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Infrastructure in the News 11.22.16



Chicago Tribune: Trump's targets in first 100 days: trade, regulation, corruption

President-elect Donald Trump vowed to start the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, institute a five-year ban on federal officials lobbying after leaving government, and cancel "job-killing" regulations on energy production within his first 100 days in office.


USA Today Editorial: 6.9 billion thankless hours in traffic: Our view

As you struggle in Thanksgiving destination traffic, consider the following: American vehicles currently spend 6.9 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, according to American Society of Civil Engineers.


The Huffington Post: Bernie Sanders Rails Against Donald Trump’s Infrastructure ‘Scam’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called out President-elect Donald Trump’s plan on infrastructure, labeling it a “scam” and “corporate welfare.” In an article posted to Medium on Monday, the senator said Trump rightfully promised to improve America’s infrastructure while on the campaign trail, but the president-elect’s plan has fallen short on that promise.


Slate: Trump’s “Trillion-Dollar” Infrastructure Plan Is Already in Trouble

House Republicans have begun plotting their to-do list for the start of the Trump administration, and as you might expect, it is quite ambitious. Obamacare repeal is an early action item, of course. So are major tax cuts, which could happen by this spring. GOP members are also tallying up a list of regulations they'd like to mulch, which they can do with the help of a 1996 law that lets Congress easily reverse rules created in the past 60 days.


USA Today Column: Marc Scribner: Let the market take care of infrastructure: Column

As the dust continues to settle from President-elect Donald Trump’s surprising victory, one idea is quickly gaining bipartisan currency in Washington: more infrastructure investment. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has pledged to “work together” with the Trump administration to “quickly pass a robust infrastructure jobs bill.”


Business Insider: Why Democrats may object to funding for Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan

Democrats say that President-elect Donald Trump’s call for massive new spending on highways, bridges, airports and other infrastructure is one of a handful of GOP proposals they heartily agree with – all but assuring that it will be high on the legislative agenda when a new Republican-controlled Congress begins work in January.


Salon: Paul Krugman: Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan is one big scam

Progressives might think they can find some common ground with a Trump administration over a infrastructure rebuilding plan, but don’t be fooled, Paul Krugman writes in Monday’s column. It’s just another scam, kind of like Trump University. “Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, is a white supremacist and purveyor of fake news,” Krugman opens.



Star Tribune: Ford site gets transportation plans moving

Several hundred residents and planning officials gathered Monday evening to learn how cars, mass transit, bikes and pedestrians will fit in with the ambitious redevelopment of the former Ford plant site in St. Paul. (Utah): Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes in contact with Trump team on transportation

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes has been in contact with President-elect Donald Trump's transition team and could be among those under consideration for transportation secretary.


Local10 (Florida): Florida Department of Transportation preparing for holiday surge of drivers

Millions of Americans are expected to drive to their destination this Thanksgiving holiday, and the Florida Department of Transportation is preparing for the traffic increase.


Sacramento Bee: Lame-duck legislative session to raise transportation funds fades

For weeks, key officials, their staffs and stakeholders have noodled around with bringing the Legislature back to Sacramento for a post-election session on financing much-needed upgrades to highways, local streets and transit systems.


Stamford Advocate: Sen. Chris Murphy hears Stamford’s transportation woes

Mayor David Martin discussed some of the city’s biggest transportation infrastructure projects Monday with U.S. Senator Chris Murphy.


KBTX: Bryan transportation, drainage fees funding upcoming projects

Bryan's city council is putting monthly transportation fees to work. Monday night's agenda includes projects on nine streets around town.


Herald Tribune (Florida): City endorses only the bare minimum of its transportation plan

The City Commission decided to submit only the bare minimum of the updates amid questions from local development control advocates about traffic studies and the information that goes into them.


NBC Washington: Maryland Board Approves Building New $765M Harry Nice Bridge

A Maryland board voted Monday to build a new, $765 million Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge over the Potomac River connecting Maryland and Virginia.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 11/22/2016 05:40 AM EDT

With help from Kathryn A. Wolfe, Lauren Gardner, Tanya Snyder and Bernie Becker

BUTLER PICKED FOR DOT LANDING TEAM: President-elect Donald Trump's transition announced that Nancy Butler, a former lobbyist for Los Angeles-based engineering company AECOM, was named to the landing team for DOT. From 1985 to 1993, Butler was a director of external affairs at DOT, as our Kathryn A. Wolfe reports for Pros.

What does a landing team member do? Butler's job will be reporting to DOT, working with the personnel there and helping the incoming Trump administration take over responsibilities — an effort that could play into the president-elect's plan for investing in infrastructure, among other transportation policy issues. It's unclear at the moment whether Butler is replacing or working with Shirley Ybarra, who was put in charge of "agency action" at DOT.

In news that affects transpo security: For the DHS landing team, the transition named Jim Carafano, a fellow at The Heritage Foundation, and Mike Dougherty, the CEO of the Secure Identity & Biometrics Association who previously worked for Raytheon.

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

"I spent last night in the arms of a girl in Louisiana. And though I'm out on the highway, my thoughts are still with her."

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PROGRAMMING NOTE: Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, Morning Transportation won't publish on Thursday, Nov. 24 and Friday, Nov. 25. Our next Morning Transportation will publish on Monday, Nov. 28. Please continue to follow Pro Transportation issues here.

TRANSPO SECRETARY RUMOR MILL: Just to catch up — though MT is sure you're constantly refreshing POLITICO's running list of possible candidates for Trump's Cabinet — the names being floated for Transportation secretary include: Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), a former House Transportation chairman who lost reelection; Pat McCrory, the governor of North Carolina; Dewey Bartlett, Tulsa's mayor who lost reelection; Greg Hughes, speaker of the Utah House; James Simpson, a former New Jersey transportation commissioner and FTA administrator under George W. Bush; Mark Rosenker, a former NTSB chairman; Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), the chairwoman of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on surface transportation and merchant marine security; and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

TREASURY TEAM INCLUDES OPPONENT OF OBAMA'S CUBA POLICIES: A member of Trump's landing team for the Treasury Department is a staunch opponent of President Barack Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. Mauricio Claver-Carone, a former attorney-adviser to the department, is the executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates and a leader of U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC. He has called Obama's policies on a Cuba "pure sycophancy in pursuit of 'historic firsts.'" As Pro Trade's Adam Behsudi reports , having Claver-Carone on the landing team is notable because the Treasury Department plays a key role in enforcing sanctions against Cuba.

CHAO MEETS WITH TRUMP: The president-elect met Monday with Elaine Chao, who served as secretary of labor under George W. Bush and deputy secretary of transportation for George H.W. Bush. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. At Trump Tower, Chao and Trump discussed "labor and transportation issues with a particular focus on America's long-term infrastructure needs, and reducing or eliminating burdensome regulations," according to a readout from the transition team.

NO T&I MENTIONS IN TRUMP VIDEO: The transition team released a short video Monday of Trump talking about a few of his plans for his first 100 days in office. While Trump covered energy policy and job creation, he left out his ideas for transportation policy.

PELOSI SHIFTS TONE: Democrats in Congress are making clear that their support for Trump's $1 trillion proposal for upgrading the nation's infrastructure is going to have to come with some conditions. Monday night, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi walked back the optimistic tone she took immediately after the election, writing in a Dear Colleague letter that while Trump "has indicated an interest in infrastructure, we must insist on a bill that puts good-paying jobs for workers first — not one that is a corporate tax break disguised as an infrastructure bill." The day after Trump won election, Pelosi said: "We can work together to quickly pass a robust infrastructure jobs bill."

SANDERS TEARS INTO TRUMP'S PLAN: Sen. Bernie Sanders slammed Trump's proposal on Monday, calling it "corporate welfare" and "a scam that gives massive tax breaks to large companies and billionaires on Wall Street who are already doing phenomenally well." In a post on Medium, the Vermont senator panned the idea of offering a lower tax rate to multinational corporations that repatriate their overseas earnings if they invest a portion in infrastructure.

Coming this January: Sanders said he plans to reintroduce at the start of the new Congress a bill to spend $1 trillion in infrastructure over a five-year period. "Unlike Trump's plan, which creates new tax loopholes and is a corporate giveaway, my Rebuild America Act would be paid for by eliminating tax loopholes that allow hugely profitable multinational corporations to stash their profits in offshore tax havens around the world," Sanders wrote.

SCHUMER DISCUSSES THE ROAD TO $1 TRILLION: Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on "Fox News Sunday" that Trump would need more than an overhaul of international taxes to arrive at the $1 trillion in infrastructure investments he wants, as Bernie Becker at Morning Tax reports . "Look, it's not something that I'd take off the table. And I did some negotiations with Paul Ryan about this," Schumer said. "But to get the kind of infrastructure money that Donald Trump is talking about, then you'd have to do a lot more than international tax reform to get it done. It just doesn't bring in the dollars you need."

No cutting 'the basics': Schumer told Fox News that Democrats wouldn't support a plan that makes cuts to "the basics, like Medicare and education and other things, to pay for it."

BACK TO THE FUTURE (OF SUPER FAST TRAINS): FRA proposed safety standards Monday for the high-speed trains of the future, our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros. The rules would require bullet trains traveling faster than 125 mph — up to 220 mph — to operate on tracks without grade crossings that are separate from those where slower trains ride. When operating below that threshold, though, high-speed trains could share the rails with traditional passenger trains.

California High Speed Rail Authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley said the group is happy to see federal regulators move forward on the standards. "Whatever the final safety standards are, we will meet them," she said.

THUNE WANTS TO HOLD OFF FUNDING BOOST FOR NHTSA: Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune is asking Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to revoke his certification that NHTSA fully addressed all 17 recommendations from a June 2015 inspector general report, which found problems in the agency's investigations office. Thune said the IG notified him earlier this month that five recommendations are still open. As Lauren reports for Pros, the FAST Act authorized a funding boost for NHTSA, but the agency is only allowed to get the increase if it implements the IG's recommendations. Under the law, NHTSA could net almost $52 million in additional funding in fiscal 2017.

NSC: WATCH THE ROAD WHILE SHOPPING: Safety advocates are calling on shoppers to stay alert while they drive around parking lots this holiday season. Two out of three drivers say they would call someone on their cellphone while winding through a parking lot, according to a National Safety Council poll . More than half say they would send a text message, use social media, check their email or program their GPS systems while driving. NSC points out that over 50,000 accidents happen in parking lots and garages every year, leading to at least 500 deaths. (Serious injuries are also caused by pedestrians who are paying attention to their phones instead of where they're walking.)

SHIFTING GEARS: Cargo Transporters will be a member of the Alliance for Driver Safety and Security in 2017. John Pope, the chairman of the freight company, will join the Trucking Alliance's board of directors.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx picked Jim Mathews, the president and CEO of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Travel and Tourism Infrastructure. Mathews is the sole rail executive on the committee, which has a total of 25 members and was established by the FAST Act.


— "Regulators, railroads target sleep apnea in wake of crash." The Associated Press.

— "Official: 6 dead in Chattanooga elementary school bus crash." The Associated Press.

— "Facebook's drone crash prompts safety investigation." The Wall Street Journal.

— Gov. Larry "Hogan plans $765 million replacement of Nice Bridge in Southern Maryland." The Baltimore Sun.

— "Lack of protocol added to chaos during JFK scare, inquiry finds." The New York Times.

— "Proposed rezoning near Dulles draws criticism from airports authority." The Washington Post.

— "Boeing taps GE veteran for jet unit as CEO extends shake-up." Bloomberg.

— "Chicago O'Hare airport workers to strike November 29." CNN Money.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 17 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 311 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,411 days.


Nothing on our radar for today.

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Stories from POLITICO Pro

Trump transition names three to DHS and DOT 'landing teams' Back

By Kathryn A. Wolfe | 11/21/2016 07:22 PM EDT

The transition team for President-elect Donald Trump has named Nancy Butler as head of its landing team at the Transportation Department.

Butler is currently a lobbyist for engineering firm AECOM, headquartered in Los Angeles. Before that, she was director of communications and external affairs for the Transportation Department from 1985-93.

It's unclear whether Butler replaces or supplements Shirley Ybarra, who had previously been named to the landing team for DOT.

The transition team also gave out two names for the Department of Homeland Security landing team: Jim Carafano, and Mike Dougherty.

Carafano is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and a senior fellow at George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute.

Dougherty is CEO of the Secure Identity & Biometrics Association; previously, he worked at Raytheon Company. He also did stints at the Department of Homeland Security, and was on the staff of former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).


Mica wants to be Trump's DOT secretary Back

By Tanya Snyder | 11/14/2016 08:15 PM EDT

Rep. John Mica just lost reelection but has his sights set on bigger things — secretary of transportation.

Mica has approached Trump deputy campaign manager Dave Bossie, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and others close to the president-elect about his interest. He says he has gotten "encouraging" signs about his candidacy. Mica also has a voicemail from Vice President-elect Mike Pence on his phone, but the two haven't yet been able to connect.

Since he wasn't expecting to lose his race, Mica said he didn't start thinking about the DOT job until after Tuesday.

Mica has a nationwide roster of mega-projects to point to when stumping for the job, including improvements to Sea-Tac airport and New York's East Side Access projects, as well as policy achievements like introducing competition in Amtrak and expanding the TIFIA loan program. He says he helped current leaders like House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham on their journeys to leadership.

If named secretary, which he repeatedly said would be "a great honor," Mica said a top priority would be implementing higher-speed trains on the Northeast Corridor, a goal he's had for years.

Asked if he would consider a modal administrator position, Mica insisted he would not: "I will take nothing but a Cabinet-level position."


Cuba hardliner named to Treasury transition team Back

By Adam Behsudi | 11/21/2016 11:38 AM EDT

President-elect Donald Trump today named an avowed foe of President Barack Obama's policies of normalizing relations with Cuba to help lead transition efforts at the Treasury Department.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, who is the head of Cuba Democracy Advocates and holds a leadership position on the influential U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, has slammed Obama's Cuba policy as "pure sycophancy in pursuit of 'historic firsts." He's advocated the policy's reversal.

Claver-Carone's selection to the Treasury team is significant given the department's central role in enforcing sanctions policies through its Office of Foreign Assets Control. He previously served as an attorney-adviser to Treasury, according to a biography on a Cuba policy blog he maintains.

Obama has undertaken an unprecedented regulatory initiative to further ease trade and travel restrictions with Cuba short of having Congress lift the long-standing embargo.


Pelosi walks back kumbaya rhetoric on bipartisan infrastructure effort Back

By Tanya Snyder | 11/21/2016 11:46 PM EDT

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday night took a step back from the optimistic tone she struck the day after the election on working with President-elect Donald Trump on infrastructure.

"Three priorities right out of the gate are jobs, veterans and Medicare," Pelosi wrote in a Dear Colleague letter. "While the president-elect has indicated an interest in infrastructure, we must insist on a bill that puts good-paying jobs for workers first - not one that is a corporate tax break disguised as an infrastructure bill."

The day after Trump's surprise victory, Pelosi announced, "We can work together to quickly pass a robust infrastructure jobs bill." But in recent days, Democratic support for a bipartisan effort around Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure proposal has begun to erode, with high-profile critics slamming it as "corporate welfare" and a "trap."


FRA proposes safety requirements for future high-speed trains Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/21/2016 01:55 PM EDT

Federal Railroad Administration proposed safety standards today for "next generation" high-speed trains that can travel up to 220 miles per hour.

The so-called Tier III rules, which have been in the works for most of President Barack Obama's presidency, address the crashworthiness of cars faster than any operating currently in the United States, and would require trains operating above 125 miles per hour to run on their own set of track without grade crossings. But those high-speed trains could share tracks with slower locomotives when moving at speeds below that threshold.

"Compatibility between equipment types is a key strategy to allow trains to share existing corridors to reach downtown stations," the agency said in a news release.

The proposal also would bump up the maximum speed FRA allows for passenger trainsets that comply with its "Tier II" standards to 160 miles per hour from 150 miles per hour.


Thune: NHTSA shouldn't get more vehicle safety money yet Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/21/2016 01:30 PM EDT

Sen. John Thune wants Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to rescind his certification saying NHTSA adequately addressed recommendations made by the DOT inspector general — and is thus eligible for additional funding.

In a Nov. 18 letter provided to POLITICO, Thune took issue with Foxx's Sept. 30 declaration that NHTSA "has implemented or resolved" all 17 recommendations made in a June 2015 IG report on its defect investigations office.

The FAST Act authorized a funding increase for NHTSA contingent on the agency having implemented those recommendations; it could net nearly $52 million in additional funding in fiscal 2017 under the law.

Thune disagrees with Foxx's decision allowing "resolved" recommendations to count toward the requirement.

"Congress clearly intended to require in the FAST Act that the recommendations be 'implemented,' not simply resolved," Thune wrote. "All 17 of the OIG recommendations were arguably 'resolved' months before enactment of the FAST Act, when NHTSA originally agreed to begin work to implement" them.

In a letter explaining his decision, Foxx said the IG considers NHTSA's actions "sufficient to address the recommendations." But Inspector General Calvin Scovel notified Thune earlier this month that five recommendations related to early warning reporting data and the agency's consumer complaint process remained open, pending further information from NHTSA.

Regardless of Thune and Foxx differences, how much money NHTSA gets is ultimately decided by appropriators, who are unlikely to set fiscal 2017 spending until next year.

A DOT spokesman didn't immediately comment.