Join The
Get The

Infrastructure in the News 7.14.16

Infrastructure in the News 7.14.16





The Washington Post: Why highways have become the center of civil rights protest

After activists protesting the death of Philando Castile left the governor's mansion in St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday night, they marched through the city down Lexington Parkway and then onto the highway, across all eight lanes of traffic. There, some of them sat down, a provocative gesture of civil disobedience in the face of rushing commerce.

WTOP Washington (AP): Most drivers admit angry, aggressive behavior or road rage

Nearly 8 of every 10 U.S. drivers admit expressing anger, aggression or road rage at least once in the previous year, according to a survey released Thursday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The behavior could include following too closely, yelling at another driver, cutting them off or making angry gestures.

Morning Consult: Consumer Groups: Stop Adoption of Driverless Cars Until They’re Safe

Four consumer advocacy groups called on the Obama administration to halt its plan to assimilate driverless cars onto America’s roads until “adequate Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards covering autonomous technologies are implemented through a public rulemaking process.”

The Guardian: Pokémon Go: teenagers caught playing game while driving near pedestrians

Police have caught two teenagers playing Pokémon Go while driving near a busy pedestrian crossing in western Sydney, which they said put themselves and others at great risk.

The New York Times: U.S. Senate Approves Bill to Upgrade Airport Security

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would upgrade security at U.S. airports in the aftermath of the Brussels and Istanbul attacks while extending funds for the Federal Aviation Administration for another 14 months.


The Colorado Independent: The highway lowdown: Denver’s I-70 expansion controversy, explained

Coloradans remain indignant over a plan to expand Interstate 70 in two northeast Denver neighborhoods, citing concerns like increased air pollution, unsolved traffic problems and ever-worsening gentrification. The controversial project has even prompted two separate lawsuits.

Columbus Business Report: Columbus will 'leap-frog' light rail as transportation option after Smart City Challenge win

A wave of new transportation technology is coming to Columbus after the city won the federal Smart City Challenge.

Building Salt Lake: Report Shows Salt Lake Has An Overabundance Of Parking

Downtown Salt Lake City has enough parking to sustain decades of future growth without needing to build additional parking according to a new report on parking in Sugar House and downtown.  On Tuesday, representatives from Nelson Nygaard, coauthors of the parking study, presented key findings from the report to a group of local business and city leaders during a transportation-focused information session hosted by the Downtown Alliance.

Politico Morning Transportation

By Jennifer Scholtes and Lauren Gardner | 07/14/2016 05:41 AM EDT

With help from Brianna Gurciullo

442 DAYS TO DEBATE THE FAA'S FATE: So the FAA patch is off to President Barack Obama , and agency authority isn't going to lapse this month. But this legislative gesture is just another tide-me-over in the quest for a much broader FAA overhaul. Following along with this latest round of negotiations truly was as "compelling and rich" as panda watch most days. And if you're into that sort of thing - or molasses in winter, or watching paint dry - you'll surely be entertained for the 442 days until this new patch expires.

Victory lap: Senate Commerce leaders John Thune and Bill Nelson took one last opportunity to tout the deal after the 89-4 vote. But the next fight over whether and how to revamp air traffic control operations looms large, and our Brianna Gurciullo reports that Thune acknowledged it'll be a tough sell for House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster to make.

"I'm open to ideas that people might have about how we can do a better job, about how we can get NextGen technologies implemented more quickly," Thune said. "But I just think politically that's going to be a pretty steep hill to climb."

'Protest vote': The four "no" votes - GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy, Jerry Moran and Pat Toomey, along with Democratic Sen. Bob Casey - were mostly cast in protest of certain provisions getting axed from the original Senate-passed measure. But Moran took to the Senate floor before the vote to blast Shuster for essentially holding hostage a number of bipartisan provisions as leverage for his next effort to convince his colleagues that his air traffic control overhaul is the way to go.

At issue: Cassidy said his opposition stemmed from language being cut that would have helped small airports enter into the federal contract tower program. And Casey told MT that he cast his "protest vote" over negotiators yanking from the legislation a bipartisan deal to require secondary cockpit barriers on commercial airliners (he and other Pennsylvania lawmakers have pushed for a mandate for new planes to be built with the gates since one of the pilots killed on Sept. 11, 2001, was a state resident). Toomey said in a statement that he opposed the bill for the same reason.

"Like a lot of things around here, it's terribly frustrating when you have something that both houses have agreed to and it gets taken out," Casey said, adding he has "some idea" of why the provision was dropped but is still "gathering information on that."

IT'S THURSDAY: Good morning and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

MT is running down a solar-panel-lit road toward the recess . H/t NYDOT's Ed Lucas, because who doesn't want to walk on sunshine? Just a few more hours until seven weeks of "district work period," people.

Taking bets: The new dream for transportation-focused lawmakers, of course, is to get agreement on a sweeping FAA revamp before time is up come Sept. 30 of next year. But this process has made skeptics of many an aviation stakeholder. So let us know: Are you feeling hopeful or doubtful about the prospect of enacting something broader by the new deadline? (Don't worry. We'll protect your identity.) Reach out: or @JAScholtes. or @Gardner_LM and or @brigurciullo.

"You've got a lot of money, but you can't afford the freeway. The road to Orange County leaves an awful lot of leeway." (H/t CEI's Marc Scribner).

FEDERAL 'FAIL' ADMINISTRATION: In one heck of a Freudian slip, Sen. Jeff Merkley has issued a statement calling the Federal Rail Administration the "Federal Fail Administration." The screw-up is especially amusing considering Merkley and Sen. Ron Wyden are mad that the FRA didn't halt oil train traffic following the derailment in the Columbia River Gorge last month and have just rolled out a bill that would ensure the agency can't claim it doesn't have the authority to issue such a moratorium. The senators are also remiss that the NTSB didn't investigate the derailment in Mosier, Ore., and are proposing that the safety board look into every major oil train crash and hire more investigators.

Meanwhile, PHMSA put forth a proposal Wednesday requiring more stringent rules for spill-response planning for oil trains, Pro Energy's Elana Schor reports.

JET FUMES, CONGRESS' FAVORITE AROMA: The House and Senate were both slated to stay in session through Friday. But House leaders, at least, have officially informed lawmakers that they'll make an early escape this afternoon. And while the Senate is still trying to work through some spending measures, adjournment doesn't look too far off for the upper chamber either. Once they gavel out, members of both legislative bodies will be gone until Sept. 6.

TSA PLANS MASSIVE EXPANSION OF ROBOTIC SCREENING LANES: TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger predicts that his agency will stand up as many as 60 new automated checkpoint lanes at the nation's largest airports by year's end. As we explain for Pros, the aviation security chief says "a couple of other airlines" are interested in similar arrangements to the cost-sharing deals Delta and American have worked out to get the high-tech lines running at their major hubs.

Like Pokémon Go: Neffenger says the "revolutionary" technology is speeding checkpoint wait times by 30 to 40 percent and is wowing travelers: "There was a story that one passenger was so excited, after they went through, they hugged one of the transportation security officers and said 'This was the most amazing experience of my life.' It shows you how bad it was before," he told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center this week. "It's like that Pokémon Go game. If you let people play with something, they become more interested in what they're doing."

** A message from the Aluminum Association's Aluminum Transportation Group: From fuel economy and emissions, to safety and performance, low-weight, high-strength aluminum builds a better car and truck-in every category. As automakers address today's challenges and achieve tomorrow's vision, aluminum producers continue to innovate at record paces to help automakers drive forward the next generation of mobility and sustainability solutions. Learn more at **

PHL AIRPORT WORKER STRIKE: Workers who deal with everything from security to cleaning plane cabins at Philadelphia International Airport have voted to go on strike during the Democratic National Convention to push for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, TIME reports. Per the story: "Airport workers are calling on the DNC to support them by taking action against American Airlines, which controls most of the traffic at the airport."

RED LIGHT SPECIAL: How many red light overruns can Metro experience in a week (or eight days)? The count's tentatively at two, reports WAMU's Martin DiCaro, with Metro now investigating a possible signal breach that occurred Wednesday morning at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport station. FTA is also getting in on the action, spokesman Steve Kulm confirmed. The agency is expected to release a report on Metrorail red light overruns this summer.

HALT, WHO (SELF)DRIVES THERE?: A group of automobile consumer and safety advocates sent a letter to Obama, DOT and NHTSA on Wednesday calling for the administration to hold back self-driving car guidance the group says is expected next week. "We call on you to halt the implementation of a self-driving vehicle policy until adequate Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards covering autonomous technologies are implemented through a public rulemaking process," the letter reads, citing the fatal crash of a Tesla vehicle in Florida in May.

Vague timeline: From what Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters two weeks ago, DOT's guidance on this could be a lot further off than next week. "We're launching into this, and I expect sometime this summer we'll have significant guidance that will inform the industry, regulators at the state and local level, the general public, on where we expect folks to focus their energies and prepare for a world in which autonomous cars are more of the order of the day," the secretary said on June 29. "I said 'this summer' intentionally, because I expect to be reviewing them for a little while here, and we'll go through a bit of a process within the administration."

CALLS FOR SWEEPING EU RIDE-SHARING RULES: In Europe, a faction of the European Parliament is about to call for more EU rules for "sharing economy" companies like Uber and Lyft. From Brussels, POLITICO Europe's Joanna Plucinska reports that "the Socialists & Democrats are expected to demand greater regulation ... in their 'own initiative' report, according to multiple sources. The Commission released a guidance to existing EU law on the sharing economy in June, but tabled no new regulations."

Unified strategy: Nicola Danti, the rapporteur and an Italian member of parliament, said this week during a committee meeting that the commission "could have been more ambitious in its strategy," that the EU "can't wait to have 28 different national markets" and that he would prefer to start unifying now.


- An infrastructure plan for America. The Center for American Progress.

- Hyundai Motor workers set to strike for fifth straight year. The Wall Street Journal.

- Look out: There are 160 million angry drivers on the road. Bloomberg.

- 'All possibilities' under investigation in Italian train crash. The New York Times.

- How an Uber copycat can fill the transit gap in rural Nebraska. CityLab.

- California rejects Volkswagen's recall plan for 3.0-liter diesel cars. Reuters.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 80 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 2 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 117 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,542 days.


9 a.m. - The FAA holds a special committee meeting on drone regulations. 1150 18th St. NW.

10 a.m. - The House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing on homeland security threats, with testimony from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen and FBI Director James Comey. 311 Cannon House Office Building.

10 a.m. - The State Department holds a meeting to prepare for the third session of the International Maritime Organization's subcommittee on implementation of IMO instruments. Coast Guard Headquarters, 2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, Room 5Y23-21.

Noon - FMCSA holds a teleconference meeting on developing and implementing a unified carrier registration plan. Dial-in: (877) 422-1931. Passcode: 2855443940.

2 p.m. - FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg testifies at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on high-speed rail. 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

** A message from the Aluminum Association's Aluminum Transportation Group: As automakers strive to meet increased fuel economy standards by 2025, reducing vehicle weight-without reducing vehicle size-will be vital to complement all other vehicle improvements, including advances in gasoline engines and electric vehicles. That's why automotive engineers and designers ranked aluminum as the top material to help meet federal fuel economy and emissions targets, according to a survey by WardsAuto and DuPont. Fueling good jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector, aluminum producers committed to invest more than $2.6 billion in domestic plant expansions just since 2013. As to sustainability, separate studies by Oak Ridge National Lab and Ford Motor Company confirm automotive aluminum produces the smallest full life cycle carbon footprint of all competing materials. And the breakthrough, top-selling aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 proves aluminum can thrive in mass market applications, earning a 5-Star crash safety rating (safer than the 4-Star rated steel-bodied F-150 it replaced) and boasting best-in-class fuel economy. When it comes to automotive solutions, the aluminum industry is delivering, growing, innovating and investing. Learn more at **

To view online:

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Senate sends FAA extension to president's desk Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 07/13/2016 02:17 PM EDT

The Senate cleared an FAA extension through September 2017 this afternoon, sending the measure to President Barack Obama two days before its authorization would have expired.

Obama is expected to sign the bill, which passed the Senate 89-4.

The House passed the 14-month measure Monday evening. The Senate had hoped to pass the bill by unanimous consent on Tuesday, but a mix of dissatisfaction with the end product and several events taking senators out of town pushed off the vote and ended up forcing a roll call.

With the president's signature, Congress will have more than a year to debate a long-term reauthorization and policy provisions left out of the extension - like Rep. Bill Shuster's proposal to put a nonprofit corporation in charge of air traffic control.


Thune: Future ATC overhaul will be a 'pretty steep hill to climb' Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 07/13/2016 04:08 PM EDT

Sen. John Thune said today that House Republicans face an uphill battle in pushing major changes to air traffic control through as part of future FAA legislation.

Thune, the Senate Commerce Committee chairman, told reporters after the Senate cleared an FAA extension that he acknowledges frustrations with the agency.

"I'm open to ideas that people might have about how we can do a better job, about how we can get NextGen technologies implemented more quickly," Thune said. "But I just think politically that's going to be a pretty steep hill to climb. I think the House believes that given enough time they can educate their members about this. But we'll see. Time will tell. And I would say it's a very heavy lift in the Senate because there are members on both sides at this point who are skeptics."

Sen. Bill Nelson, the committee's ranking member, has said the Department of Defense would block Rep. Bill Shuster's plan to give a nonprofit corporation authority over air traffic control.

"I mean, that's just not going to happen," Nelson said last week.


Moran criticizes 'watered down' FAA patch Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 07/13/2016 04:03 PM EDT

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran tore into the House today, saying the FAA extension passed this afternoon was inadequate and "watered down," and in particular pointed a finger at Rep. Bill Shuster's quest to revamp the air traffic control system.

Moran, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, was one of four senators to vote against the legislation today. In a speech before the vote, Moran said he was "disappointed by what we are about to do today, although at this point there appears to be no option." And he said the Senate was "left with a take-it-or-leave-it situation."

Moran, whose state is home to general aviation manufacturers, praised Sens. John Thune and Bill Nelson , but lambasted the House for failing to pass the Senate's bill. And he went further, blaming the situation on Shuster's plans to revamp the nation's air traffic control system by handing over authority to a nonprofit corporation.

"Apparently, the reasons these important reforms were excluded was so that they could at a later date be used as a political bargaining chip," Moran said.

"The House held these popular reforms hostage in an attempt to gain leverage and to later promote an effort to privatize our nation's air traffic control system. Putting on hold these long overdue, noncontroversial certification reforms, contract tower programs and others, Congress is damaging the business aviation industry and the people who work therein."


Obama administration to propose stronger emergency response rules for oil trains Back

By Elana Schor | 07/13/2016 04:25 PM EDT

The Obama administration later today plans to propose stronger spill-response planning rules for oil trains, according to a copy of the plan obtained by POLITICO.

The new proposed regulations from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration would require railroads that carry oil in 20 or more continuous cars, or in 35 cars on a larger train, to write comprehensive response plans for use in case of a spill. The proposal also requires railroads to share information with state emergency responders, making official a provision included in the transportation reauthorization bill that President Barack Obama signed in December.

"The substantial surge in our country's production of crude oil is creating a serious need for improved response and communication between railroads and the communities through which they travel," PHMSA chief Marie Therese Dominguez said in a statement on the proposal. "This rule would help to ensure that railroads provide vital information to first responders to help them prepare for and respond to a derailment involving crude."


TSA plans to add up to 60 automated checkpoint lanes this year Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 07/13/2016 04:12 PM EDT

TSA expects to start as many as 60 automated checkpoint lanes at the nation's largest airports by year's end, entering into more cost-sharing partnerships with airlines, Administrator Peter Neffenger said this afternoon.

The agency first opened automated lanes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport this year, in partnership with Delta Airlines, and announced last week that American Airlines is buying equipment to automate checkpoints at Chicago O'Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Miami international airports.

The technology, which the administrator characterized as "revolutionary," speeds checkpoint wait times by 30 to 40 percent and has been a big hit with travelers, he said.

"There was a story that one passenger was so excited, after they went through, they hugged one of the transportation security officers and said 'This was the most amazing experience of my life.' It shows you how bad it was before," Neffenger told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center. "It's like that Pokémon Go game. If you let people play with something, they become more interested in what they're doing."

The administrator said "a couple of other airlines" are interested in similar arrangements, but he wouldn't say which. The agency is also considering spending federal funds to buy more of the technology, he added.

Creating automated lanes at at busy airports reduces staffing pressure at other smaller hubs, Neffenger said.

"If you can really attend to the passenger volume at the large airports, you don't then have problems that can cascade across the system," he said.


Socialists expected to call for regulation on sharing economy Back

By Joanna Plucinska | 07/14/2016 05:00 AM EDT

The Socialists & Democrats are expected to demand greater regulation of the sharing economy, over companies like Uber and Airbnb, in their "own initiative" report, according to multiple sources.

The Commission released a guidance to existing EU law on the sharing economy in June, but tabled no new regulations.

Yet Nicola Danti, the rapporteur and an Italian S&D MEP, hinted at this in today's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee meeting.

"The Commission could have been more ambitious in its strategy," he said. "We can't wait to have 28 different national markets, I would prefer to start [unifying this] now."

He particularly called for clearer rules on market access and taxation for the sharing economy.

MEPs from across the spectrum agreed that national fragmentation in the EU market needed to be avoided.

"We do have regulatory problems [in the sector] and they need to be clarified," said German EPP MEP Andreas Schwab.

Other parliamentary sources said it was too early to tell what the report would look like as Danti was only internally confirmed as rapporteur recently. However, the S&D has consistently stated its support for regulating the sharing economy for months.

Harry Cooper contributed to this report.

This article first appeared on POLITICO.EU on July 13, 2016.