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Infrastructure in the News 8.12.16

NATIONAL NEWS

The Hill: Clinton touts $275B infrastructure plan to help create jobs

http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/291165-clinton-looks-to-infrastructure-for-job-creation

Hillary Clinton is making investments in the nation’s infrastructure a cornerstone of her job creation plan. During a major economic speech near Detroit on Thursday, the Democratic presidential nominee vowed to work with Congress to advance the biggest investment in new jobs since World War II.

Financial Times: Clinton sees chance to build bridges on infrastructure

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1c741bfe-5fdb-11e6-b38c-7b39cbb1138a.html#axzz4H7nHToj5

Hillary Clinton is gambling on achieving the kind of political breakthrough early in the next Congress that has eluded policymakers in recent years as she places an infrastructure blitz at the top of her policy agenda.

CNBC: Plans by Trump, Clinton to fix potholes, bridges face obstacles

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/11/plans-by-trump-clinton-to-rebuild-america-face-these-roadblocks.html

America is falling apart. And both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are promising to spend big to fix it. But it remains to be seen whether a tight-fisted Congress would go along with the kind of massive new spending the candidates are calling for.

Wall Street Journal: The Clinton Plan’s Growth Deficit

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-clinton-plans-growth-deficit-1470957720

Hillary Clinton’s big speech on Thursday laying out her economic proposals included much of what you’d expect—calls for higher taxes on “Wall Street, corporations, and the superrich.” The centerpiece was her call for “the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.” Reading the speech, and detail on the campaign website, I’m not encouraged.

Reuters: More Airline Outages Seen as Carriers Grapple With Aging Technology

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-delta-air-outages-it-analysis-idUSKCN10N1A3

Airlines will likely suffer more disruptions like the one that grounded about 2,000 Delta flights this week because major carriers have not invested enough to overhaul reservations systems based on technology dating to the 1960s, airline industry and technology experts told Reuters.

CNBC: Republican and independent business leaders endorse Clinton

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/11/republican-and-independent-business-leaders-endorse-clinton.html

An increasing number of Republican business leaders are crossing party lines to support Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. As part of a coordinated push, the campaign has launched "Together for America" to lead the campaign's outreach efforts among Republicans and independents.

STATE NEWS

Baltimore Sun: Hogan's clash with Democrats over transportation spending reignited

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-transportation-bill-20160811-story.html

A bitter fight between Gov. Larry Hogan and the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly — over a law governing how billions of state dollars will be spent on transportation projects — is flaring anew.

CBS Philly: Over $60-Billion Slated For PA Transportation Projects

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2016/08/11/60-billion-slated-pa-transportation-projects/

The 2017 12-year State Transportation Commission program has been approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The program this year is a 251 page report that outlines all state transportation projects. It’s re-evaluated and approved every other year.

Austin Business Journal: An Austin-San Antonio train? Possibilities exist beyond Lone Star Rail

http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/news/2016/08/11/austin-san-antonio-train-possibilities-still-exist.html

Lone Star Rail may be on its death bed but it’s not the only plan for rail transportation between Austin and San Antonio. The Texas Department of Transportation will release a final environmental impact statement early next year for a proposed passenger rail line running from South Texas to Oklahoma City by way of San Antonio, Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Curbed: Now this is how you design a freeway underpass

http://www.curbed.com/2016/8/11/12441906/freeway-underpass-california-walking

Like most places in the U.S., the Silicon Valley city of Campbell made a big mistake a half-century ago. When California State Route 17 came plowing through town, transportation planners located it so close to Campbell’s historic downtown that it sheared the picturesque streets off from the surrounding neighborhoods.

Governing: Urban Planners’ New Enemy

http://www.governing.com/columns/assessments/gov-parking-urban-planning.html

On a slow afternoon back in 2005, I found myself thumbing through one of the oddest books I had ever come across. It was a 733-page treatise on parking by Donald Shoup, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who had devoted much of his career to collecting every available nugget of information on the subject.

By Lauren Gardner, Jennifer Scholtes and Brianna Gurciullo | 08/12/2016 05:42 AM EDT

With help from Rachael Bade

STB JOINS LEGAL FRAY OVER OTP: The Association of American Railroads sued the Surface Transportation Board this week over its final on-time performance rule for passenger trains. The freight railroads' main lobby argues that the rule, which would define an Amtrak train's timeliness based on when it pulls into all stops on its itinerary and not just at the endpoint, is an overreach by STB into FRA and Amtrak's territory to set performance parameters.

A little history: The freights also have argued against Amtrak having that power in the first place, saying the 2008 law Congress passed allowing FRA and Amtrak to jointly write performance standards violated their due process rights by giving what they considered a private company regulatory authority over their businesses. That case has wound its way through the D.C. appeals court and back again - the Supreme Court decided in 2015 that Amtrak is a government entity, but punted the case back to the lower court to decide constitutional questions. Earlier this year, the D.C. Circuit ruled once again in the freights' favor and nullified the performance metrics. DOT has asked the full court to review the issue.

Three musketeers: Three freight carriers - CSX, Norfolk Southern and Canadian National Railway - filed their own suits against STB this week on the OTP rule. The common thread? All of those railroads are under STB investigation for shoddy performance on Amtrak routes that use their tracks. (Those cases were paused while STB wrote the rule.)

Well, that's awkward: What's more, CSX officials met with local, state and federal government representatives today Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla., to go over the nitty-gritty of what it would take to provide reliable passenger service along their Gulf Coast corridor. Amtrak's complaint against CSX concerns current service in an entirely different area of the country, and folks who want to bring passenger rail back to the region have applauded the freight railroad for coming to the table and acting as a willing partner in the effort.

Always something in the way: But when it comes to the Gulf Coast, the board's rule means the two railroads may have to tweak proposed schedules to account for drawbridge openings and other obstacles that could keep trains from running on time at all stations. An OTP rule based on arrival at an endpoint would theoretically make that task easier, since trains could make up time if they got delayed along the way. But that also would make intermediate stations more likely to see their trains come through behind schedule - a common occurrence when Amtrak operated in the Gulf in the 1990s and early 2000s.

HAPPY FRIDAY: 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: bgurciullo@politico.com or @brigurciullo, lgardner@politico.com or @Gardner_LM, jscholtes@politico.com or @JAScholtes and tsnyder@politico.com or @TSnyderDC.

"Ridin' down the highway. Goin' to a show. Stop in all the byways. Playin' rock 'n' roll."

ALL SET FOR TRANSIT SAFETY SMACKDOWN: The FTA has just finished up its final framework for rooting out safety issues within U.S. transit systems and demanding they get fixed. The 16-page rule, which will go into effect in one month, codifies the FTA's existing safety program and stipulates that the agency is allowed to withhold up to 25 percent of a transit operator's Urbanized Area Formula funds until serious safety violations are resolved.

Money trouble: As we told Pros, the agency got 118 public comments on its proposal, including complaints that the rule amounts to an "unfunded mandate" because FTA hasn't pointed out a specific pot of money that can be used to comply with its demands. The agency's response: The rule doesn't actually require recipients to take specific actions and, yes, it'd be nice if Congress kicked in more funding for federal transit programs.

AMTRAK'S WATCHING YOU - SOMETIMES: Amtrak has spent $91 million over the past decade on video surveillance technology to try to stave off terrorist attacks on the rail system. And while those dollars have led to the installation at "key locations," there are still some major coverage gaps that leave important parts of the system vulnerable, Amtrak's IG reported this week. As we explained for Pros, "some stations don't have remote viewing locations for watching videos or continuous monitoring of surveillance feeds. And technical issues have limited the surveillance network's capability ... Last year, for example, heavy video usage overloaded the network and brought down some remote viewing capabilities."

Cash-strapped: Amtrak officials say more money could take care of some of these problems. So far, the surveillance network has been covered by more than $48 million in DHS grants and $34 million from the 2009 stimulus, as well as $7 million in Amtrak operating funds and $400,000 in Amtrak capital funds.

WILLIAMS REMAINS UNDER SCRUTINY FOR HIGHWAY BILL AMENDMENT: The House Ethics Committee will continue reviewing allegations that Rep. Roger Williams used his position in Congress to benefit himself and a car dealership he owns. POLITICO's Rachael Bade reports : "At the crux of the matter is an amendment the Texas Republican tacked onto the highway bill last fall that essentially exempted auto dealers from a prohibition in the bill on renting vehicles subject to safety recalls. Williams' amendment limited the provision - included in the must-pass legislation after two Californian sisters died in a crashed rental car under recall - to companies that are 'primarily' engaged in the car rental business. That means car dealerships that happen to rent cars as well as sell and fix them - like Williams' company did at the time - could continue the practice." The next step for the Ethics panel would be to convene an investigative subcommittee on the matter.

SOME DÉJÀ VU IN CLINTON'S JOBS PLAN: Hillary Clinton made a stop in Warren, Mich., on Thursday to lay out her plans for the economy, touting her promise to spend big on infrastructure as a way to create millions of jobs, as we reported for Pros. It's a strategy that in many ways echoes President Barack Obama's. "We will put Americans to work building and modernizing our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our railways, our ports, our airports," Clinton said. "We are way overdue for this, my friends. We are living off the investments that were made by our parents and grandparents' generations."

Let's get moving: The Democratic presidential nominee also explained that her proposal to create an infrastructure bank would "get private funds off the sidelines and complement our private investments." She said "$25 billion in government seed funding could unlock more than $250 billion and really get our country moving on our infrastructure plans."

TRANSITIONS: Amy Brink is now vice president of state affairs at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, where she has worked in the state affairs and legal departments. Brink previously served as a manager at the International Franchise Association and the National Retail Federation before starting at the Auto Alliance in 2005.

SECOND DRIVER FOR D.C. PARATRANSIT SERVICE ARRESTED IN A WEEK: Another contract worker for MetroAccess, D.C. Metro's van service for people with disabilities, was arrested after he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman he had driven, The Washington Post reports . Jose G. Pino Estrada was arrested Wednesday, turning himself in a day after a driver who worked for a different MetroAccess contractor was arrested on sexual offense and assault charges. Pino Estrada, who is 35 and worked for Diamond Transportation, is accused of sexually assaulting a 51-year-old woman in her apartment in Falls Church, Va., in June.

THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):

- GM continues to seek shield from ignition-switch suits. The Wall Street Journal.

- iPad apps help cut fatal crashes of private planes to new lows. Bloomberg.

- Uber says most of its safety incidents involve 'abusive riders on drivers.' The Washington Post.

- The superglue diet: How to make a lighter, fuel-sipping car. The New York Times.

- Taking on Tesla: China's WM Motor sees mass market electric cars. Reuters.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 48 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 413 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 87 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,513 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

Nothing on our radar for today.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at transpocalendar@politicopro.com.

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/08/stb-joins-legal-fray-over-otp-018741

Stories from POLITICO Pro

DOT wraps up transit safety program rule Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 08/11/2016 01:34 PM EDT

DOT is out with its final regulation today guiding the Federal Transit Administration's oversight of U.S. transit system safety.

The final rule goes into effect on Sept. 12 and codifies the FTA's program for pinpointing and reducing safety risks for a federally funded public transportation system across the country.

The rule stipulates that FTA is allowed to withhold up to 25 percent of a transit operator's Urbanized Area Formula funds until serious safety violations are resolved. And the rule scraps language in current law that states that the FTA will consider in its enforcement action whether transit systems have complied with safety advisories.

The agency received 118 public comments on the proposal, including feedback on how the safety program financially impacts transit operators.

"Some commenters were concerned that the proposed rule would impose costs and administrative burdens on states and transit agencies," the rule says. "Some commenters suggested that the [notice of proposed rulemaking] would be an 'unfunded mandate' because FTA did not identify any specially designated funding that could be used by recipients towards complying with the rule."

The agency contends, however, that "this rule does not impose specific costs to recipients" because it "does not require recipients to take any specific action." And while some commenters said federal funding should be set aside to help transit systems comply with the safety directives, the FTA notes that it's Congress that doles out the money.

"FTA recognizes the need for increased investments in transit at all levels of government, and recommends funding levels for the Federal transit programs through the annual congressional appropriations process," the report states.

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IG: Patchy surveillance systems leave Amtrak vulnerable Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 08/11/2016 02:28 PM EDT

Some high-risk Amtrak locations have gaps in video surveillance coverage because of the rail operator's "ad hoc" method of installing the systems, according to a report from Amtrak's inspector general.

The heavily redacted rundown on the rail service's video surveillance network reports that Amtrak has "made progress" in installing systems at "key locations" and has invested $91 million toward that effort. But without a "strategic approach to planning the design" of the network, major coverage gaps leave rail locations vulnerable to terrorist attack, the IG reports.

Some stations don't have remote viewing locations for watching videos or continuous monitoring of surveillance feeds. And technical issues have limited the surveillance network's capability, the report states.

Last year, for example, heavy video usage overloaded the network and brought down some remote viewing capabilities, the IG explained.

"Instead of following leading practices by strategically collaborating with other departments nationwide to identify user requirements and to define technical standards and operational processes, the company relied on outside contractors with minimal input from the end-users and the Information Technology (IT) department," the report states. "This ad hoc approach has led to a number of technical, operational, and security challenges."

Amtrak officials argue that a lack of dedicated funding has limited the surveillance network, which has been primarily paid for through grants, including more than $48 million in DHS grants and $34 million from the 2009 stimulus, as well as $7 million in Amtrak operating funds and $400,000 in Amtrak capital funds.

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House ethics panel will continue review of Texas' Williams Back

By Rachael Bade | 08/11/2016 04:30 PM EDT

The House Ethics Committee on Thursday released new details about allegations that Rep. Roger Williams used his position to privately benefit himself and a car dealership he owns in Weatherford, Texas.

The panel announced it will continue its ongoing review of the potential conflict-of-interest referral made by the Office of Congressional Ethics in mid-May. At the crux of the matter is an amendment the Texas Republican tacked onto the transportation bill last fall that essentially exempted auto dealers from a prohibition in the bill on renting vehicles subject to safety recalls.

William's amendment limited the provision - included in the must-pass legislation after two Californian sisters died in a crashed rental car under recall - to companies that are "primarily" engaged in the car rental business. That means car dealerships that happen to rent cars as well as sell and fix them - like William's company did at the time - could continue the practice.

"If Representative Williams improperly took official action on a matter in which he had a personal financial interest, then he may have violated House rules and standards of conduct regarding conflicts of interest," the OCE referral, released Thursday, reads.

The Ethics panel has yet to determine whether it will convene an investigative subcommittee on the matter, the next step should they find merit in an full-fledged probe.

"In order to gather additional information necessary to complete its review, the committee will review the matter," Chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) said in a Thursday statement. "The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee."

Williams and Williams Chrysler Ltd. in a joint response to the Ethics panel said the allegations are based on "nothing more than misguided assumptions and an exceptionally rigid and impractical application of the ethics rules governing members."

"When Rep. Williams offered his amendment ... he did so ethically, without any improper motivations and without any desire or possible effect of personal gain," the documents reads.

In November, when the controversy first arose, Williams in a statement suggested there was nothing wrong with him using his personal knowledge of the car industry to legislate.

"Unless a Member is a career politician ... they have probably had at least one job," he said. "Should those Members excuse themselves from engaging in debate that affects the industries or sectors they know best? In my opinion, absolutely not. Are members of Congress who are doctors engaged in conflicts of interest when they vote on Medicare, Medicaid or NIH funding? Are Members of Congress who are involved in real estate engaged in conflicts of interest when they vote on public housing or tax credits"

Critics say it's another matter, however, when a member personally benefits.

According to the OCE report, William's company, which works with Chrysler, Dodge and Ram vehicles, offers rental cars to customers getting their cars repaired. Neither Williams nor the company would tell the OCE how much of their business, worth any where between $25 million and $50 million according to 2014 financial disclosure reports, centered on rental cars, according to the referral.

Should Ethics pursue the matter, it could become headache for Williams, who has made no secret of his aspirations to succeed Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) as NRCC chairman. He's already squaring off with Ohio Republican Steve Stivers, who's favored for the position, but this could complicate matters.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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Clinton promises to 'put Americans to work' with infrastructure jobs Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 08/11/2016 02:52 PM EDT

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton today touted her big-spending infrastructure plan as a way to create millions of jobs - a strategy that echoes some of President Barack Obama's economic proposals.

As in past speeches, Clinton said she would make the largest investment in job creation since World War II.

"We will put Americans to work building and modernizing our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our railways, our ports, our airports," Clinton said. "We are way overdue for this, my friends. We are living off the investments that were made by our parents and grandparents' generations."

Her remarks came during a speech in Warren, Mich., about 60 miles from Flint.

Clinton got into some of the details of her plan to create an infrastructure bank, saying it would "get private funds off the sidelines and complement our private investments."

Some "$25 billion in government seed funding could unlock more than $250 billion and really get our country moving on our infrastructure plans," Clinton said. "And we're going to invest $10 billion in what we're calling 'Make it in America Partnerships' to support American manufacturing and recommit the scientific research that can create entire new industries."

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