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Infrastructure in the News 7.18.16


The New York Times (AP): Route 66 Becoming Green With Charging Stations, Solar Panels

Route 66, the historic U.S. highway made famous for attracting gas-guzzling Chevrolet Bel Airs and 1957 Cadillacs traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles, is turning green.

The Washington Post: GM launches new car-sharing service in D.C.

The Washington region’s car-sharing options are about to expand.

The Washington Post: Metro’s ‘hot car’ problem: Riders get heated over broken air conditioners

Regular Metro riders are all too familiar with the summertime scenario: You scramble aboard a train only to hit a wall of oppressively steamy air as wilting passengers fan themselves with anything they can find.

The Verge: Tesla urged to brief Senate committee on fatal Autopilot crash

The crash that killed a Tesla Model S driver with Autopilot activated is already being investigated by the federal government, but now the Senate is seeking more information about the details of the accident. Senator John Thune (R-SD), who chairs the Commerce Committee, sent a letter to Elon Musk Thursday, requesting the Tesla CEO brief his committee on the company’s response to the crash.

NextCity: What 100 Mayoral Speeches Say About Urban America

Mayors are talking about jobs, business growth and policing more than anything else, based on an analysis from the National League of Cities looking at 100 state of the city speeches from around the country.

Progressive Railroading: Transit agencies use 'Pokemon GO' to encourage ridership

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and other transit agencies are using the "Pokemon GO" game to encourage public transit ridership.


The Register-Guard: Oregon rail officials look to push high-speed passenger rail service into distant future

The Oregon Department of Transportation spent four years and $10 million mulling where the Willamette Valley passenger rail line of the future should go — and is about to decide that it should stay put, on the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, where the long-standing intermingling of passenger and freight service guarantees ­sluggish passenger service.

The Denver Post: B-Line opening forges rail link to Denver’s northern suburbs for the first time

Commuter rail in the metro area will head in a new direction when the 6.2-mile B-Line opens later this month, bringing for the first time a swath of Denver’s northern suburbs into the region’s burgeoning transit network.

The Coloradoan: Mason Street slow to grow up: City's vision for corridor unrealized

Nearly a decade ago, Fort Collins officials envisioned Mason Street's future as a bustling corridor home to nearly 3,000 new apartments in five-, six- and seven-story buildings big enough to meet the housing demands of a growing city.

Athens Banner-Herald: Athens-Clarke commissioners to consider free Athens Transit rides for young people

Public transit rides would be free for young people between the ages of 5 through 17 under a proposal set to get a first look from Athens-Clarke County commissioners at their Tuesday agenda-setting session.

Deseret News: UTA approves funding for Provo-Orem bus rapid transit system

The Utah Transit Authority board of trustees voted Friday to approve the advanced funding necessary to support the development of a Transportation Improvement Project in Utah County.

The Wall Street Journal: MTA’s Costs Loom Large

New accounting rules are shining a light on more than $7 billion in pension liabilities facing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Politico Morning Transportation

By Jennifer Scholtes and Lauren Gardner | 07/18/2016 05:44 AM EDT

With help from Brianna Gurciullo

'KILLING MACHINES, ENGINES OF EVIL': As the Republican National Convention kicks off today in Cleveland, police there are making changes to the security strategy in response to last week's truck attack in France. Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told CBS on Sunday that law enforcement have placed barricades at key streets and intersections to make sure an attack like the one in Nice "are thwarted here in Cleveland if they're attempted - or at least mitigated." POLITICO's Zachary Warmbrodt has the news roundup on that.

Asking why: Meanwhile, French officials are trying to figure out why 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was both motivated - and able - to kill so many people last week as he drove a 20-ton truck through the Bastille Day crowd. The New York Times reports that "many people in Nice and around the world are asking how, in a country that has been under a state of emergency since November, a lone driver could so easily flout elementary traffic rules and then race unimpeded through throngs of people who had gathered to watch a Bastille Day fireworks display. As in previous years, security forces, worried about a possible terrorist attack on France's national day, set up barriers to block traffic on the Promenade des Anglais ... But the barriers, crowd-control devices made of hollow metal tubes, started far to the east of where Mr. Lahouaiej Bouhlel entered the boulevard."

'Malignant objects': FOX News' Chad Pergram referenced Stephen King's 1986 film "Maximum Overdrive" in his column over the weekend, arguing that "in today's terror world, it doesn't so much matter who's driving the truck. It's just that trucks - like airplanes - morphed into malignant objects. ... At one point in Maximum Overdrive, one character remarks 'Maybe tomorrow it will be our world again.' The trucks will just be trucks again. Not engines of evil. After Nice, it's hard to imagine how."

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

May the week move faster than the turtles that snarled air traffic at JFK Airport in NYC last week (h/t Malcolm Richards). Reach out: or @Gardner_LM, or @JAScholtes and or@brigurciullo.

"Loaded with crude oil, headed for town/The boxcar would tremble from the top to the ground/And my mother could feel it even before it came/'Get up son to the window, here comes the oil train.'"

FAA CRISIS NARROWLY AVERTED. A CONGRESSIONAL RITUAL: Literally without a day to spare, President Barack Obama has signed into law another 14 and a half months of FAA authority. As our Brianna Gurciullo explains, that 11-letter moniker means "Congress has more than a year to hash out a longer bill and revisit a failed attempt to overhaul the air traffic control system as well as other provisions cut from the bill the Senate passed in April."

ARE TWO HEADS BETTER THAN ONE? Freight railroads are pushing back hard against the FRA's proposed rule to keep two-man crews on trains with limited exceptions. Association of American Railroads head Ed Hamberger points to past testimony by NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart, arguing that there's little proof that two-person teams are inherently safer than single-person crews. Hamberger has also expressed doubt that the crewmembers' actions at the scene of the 2013 Casselton, N.D., derailment and fire were successful because there were multiple workers on board. "The rule should not be based on anecdotes," he said.

No racing: Crew size has always been an issue negotiated between railroads and unions, Hamberger said, so companies can't "race" to one-person crews. But Robert Lauby, FRA's chief safety officer, points out that the SMART-TD union and BNSF tried to strike a deal allowing for the use of single-person crews on certain segments of track a few years ago - while industry officials like Hamberger were working with FRA on a safety advisory committee to try reach a consensus on train crew staffing. That failed to happen, though FRA decided to propose a rulemaking anyway.

Jet fumes notwithstanding: As MT forecast last week, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) testified first at the meeting last week (despite her seven-week recess having already started) to recount the experience at Casselton and the concerns of communities that host rail traffic carrying hazardous materials. "This issue is maybe viewed through a lens of protection of employment - we want to keep more rail workers, this is nothing more than making sure people still have jobs," she said. "That is not what I hear from the people who drive the trains. What I hear from them is this is essential - not only to their safety, but making sure that what they're doing on that train guarantees the safety of the public."

Timing: FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg told MT last week that the rule is a priority for the administration and could be wrapped up this year. But she added that she didn't want to "prejudge the process." That timeline would be a heavy lift, though, considering the controversy the proposal has generated and the limited time left in the administration. DOT currently projects the final rule to be completed late next summer.


Today - Executives from Google X and Silicon-Valley-based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins speak at an AUVSI event out in City by the Bay.

Tuesday - Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx gives the keynote address at the Automated Vehicles Symposium 2016. The U.S. Maritime Transportation System National Advisory Committee kicks off a two-day meeting to talk through recommendations for DOT. And the FAA holds a meeting of the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee.

Wednesday - DOT hosts the grand opening of its Build America Bureau with Foxx. And former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood participates in a discussion at the RNC about how U.S. infrastructure has become an important campaign issue and what challenges the new president will face in trying to make it better.

BILLS, BILLS, BILLS: On their way out of town, lawmakers dropped three transportation-related bills:

- Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, along with Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.), introduced companion bills to allow retired air traffic controllers to keep their federal retirement supplements if they opt to serve as full-time controller instructors. Under current law, retired controllers face an income cap of $15,720 a year to collect those benefits.

- A bipartisan trio of Oregon House members - Democrats Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer and Republican Greg Walden - rolled out legislation to establish a trust fund for communities to prepare for, and respond to, rail accidents involving flammable liquids after a fiery oil train derailment leaked Bakken crude oil into the Columbia River Gorge. The bill also would require railroads to inspect tracks in certain high-consequence areas on foot. FRA said last month that its preliminary findings show the accident occurred because Union Pacific failed to properly maintain its track and equipment.

- Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut unveiled a measure to have DOT require railroads to develop fatigue management plans to mitigate hazards related to drowsiness on the rails. (FRA is required under a 2008 law to write rules mandating such plans, but the regulations are years overdue. Feinberg told MT last week the rule would come in "weeks, not months.") It also would overhaul hours of service rules for employees to ensure they have predictable schedules that either start at a defined time or allow for at least 10 hours' notice before the worker reports for duty.

A BIG GET: A4A has signed on with B+S Strategies, the lobby shop former House Transportation Committee staffers Chris Bertram and Beth Spivey have started up, Brianna reports. The group becomes Bertram and Spivey's very first client in their new venture.

ICYMI: The Senate confirmed Scott Darling as administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Darling has served as acting administrator of FMCSA, which he joined in 2012 as chief counsel after working for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The president nominated him to be administrator in August 2015.

The Senate also confirmed Blair Anderson as undersecretary of transportation for policy. Anderson has served as deputy administrator of the NHTSA since 2015. He was previously the DOT's deputy assistant secretary for finance and budget.

TIME TRAVELING WITH MIKE PENCE: We're taking you back to April 2001, when Mike Pence for Congress put up a post titled "The Great American Smoke Out," arguing that "despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill." And for the transportation connection: Contending that it's not just your cigarettes that are at stake, he says "a government of such plenary power, once conceived will hardly stop at tobacco. ... Don't get me started about the dangers of sports utility vehicles!"

SHAMELESS PROMO: Do you ride Metro? Do you complain about Metro? Do you want Metro to be great again (sorry)? Today's episode of WAMU's Metropocalypse podcast features our own Lauren Gardner guest-hosting while commuting on the bus bridge during SafeTrack Surge No. 4 with WAMU's Martin Di Caro and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). It was a doozy of a ride - look out for the episode later today.


- VW vows to compensate dealers for tainted diesels. The Wall Street Journal.

- FAA bans flights between the U.S. and Turkey. USA Today.

- Memorial marks 20th anniversary of TWA Flight 800 crash. The Associated Press.

- All of Cleveland will be a 'No Drone Zone' for the GOP convention. Quartz.

- Canadian trade minister brushes off Brazil aircraft complaint. POLITICO Pro.

- Los Angeles' 'Subway to the Sea' is less about play and more about work. The New York Times.

- Women in trucking tell a dark story about their industry. Mary Review.

- Ford invests in startup that makes maps for self-driving cars. Bloomberg.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 73 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 438 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 112 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,538 days.


11 a.m. - Executives from Google X and Silicon-Valley-based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins speak at an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International event. Hilton San Francisco Union Square, 333 O'Farrell St., San Francisco, Calif.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

To view online:

Stories from POLITICO Pro

President signs FAA extension Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 07/15/2016 06:43 PM EDT

President Barack Obama signed an FAA extension into law today, extending the agency's ability to operate for 14 months.

The FAA's authorization was set to expire today. With the president's signature, Congress has more than a year to hash out a longer bill and revisit a failed attempt to overhaul the air traffic control system as well as other provisions cut from the bill the Senate passed in April.

The House approved the extension Monday and the Senate cleared it 89-4 on Wednesday.


Bertram, Spivey register to lobby for A4A Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 07/15/2016 02:52 PM EDT

Two former House Transportation Committee staffers who left the Hill to start their own lobby shop have registered their first client: Airlines for America.

Chris Bertram, the committee's former staff director, and Beth Spivey, former director of outreach, registered under B+S Strategies, their new consulting firm, to lobby for the group.

Bertram and Spivey had worked for the committee under Rep. Bill Shuster since the Pennsylvania Republican became chairman over three years ago.