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Infrastructure in the News 8.11.16


Wall Street Journal: Will Republicans Embrace Clinton's Infrastructure Plans?

Hillary Clinton is expected to outline her plan for U.S. infrastructure, including large spending programs for improvement to roads, bridges and ports, in a speech on Thursday. WSJ's Gerald F. Seib explains why there could be bipartisan support for her proposals.

CBS News: Trump wants U.S. borrowing binge for infrastructure

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says the U.S. government should exploit historically low interest rates and borrow hundreds of billions -- if not trillions of dollars -- to repair aging infrastructure across the country.

Wall Street Journal: In Break from GOP, Trump Endorses Deficit Funding of Infrastructure Renewal

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Thursday endorsed deficit spending to fund a broad overhaul of U.S. infrastructure, a significant departure from Republican orthodoxy that in recent years has prioritized reducing the federal budget deficit and criticized growth in the national debt.

Reuters: Commentary: Trump's economic plan leaves everything up for grabs

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump laid out his economic plan in Detroit on Monday. “I want to jump-start America,” Trump announced, “It can be done. And it won't even be that hard.” Is it a coherent plan? Don't kid yourself. He's a deal-maker. Trump's stands on the issues are just starting positions. Everything is negotiable.

Reuters: Amtrak begins settling lawsuits in Pennsylvania derailment

Amtrak has begun settling lawsuits brought by passengers on a speeding train that crashed in Pennsylvania last year, killing eight people and injuring about 200, according to court filings and attorneys for passengers.

Bloomberg: I Just Drove Eight Hours on Tesla Autopilot and Lived to Tell the Tale

I knew Tesla had a problem when everyone started telling me to “be safe.” I was getting ready to embark on a 550-mile road trip in a $145,000 Tesla Model S. I’d be driving through the twisted passes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and I couldn’t imagine a more enjoyable vehicle for the journey. But when I mentioned the trip to friends and family, all they wanted to talk about was a recent crash involving Autopilot, Tesla’s version of cruise control—on steroids.

Wall Street Journal: Why the Big Three Airlines Are So Much the Same

The seats, legroom and snacks are roughly the same. Frequent-flier programs change in lockstep. One strips basics like advance seat assignments from its cheapest fares and the others say, me too. They all outfit their planes with blue and gray interiors.


USA Today: Vote means city won't expedite road repairs

With a tax increase now off the table, officials say they aren’t sure much else can be done to bolster road repairs in Marshfield. Voters on Tuesday cast 1,532 ballots against a measure that asked whether the city should raise the property tax rate over five years to fund more street improvements, nearly twice as many as the 861 votes in support.

NBC News: For Los Angeles' 'Metro Kid,' Public Transportation Is a Way of Life

On a Sunday afternoon in July, 16-year-old Kenny Uong waits with his parents on Platform 2 at the Del Mar Metro Gold Line Station in Pasadena, California. Wearing a Los Angeles County Metropolitan T-shirt and a black LA Metro cap, Uong loads his TAP card, ready to board the next light rail headed toward his favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley.

Washington Post: Metro SafeTrack program could be modified to address problems found after derailment

Metro’s 10-month SafeTrack maintenance plan may become even more extensive as officials weigh the possibility of adding weekend shutdowns or postponing the program’s conclusion as the agency continues its investigation and performs inspections in the aftermath of last month’s derailment at East Falls Church.

WMRU: 10 questions for Republican candidates for governor: Infrastructure

The Republican candidates for governor answer the question: What needs to be done to pay for upgrades and repairs to New Hampshire's aging infrastructure?

Ridge Field Press: Online tool offers progress reports on state transportation initiatives

Work is progressing on improvements to the rail dockyard in Norwalk that is at the end of the Danbury branch rail line, according to a new interactive online tool introduced by the state Department of Transportation last month.

The Transportation Ramp-Up Dashboard provides a way to track progress of Let’s Go CT!, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed $2.8-billion Transportation Ramp-Up Program.

MPR News: Twin Cities transit best in the U.S. for 2016

The national trade group representing transit services, contractors and suppliers is lauding Twin Cities' Metro Transit for record ridership on the Green Line and improvements in safety and operations.

Southwest Journal: Estimated cost for Southwest light rail rises again

The estimated cost for Southwest Light Rail Transit hit nearly $1.86 billion this week and threatens to continue rising as the project nears a critical turning point.

Next City: Four-City DOT Tour Spotlights Highways That Thwart Opportunity

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation conducted a two-week tour that focused on urban planning around downtown highways and hit four cities: Spokane, Washington; Nashville; Philadelphia; and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

WNYC: 'Numbskull' Decision Stalls Hundreds of New Jersey Transportation Projects

The Park Avenue Bridge is one of just two vital roads that connect the New Jersey city of Hoboken with the Lincoln Tunnel to the north. Work to repair the bridge's crumbling concrete had just gotten underway when Gov. Chris Christie ordered the shutdown of all "non-essential" state-funded transportation projects.

By Jennifer Scholtes, Brianna Gurciullo and Lauren Gardner | 08/11/2016 05:55 AM EDT

NO QUICK FIXES FOR AGING TRANSIT SYSTEMS: In the United States, most big-city transit systems are decades old - a reality that means their operators have to maintain ailing infrastructure while trying not to screw up their riders' lives by disrupting commutes. And here in D.C., that challenge has never been clearer than in the past few months of so-called SafeTrack repair surges that have brought parts of the capital's Metro system to a literal standstill for weeks on end. While federal transportation officials and Metro's higher-ups say this prolonged blitz is worth the pain, they also want riders to know that the system won't be a picture of perfection upon completion.

Not 'hunky-dory': "At the end of SafeTrack in eight months, the system still will be in need of repair," Jack Evans, chairman of Metro's board of directors, told reporters this week. "We will still need a lot of work to bring it up to speed. So I don't want anybody to have the impression that you'll have a brand new system and everything will be hunky-dory. That's not going to be the case. We still have a long, long way to go. But I'm confident we're going to get there."

Unhappily supportive: Evans said there is an "enormous" amount of infrastructure that needs to be repaired and updated. "It is a daunting task," he said. "So we're taking our time in trying to get it done." For their part, riders seem to understand of the necessity of the work: "The public has been very supportive - not necessarily happy - but very supportive of the SafeTrack effort," Evans said.

More repairs, more problems: Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld has likened the repair process to never-ending home maintenance. "We knew we had problems with the roof. And now that we've started to peel it away, we've found more problems," he said this week. "This is a new way of doing business. We constantly have to be out there doing work. That's what we'll do. We'll prioritize it based on severity. And that's what we're doing with the SafeTrack initiative."

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.

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

"I'm the guy who's the boss on this highway. So watch out what you're doin' when you're drivin' my way."

AIR MARSHALS NOT ENOUGH FOR CUBA FLIGHTS? House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul says the TSA's move this week to put air marshals on flights to and from Cuba is a "positive step." But he contends that the added security doesn't change the fact that the Cuban government won't let U.S. lawmakers visit to size up the country's airport procedures. "The American people should have grave concerns about the level of security currently in place at any foreign airport where the host government refused to allow Congress to visit," the chairman said in a written statement this week.

A long story: TSA sent a statement to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council on Tuesday saying that the agency struck an agreement with Cuba that "sets forth the legal framework" for putting air marshals on flights between the two countries. That announcement came after McCaul and several other lawmakers were unable to travel to the island nation in June because the Cuban government did not approve their visas for the trip to assess aviation security.

CLINTON HITS UP MOTOR CITY: Hillary Clinton is set to speak this afternoon in a Detroit suburb about jobs and the economy. The backdrop: a company called Futuramic Tool and Engineering that's in the business of engineering and fabricating aircraft and automobiles. Listen for the presidential hopeful to draw a link between infrastructure investment and job creation. The Detroit Free Press has the deets ahead of the speech.

RALLYING FOR RAIL: The working group tasked by Congress with figuring out what it will take to bring passenger rail service back to a swath of the Gulf Coast meets in Jacksonville today. The members will hear from CSX officials about how much work the effort could entail - and thus what the price tag could be - and our Lauren Gardner is there following the action.

What's at stake: Train service was suspended east of New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina devastated the coastline in 2005, and while freight operations got back online early the following year, Amtrak never resumed running its Sunset Limited line there (which was notorious for running hours, or even a day, behind schedule). The Gulf Coast Working Group - a band of state and local government officials, business group leaders, and reps from the Southern Rail Commission, FRA and Amtrak - has been studying two proposed services since it formed early this year. One would be an extension of Amtrak's City of New Orleans route, which originates in Chicago, from New Orleans to Orlando. The other would pair that long-distance service with an additional train -- largely supported by the states and ticket sales -- operating a round trip between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., every day.

The catch?: CSX is expected to describe the extent of the infrastructure upgrades, like grade crossing and signal improvements, it would need to make along the route to accommodate Amtrak once again. Some cities and towns also would need to rehab their stations to make them ADA-compliant, and Mobile in particular must figure out where it would build a station since its old one was ruined by the hurricane. Those capital needs will cost millions, and that's not even taking into account how much money Amtrak and the states would need to operate the service.

JUDGE SAYS NO LUV FOR SOUTHWEST: A federal appeals court earlier this week rejected Southwest Airlines' case against DOT concerning gate access at Dallas' Love Field. The carrier took DOT to court in February over a guidance letter its lawyers argued was a final agency action that compelled the city of Dallas to cave to Delta's request that it keep its five daily flights from the airport. (Delta subleased two gates from another airline, but Southwest took control of them in 2014 and wants to use them to expand service at Love Field, which is its hub.) But the three-judge panel said that argument is invalid because DOT launched an investigation a year ago into whether Dallas followed the airline competition terms of its federal airport improvement grants. That, the court said, made it clear the feds' earlier letter wasn't the last word on the issue.

D.C. PARATRANSIT DRIVER CHARGED WITH SEXUAL OFFENSE, ASSAULT: A contract worker for Metro's van service for people with disabilities was arrested after he allegedly assaulted a passenger. The 44-year-old driver, Derrick Lamont Bowen, works for Transdev, which has a contract with Metro. Bowen's van was in a church parking lot in Laurel, Md., on Tuesday morning when a "witness observed the driver of the van move to the rear passenger compartment where he then engaged in a sexual act with an adult female passenger," according to a Metro release. The woman has an intellectual disability.

REMEMBERING BOB KILEY: Mass transit champion Robert Kiley died Tuesday at the age of 80 from complications related to Alzheimer's disease, The New York Times reported. During his lifetime, Kiley increased MBTA's rail service, proposed MetroCard at MTA and served as London's first ever transport commissioner. In New York, he "presided over the replacement of hundreds of decrepit subway cars and buses, modernized stations, and improved on-time performance in a system that had been woefully neglected," the Times reported.

How he got his start in transportation: "Mr. Kiley was a former Central Intelligence Agency operative and public policy expert who became a transit professional in 1975 by a fluke," according to the Times. "Michael S. Dukakis, the newly elected governor of Massachusetts, asked him to recommend a chief executive for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. When Mr. Kiley's two candidates rejected the job, the governor gave it to him. 'I said, "But I don't know anything about transportation," and he said, "Too bad, you're it,"' Mr. Kiley recalled."

THE STATES THAT ARE TOUGH (AND NOT SO TOUGH) ON DUI: Arizona, Georgia and Alaska have the strictest DUI laws in the country, according to a ranking by WalletHub. South Dakota, D.C. and North Dakota have the most lenient laws. Blue states have more lenient laws than red states. WalletHub considered states' criminal penalties for DUIs and prevention measures like requiring an ignition interlock device after a conviction.


- Why the big three airlines are so much the same. The Wall Street Journal.

- 'Self-driving' in spotlight again as China sees first Tesla autopilot crash. Reuters.

- Thanks to this man, airplanes don't crash into mountains anymore. Bloomberg.

- Amtrak begins settling lawsuits in Pennsylvania derailment. Reuters.

- I just drove eight hours on Tesla autopilot and lived to tell the tale. Bloomberg Pursuits.

- Detroit's Big Three to start contract talks with Canadian auto workers. The Wall Street Journal.

- A new wireless hack can unlock 100 million Volkswagens. Wired.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 49 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 414 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 88 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,514 days.


8 a.m. - The Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office holds a meeting of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Program Advisory Committee to consider possible advice topics. Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel, 1700 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, Va.

12 p.m. - The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration holds a meeting via teleconference of the Unified Carrier Registration Plan board of directors to work on the UCR Plan.

2:30 p.m. - Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune holds a field hearing titled "Freight Rail Reform: Implementation of the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015." Carnegie Town Hall, 235 West 10th St., Sioux Falls, S.D.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

Air marshals not enough for Cuba flights? - Clinton hits up Motor City - Rallying for rail today

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