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Infrastructure in the News 11.18.16



New York Times: Trump-Size Idea for a New President: Build Something Inspiring

Here’s how President-elect Trump could unify a bitterly divided America, provide well-paying jobs to many of the millions of disaffected workers who voted for him, and lift the economy, stock market and tax rolls.


Forbes: What The Future Of Mobility Means For Today's Transportation Industry

It’s a beguiling vision: You wake up and tell your house management system that you need to be in Munich, or Chicago, or Beijing, by two in the afternoon. The house tells your mobility provider, which computes the journey and sends an itinerary to your smart device. At the appointed time, a driverless car rolls up and greets you by name, and you say hello to a couple of people already seated inside.


Washington Post: ‘Who knows if Trump is even aware that he has a Secretary of Transportation?’

With all the buzz taking place in Washington, and all the action underway in Manhattan, one inside-the-Beltway wag gave this reply when asked who might head the U.S. Department of Transportation: “Who knows if Trump is even aware that he has a secretary of transportation?”


Financial Times: The Trump factor: can infrastructure rebuild your investments?

Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised Americans he would spend “double” that promised by his rival, Hillary Clinton, on rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.


San Francisco Chronicle: Trump should embrace an infrastructure bank

When Donald Trump becomes president in January, he will lead a sharply divided country, given his inflammatory rhetoric on immigration, race and trade. But there is one thing that Trump can do to simultaneously boost the economy and perhaps ease tension with critics.


CNN: Trump's trillion-dollar infrastructure plan faces congressional scrutiny

He's a real estate mogul-turned-President-elect, and now, one of Donald Trump's promises to the American people is to rebuild America's infrastructure.


New York Times: At the Los Angeles Auto Show, an Industry Ponders Its Digital Future

For decades, the car business has been about style, performance, image and fuel efficiency. But suddenly, the industry is in a technological and sociological upheaval that may force automobiles — and the companies that make them — to change more in the next five years than they have in the last 50.



Associated Press: For safety, Metro removing 4000-series cars from service

Metro says it is removing several dozen 4000-series cars from service as a result of a safety concern. Metro said Thursday in a statement that when a 4000-series car is in the front of a train there is a risk it could give a train operator improper information about the speed they should be going. Metro says there is no concern when the 4000-series cars don’t lead the train.


The Web Times: Public transportation services being reduced

People who used the NCAT Transit System service in recent weeks may have heard NCAT is experiencing some financial challenges due to the absence of any state and federal transportation payments owed to North Central Area Transit.


My Northwest: Voters approve huge transportation packages, except in Issaquah

Four of five local transportation packages passed during the November election, and the one that didn’t actually won a majority of the vote.


WGN Chicago: Tiny cars may solve big transportation problem

Tiny cars may help solve a very big problem in transportation. “The first mile/last mile challenge”  is an issue that says you can only take a bus or train so far. But then how do you get to your final destination, when it’s not an easy walk away?


WECT6: On-demand transportation service, Lyft, launches in Wilmington

Lyft, an on-demand transportation service, launched in Wilmington on Thursday afternoon, according to a Lyft spokesperson.


Frederick News-Post: Will Trump make Maryland’s transportation great again

While President-elect Donald Trump vowed to build a wall, Maryland lawmakers and officials are hopeful he will build up the state’s roads, tunnels and public transit.


Waunakee Tribune: Time to fix Wisconsin’s roads, transportation budget

“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.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 11/18/2016 05:46 AM EDT

With help from Lauren Gardner, Tanya Snyder, Ben Weyl and Annie Snider

PROPOSED RULE ON AIRBORNE CELLPHONE CALLS COMING: President Barack Obama's outgoing administration expects to release a proposed rule this month on banning cellphone calls while aboard commercial flights. The timeline for the proposed rulemaking was included in a regulatory update on OMB's website, as our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros.

Under a microscope: Lauren notes that both lobbyists and Republican lawmakers are closely watching any moves the administration makes on new regulations before President-elect Donald Trump enters office. While the new Trump DOT could simply rescind a proposed rulemaking, like the pending voice calls one, it would take an act of Congress to reverse a rule that gets finalized.

In other rules: FAA has slated its "drones-over-people" rule for December. And FRA is supposed to issue a final rule (decried by freights but praised by labor) establishing requirements for the minimum sizes of train crews in January. But, as Lauren reports, it's uncertain whether members of Congress would try to overturn the final rule if it comes before Inauguration Day.

HAPPY FRIDAY: Good morning and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Since it's Friday, take a couple minutes to enjoy this heartwarming story about a cat that got stuck on top of a water tower and was safely rescued, with the help of a drone. (h/t InterDrone News). Please send tips, feedback, song lyrics and cat videos to or @brigurciullo.

"Car overheats, jump out of my seat. On the side of the highway, baby. Our road is long, your hold is strong. Please don't ever let go. Oh, no."

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

As a Pro, you have access to Pro's transition-focused newsletter: Transition 2017. This new offering covers the who, what, when and why of the presidential transition, providing the insight you need to navigate the changing landscape in Washington. It will land in your inbox every afternoon through early spring. Sign up today.

HOUSE PASSES 'MIDNIGHT RULES' BILL: While we're on the topic of last-minute rules, the House voted largely along party lines Thursday to pass legislation that would allow lawmakers to bundle regulations issued in the last year of a presidential administration and challenge them all at once. Republican supporters of H.R. 5982, the Midnight Rules Relief Act, said it would prevent the legislative branch from getting bogged down with Congressional Review Act resolutions, as Pro Energy's Alex Guillén reports. The White House has threatened to veto the bill.

... AND A BILL ON PLANE SALES TO IRAN: Speaking of legislation the president would veto, the House passed a bill Thursday to ban the Treasury Department from granting the kinds of licenses to banks that are necessary for finalizing passenger aircraft sales to Iran. Two months ago, Airbus and Boeing received the OK to sell commercial aircraft to Iran. Iran Air has struck deals with Airbus and Boeing to buy and lease a total of over 200 planes, as The Associated Press reports . Those agreements are estimated to be worth billions of dollars. Democrats who voted against the bill, H.R. 5711, said the Boeing and Airbus deals would lead to more jobs. But GOP lawmakers argued that Iran has sponsored terrorism and defied United Nations resolutions.

PELOSI AND PENCE TALK INFRASTRUCTURE: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she and Vice President-elect Mike Pence discussed infrastructure during their meeting Thursday on Capitol Hill. "We had a straightforward conversation about how we can work together on infrastructure" and other issues, Pelosi said during the photo-op that came after her meeting with Pence. Pence said that he, incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are "beginning to discuss areas that we might move forward on together," including coming up with ways to "revive our economy" and "improve American lives."

** 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. **

DELANEY DEFENDS HIS INFRASTRUCTURE, TAX IDEAS: Rep. John Delaney shot down the idea of using repatriated revenues to fund tax cuts on Thursday, saying the money should be used for investing in infrastructure. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, including Chairman Kevin Brady, have shown a lack of enthusiasm for using repatriated funds for infrastructure upgrades. But Delaney, who's introduced legislation on creating an infrastructure bank and overhauling international taxes, told our Tanya Snyder that Democrats are more likely to come on board if infrastructure is involved.

"Why wouldn't you do two good things rather than just one? Our proposal is more stimulative," he said. "You're giving each side a win. When you do international tax and then you cut domestic rates you're giving two wins to Republicans and nothing to Democrats, so it's not bipartisan."

A CR IS LOOKING LIKELY, FOLKS: House Speaker Paul Ryan said during a Republican Conference meeting Thursday that GOP leaders and the inbound Trump administration are getting close to agreeing on a plan to push forward a continuing resolution that will fund the federal government at current levels through March. "The short-term patch is aimed at giving Trump a say in next year's funding priorities and preventing President Barack Obama from putting his mark on a massive spending deal," POLITICO's Rachael Bade, Burgess Everett and Kyle Cheney report . Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to be coming on board with Ryan, even though he preferred to wrap up funding the government through fiscal 2017. But the road ahead won't be the easiest.

"A short-term CR isn't as simple as it sounds," the POLITICO trio notes. "Lawmakers from both parties as well as the Obama administration will want to include a host of policy or funding tweaks, known as 'anomalies,' to ensure that federal operations continue unhindered."

UPTON: FLINT AID LIKELY TO GO IN CR: An aid package to help Flint, Mich., deal with contaminated drinking water will probably be included in a spending bill instead of the Water Resources Development Act, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said Thursday. As Pro Energy's Annie Snider reports , lawmakers have cast doubt on whether the House and Senate can work out the differences between their WRDA bills before the end of the year.

"We'll see how this plays out, but the thought is at this point that we'll do a CR through the end of February or so," Upton said Thursday. "Our goal is to have it in that. If not, it will be in the omnibus. It will be in one of the two, and our preference is that it be in the CR."

AUTOMAKERS TO STATES: BACK OFF: The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers will express frustration with state efforts to regulate autonomous vehicles on their own in its forthcoming comments on NHTSA's new guidance for self-driving cars. In the comments — provided exclusively to POLITICO — the Auto Alliance says NHTSA contradicts itself on whether states should wade into this area. As Tanya reports for Pros, 34 states and the District of Columbia have taken a stab at passing their own guidance on driverless cars, prompting concerns from automakers about a "patchwork" of state regulations that the federal guidance was supposed to prevent. The Auto Alliance will tell NHTSA that "clarifying this ambiguous area is critical in the next few months to avoid a mishmash of differing state laws that delay the benefits of emerging technology."

DONALD THE DISRUPTER: Trump is a "disruption" for the aerospace industry, an Airbus executive told POLITICO Europe's Joshua Posaner and Alberto Mucci. In an interview with Marwan Lahoud, the company's vice president for international strategy and public affairs, our EU colleagues asked: "Reports claim a Donald Trump presidency could be good for Airbus , as China threatens to shift contracts from Boeing under a protectionist U.S. administration. Do you see it as an opportunity?"

Lahoud said: "First, no one knows what a Trump presidency means, except Trump himself, and I have not asked him. If we judge from what we heard during the campaign, and we need to take that with caution, there are some questions about protectionism. Aviation is about open space and free trade. One can say that the Trump election is a wake-up call for many people. We need to think about what will happen to us and how the world will change in the next months. It's not just business as usual. Mr. Trump is a disruption."

IT'S ALL PART OF THE PLAN: The European Commission plans to release a "masterplan" for driverless and connected vehicles on Nov. 30, Joshua Posaner reports for POLITICO Europe. "The so-called Connected Driving (CIT-S) Masterplan will lay out a technical roadmap for the deployment of new car technology and set out a plan for ensuring adequate internet connectivity," Josh reports. "A hybrid-communication system will be proposed using Wi-Fi and cellular connections like 4G, and eventually 5G, for linking up internet equipped car systems."

AMTRAK REPORTS RECORD HIGHS IN NOVEMBER: Amtrak posted a banner year in fiscal 2016, reporting record-breaking ridership numbers, aggregate ticket revenues and operating loss (that one's a new low), as our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros. The government-backed company's $227 million operating loss represented a 25 percent drop from last year's — though the older figure was at least partially inflated by the costs Amtrak incurred because of the fatal May 2015 derailment in Philadelphia. The passenger railroad served 31.3 million passengers in fiscal 2016, a 1.3 percent bump from the previous year.

Some semantics: Amtrak also made nearly $2.14 billion in unaudited ticket revenue, a $12 million jump over fiscal 2015. But that new record reflects adjusted ticket sales — so accounting for things like private car revenues and cross-commuter benefits — whereas gross revenue hovered around $2.19 billion, seeing a slight increase over fiscal 2015 by $6.7 million.

Why the distinction? In past years, Amtrak reported just the gross revenue figure, but switched to the adjusted number in Thursday's announcement. A spokeswoman said the company is changing the way it communicates the figures "to more closely align with our public financial statements."

ACC: DON'T STOP NOW, STB: As we mentioned in Thursday's MT, the Association of American Railroads is calling on the Surface Transportation Board to hold off on big rulemakings until the new administration begins and all the seats on the board are filled. The American Chemistry Council responded later Thursday by telling MT there's "no good reason for the STB to wait any longer to update our nation's antiquated freight rail policies." The group argues that current regulations are "shielding the rail industry from the free market."

AAR and ACC are at odds over STB's proposed "reciprocal switching" rule. ACC claims the rule would "promote greater competition amongst rail carriers," while freight railroads prefer the status quo. "Last week's election was clear proof that Americans want change, and the STB needs to act sooner rather than later on removing regulatory barriers to growing our economy," ACC said.

SHIFTING GEARS: Deborah Chase Hopkins will join Union Pacific's board of directors in January, after she retires as CEO of Citi Ventures. Hopkins previously worked at Boeing, Lucent Technologies, General Motors, GM Europe, Unisys and Ford.

Eric Butler has been appointed executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Union Pacific. Butler is replacing Diane Duren, who will retire in February and serve as senior vice president and corporate secretary in the meantime. Beth Whited is succeeding Butler as executive vice president and chief marketing officer. Kari Kirchhoefer is taking Whited's place as vice president and general manager of chemicals. All will officially start their new roles Dec. 1.

Boeing's chairman, president and CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, was elected as the new chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association's board of governors. Muilenburg will replace Marillyn Hewson, the chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin. Thomas Kennedy, the chairman and CEO of Raytheon, will be the board's new vice chairman.

SLICE OF PI: Over 100 executives in the travel industry were in town Thursday for a board meeting of the U.S. Travel Association. They discussed "working with the new administration, especially on infrastructure issues such as airport modernization," our friends at POLITICO Influence report. "The group's lobbying team has briefed the Trump campaign and transition team."


— "Donald Trump takes credit for helping to save a Ford plant that wasn't closing." The New York Times.

— "VW's chief faces long road to overhaul automaker." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Tesla, SolarCity merger gets shareholder approval." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Trump-size idea for a new president: Build something inspiring." The New York Times.

— Rep. Jerry Nadler's "murky motivations spark speculation at Port Authority." POLITICO New Jersey.

— "Metro pulls rail cars from service after discovering collision risk." The Washington Post.

— "At the Los Angeles Auto Show, an industry ponders its digital future. The New York Times.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 21 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 315 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,415 days.


Nothing on our radar for today. Have a great weekend.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

** 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. **

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Stories from POLITICO Pro

OMB: DOT proposal to limit voice cell calls on flights is imminent Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/17/2016 05:30 PM EDT

The Obama administration projects it will publish a proposed rule that would advocate prohibiting cell phone calls on commercial flights this month, according to a regulatory update posted on the Office of Management and Budget's website today.

Lawmakers and lobbyists are eyeing what regulations the White House tries to push over the finish line in the two months before President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated. Trump's DOT could easily withdraw a proposed rulemaking but would have to rely on Congress to overturn anything finalized since the spring.

The FAA is expected to release its proposed rule for drone flights over people next month, according to the update.

FRA's final rule to set minimum requirements for train crew sizes is projected for release in January. Freight railroads oppose the agency's proposal to generally require two crewmembers on board while labor groups support it.

It's unclear whether lawmakers would seek to reject it through the Congressional Review Act if it were to be finalized in the Obama administration's waning days.


House passes bill easing ability to kill midnight regulations Back

By Alex Guillén | 11/17/2016 12:06 PM EDT

The House today passed a bill that would make it easier to kill so-called midnight rules issued during a president's final year in office.

It passed by a vote of 240-179, largely along party lines.

Under H.R. 5982, the Midnight Rules Relief Act, lawmakers could bundle together any number of regulations for a Congressional Review Act challenge, rather than considering them one at a time, as is done now. The bill's Republican backers argued that Congress could find itself jammed up passing individual CRA resolutions.

The White House on Monday threatened to veto the bill, saying it is unnecessary and would expand the CRA's scope to include rules potentially in effect for more than a year, which would create "tremendous regulatory uncertainty."


Delaney: Don't use repatriated funds to pay for tax cuts Back

By Tanya Snyder | 11/17/2016 02:34 PM EDT

With infrastructure topping President-elect Donald Trump's to-do list, Rep. John Delaney is brushing off his proposals to create a national infrastructure bank and to fix the Highway Trust Fund, hoping they may get more traction.

One proposal (H.R. 413) would use bonds to capitalize a national infrastructure bank, the carrot for which would be allowing companies to bring a portion of overseas earnings back one-time, tax-free. The other (H.R. 625) would create the bank, and also fill up the Highway Trust Fund with a mandatory, one-time 8.75 percent tax on certain existing overseas profits, among other things.

Trump's advisers have gotten behind a form of repatriation-for-infrastructure plan and an infrastructure bank. Both parties expressed interest in working with Trump on such a plan.

"They're coming towards our idea, which we've built huge bipartisan support for in the Congress," Delaney told POLITICO today. "Democrats have wanted infrastructure, Republicans have wanted to fix the international tax system, both sides are right, and we've brought them together in a way that works."

Delaney refuted the notion that changes to the tax code should fund tax cuts, saying they should pay for infrastructure.

"Why wouldn't you do two good things rather than just one? Our proposal is more stimulative," he said, adding that it's also better politics. "You're giving each side a win. When you do international tax and then you cut domestic rates you're giving two wins to Republicans and nothing to Democrats, so it's not bipartisan."


Republicans, Trump close in on spending deal Back

By Rachael Bade, Burgess Everett and Kyle Cheney | 11/17/2016 01:57 PM EDT

Capitol Hill Republicans and the incoming Trump administration are nearing agreement on a plan to fund the government at current levels through March 31, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told lawmakers during a closed-door meeting Thursday.

The short-term patch is aimed at giving Trump a say in next year's funding priorities and preventing President Barack Obama from putting his mark on a massive spending deal.

"Speaker Ryan told the GOP conference that in consultation with the incoming Trump administration, it was determined that a [continuing resolution] into March is the best approach," Ryan's spokeswoman AshLee Strong confirmed in an emailed statement.

The news come as Vice President-elect Mike Pence is on Capitol Hill for the second time in just over a week to meet with the House Republican Conference, Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Pence will also meet with Democratic leaders.

House Republicans have little interest in negotiating with a lame-duck Obama. Punting to early next year, when Trump will be in the White House with a GOP Congress, will give the right more leverage to get its spending priorities and pet policy riders into law.

Even McConnell — who was pushing for a full appropriations package with new funding levels for all government agencies and departments, known as an omnibus — is starting to come to terms with the Ryan-Trump plan, though he has cautioned that nothing is final.

"Discussions are also ongoing about how to fund the government and for how long, as I noted yesterday. I'll have more to say on this issue as more details are available," the Kentucky Republican said on Thursday morning.

Senate Republicans generally prefer a longer-term spending bill to avoid fouling up their schedule in March or April, when the chamber could be considering legislation critical to Trump's agenda or a Supreme Court nominee. The Senate moves much less quickly than the House, and shutdown deadlines have a way of seizing the attention of the entire Capitol and distracting from other matters.

Yet McConnell's top deputy said that Republicans are beginning to accept that's what the House and Trump's team want.

"It's still being discussed, but it's sounding like it's more likely to be a short-term CR. That's what I'm hearing. No decision's been made," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in an interview Thursday morning. "Frankly, we're going to be so busy, it would be nice to clear the decks."

There's also an awareness among Senate Republicans that they need Democratic votes to fund the government, which could add a flare of drama to a lame-duck session that the GOP is hoping will be low-key. Outgoing Sen. Barbara Mikulskik (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, opposes a continuing resolution.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid also offered a dour assessment of the GOP plan.

"They're not doing their jobs," Reid said.

But Republicans also want to pay deference to the president-elect in his first days in office.

"My personal preference is that we do it until the end" of September, said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Republican. "To do anything, as you know, in the Senate takes a lot of time. We've got a lot of stuff that we really want to get hopping on. It'll be a very busy six months. If you have to stop and finish last year's business in the middle of that, it's challenging."

Legislation must be enacted by Dec. 9, when the government runs out of money. While that gives lawmakers a few weeks to come up with a plan, some are already hoping to adjourn in early December.

A short-term CR isn't as simple as it sounds. Lawmakers from both parties as well as the Obama administration will want to include a host of policy or funding tweaks, known as "anomalies," to ensure that federal operations continue unhindered.

"This will be a more complicated CR than would ordinarily be the case," said Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, a GOP appropriator. "There will be a lot of anomalies, potentially some policy issues."

The Obama administration has also requested an additional $11.6 billion in war funding for Afghanistan and Iraq. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he and his colleagues would try to deliver those funds in the lame-duck session.

"That obviously is terribly important," he told reporters. "We want to be sure that our military has adequate resources during this interim period of time. So, that's under deep consideration."

The Trump team might regret its decision to call for a CR.

Republicans are sure to confront the "navel gazing and circular firing squads" that always accompany funding the government, Dent said. "It's going to be their headache," he said of the Trump administration. "They'll find that out soon enough."

Dent also noted that passing budgets in the new year leaves the Senate with a smaller margin of error for Republican defections.

A "CR is better than a shutdown," he said, "but we should pass the omnibus and the appropriations bills now and not defer this into the new year."

During their meeting with Pence, Republicans talked about leaving early in order to give them more leverage to use the so-called Congressional Review Act. That law allows Congress to repeal regulations enacted in the previous 60 legislative days. By adjourning early, Republicans could stop the clock for a time, and when they return in January, repeal some of Obama's midnight regulations enacted in his last few months in office.

Sources in the room said Pence also told lawmakers that he and Trump were happy the current House GOP leadership team was reelected. He thanked lawmakers who supported the ticket but assured the rest who did not that Trump "believes we are all on the same page."

Pence said he and Trump plan to work closely with the House, and he advised lawmakers to "buckle up" because they want to move quickly to pass top Republican priorities, including tax reform and a repeal of Obamacare.

Pence declined to get into specifics as he exited the 45-minute meeting. Members worked to project optimism and unity, even tweeting out a photo of Pence taking a selfie with the conference, with the aid of a selfie-stick.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Pence advised members to prepare for a more grueling schedule than they've seen in awhile.

"Advise your families that you need to be prepared for work," Pence told them, according to Meadows, "and that you're going to be working a lot more aggressively with a more aggressive schedule than you've seen in a long time."

Ben Weyl contributed to this report.


Upton: Flint aid to be attached to spending package Back

By Annie Snider | 11/17/2016 12:54 PM EDT

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said that aid to address lead contamination in Flint, Mich., will most likely hitch a ride on a spending package, rather than the Water Resources Development Act that is currently being negotiated.

"We'll see how this plays out, but the thought is at this point that we'll do a CR through the end of February or so. Our goal is to have it in that. If not, it will be in the omnibus. It will be in one of the two, and our preference is that it be in the CR," Upton told reporters this afternoon.

The House and Senate both approved aid packages for Flint in their WRDA bills, although the packages differed significantly, with the Senate measure spending $220 million on Flint and infrastructure programs for other communities, and the House provision offering a $170 million authorization to aid communities with a lead contamination crisis. Key negotiators this week have said the WRDA negotiations are going slower than they would like, throwing into question whether a final package will be completed this year.

Upton said House Speaker Paul Ryan has reiterated his commitment to getting Flint aid done. He said a final deal would "probably" come in at the House funding level, but as appropriations.

"Flint's going to get their money, that's the bottom line," Upton said.


Automakers want states to ease up on driverless car regs Back

By Tanya Snyder | 11/17/2016 03:53 PM EDT

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers will ask NHTSA to tell states to back off on efforts to regulate autonomous vehicles, POLITICO has learned.

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have taken a stab at passing their own guidance on driverless cars, which NHTSA's own guidance encourages broadly; part of the guidance includes a model state policy.

But the Auto Alliance is concerned that these disparate state processes will end up creating the very "patchwork" of state regulations that virtually everyone has wanted to avoid — and is asking NHTSA to intervene.

In its comments on NHTSA's guidance, a preview of which was provided exclusively to POLITICO, the Auto Alliance will tell the agency that "clarifying this ambiguous area is critical in the next few months to avoid a mishmash of differing state laws that delay the benefits of emerging technology."

NHTSA's guidance both asks states to ensure that automakers follow its guidance — which the Alliance reads as a request for states to act as regulators — and in another section says, "the Performance Guidance is not intended for codification by states."

At a pair of congressional hearings this week, Administrator Mark Rosekind insisted "states actually have to do nothing in this area."

Comments on NHTSA's driverless car guidance are due Nov. 22.


Q&A: Airbus Vice President Marwan Lahoud Back

By Joshua Posaner and Alberto Mucci | 11/17/2016 10:01 AM EDT

Donald Trump is a "disruption" for the aerospace industry, warned Marwan Lahoud, vice president for international strategy and public affairs at Airbus, adding that Brexit "will have an impact" on the sector as well.

This year's political earthquakes create more uncertainty for an industry already facing challenges.

As Britain edges toward leaving the EU, it's unclear if it will remain in the bloc's internal air market, something that is forcing airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet to recalibrate their strategies.

Trump hasn't taken a strong position on the airline industry, but his threats of unleashing a trade war against China could see Beijing retaliate. The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, warned: "If Trump wrecks Sino-U.S. trade, a number of U.S. industries will be impaired ... A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus."

The top end of the market has long been dominated by Boeing and Airbus, but new competitors are edging into the industry, ranging from Canada's Bombardier, whose C series airliners are nibbling at the 100-150 seat market, to China's COMAC, with its C919 158-174-seat narrowbody airliners.

Finally, Boeing and Airbus are engaged in a long-running tit-for-tat battle before the World Trade Organization, with the EU and the U.S. accusing each other of illegally subsidizing their aircraft industries. Boeing claimed it had won one round in September, when the WTO found that EU countries had improperly propped up Airbus. Now the European aircraft maker expects a ruling against Boeing.

POLITICO sat down with Lahoud to talk about what the future holds for the EU aerospace giant.

You are facing unprecedented competition in the aeronautics sector from competitors like Bombardier and China. Is the old battle for market share between Airbus and Boeing over?

[Competitors] are not there yet. Bombardier is just breaking through, but it is very limited for the time being. The Chinese are yet to come in. I am not minimizing the threat. They will be around and we will have to respond and be creative.

Reports claim a Donald Trump presidency could be good for Airbus, as China threatens to shift contracts from Boeing under a protectionist U.S. administration. Do you see it as an opportunity?

First, no one knows what a Trump presidency means, except Trump himself and I have not asked him. If we judge from what we heard during the campaign, and we need to take that with caution, there are some questions about protectionism. Aviation is about open space and free trade. One can say that the Trump election is a wake-up call for many people. We need to think about what will happen to us and how the world will change in the next months. It's not just business as usual. Mr. Trump is a disruption.

How important is the Chinese market. Do you see it as an important growth area?

It is and it will definitely continue to be [important]. No matter what assumption we make of Chinese growth. The demand for air travel in China is just booming.

How does Brexit affect Airbus?

First, the U.K. is very important for us, because a key part of our production is done there. Second, if Brexit means tariffs and restrictions on the circulation of people it will have an impact on us and we have to take that into account.

The EU recently launched its space strategy. How well are you positioned to capitalize on this?

To see that Europe is taking action there is something that makes a lot of sense for us, because in those areas the investment has always been paying back. It's not sunk money. It's good for the economy. Space is going through a very radical transformation. We are moving from a prototype-era to more industrial approach where services and the applications really matter.

We now see a lot of fighting over airline competition practices and on state aid to Middle Eastern carriers. How do you stand on this?

Of course, any disloyal or any protectionist or any competition sensitive practice is against our [company] DNA. The DNA of aviation is about free trade ... the world is our playing field, so, it has to be really level playing field. It's very much about the dialogue and consensus and explanation rather than just throwing regulations at each other.

This first appeared on POLITICO.EU on Nov. 17, 2016. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.


Amtrak sets records for riders, cost coverage for fiscal 2016 Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/17/2016 02:10 PM EDT

Today Amtrak reported that fiscal 2016 saw its lowest operating loss ever, along with record-high ticket revenues and ridership rates — a significant bounce-back after a relatively stagnant fiscal 2015.

The passenger railroad recorded an unaudited operating loss of $227 million, the lowest figure since its inception in 1973 and a 25 percent drop from fiscal 2015. The nearly $307 million operating loss reported last year was attributed in part to damages and reduced ridership stemming from the fatal May 2015 derailment in Philadelphia.

The company said it covered 94 percent of its operating costs through ticket sales and other revenue streams, a 2 percent bump from the previous year.

Amtrak said it took in a record-high $2.13 billion in unaudited ticket revenue, a $12 million jump over fiscal 2015.

That revenue is adjusted to account for items like cross-honoring commuter benefits and private car revenue, spokeswoman Chelsea Kopta said. Gross revenue from ticket buys came in at $2.19 billion, she said, or a $6.7 million increase over fiscal 2015. Amtrak reported the gross ticket revenue in previous years.

Amtrak carried 31.3 million riders in fiscal 2016, about 1.3 percent more than fiscal 2015 when ridership growth was relatively flat.


Congressman's murky motivations spark speculation at Port Authority Back

By Dana Rubinstein | 11/17/2016 06:03 PM EDT

Speculation ran rampant Thursday afternoon about what, exactly, prompted U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler to blow up a hard-won pact between New York and New Jersey elected officials to work together to build a new bus terminal on Manhattan's west side.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who in recent years has taken an ever-more acute interest in the goings-on of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, figured prominently in the theorizing.

"My own view is that perhaps Governor Cuomo has inserted himself in this process and for some reason wants to derail this project or reallocate resources from it," New Jersey state Sen. Bob Gordon said at Thursday's Port Authority. "I don't know."

Even though both New York and New Jersey elected officials had recently appointed representatives to a bi-state working group to help guide the creation of a new bus terminal to replace the obsolete, little-loved facility, and even though the two delegations had conducted a perfectly cordial meeting in Nadler's office as recently as Oct. 27, all hell broke loose on Tuesday.

Nadler, a Democrat whose district includes the existing bus terminal, sent a letter to the Port Authority demanding Degnan, a post-Bridgegate appointee of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, recuse himself from all further deliberations about the bus terminal.

Nadler imputed personal and political motivations to Degnan's commitment to building a new terminal. He said Degnan was too open to the use of eminent domain to acquire land for the bus terminal. Degnan and others dispute this.

Degnan responded with a letter of his own later that day. His allies in New Jersey, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg most prominently among them, sprang to Degnan's defense with yet another letter.

And then Thursday's public board meeting arrived, along with the news that vice chairman Steve Cohen, a Cuomo appointee, had told colleagues Wednesday evening that he was planning to resign.

Cohen's rationale had something to do with the ongoing dispute over both the bus terminal and, more broadly, the 10-year capital plan. Port Authority officials, who report to their respective governors, are so at odds over how much money to allocate to both the terminal and Cuomo's renovation projects for LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airport that the release of a draft plan has been delayed until, most likely, 2017.

Cohen didn't appear at Thursday's board meeting, something Port Authority executive director Pat Foye attributed to his "frustration" with the Port Authority's capital planning process.

Foye avoided answering questions about Cohen's planned resignation.

When a reporter asked Degnan if he thought the brouhaha was an attempt by Cuomo to divert attention or money away from the bus terminal so he could hoard Port resources for his own priorities, like rebuilding LaGuardia and JFK, Degnan declined to comment directly.

"I will tell you after a conversation with Governor Cuomo following the last meeting at the Port Authority, I concluded that the capital plan would not be ready as I had predicted then for dissemination by the board in December," he said.

Degnan made another elliptical comment, too.

During a discussion about what impact, if any, Donald Trump's presidency would have on the Port's efforts to build a new cross-Hudson passenger rail tunnel, Degnan said that given how much lip service Trump has paid to infrastructure spending, it was important to have projects like the rail tunnel shovel-ready.

The bus terminal should be shovel-ready too, Degnan said. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, he said another project that could be shovel ready was Nadler's long-sought, unlikely-to-happen-anytime-soon dream of a cross-Harbor tunnel for freight rail.

"After the last board meeting, [Nadler] stopped in my office to ask me for $70 million of Port Authority money for a further [environmental impact statement ] study for the Harbor freight tunnel," Degnan said. "I did not say yes."

In a statement, Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi described the Manhattan bus terminal, which serves mostly New Jersey commuters, as a "New York project."

"[W]e have never had one state dictate what should be built in the other," he said. "The intrigue out of Jersey is troubling, especially in light of the recent past."

Asked what prompted his Tuesday letter and whether he spoke with Cuomo before sending it, Nadler repeated the allegations contained in that earlier letter: That Degnan has been conspiring to use eminent domain "for a massive, community-disrupting, terminal west of the current facility," and that "Chairman Degnan has worked to exclude New York officials."

"It is time for Chairman Degnan stop playing games, do the legally required environmental and alternative analysis, and step aside for a New York planning partner to guide this process," Nadler said.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.