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Infrastructure in the News 11.8.16



Washington Post: Nearly 20 percent of U.S. drivers are over 65: are America's roads ready for them?

The Department of Transportation recently published some new statistics on American motorists, and among other things, they suggest that self-driving vehicles couldn't come at a better time.


Washington Post: It’s the one thing Trump and Clinton agree on — and it’s probably a fantasy

If there's one thing Americans agree on, it's collective nostalgia for the days when workers actually made things — when American factory workers earned good wages helping to crank out cars, refrigerators, furniture and other goods for consumers in the United States and around the world. So it's no surprise that politicians are also united in pledging to bring those manufacturing jobs back to America, as both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have in their recent campaigns.


USA Today: States, counties, cities vote on $250 billion in transportation initiatives

Besides choosing candidates Tuesday, voters nationwide will face at least 232 city, county and state ballot initiatives to decide whether to raise a potential $250 billion for road and bridge construction.


The Hill: Lyft, Zipcar offer discounted rides on Election Day

A number of transportation services are offering discounted rides on Tuesday in an effort to get voters to the polls.


Investor’s Business Daily: If You Want To Fix U.S. Infrastructure, Ask Government to Step Aside

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have proposed massive increases in infrastructure spending and a new federal infrastructure bank. Given government's record of failure, however, Washington would do better to step aside and let private entrepreneurs repair America's roads, bridges and ports.


The Times: Clinton infrastructure pledge ‘too ambitious’

Hillary Clinton will struggle to fund her multibillion-dollar infrastructure investment programme if elected as the next US president, a leading investment analyst has warned.




Wall Street Journal: Voters Set to Decide Dozens of Local Ballot Measures on Transportation (full article follows Morning Transportation)

At least 38 local ballot measures, totaling about $200 billion worth of projected spending on public transportation and infrastructure improvement, are up for votes Tuesday across the U.S., from Los Angeles to Atlanta.


New York Times: Photographing the Impact of California’s Water Crisis

In 2011, Mustafah Abdulaziz heard a sobering statistic published by the United Nations: As of 2025, 3.4 billion people were projected to face a scarcity of water.


Associated Press: Philadelphia transit strike ends, avoiding election impact

The city’s crippling weeklong transit strike ended early Monday, ensuring that all buses, trolleys and subways will be up and running by Election Day.


NBC 11 (Georgia): Commuter Dude: Transportation votes in Atlanta and Fulton County

Voters in Fulton County, both inside and outside the city of Atlanta, are considering three separate proposed tax hikes that would raise money for transportation


Illinois News Network: Proposed amendment to restrict transportation funds draws scrutiny

A ballot initiative that would forbid the redirection of transportation funds in Illinois could have unintended consequences felt in local governments across the state, according to public policy experts.


Capital Gazette (Maryland): State officials present 2017 transportation priorities

Starting this spring, commuters who travel between Kent Island, Annapolis and Baltimore will have a new option for taking the bus.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 11/08/2016 05:41 AM EDT

With help from Lauren Gardner and Jennifer Scholtes

METRO BOARD CHAIRMAN BACKS OFF IDEA OF FEDERAL TAKEOVER: Jack Evans, the chairman of Metro's board of directors, has retreated from his call for the federal government to take over WMATA. Last week, Evans said he supported the idea of a federal control board, hours after The Washington Post's editorial board suggested the same move. But Evans seems to have dropped the proposal. "I don't see how we can get there. Frankly, that's a longer-term issue," Evans told the Post. "Starting today, we have to deal with the short-term issue, which is balancing the budget and keeping the system going and repairing the system."

The proposal faced a difficult road anyway: Evans had previously pointed out that the compact dictating WMATA's structure may not allow for a federal control board to step in. Plus, Congress probably wouldn't have supported a takeover, especially if it meant federal money would go toward Metro's operating costs.

IT'S ELECTION DAY: 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.

"Take the last train to Clarksville, and I'll meet you at the station. You can be here by 4:30 'cause I've made your reservation. Don't be slow. Oh, no, no, no! Oh, no, no, no!"

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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. The first edition lands in your inbox Nov. 9 — and then every afternoon through early Spring. Sign up today.

SCHUMER STILL OPTIMISTIC ABOUT TAX REFORM: Sen. Chuck Schumer reiterated in an interview with Bloomberg that he thinks international tax reform and infrastructure investment are some of the areas most ripe for deals in Congress if Hillary Clinton is elected president and he becomes majority leader. "There is a possibility of compromise for international tax reform provided it's attached to a broad, strong infrastructure bank," the New York Democrat said. While a number of Democrats oppose his suggestions for an international corporate tax revamp, Schumer argued that they could get behind it if it's paired with investment in infrastructure and therefore job growth.

Last month, Schumer told CNBC that he thinks he, Clinton and Paul Ryan (assuming he remains House speaker) would be most likely to strike a deal on two issues: immigration and international tax reform.

SEPTA STRIKE ENDS: Workers for SEPTA ended their weeklong strike Monday, quelling concerns that Philadelphia voters would face challenges getting to the polls today. The transportation authority and union leaders were able to reach a preliminary five-year agreement for over 4,700 workers, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The city had asked a judge to force employees to work on Election Day, but that motion is now moot.

No more fretting over turnout: SEPTA expects service to be fully restored today. Democrats had worried that a shutdown would negatively affect Clinton's bid for president, The Associated Press reports. "The big concern was people were spending so much time getting to and from work that some wouldn't have time to go to the polls," according to the AP.

LIFE SENTENCE FOR LAX SHOOTER: In a Southern California courtroom on Monday, a judge delivered a life sentence to the man who murdered a TSA officer at Los Angeles International Airport in 2013 — a case that has played out as fears have grown in recent years over the targeting of airport checkpoints. Until Paul Ciancia's shooting spree, aviation and airport security was designed primarily to thwart threats beyond the checkpoint. But his rampage — as well as the 2015 attack at New Orleans International and the bombings this year at Zaventem International in Brussels — have counterterrorism officials thinking more about "pre-security" airport security.

TSA-targeted: According to Ciancia's plea agreement, he went to the airport with a semiautomatic rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and 10 magazines hidden in two zip-tied pieces of luggage. After shooting and killing TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez, Ciancia shot two other TSA officers and a civilian, he admitted. According to the plea agreement, "as Ciancia passed passengers hiding in or fleeing the terminal during the attack, he asked if they were TSA and when they said no, he passed without shooting at them."

Legislative follow-on: Two years after the attack, Congress enacted the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015 (H.R. 720), a bill that directs TSA to ensure airports have plans for responding to attacks on checkpoints.

AMERICAN AIRLINES TENTATIVELY WINS L.A.-BEIJING FLIGHTS: DOT announced Monday that it has tentatively chosen American Airlines to run daily nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Beijing. Both American and Delta had applied to provide the service. DOT is leaning toward picking American because it "would add a third U.S. carrier to the West Coast-Beijing market, in addition to Delta's service from Seattle and United's service from San Francisco, thereby enhancing competition," according to a release. The department had to choose between American and Delta because of a limit on frequencies to major cities in China.

CHRISTIE: I'M HERE TO STAY: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie isn't worried about his political future after two of his former allies were convicted in the Bridgegate trial on Friday. "I can't tell you how many times my political career was over. Here I am," Christie said during an interview — his first since the jury's decision — with Charlie Rose that aired Monday on "CBS This Morning." As Ryan Hutchins reports for POLITICO New Jersey, the court didn't ask jurors to weigh in on the role Christie may or may not have played in the closure of lanes to the George Washington Bridge in 2013. Prosecutors said the shutdown was political retribution.

'There were three people responsible': Christie said during the interview that the convictions "confirmed" what he thought in January 2014: that Bill Baroni, Bridget Anne Kelly and David Wildstein were the ones behind it. Baroni and Kelly were convicted Friday. Wildstein pleaded guilty last year. "And now here we are, three investigations later, federal grand jury investigation, an investigation by a Democratic-led legislature, and what's the conclusion? The conclusion is that there were three people responsible," Christie said.

'I would have remembered that': Christie said he has "absolutely no recollection" of his aides talking with him about the lane closures at the time. Prosecutors said the lanes were shut down to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie when he was running for reelection. Christie told Rose: "If they would have told me that, 'Hey, we're creating traffic in the George Washington Bridge in order to punish the mayor for not endorsing you,' I would have remembered that. And they never said that."


— "Obama to auto workers: 'Do not be bamboozled' by Trump." The Detroit News.

— "EU vows to follow up on latest Volkswagen emissions findings." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Woman thrown in front of train at Times Square subway station is killed." The New York Times.

— "Maritime watchdog sees no evidence of shipping-alliance price-fixing." The Wall Street Journal.

— "Exclusive: FedEx grounds one plane over GE engine part concern." Reuters.

— "Tesla Motors plans to charge for its quick-charge access." The Wall Street Journal.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 31 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 325 days. The 2016 presidential election is today. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,425 days.


Nothing on our radar for today, besides the election of course.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

To view online:

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Report: Metro board chair supports federal takeover Back

By Lauren Gardner | 11/02/2016 03:17 PM EDT

The chairman of Metrorail's board endorsed a federal takeover of the troubled transit system today in an interview with The Washington Post.

Jack Evans recommended a federal control board akin to one formed in the 1990s to rectify Washington, D.C.'s financial crisis, but noted that Metro's chief lawyer doubts that would be permissible under the compact outlining the system's structure.

The newspaper's editorial board advocated for a similar course of action Tuesday night.

To effectuate such a thing may require congressional action, which would by no means be a slam dunk, considering the tight budget environment and the politics surrounding what would amount to a bailout.

The Federal Transit Administration assumed temporary safety oversight of Metro in October 2015.

Secretary Anthony Foxx has made it clear he doesn't want Metro safety to be a permanent fixture in DOT's portfolio, and has warned the governments of D.C., Maryland and Virginia that federal transit funding could be withheld from them if they fail to establish a functioning state safety oversight agency for the system by early February 2017.

But acting FTA chief Carolyn Flowers promised last week that the agency would continue to guide WMATA until the jurisdictions stand up a competent oversight body.

Foxx told reporters earlier this year that he's had "evolving thoughts" on how Metro should be structured and any federal role in that, but declined to get into more details.


In first interview after Bridgegate convictions, Christie says he's not finished Back

By Ryan Hutchins | 11/07/2016 08:49 AM EDT

In his first interview since two former allies were convicted of carrying out the George Washington Bridge lane closures, Gov. Chris Christie said the seven-week trial had cleared his name and that he still has a future in politics.

"I can't tell you how many times my political career was over. Here I am," a defiant Christie told Charlie Rose in an interview that ran in part on CBS "This Morning."

The Republican governor, at times mischaracterizing the testimony in the case, said the trial in U.S. District Court in Newark had "confirmed" what he thought on Jan. 9, 2014.

"I felt there were three people responsible: David Wildstein, Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly," he said, referring to the mastermind of the plot and the two other former allies who were convicted on Friday. "And now here we are, three investigations later, federal grand jury investigation, an investigation by a Democratic-led legislature, and what's the conclusion? The conclusion is that there were three people responsible."

But jurors weren't asked to decide what role Christie had in the scandal, and U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said on Friday that he brought cases only against those he could prove beyond a "reasonable doubt" were guilty.

Jurors left angry on Friday, with one telling a news outlet she felt Christie should have been on trial and another saying that the governor "is a master puppeteer and was aware of everything that went on, and goes on, within his administration."

Still, Christie suggested that Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff, was a rogue who carried out a political revenge plot that was "absolutely stupid on the face."

He said she was one of two dozen people to serve on his senior staff since taking office, and the only one who "didn't get it."

"I never could figure it out," he said. "I mean, think about it. You know me. I'm pretty good at this political game. I'm up by 25 points in a re-election in a blue state. And they decide they're gonna create a traffic jam in a town that's a Democrat town, that I wound up winning two months later in the election?"

The governor also made inaccurate claims about the testimony during the trial. He said no one indicated he'd been told of the punitive nature of the lane closures and that he had "24 hours to make decisions" after Kelly's infamous "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email was released.

"This is an important point," he told Rose. "In the whole trial, no one — not even Bridget Kelly or Bill Baroni or David Wildstein — ever testified that anyone ever said to me this is an act of political retribution."

But Kelly, who maintained that she thought the lane closures were part of a traffic study, testified under oath that she told the governor during the lane closures that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich had called the governor's office to complain and said he thought the incident was punitive. Prosecutors had alleged the lane closures were an act of retribution against Sokolich, a Democrat who refused to endorse Christie.

Kelly also said the governor personally approved the "traffic study" a month earlier.

Kelly, Wildstein and Baroni all said on the witness stand that they discussed the lane closures were Christie on Sept. 11, 2013, though just Wildstein — a Christie appointee to the Port Authority who pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution — said the true nature of the lane closures was clear at that time.

Wildstein claimed Baroni told Christie, "there's a tremendous amount of traffic in Fort Lee this morning — major traffic jams" and that "Mayor Sokolich is very frustrated that he can't get his telephone calls returned, that nobody is answering Mayor Sokolich's questions."

The governor responded, according to Wildstein, "Well, I would imagine that he wouldn't be getting his phone calls returned,'" before making a joke about Wildstein being involved in politics and then laughing.

Christie said in the new interview, which was recorded on Sunday, that he doesn't recall the conversation.

"Now, Charlie, I have to tell ya', I have absolutely no recollection of any of them saying anything like that," he said.

"So you're saying you have no recollection?" Rose asked. "You're not saying, 'I can swear to you that they never said anything like this?' You're saying, 'I don't remember?'"

"I don't remember any — but what I will tell you is this, Charlie: If they would have told me that, 'Hey, we're creating traffic in the George Washington Bridge in order to punish the mayor for not endorsing you,' I would have remembered that. And they never said that."

The testimony of half a dozen people during the federal trial — including some of Christie closest allies — contradicts the governor's claim that he had just 24 hours to react to the news. In fact, three different staffers or advisers had told the governor by early December 2013 that Kelly was involved in the closures, and at least two said they were told Christie that campaign manager Bill Stepien also had prior knowledge.

That testimony came from Mike DuHaime, the governor's chief political strategist, and Michael Drewniak, his former press secretary and now a top official at NJ Transit.

"It was not just Bridget Kelly we were talking about, it was Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien," DuHaime testified during the trial, describing a phone conversation he had with the governor on Dec. 11, 2013. "He said that he needed to meet with Bill, and he asked if I could, you know, reach out and make sure that Bill would reach out to him and set up a meeting."

Two days after that date, Christie publicly denied that his staff and, specifically, Stepien were involved.

"I've made it very clear to everybody on my senior staff that if anyone had any knowledge about this that they needed to come forward to me and tell me about it, and they've all assured me that they don't," Christie said during a press conference. "I've spoken to Mr. Stepien, who's the person in charge of the campaign, and he has assured me the same thing."

DuHaime said that claim was false.

"He knew I had information different from the information he gave," he testified.


Wall Street Journal: Voters Set to Decide Dozens of Local Ballot Measures on Transportation

At least 38 local ballot measures, totaling about $200 billion worth of projected spending on public transportation and infrastructure improvement, are up for votes Tuesday across the U.S., from Los Angeles to Atlanta.


Local ballot proposals for transit have never totaled so big a sum of money during an election cycle, according to Mantill Williams, director of advocacy communications at the American Public Transportation Association, a Washington-based association of mass transit agencies.


In California, where chronic underfunding, suburban sprawl and state budget battles have left transit authorities starved for cash and far behind on maintenance, at least 18 counties and cities have sales tax measures on local ballots for transportation, transit or road repair projects, according to a tally by Michael Coleman, a fiscal policy adviser to the League of California Cities.


Restoring U.S. transit systems to a state of good repair would require at least $85.9 billion, according to a 2013 estimate by the Federal Transit Administration, the latest figure available.


President Barack Obama signed a five-year, $305 billion highway and transit bill in 2015 that provides about $49 billion for transit, increasing such funding each year to 2020, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.


But Jeff Brown, who researches public-transit system finances and is chairman of Florida State University’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning, said the federal funding doesn't mean a substantial increase for public transit.


Many communities, including large cities in California, are trying to fill a perceived gap between what funding is available, and what is needed to grow and maintain transit systems. “One key factor behind the proliferation of these initiatives really is the financial situation of the country with the federal government really not increasing revenue” for transportation programs, he said.


Ballot proposals that ask for too much money might find voters “vehemently opposed,” he said.


Most of the measures are for sales tax increases, but others include property taxes, income taxes or bond measures. Big votes on transit measures will be held in Seattle, metro Detroit, Charleston, S.C., Atlanta and elsewhere.


Los Angeles County is hoping to raise about $120 billion over the next 40 years through a half-cent sales tax measure with no sunset clause, known as Measure M. The massive expenditure plan includes projects such as extending a rail connection to the airport, expanding the highways leading out from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports and expanding the region’s metro rail lines.


“It used to be the federal government was mom and dad, and all the cities in the country were kids who go to Washington, D.C., and get the full amount paid for,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has made passing Measure M a priority. “But the era of going to Washington with an empty hat in hand and coming back with anything is over.”


Opponents see the proposal as extravagant and oppose spending so much on new rail, when increased bus service would do, according to Eric Mann, a member of the No on Measure M campaign.


Most of the California measures need two-thirds of the vote to pass, including the Los Angeles sales-tax increase. John Fairbank, a pollster who has worked for a number of California’s transit-oriented campaigns this year, said tax increases can be sold to voters if they are tied to a tangible need.