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Infrastructure in the News 11.17.16

NATIONAL NEWS

 

Vox: Donald Trump's infrastructure plan wouldn't actually fix America's infrastructure problems

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/16/13628382/donald-trump-infrastructure-plan

Donald Trump loves the idea of infrastructure. He brings it up all the time. He wants to make an infrastructure bill a priority in his first 100 days as president. And Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have said they’d love to work with him on this.

 

Ford Authority: Ford Gets To Work Trying To Build The ‘City Of Tomorrow’

http://fordauthority.com/2016/11/ford-gets-to-work-trying-to-build-the-city-of-tomorrow/#ixzz4QHCPOPY6

Ahead of the 2016 Los Angeles International Auto Show, the city played host to the first-ever “AutoMobility LA” trade show, where automakers and other players in the so-called “mobility industry” congregated to discuss the business of helping people move about.

 

Philadelphia Inquirer: Ex-NJDOT official on Trump's cabinet list

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/inq-phillydeals/Wayne-man-on-list-for-US-DoT-Secretary.html

With President-elect Trump and his Republican friends in Congress, "America's ship has come in" — or maybe its truck has tapped the loading dock, says Frank Rapoport, the Main Line-based Peckar & Abramson attorney who serves as chief strategy adviser for the Association for the Improvement of American Infrastructure.

 

Reason: Trump's Infrastructure Illusions

http://reason.com/archives/2016/11/17/trumps-infrastructure-illusions

"We've got shovel-ready projects all across the country. And governors and mayors are pleading to fund it. The minute we can get those investments to the state level, jobs are going to be created." — President-elect Barack Obama, December 2008

The Hill: Trump exploring infrastructure bank earns Dem praise

http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/306473-trump-exploring-infrastructure-bank-earns-dem-praise

President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly exploring whether to establish a national infrastructure bank, an idea long favored by Democrats that has gone nowhere under the GOP-led Congress.

 

Investor’s Business Daily: Shipping Stocks Ride Tidal Wave On Trump's Infrastructure Plans

http://www.investors.com/news/shipping-stocks-get-a-lifeline-from-trumps-infrastructure-plans/

Shares of shipping companies have barreled higher since last Tuesday's election, joining an array of firms that could see a windfall from President-elect Donald Trump's vow to improve the nation's infrastructure.

STATE NEWS

 

Reuters: Engineer in New Jersey Train Wreck Later Diagnosed With Sleep Disorder

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/11/16/us/16reuters-new-jersey-traincrash.html

A lawyer for the engineer of a New Jersey commuter train that crashed in Hoboken in late September, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others, said his client has since been diagnosed with severe sleep apnea, which can cause drowsiness.

 

Washington Post: Metro’s SafeTrack could cost twice as much as expected and likely won’t conclude until June

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/metros-safetrack-could-cost-twice-as-much-as-expected-and-likely-wont-conclude-until-june/2016/11/16/a032a57e-ac33-11e6-8b45-f8e493f06fcd_story.html

Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance program will cost significantly more than anticipated and take at least three months longer to complete, according to a progress report released Wednesday.

 

Washington Post: New shuttle service offers oasis in transportation ‘deserts’ in the District

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/new-shuttle-service-offers-oasis-in-transportation-deserts-in-the-district/2016/11/16/2f22da44-a78c-11e6-8fc0-7be8f848c492_story.html

Many people take for granted the ease with which they can hail Uber or Lyft drivers to get them to their destinations, but for many District residents, the sharing economy is a luxury beyond their economic and geographic reach.

 

Associated Press: Train collision in Florida injures 2, mangles rail cars

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/train-collision-in-florida-injures-2-mangles-train-cars/2016/11/16/2f8f8216-ac0f-11e6-8f19-21a1c65d2043_story.html

Two trains loaded with coal and phosphate rock collided in central Florida early Wednesday, derailing and sending at least 20 train cars tumbling over, authorities said. Both crew members on one of the trains received minor injuries; the others escaped unharmed.

 

The Observer: Prieto Says Transportation Trust Fund Deal Will Be Important Part of His Legacy

http://observer.com/2016/11/prieto-says-transportation-trust-fund-deal-will-be-important-part-of-his-legacy/

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto was honored at a cocktail reception at the 2016 League of Municipalities Conference. Political insiders from throughout New Jersey crowded a tucked-away ballroom at Harrah’s, posed for photos with Prieto and mingled with their fellow conference attendees.

 

Columbus Journal: It's time to fix Wisconsin's roads, transportation budget

http://www.wiscnews.com/columbusjournal/opinion/article_3b6e0da8-60c7-564a-ab72-f926f6f29563.html

“Just Fix It” was echoed from every corner of the state on Sept. 29 when thousands of local government leaders and concerned citizens brought attention to an issue that has moved to the forefront on their “to do” list -- namely finding a sustainable solution to our transportation woes.

 

WESA Pittsburgh: City Leaders Wrestle With The Future Of Transportation At Pittsburgh Summit

http://wesa.fm/post/city-leaders-wrestle-future-transportation-pittsburgh-summit#stream/0

Municipal officials from around the country grappled with changes in transportation, such as self-driving cars and rail safety, while meeting in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

 

WBUR: Transportation Sec. Pollack On Turnpike Tolls, Transportation Under President Trump

http://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2016/11/16/pollack-transportation

The state transportation secretary joined us in studio to talk about federal transportation funding under President Trump, electronic tolling on the Mass. Turnpike, public transit and driverless cars.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 11/17/2016 05:48 AM EDT

With help from Tanya Snyder, Jennifer Scholtes, Lauren Gardner and Anthony Adragna

TRUMP 'LOOKING AT' I-BANK: President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is mulling over the idea of pushing to create a national infrastructure bank, one of the members of his executive committee said Wednesday. Steven Mnuchin, a Goldman Sachs alum who's in the running for Treasury secretary, said "regulatory changes" and "looking at the creation of an infrastructure bank to fund infrastructure investments" were a "very big focus," according to pool reports from New York.

A change of heart? Trump's campaign had criticized Hillary Clinton for proposing the same idea. His campaign website said such a bank would be "controlled by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington D.C." Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, senior policy advisers to Trump's campaign, have argued that Clinton's proposal "is as potentially rife with economic problems as it is with the prospect of crony capitalism." President Barack Obama tried to set up an infrastructure bank several times through his budget proposals, but lawmakers never acted on it.

Lots on the table: Trump has put forward a 10-year, $1 trillion proposal that involves offering tax credits to investors and getting the money back though tax revenues from wages and contractor profits. Democrats in Congress so far seem excited to work with the incoming president on infrastructure investment, while conservative groups have already voiced concerns that some of his ideas sound a little too similar to Obama's stimulus. Our Lauren Gardner has more about the state of play for Pros.

HAPPY 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.

"While riding in my Cadillac. What to my surprise. A little Nash Rambler was following me. About one third my size. The guy must have wanted to pass me up. As he kept on tooting his horn. I'll show him that a Cadillac is not a car to scorn." (h/t Brianna's uncle, Robert Scott)

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THUNE DOESN'T EXPECT A STAND-ALONE BILL: Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune said Wednesday that lawmakers would likely pair an infrastructure plan with a tax overhaul. "My guess is if that gets done, it probably hitches a ride on tax reform," the South Dakota Republican said. "I don't know that just an infrastructure bill on its own, a stand alone, would probably go anywhere. But I think it'd have to be coupled with something that we view to be really advantageous in terms of growing and stimulating the economy."

What are his thoughts on an i-bank? Again, Thune pointed to tax reform. "I think that there's an interest in addressing the infrastructure challenges that we have in the country here," he said. "And I think in the context of tax reform it's possible that something along those lines could get done."

About that tax reform: Thune mentioned that "there's a lot of interest in using repatriated funds and figuring out a way to allocate part of that to infrastructure." And, indeed, Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore told Republican lawmakers earlier this week that the government could use a one-time 10 percent tax on repatriated overseas revenues to offset infrastructure spending.

DEFAZIO ON THE I-BANK IDEA: MEH: Rep. Peter DeFazio, the ranking member of the House Transportation Committee, said Wednesday that an infrastructure bank would just be "a nice minor tool in the toolbox" for upgrading the nation's infrastructure. The Oregon Democrat said a bank "and any other form of P3 or their 82 percent tax credits, all those things require revenue streams, which immediately means it'll do nothing for transit because there's no transit system in the world that makes money." He said such proposals will "help with individual sorts of big projects, but it's not any kind of cure-all and it certainly isn't going to get the big bang that Trump has talked about in infrastructure." Instead, DeFazio would want to index the gas tax or put in effect a wholesale barrel tax.

DELANEY IS READY TO GO: Rep. John Delaney said the Trump transition team's interest in an infrastructure bank is "encouraging." The Maryland Democrat has introduced legislation to set up an i-bank and the Obama administration has included his ideas in budget proposals. "Conservatives, moderates and progressives understand that by combining international tax reform and infrastructure we can create good jobs, encourage more domestic investment and improve our business climate for decades to come," Delaney said in a statement Wednesday. One of his bills would entail selling bonds to the private sector to start up a bank. Companies that buy the bonds would be allowed to repatriate their overseas income one time without any taxes. Another bill would create a bank and shore up the Highway Trust Fund with a one-time 8.75 percent tax on overseas income.

CARPER TO HEAD UP EPW DEMS: Sen. Tom Carper announced Wednesday that he will serve as the next ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. As Pro Energy's Darius Dixon reports , Carper said he has a "positive and productive" relationship with future Chairman John Barrasso. He also said spending on transportation would be at the top of his agenda. "The investments are way, way, way too modest given what Donald Trump talked about and what Secretary [Hillary] Clinton talked about. So that's certainly a big one," Carper said.

McCASKILL TO TAKE SENATE HOMELAND HELM: Missouri's senior senator is set to accede to the ranking member post on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel, as Carper relinquishes that position to take the top spot on EPW. With a uniquely dual mission, HSGAC leaders usually show an affinity to focus on one over the other. And for Sen. Claire McCaskill, that has been the governmental affairs side. So those who care about transportation security shouldn't expect the new ranking member to give that issue as much focus as her counterpart on the single-mission House Homeland Security Committee.

Legislative résumé: So far this Congress, as the top Democrat on the panel's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, McCaskill has introduced five bills under the committee's jurisdiction: a U.S. Postal Service measure, two whistleblower protection bills, contract transparency legislation and a measure that would shift oversight of federal security clearance process.

"I'm thrilled to have a bigger platform and stronger tools to fight for accountability and boost the safety and security of our communities," McCaskill, who was formerly a prosecutor and state auditor, said in announcing her new committee post.

** A message from the National Association of Manufacturers: It's time for America to come together. The National Association of Manufacturers believes moving forward means #BeTheSolution. Investment in infrastructure, including ways to advance energy infrastructure, is a promising place to start. Learn more about the NAM's infrastructure initiative, "Building to Win," and how, together, we can build economic growth. http://www.nam.org/buildingtowin **

NEFFENGER STICKING AROUND? Because Trump has vowed to "drain the swamp," most political insiders assume nearly every major Obama administration nominee will either flee or get ousted by the new regime. But some are suggesting TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger could be a rare holdover into the Trump administration. Rep. John Katko, at least, said this week that he would support the TSA chief sticking around. "I haven't talked to him yet. But I'm hopeful," Katko, who heads the Homeland Security subcommittee that oversees TSA, told POLITICO on Wednesday. Meanwhile, some of Katko's fellow lawmakers suspect he might be interested in the administrator title if Neffenger does make an exit.

NJ TRANSIT ENGINEER DIAGNOSED WITH SLEEP APNEA: The engineer of the train that crashed into New Jersey Transit's Hoboken terminal in late September was diagnosed with sleep apnea after the incident, his attorney told The Associated Press reports . Citing an unnamed official, the AP reports that investigators are looking into whether the engineer's condition was the cause of the crash that left a woman dead and more than 100 other people injured. NJ Transit screens their engineers for sleep apnea. A second unnamed official told the AP it is "not clear why he wasn't screened or if he was, how he passed."

Federal rule in the works: As our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros, the FRA doesn't require safety-critical rail works to pass comprehensive medical exams. FRA and FMCSA are considering a possible rule on mandating some rail and truck workers undergo screening and treatment.

"FRA has long believed it is important for railroads to address worker fatigue more aggressively, and to implement a program that puts cameras in locomotives," FRA spokesman Matthew Lehner told MT. "While FRA has regulations in the works to address both of these challenges, railroads should not, and do not, need to wait to take action. In the coming days, FRA will issue a safety advisory to once again push railroads to address worker fatigue, and to accelerate their installation of inward- and outward-facing cameras."

McCONNELL HOPEFUL ON WRDA: Republicans don't want to linger in Washington any longer than necessary for the lame duck, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he and his colleagues "hope that we can finish WRDA" before skipping town. Lawmakers will, of course, have to also figure out how to fund the government beyond Dec. 9.

In need of a jolt: McConnell's comment may give a boost to negotiators who indicated work is progressing slowly on the Water Resources Development Act. As Pro Energy's Nick Juliano reports, Sen. Jim Inhofe fears lawmakers are moving too slowly to get a deal done on the package, while Sen. Barbara Boxer told Morning Energy the odds of reaching agreement were only "50-50."

Is the House all in? The key question is how invested the House is. The Senate bill costs twice as much as the House's version, with those extra dollars largely going to major ecosystem restoration efforts and EPA water programs that fall under the jurisdiction of a separate committee in the House. The programs are top priorities for Boxer, the top Democrat on EPW, but she's retiring at the end of this session, and House Republicans may see little harm in pushing negotiations until after she's gone.

Then there's Flint: WRDA or no WRDA, the key question for Democrats remains: How do they secure federal money for the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich.? Newly selected Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told Nick the funds could become part of a must-pass spending bill. But that approach is complicated. While the WRDA package was offset by closing out a Department of Energy loan program, the same pay-for wouldn't work in an identical way in an appropriations measure. And Michigan's senators won't settle for less money if the spending bill turns out to be the preferred approach.

AAR: STB HAS GOT TO COOL IT NOW: Today at a rail conference in New York, Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger plans to urge the Surface Transportation Board to halt major rulemakings (read: ones that affect freights the most) until the Trump administration can fill out the board's membership. In an exclusive interview with our Lauren Gardner, Hamberger noted that President Barack Obama never nominated members to take the two additional seats allotted to STB by Congress in a reauthorization bill last year. And the only Republican of the board's three current members must vacate her post by the end of the year — unless she's renominated and confirmed, which is unlikely — leaving the board with only two representatives to mediate concerns between railroads and shippers until the next administration steps in.

You're gonna lose control: Hamberger's focus is trained on STB's proposed reciprocal switching rule — against which AAR has waged an aggressive PR campaign to match shippers' well-publicized enthusiasm — and a handful of other actions. It's worth mentioning that the switching proposal was never expected to get through the board before Trump assumed office because STB has vowed to meet with affected industries in January on the issue. But Hamberger also noted that it won't be too helpful to meet with a two-member board that will soon more than double in size.

By the way: Hamberger also weighed in on the prospect of repatriated tax revenues offsetting an infrastructure package next Congress, and it wasn't his favorite idea. "We think that one of the things that makes the trust fund effective, and at least somewhat fair, is that it is a 'user pay' system, so we'd like to see this be a transition — a one-time deal — to a real user pay system, like a weight-distance tax," he said.

NO RUSH TO REGULATE: Two key safety officials insisted at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday that now is not the time to regulate driverless cars. "If [NHTSA] were to put out regulations right now, they probably wouldn't be the right ones," former NTSB Chair Debbie Hersman said. As our Tanya Snyder reports for Pros, Hersman, who's now the head of the National Safety Council, fully agreed with NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, who touted the success the agency has had working with the auto industry on voluntary safety improvements, which "beat regulation by three or four years."

SHIFTING GEARS: Matt Sturges was named staff director of the House Transportation Committee. He's worked on the committee since January 2013 and served as deputy staff director, Aviation Subcommittee staff director and director of member services.

THE AUTOBAHN:

— "Trains collide, derail in Marion County, causing massive fuel leak." WKMG Orlando.

— "Trump team announces tough lobbying ban." POLITICO.

— "Metro's SafeTrack could cost twice as much as expected and likely won't conclude until June." The Washington Post.

— "Uber close to settling drivers' suit with billions at stake." Bloomberg.

— "Airbus: WTO will hit Boeing harder than it hit us." POLITICO Europe.

— "EU unveils new security check system for travelers." The Associated Press.

— "Tesla 'Easter Egg' makes the world's fastest car even faster." Bloomberg.

— "Workers at Reagan National Airport stage 'sleep-in' to protest low wages." The Washington Post.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 22 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 316 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,416 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

4 p.m. — The FRA and NJ Transit hold an open house in New York for members of the public to ask questions about the Hudson Tunnel Project.

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

** A message from the National Association of Manufacturers: Great nations build and invest in great infrastructure. When communities have greater access to economic opportunities and when manufacturers have efficient ways to move goods to market, the quality of life rises, productivity soars and societies thrive. Current U.S. infrastructure, however, is in an alarming state of disrepair and in urgent need of strong investments. Manufacturers want to #BeTheSolution. So as we call for healing and moving our country forward, we are calling for a major investment in renewing our transportation systems and advancing energy infrastructure. Americans are demanding a stronger, more inclusive economy. And that's why infrastructure can be part of the answer. Historical data indicates that previous significant investments in infrastructure have aligned with high levels of growth and more aggressive economic activity. That starts with sending WRDA to the President's desk this year. In 2017,the President-elect and Congress must act boldly. Learn more from the NAM's "Building to Win" infrastructure initiative. http://www.nam.org/buildingtowin **

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/11/trump-looking-at-an-infrastructure-bank-020182

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Bipartisan support for a 'robust' infrastructure bill now — but later? Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/16/2016 07:11 PM EDT

It was supposed to be a big, beautiful infrastructure bill — Trump-style.

President-elect Donald Trump stumped for making major improvements to roads, bridges and airports — and leveraging private-sector funding to take care of most of it, to the tune of $1 trillion over a decade.

But as campaigning gives way to governing, Trump's advisers are — so far, at least — floating some of the same "alternative financing" mechanisms lawmakers have batted around for years, while the Highway Trust Fund remains insolvent as ever.

Of course, much remains to be decided.

And while for the moment kumbayas abound about a "robust" infrastructure plan, when Trump's team solidifies the details, support could fall away from both the right and left flanks. Fiscal conservatives may be nervous about the high-flying price tag, despite Trump's "revenue neutral" pledge — and Democrats may demand new federal dollars, not just leveraged capital.

The Heritage Foundation's Stephen Moore, one of Trump's tax advisers, pitched GOP lawmakers Tuesday on a one-time 10 percent tax on offshore business income to help pay for an infusion of infrastructure spending.

But by Wednesday morning, Steve Mnuchin, a leading contender for Treasury secretary, told reporters the transition team has discussed creating a national infrastructure bank — even though his campaign blasted Hillary Clinton for touting that same idea.

"I think the other thing — very big focus — is regulatory changes, looking at the creation of an infrastructure bank to fund infrastructure investments," Mnuchin said. "So there's a lot of things to do and I'd say the economic priorities are clearly taxes, regulatory, trade and infrastructure."

Trump's campaign website dinged Clinton's infrastructure bank proposal, saying it would be "controlled by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C."

And, President Barack Obama has repeatedly proposed a similar infrastructure bank idea — which has repeatedly been rejected by Congress. But some Republicans appear at least willing to entertain the idea, now that it's coming from a GOP administration.

"I think that there's an interest in addressing the infrastructure challenges that we have in the country here. And I think in the context of tax reform it's possible that something along those lines could get done," Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said Wednesday when asked specifically about an infrastructure bank.

Even Capitol Hill's most fiscally conservative members recognize the need for spending on transportation, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the Transportation Committee and the House Freedom Caucus, told POLITICO Monday night.

"I think we all believe that there needs to be additional infrastructure investments for bridges and roads," he said. "The mix of that — how much goes to mass transit, how much of it goes to bridges, roads, aviation, etc. — is a question mark on where we need to be."

But support among Republicans breaks down quickly after that, especially when it comes to using repatriated money.

House Ways and Means Republicans such as Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas and Dave Reichert of Washington have indicated they're lukewarm at best to using repatriation revenues to pay for infrastructure rather than lower tax rates. While they hold the keys to an all-important tax title, it's unclear whether and to what extent they may try to buck Trump on the issue if he comes to embrace that windfall as an offset.

So the perennial question remains — how do Republicans plan to cover those costs? The difference this time, lawmakers and lobbyists say, is that they are hopeful for leadership from the executive branch after years of crickets from the Obama administration, which has taken a mostly hands-off approach to the long-term funding debate, preferring to mostly stay on the sidelines until Congress comes to a decision that so far has not been forthcoming.

"We've had zero leadership coming from the current administration. No suggestions, no ideas - they've just been kind of like pretending it's not an issue," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who leads the Appropriations Subcommittee for DOT spending. "We're going to have to deal with that."

In truth, Obama has proposed some funding ideas, but they were either dismissed as unrealistic or a budgetary gimmick, as in the case of using Overseas Contingency Operations money from a wartime troop drawdown.

And, he also proposed a $10.25-per-barrel tax on oil in his last budget to pay for mass transportation projects, but the plan — which also relied on an infusion of cash from a tax code overhaul to help pay for it — was ridiculed by Republicans. It also came two months after lawmakers passed a five-year surface transportation bill, long past the time it was relevant.

"Look, we don't have the details," House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) told POLITICO Monday. "We're working very closely with his transition team and hopefully with the new department head to figure out how we're going to pay for it. It's got to be fiscally responsible."

Some Democrats have indicated they're optimistic — though wary — about working with Republicans on an infrastructure deal, especially since Congress under their leadership "doesn't want to spend a $1.50 on anything," said New York Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano, an appropriator.

"The country needs it," he said of an infrastructure package. "But tell us how it's going to be run, and tell us how it's going to get paid — not necessarily how it's going to get paid, but tell us how many people you've convinced of your own party to vote for it."

Rep. Pete DeFazio of Oregon, the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee, was even more pointed, saying that an infrastructure bank "and any other form of P3 or their 82 percent tax credits, all those things require revenue streams, which immediately means it'll do nothing for transit because there's no transit system in the world that makes money."

And, he said, it won't do much for the 143,000 bridges that need work "unless you're going to toll 143,000 bridges," or for the Interstate system "unless you're going to start massive tolling of already constructed infrastructure to reconstruct it."

"So it'll help with individual sorts of big projects, but it's not any kind of cure-all and it certainly isn't going to get the big bang that Trump has talked about in infrastructure," he said.

DeFazio said he would propose indexing the gas tax, or implementing a wholesale barrel tax.

"If they want to put people to work quickly and they want a big bang in infrastructure, they need real money," he said.

Bernie Becker, Brianna Gurciullo, Jennifer Scholtes and Tanya Snyder contributed to this story.

Back

Thune: Infrastructure plan likely needs pairing with tax overhaul Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 11/16/2016 03:23 PM EDT

The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said today that any infrastructure package would likely need to be attached to a tax overhaul for it to get through Congress.

"My guess is if that gets done, it probably hitches a ride on tax reform," Sen. John Thune said. "I don't know that just an infrastructure bill on its own, a stand alone, would probably go anywhere. But I think it'd have to be coupled with something that we view to be really advantageous in terms of growing and stimulating the economy."

When asked about the Donald Trump transition team's openness to the idea of creating an infrastructure bank, Thune noted again that such a thing would need to be linked to a tax package.

"I think that there's an interest in addressing the infrastructure challenges that we have in the country here. And I think in the context of tax reform it's possible that something along those lines could get done," he said.

He said he hopes the overhaul would be "broad based" and "comprehensive," affecting both individual and business tax rates.

"But for sure, on the business side, there's a lot of interest in using repatriated funds and figuring out a way to allocate part of that to infrastructure," Thune said.

Back

DeFazio: I-bank would be 'a nice minor tool in the tool box' Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 11/16/2016 06:50 PM EDT

Rep. Peter DeFazio today blasted an apparent Donald Trump-endorsed plan to create an infrastructure bank as a "minor tool" to improve infrastructure.

Earlier today, Treasury secretary contender Steven Mnuchin, a member of the transition's executive committee, said the president-elect's team was "looking at the creation of an infrastructure bank to fund infrastructure investments."

But DeFazio retorted that "that and any other form of P3 or their 82 percent tax credits, all those things require revenue streams, which immediately means it'll do nothing for transit because there's no transit system in the world that makes money."

And, he said, it won't do much for the 143,000 bridges that need work "unless you're going to toll 143,000 bridges," or for the Interstate system "unless you're going to start massive tolling of already constructed infrastructure to reconstruct it."

"So it'll help with individual sorts of big projects, but it's not any kind of cure-all and it certainly isn't going to get the big bang that Trump has talked about in infrastructure," he said.

DeFazio said he would propose indexing the gas tax, or implementing a wholesale barrel tax.

"If they want to put people to work quickly and they want a big bang in infrastructure, they need real money," he said.

Back

Carper to take top spot on EPW for Democrats Back

By Darius Dixon | 11/16/2016 11:19 AM EDT

Sen. Tom Carper will lead Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee in the next Congress.

Carper made the announcement to reporters following a party organizing caucus meeting this morning, bringing to an end the months of speculation about whether he would relinquish his post as ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Carper called his relationship with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who will become chairman of EPW next year, "positive and productive."

"We have a good relationship, and he and I talked a little bit before I was going through the decision-making process and had a wonderful conversation," Carper said.

Carper said that transportation spending would be a big priority for him. "We have woefully underfunded our transportation infrastructure. The investments are way, way, way too modest given what Donald Trump talked about and what Secretary [Hillary] Clinton talked about. So, that's certainly a big one."

He also plans to continue pressing Republicans on climate issues.

"We have some folks in the other party who are still climate change deniers," he said. "I'm not sure, in his heart, where Donald Trump is but at the end of the day my hope is that we can continue to take positive steps to address climate change."

The new role on EPW leadership will give Carper a bigger voice on the committee's work on EPA, water infrastructure, surface transportation legislation and nominations, including those to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) will remain the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Back

AP: Lethal Hoboken train operator had undiagnosed sleep apnea Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/16/2016 07:16 PM EDT

The engineer of a New Jersey Transit train that smashed into Hoboken Terminal in September was diagnosed with sleep apnea after the fatal crash, The Associated Press reported today, citing unnamed officials.

Investigators are examining whether the operator's undiagnosed condition caused the accident, which killed a woman waiting on the platform, injured others and damaged the platform, the AP wrote.

NJ Transit screens engineers for sleep apnea, which repeatedly awakens people who suffer from it during sleep by stopping them from breathing. It's unclear whether he was never tested, or was but was given an all-clear.

FRA does not require comprehensive medical exams for safety-critical rail workers. The agency has partnered with FMCSA to weigh a potential rulemaking on subjecting certain rail and truck employees to screening and treatment, but its future is uncertain.

Back

Inhofe: House moving too slowly in WRDA talks Back

By Nick Juliano | 11/16/2016 03:04 PM EDT

Sen. Jim Inhofe today said House negotiators are moving too slowly to reach a deal on a massive water infrastructure bill that members of both parties want to enact before the lame-duck session ends.

The Water Resources Development Act also would provide a vehicle to provide assistance to communities like Flint, Mich., whose residents have been dealing with lead-tainted drinking water for more than a year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today said WRDA was one of his top priorities for the remainder of the year, along with energy and health care bills and legislation to fund the government past Dec. 9.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who has been involved in Flint negotiations, said Democrats remain hopeful that Republicans will "stand by their commitments" to get aid enacted this year, but he acknowledged that threatening to hold up a spending bill may be one of their only points of leverage.

"It's a possibility, I mean, it's definitely possible" that Democrats would filibuster a spending bill, Peters said, although he noted that they were not yet threatening to withhold votes.

Inhofe said he had not heard anyone suggest a spending bill may be in danger, but he acknowledged negotiations were not going as well as he hoped.

"The House is not as active as I wish they were in their priority in getting this done. But they're getting closer," Inhofe told reporters today. "We know that we have to have the piece in there on Michigan. They're making headway but not to my satisfaction."

Jennifer Scholtes and Annie Snider contributed

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AAR urges STB to hit pause pending appointments Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/16/2016 12:00 PM EDT

The leader of the freight rail industry's chief lobbying group is calling on the Surface Transportation Board to stop working on certain rules until the independent agency is at full strength.

By January, due to vacancies never filled and one current board member on the cusp of leaving, the board will likely be down three members.

"Complex and controversial items should not be acted upon until the new Congress and new administration can review them," Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger told POLITICO in an interview this morning.

Hamberger will take his plea — which he said targets to a proposal to expand options for shippers to pursue "reciprocal switching" deals with multiple freight carriers — to a rail conference in New York tomorrow. STB Chairman Dan Elliott will be in attendance.

Hamberger said he also wants to see the agency put on ice a proposal to restore regulatory oversight over certain commodities, and on the early stages of a proposed rule on small rate disputes between shippers and railroads.

Congress reauthorized STB in 2015, increasing its membership from three to five people. President Barack Obama never nominated representatives for the two new slots, and Ann D. Begeman — the board's current GOP member — must vacate hers after Dec. 31 unless she is renominated and confirmed.

That means President-elect Donald Trump will likely have three seats to fill on the board — and that, come January, it'll only be staffed at 40 percent.

"That begs the question of whether or not they have the legal authority to do anything — they [won't] have a quorum," Hamberger said.

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Hamberger: Repatriation-funded infrastructure bill should be 'one-time deal' Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/16/2016 12:03 PM EDT

Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger said today he's concerned about the prospect of funding infrastructure legislation through taxes repatriated by U.S. companies with income held abroad.

"We are a little concerned that that would be an awful lot of cash into the Highway Trust Fund that does not adhere to the 'user pay' policy," Hamberger said in an interview with POLITICO this morning.

"We think that one of the things that makes the trust fund effective, and at least somewhat fair, is that it is a 'user pay' system, so we'd like to see this be a transition — a one-time deal — to a real user pay system, like a weight-distance tax," he said.

On the whole, Hamberger said AAR would like to see the current corporate tax structure overhauled next year, given the "high effective tax rate" industry pays.

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Safety officials say the time isn't ripe to regulate automated vehicles Back

By Tanya Snyder | 11/16/2016 04:30 PM EDT

Though some advocates insist NHTSA needs to take a firmer hand in regulating driverless cars, safety officials today said further regulations at this point would be a mistake.

"If they were to put out regulations right now, they probably wouldn't be the right ones," said former NTSB Chair Debbie Hersman today during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. Hersman is now president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

Fully autonomous cars aren't the only answer to safety, Hersman said, citing automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection and lane departure warning as three existing technologies that, together, could save 10,000 lives a year if they came standard in all vehicles.

When asked whether NHTSA had considered mandating those kinds of safety features, Administrator Mark Rosekind noted that the last rule-mandated technologies — electronic stability control, rear view cameras, and advanced airbags — took six to 10 years to go through the regulatory process.

"By the time those rules would come out, they would be irrelevant to the new technology that would have evolved," Rosekind said.

He said that challenging the auto industry to voluntarily improve standard safety features has been a faster and more effective way to get those features in more cars than regulation.

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Shuster names committee staff director Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/16/2016 03:03 PM EDT

House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster named Matt Sturges the panel's staff director today.

Sturges has served on the committee since January 2013. He's done stints as deputy staff director, Aviation Subcommittee staff director and director of member services.

"His leadership and expertise will be instrumental to the Committee's agenda over the next two years as we work to modernize America's infrastructure for the 21st century," Shuster said in a statement.

Sturges was tapped alongside then-committee counsel Jennifer Hall to co-lead committee staff in June. But Hall left in July to join the American Trucking Associations as general counsel and executive vice president of legal affairs.

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Trump team announces tough lobbying ban Back

By Isaac Arnsdorf | 11/16/2016 10:44 PM EDT

President-elect Donald Trump's transition team on Wednesday announced that it will require incoming officials to terminate their lobbying registrations, and agree not to lobby again for five years after leaving the administration.

Anyone joining the transition or the administration will have to sign the following pledge: "By signing below I hereby certify that I am not currently registered and reporting as a federal lobbyist as defined by the Lobbying Disclosure Act as amended or as a compensated lobbyist at the state level in any state. If I was listed as lobbyist in the most recent lobbying disclosure forms or reported to be filed by federal or state law, I hereby notify the president-elect's transition team that I have filed the necessary forms to the appropriate government agency to terminate my [lobbying registration]. I will provide the transition team with written evidence of my federal or state lobbyist termination as soon as possible."

"The key thing for this administration is going to be that people going out of government won't be able to use that service to enrich themselves," Republican National Committee chief strategist Sean Spicer said during a conference call. After the call, he rejected a suggestion that the post-employment ban could hinder the transition team's ability to recruit qualified applicants.

But the sweeping post-employment restrictions could make it difficult for Trump, whose transition team has struggled to get off the ground, to attract experienced professionals in policy circles where lobbying is a common revenue stream.

The policy is in some ways far more rigid than President Barack Obama's groundbreaking lobbyist ban.

The Obama transition team's policy restricted hires who lobbied for one year prior, as did an earlier code of ethics for the Trump transition obtained by POLITICO. Trump's new policy appears to be more lenient on the front end in that it allows new hires to have been registered to lobby on the issues they're advising the transition on right up until they come aboard, provided the incoming transition aides show proof that they terminated their lobbying registration.

Several lobbyists on the transition were caught off guard by the announcement and said they were not aware of the new policy. They will have to terminate their registrations to come into compliance, according to a transition team official. "It's about what you do, not what you did," the official said.

Spicer said the same rule would apply to people joining the administration. Obama's ban applied to the previous year, but his team waived the policy for many new hires.

In addition, officials in the Trump administration will be banned from lobbying for five years after leaving government. That sounds extremely sweeping, but it's unclear how it will be enforced.

Obama forbade his officials from contacting their former agency for two years, although they were free to lobby other parts of the government. Senior officials could not lobby their former colleagues for the duration of the administration. Spicer didn't specify whether Trump's rule will use a similar standard or rely on the more porous definition in the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

The Trump transition announced the changes on a conference call Wednesday night, organized on short notice and plagued by technical difficulties including unmuted phones and incessant dinging as hundreds of callers joined — an unmistakable analogy for a chaotic organization that is struggling to take back control of its own narrative.

Also on Thursday, the transition will also name the people handling the handoff for the departments of Justice, State and Defense and the National Security Council. The names of officials running the transition for economic agencies will come next week, followed by the teams for domestic policy and independent agencies.

In addition, Spicer and fellow spokesman Jason Miller said Trump will meet Thursday with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Oracle CEO Safra Catz.

Also in the line-up: Gen. Jack Keane (who used to be a Clinton adviser), NSA chief Adm. Mike Rogers, former Cincinnati mayor and Family Research Council fellow Ken Blackwell, FedEx CEO Fred Smith and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump met with people he is considering for Cabinet-level positions: Reps. Tom Price and Mike Pompeo, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, and Cerberus Capital Management CEO Steve Feinberg.

The transition will start holding calls every weekday morning to update reporters. Spicer and Miller did not take questions Wednesday but said they would in the future.

Ken Vogel, Josh Gerstein, Nancy Cook and Shane Goldmacher contributed reporting.

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Airbus: WTO will hit Boeing harder than it hit us Back

By Alberto Mucci and Joshua Posaner | 11/16/2016 01:10 PM EDT

An upcoming World Trade Organization ruling on illegal support for the airliner industry will be harder on Boeing than it was on Airbus earlier this year, Airbus' Vice-President Marwan Lahoud told POLITICO.

"[The ruling] is going to be of a bigger magnitude," Lahoud said.

On Sept. 22, a WTO compliance panel ruled that EU countries had illegally subsidized Airbus.

But Lahoud denied wrongdoing and said the issues raised required only a few adjustments to be WTO compatible.

"This was made into a big story by our friends on the other side of the Atlantic. But facts remain. Our system is legal and it is compliant with WTO rules," he said. "Our reimbursable launch aids [a form of government-backed loan] have been judged legal by the WTO. There are a few corrections that we need to make into that."

The WTO is now weighing a claim filed by the EU that Boeing was improperly helped by the U.S. government.

"The tax breaks and subsidies for the 787 [a Boeing airliner] were considered illegal and non-compliant [by the WTO]," he added, referring to a WTO decision in 2011.

"There is no comparison in magnitude or effect," a Boeing spokesman said in response to Lahoud's comments. Airbus should focus its attention on the consequences of their devastating $22 billion loss in [September's WTO case], including launch aid and other subsidies, which the WTO already found remain out of compliance with WTO rules."

This first appeared on POLITICO.EU on Nov. 16, 2016.

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