elucidate a position on building the tunnel.

Yet, infrastructure is one of the few spheres where Trump has — not entirely vaguely — promised to do big things. He's said he wants to catalyze $1 trillion in infrastructure investment in the next decade and has promised, within his first 100 days, introduce a bill enabling that spending.

On Wednesday, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said she thinks it might be possible to craft an infrastructure deal with Trump.

Asked if Trump had any thoughts on Gateway in particular, a spokeswoman didn't respond.

But there is a perhaps-naively optimistic political argument to be made that Trump's administration might not be all that bad for Gateway. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, an early Trump backer who appears poised to join his administration, has been supportive of Gateway — a stance seemingly designed to repair the political damage he suffered when he unilaterally killed Gateway's predecessor project, known as ARC.

Richard Bagger, a Christie ally, is a commissioner on the board of the Port Authority, which is playing a major role in the project.

"Efforts to advance urgently needed repairs to the Superstorm Sandy-damaged Hudson River Tunnel and replace the century-old Portal Bridge have accelerated in recent months and must continue apace," Porcari said. "Addressing these and other single points of failure in a corridor that contributes 20 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product is of utmost importance to America's economy."

This article first appeared on POLITICO New York on Nov. 9, 2016.

After the Trumpquake, an infrastructure 'healing?'

By Kathryn A. Wolfe and Lauren Gardner

11/10/2016 05:00 AM EDT

Donald Trump's victory is inspiring optimism among supporters of transportation spending, heartened by his call for a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure push — and newly hopeful that he can get the Republican Congress to commit to a major building binge like Washington hasn't seen in decades.

Infrastructure supporters from both sides of the aisle said they'll push for action within the first few months of the Trump administration, but they would have to win over the fiscally conservative Republicans who trashed President Barack Obama's $832 billion stimulus and have resisted his calls for tens of billions of dollars in extra spending on roads, railroads, airports and bridges.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats on Wednesday that the party wants to work with Trump "to pass a bill very fast," according to a source on a conference call. The group Building America's Future — co-founded by former Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, former Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — pledged to work with Trump and Congress "to tackle this unifying issue in the first 100 days."

Pete Ruane, CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, invoked Trump's post-election comments about "healing" after a bruising campaign, saying that "the bipartisan aspect of this is compelling."

Transportation may be one of the few policy initiatives that Trump could pursue with little antagonism between the parties, especially given his history as a developer in major cities that depend on efficient roads and transit systems. And one GOP industry lobbyist said Trump's vocal buy-in can certainly help.

"I think that the X factor, the missing ingredient, has been in presidential leadership," one GOP industry lobbyist said. "It's been a real champion at the White House who really puts his or her shoulder into it."

"He gets all of that instinctively," another transportation lobbyist said. "That's all very positive."

Trump has offered few details about his "revenue-neutral" infrastructure proposal, however, and the few specifics he's floated have suggested to transportation experts that his financing methods could involve little if any new federal money. He also hasn't suggested any way to fix the long-running shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund, the main federal pot of money to help states and cities pay for road and transit programs.

Skipping any such nuances, Trump heartened transportation boosters by giving infrastructure a prominent place in his victory speech early Wednesday — using the same kind of job-creation language that Obama has used in his pleas to Congress.

"We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals," Trump said. "We're going to rebuild our infrastructure — which will become, by the way, second to none — and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it."

Lamenting the "crumbling" state of the nation's roads, rails, airports and waterways has been a bipartisan pastime for years. Both Trump and Vice President Joe Biden have lamented the "Third World" condition of New York's LaGuardia Airport, where the president-elect often lands his private jet, and Hillary Clinton offered her own five-year, $275 billion infrastructure proposal during this year's campaign.

But Congress has been stuck for years on the question of how to pay for such projects, with suggestions such as bonds, enhanced revenues from tax reform, some hoped-for peace dividend or a hike in the federal gasoline tax coming and going with no action.

Trump will most likely have great sway with the GOP-held Congress, however, especially after his surge in the polls helped Republicans retain control of the Senate. Having the same party in charge of the Congress and the White House certainly opens "the opportunity to solve a critical problem in a way that has lasting benefits and impact," said Katie Thomson, a former general counsel at the Department of Transportation who now works at the firm Morrison Foerster.

As Pelosi's remarks show, Democrats may also be eager to sign onto a bill that promises to boost domestic spending. "There is a potential irony here in that his more natural allies on specific items may actually be Democrats," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said.

Still, it's unclear how much Trump's proposal would actually boost federal dollars.

His pledge for the $1 trillion in investment, according a proposal crafted by economist Peter Navarro and billionaire financier Wilbur Ross, talks about a "bold, visionary plan. ... in the proud tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower." But it would rely heavily on private funding that's driven by a tax credit — whose cost they say would be offset by tax revenues reaped from the resulting jump in business activity. That tax scheme would apply only to money-making infrastructure projects like toll roads and airports.

In Trump's 100-day "action plan," he says his proposal "leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years."

To experts in transportation policy, that language suggests relatively little — in fact, possibly no — investment on the federal level, relying instead on tax breaks to entice the private sector into opening up its wallet.

"Clearly the devil is in the details, but I think that whatever Trump comes up with, you're probably going to see a fair amount of involvement from the private sector," the GOP lobbyist said.

Trump initially floated a much different version last summer, telling the Fox Business Network the government would borrow as much as $550 billion and "make a phenomenal deal with the low interest rates." Pressed on the cost, he added: "We have bridges that are falling down. I don't know if you've seen the warning charts, but we have many, many bridges that are in danger of falling."

"Donald Trump Proposes $550 Billion in New Government Debt," the resulting Wall Street Journal headline read, suggesting the difficulties such a plan could face in a Republican Congress that has spent eight years lambasting Obama over deficit spending.

But his new talk about financing and "leveraging" doesn't offer any fix for the structural deficits facing the Highway Trust Fund. And for many transportation boosters, a plan that doesn't do that is a halfway solution.

"Financing is a nice piece of the puzzle," said Bud Wright, executive director of the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials. But he added: "We certainly believe that we need additional federal investment, but really finding funding to do that — using some traditional or creative sources to generate new revenues is important."

The only way to fix the Highway Trust Fund long-term, experts said, is to generate reliable, recurring new revenues. Thomson pointed out that it's something that's been out of reach for some time — through both Democratic and Republican administrations.

For example, it's been 23 years since Congress last increased the gasoline tax, a levy that isn't indexed to inflation and hasn't kept pace with the nation's needs. Obama never advocated such a hike, despite pleas from his first transportation secretary.

"It's a political problem regardless of who's" in power, Thomson said. "There's a fundamental unwillingness to make politically difficult choices."

Ed Mortimer, executive director of transportation infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said his group will make a case to the Trump administration that some kind of sustainable funding fix should be part of whatever plan the new president offers.

"We're very optimistic that we're going to find a way to come up with some long-term, sustainable funding," Mortimer said. "We got a great shout-out last night."

John Risch, national legislative director for the SMART-Transportation Division union, expressed cautious optimism about the incoming Trump administration's posture on infrastructure spending, noting remarks he made earlier this year praising high-speed rail.

But Risch added that rail labor will be watching closely for any revenue-raisers that would deviate from the "user pays" philosophy, a move he said would put freight railroads — which typically cover their own track and equipment upgrades — at a competitive disadvantage to trucks.

"I don't think the sky is going to fall, but it might tilt a little," Risch said.

Natural allies on any infrastructure bill would include House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who won reelection Tuesday, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who will give up the helm of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the next Congress. Both lawmakers have successfully built broad bipartisan support for infrastructure measures in recent years, with both chambers overwhelmingly passing a water resources measure in September and a highway bill last year.

Even some of the party's most hardline fiscal conservatives backed those measures, including Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who has thrown his hat in the ring to take leadership of the House Freedom Caucus that he co-founded. Both Inhofe and Meadows, an active member of Shuster's panel, have argued that the federal government has a proper role in promoting infrastructure.

As for the Hill Democrats, any existing goodwill between them and the incoming administration on infrastructure could be bolstered — or snuffed out — by whom Trump appoints to run DOT and its agencies.

Heather Caygle and Annie Snider contributed to this report.