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Infrastructure in the News 7.27.16


The New York Times: Investigators Say Tesla Car Was Speeding at Time of Crash

The driver killed when his Tesla sedan crashed while in self-driving mode was traveling at 9 mph above the speed limit just before hitting the side of a tractor-trailer, federal accident investigators said Tuesday.

Mass Transit: FTA Announces Final Rule Requiring Transit Agencies to Manage, Prioritize Capital Assets

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced a final rule requiring FTA grantees to develop management plans for their public transportation assets, including vehicles, facilities, equipment, and other infrastructure. Transit asset management (TAM) is an essential practice for providing safer, more reliable transit service nationwide, while helping lower operating costs.

KSAT: 'Pokémon Go' puts pedestrians in harm's way

Parents are being warned to remind their children to be aware of their surroundings.

Tree Hugger: Mercedes demonstrates a self-driving bus in Amsterdam

It’s likely that we will see self-driving buses before we see self-driving cars; they follow relatively fixed routes, (for now, anyway) and bus drivers are a major expense. Mercedes has already demonstrated the Future Bus with CityPilot in the Netherlands, running it twelve miles from Schiphol airport to the town of Haarlem. According to Greg Migliore in Autoblog,

Motor City Freedom Riders: Let the People Vote on Regional Transit

Last Thursday, we traveled to the Regional Transit Authority’s monthly board meeting in downtown Detroit, expecting to cheer on an RTA vote to put a regional transit proposal on the November ballot.

Wall Street Journal: Driverless Cars Threaten to Crash Insurers’ Earnings

The insurance industry has a $160 billion blind spot: the driverless car.

Wall Street Journal: Aviation Experts Suggest Caution Releasing Self-Driving Cars

Aviation-safety experts have advice for the car industry as it moves to autonomous-driving vehicles: Proceed slowly and make sure drivers realize the limits of the technology.


Wall Street Journal: Advocates Want More From MTA During Tunnel Shutdown

When the L train’s East River tunnel reopens in 2020, transit officials say New York City subway riders will enjoy more trains, reduced crowding and, at two stations, new entrances and elevators.

The Washington Post: Party’s really over if Metro closes early from now on

That sound you heard this afternoon was the deflating of Washington’s self-image — or maybe champagne corks popping at Uber’s headquarters.

The New York Times: In Williamsburg, Pondering Life Without the L Train

The Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn has had plenty of incarnations of late: industrial waterfront; hipster hub; a village of expensive high-rises, soon to be christened by the borough’s first Apple store.

The New York Times: Colorado to Temporarily Close I-70 Through Glenwood Canyon

A portion of Interstate 70 in Colorado will close for much of Wednesday and Thursday while crews install heavy-duty fencing to prevent rock slides.

Boston Globe: Complaint says MBTA violated civil rights by ending late-night service

A coalition of three advocacy organizations alleges that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority violated civil rights guidelines when it axed late-night bus and subway service, incorrectlyanalyzed how the cancellation would affect minority and low-income riders, and failed to implement alternative services to mitigate the impact, according to a federal complaint filed Tuesday. Cleveland Metroparks gets nearly $8 million from feds for bike and pedestrian paths

Cleveland Metroparks has been awarded a $7.95 million federal transportation grant to build more than four miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails in central Cleveland, including a bridge to connect the existing Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail to the lakefront, according to the office of Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Mobile wins $14.4 million for Broad Street improvements

Persistence pays: On its third try, Mobile has landed a federal transportation grant that will pay for more than $14 million in improvements to Broad and Beauregard streets downtown.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Officials to announce $19 million grant to reconnect Hill District, Downtown

It has been more than half a century since the Hill District flowed directly into Downtown. But the award of a coveted federal grant could make that possible again — and provide a shot in the arm for the overall redevelopment of the former Civic Arena site.

Politico Morning Transportation

By Lauren Gardner and Brianna Gurciullo | 07/27/2016 05:41 AM EDT

With help from Jennifer Scholtes

YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO HOME: Metro GM Paul Wiedefeld is expected to officially propose closing Metrorail at 10 p.m. on Sundays and at midnight all other days during Thursday's board of directors meeting, WMATA announced Tuesday. The move is intended give the agency more time to perform maintenance tasks that were difficult to complete in a pre-SafeTrack world when trains operated until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights (it would shrink the system's operating hours from 135 per week to 127).

But you can't stay here: Per Metro, "the additional track time increases safety and reliability by giving workers the time and space they need to keep Metro's infrastructure in a state of good repair." Metro's board would have to sign off on the change after a public comment period this fall.

This again: As your morning hosts told you earlier this week, Metro's safety committee is expected Thursday to go over an update on the NTSB's myriad recommendations in the wake of the fatal L'Enfant Plaza smoke incident. One of those recommendations - that FRA assume safety oversight of WMATA instead of FTA - recently got some fresh attention from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

A bipartisan coterie of members asked the GAO July 18 to study how FTA is using its new regulatory muscle with respect to WMATA and whether FRA would be better suited to ensure the safety of the transit system (h/t former MT scribe @martinepowers). "Findings will help assure that rail transit systems and federal oversight agencies provide needed services in the safest, most appropriate and cost-effective way, and therefore are needed as soon as possible," the lawmakers wrote.

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

Reach out: or @brigurciullo, or @Gardner_LM and or@JAScholtes.

" We are in the middle of a change in destination/When the train stops, all together we will smile/Oh, meet me in the morning/Won't you meet me in the middle of the night, night, night."

COMING SOON: VW'S PITCH TO FIX DIESELS: A Justice Department lawyer told a federal judge in San Francisco on Tuesday that the department expects Volkswagen to file a new proposal next month to fix the 85,000 3-liter diesels in the U.S. that are equipped with defeat devices, Bloomberg reports . The news comes nearly two weeks after California air regulators rejected the automaker's initial plan to bring the 16,000 larger diesel vehicles in that state into compliance with pollution laws.

The same California court gave a preliminary OK Tuesday to the proposed partial settlement between VW and the federal government, which means - if all goes well - the deal could see final approval in October.

NEW TACTICS ENTER NORWEGIAN AIR STANDOFF: The European Commission is apparently resorting to arbitration to help Norwegian Air in its battle for the freedom to fly from the U.S. to Ireland. Citing two sources, Reuters reports that the commission sent news of the move to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx this week and considers the U.S. government's delay to be a violation of EU-U.S. Open Skies agreements.

Our Lauren Gardner notes that "unions, some lawmakers and even Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton's campaign have come out against the budget airline's bid, arguing that the move could hurt U.S. carriers while rewarding an airline they say follows questionable labor practices."

TESLA IN FATAL CRASH WAS SPEEDING: The Tesla vehicle that hit a semi truck in May was speeding right before the accident, according to a preliminary report from NTSB. The report released Tuesday says the Model S car was traveling 74 mph in a 65 mph zone, our Jennifer Scholtes reports for Pros. Using data from the Model S car, the NTSB found that the driver - a 40-year-old man who died in the accident - was using an automatic steering feature and "traffic-aware" cruise control. It will take at least another year for NTSB to determine probable cause in the case that has ignited criticism of Tesla's Autopilot program.

MOBILEYE PULLS PLUG ON TESLA AGREEMENT: Mobileye, a company that supplies camera-based safety systems, is cutting off its relationship with Tesla after this product cycle. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company helped put Tesla on Wall Street's radar, but it disagrees with how Tesla has used Mobileye technology in Autopilot.

"I think in a partnership, we need to be there on all aspects of how the technology is being used, and not simply providing technology and not being in control of how it is being used," said Amnon Shashua, Mobileye's chief technical officer. Shashua signaled that the fatal crash of a Tesla vehicle in May played a role in Mobileye's decision.

The irony: A little over a week ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted about Mobileye and Bosch, which makes radar sensors: "Btw, want to thank both Bosch and MobilEye for their help and support in making Autopilot better. Please direct all criticism at Tesla." The electric vehicle maker declined to comment to WSJ.

SENATORS PUSH HONDA TO ISSUE 'DO NOT DRIVE' ORDER: Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts say they're "extremely disappointed" after Honda failed to issue a "do not drive" order to customers with certain cars that have Takata airbags, our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros . It's been a month since NHTSA found that the probability of the airbags rupturing is as great as 50 percent.

"This new test data, coupled with the fact that eight of the 10 confirmed U.S. fatalities due to defective Takata airbags were in this subset of vehicles, make it abundantly obvious that a 'do not drive' instruction is absolutely warranted," the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Honda North America President and CEO Toshiaki Mikoshiba.


- Sun-powered airplane completes historic trip around the world. NPR.

- Fiat Chrysler revises sales, shows streak ended in 2013. The Associated Press.

- Low fuel costs help JetBlue's profit rise. The Wall Street Journal.

- JetBlue eyes first trans-Atlantic flights with Airbus A321 order. Bloomberg.

- Tesla opens Gigafactory to expand battery production, sales. The Associated Press.

- Tesla's Musk sees 'modest' capital raise for next strategic turn. Reuters.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 64 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 429 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 103 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,529 days.


10 a.m. - Building America's Future and Bloomberg Politics hold a discussion on "America's Infrastructure Future." Le Meridien Hotel, 1421 Arch Street, Philadelphia, Pa.

12 p.m. - Metro GM Paul Wiedefeld holds a press conference to talk about the first SafeTrack surges that will affect the Red Line. Silver Spring Metro station, 8400 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Md.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

To view online:

Stories from POLITICO Pro

European Commission threatens Open Skies battle over Norwegian Air International Back

By Lauren Gardner | 07/26/2016 02:16 PM EDT

The European Commission says it will seek "arbitration" to resolve Norwegian Air International's application to operate, and considers the delay a violation of the EU-U.S. Open Skies agreement, according to a Reuters report.

EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today to notify him of the body's plans, Reuters reported. A DOT spokesman could not immediately provide the letter.

Unions, some lawmakers and even Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton's campaign have come out against the budget airline's bid, arguing that the move could hurt U.S. carriers while rewarding an airline they say follows questionable labor practices.

DOT granted tentative approval to the application in April but has yet to issue a final decision.


NTSB: Tesla in lethal 'Autopilot' incident was speeding Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 07/26/2016 02:08 PM EDT

The Tesla that crashed into a big rig in May was speeding and using automatic steering technology just before the fatal collision, the NTSB confirmed in a preliminary report released this afternoon.

The NTSB won't decide the probable cause of the accident for another year at least, but the preliminary factual report released today explains that data downloaded from the Model S just before impact shows that the car was going 74 mph in a 65 mph zone, and that the driver was using both "traffic-aware" cruise control and an automatic steering feature.

Because the Tesla was equipped with several systems that collect data, the NTSB will be able to continue investigating the accident by comparing that information to other facts collected after the crash.

The accident, which killed the 40-year-old man driving the Tesla, happened on a Saturday afternoon on a four-lane highway. The Tesla passed underneath a semi truck, which was making a left turn. The Model S then collided with a utility pole before coming to a stop in the front yard of a private home.

Upon initial impact, the Tesla's battery disengaged from the vehicle's electric motors, the NTSB found.


Senators urge 'do not drive' order for Hondas Back

By Lauren Gardner | 07/26/2016 11:44 AM EDT

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey called on Honda today to order customers not to drive certain vehicle models equipped with Takata airbags that NHTSA has found have as high as a 50 percent chance of rupture.

The senators said they were "extremely disappointed" Honda didn't issue a "do not drive" order after DOT announced its findings a month ago. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a June 30 statement that motorists "should not drive these vehicles unless they are going straight to a dealer to have them repaired immediately, free of charge."

The cars in question include certain Hondas and Acuras from model years 2001 through 2003.

"This new test data, coupled with the fact that eight of the 10 confirmed U.S. fatalities due to defective Takata airbags were in this subset of vehicles, make it abundantly obvious that a 'do not drive' instruction is absolutely warranted," Blumenthal and Markey wrote in a letter to Honda North America President and CEO Toshiaki Mikoshiba.