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Infrastructure in the News 8.19.16

National News

Washington Post: Common Good borrows ‘Daily Show’ style to build interest in infrastructure

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/tripping/wp/2016/08/18/common-good-borrows-daily-show-style-to-build-interest-in-infrastructure/

A new video from Common Good makes rebuilding transportation infrastructure seem fun and vitally important at the same time. It’s also gently derisory about the political and bureaucratic inertia that’s happy to let America continue to rust.

Washington Post: Larry Summers: What we need to do to get out of this economic malaise

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/08/18/larry-summers-what-we-need-to-do-to-get-out-of-this-economic-malaise/

John Williams has written the most thoughtful piece on monetary policy that has come out of the Federal Reserve in a long time. He recognizes more explicitly than others that r*, the neutral interest rate, is now very low and quite probably will remain very low for a long time to come.

New York Times: VW Eyes Transportation Deals to Boost Autonomous Car Plans

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/08/19/business/19reuters-volkswagen-strategy.html?_r=0

Volkswagen is planning further acquisitions in the market for new transportation technologies and services, a top manager at the carmaker said, as it pushes a strategic shift in the wake of its emissions scandal.

Yahoo! Finance: Clinton and Trump should beware the 'infrastructure genie'

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/clinton-trump-beware-infrastructure-genie-000000668.html

Roads! Bridges! They’re coming to save the US economy.

Huffington Post: A Nation of Builders

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leo-hindery-jr/a-nation-of-builders_b_11534888.html

In the midst of this election season, we have heard presidential candidates address a host of issues — from the economy to healthcare to safety and security. As we prepare to elect the next President of the United States and we think about our democracy, it is critical that we do not forget our nation’s builders, the men and women who fought a revolution so that we could be citizens who determine our own destinies.

Washington Post: Rules on heavy trucks’ efficiency are valuable. But there’s still a better approach.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/rules-on-heavy-trucks-efficiency-are-valuable-but-theres-still-a-better-approach/2016/08/18/978c21ca-5daf-11e6-af8e-54aa2e849447_story.html?utm_term=.1b8c3bf13cf6

THE OBAMA administration announced this week groundbreaking rules on heavy trucks, promising that by 2027 the vehicles that move massive amounts of freight across the country will be as much as 25 percent cleaner. This is good news. But it also highlights the fact that the executive branch has been given only command-and-control tools to combat climate change. If Congress would act, the country could do much better.

New York Times: Middle-Income Jobs Finally Show Signs of a Rebound

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/19/business/economy/middle-income-jobs-finally-show-signs-of-a-rebound.html

The American economy is finally creating more middle-income jobs, according to a new analysis released Thursday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in a turnabout from the feast-and-famine pattern earlier in the recovery, when hiring was strongest at the bottom and top of the wage scale.

Wall Street Journal: What Would Clintonomics Bring? Breaking Down Hillary Clinton’s Economic Policy.

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/08/18/what-would-clintonomics-bring-breaking-down-hillary-clintons-economic-policy/

Policy differences aren’t going to decide the presidential election, much to the dismay of think-tank scholars. The overwhelming differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in character, demeanor, world view, and experience are likely to be far more important.

State News

NextCity: 6 Photos Show an Interstate’s Impact on an American City

https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/highways-cities-urban-renewal-st-louis-design

Michael DeFilippo and the U.S. interstate highway system have something in common: Both turn 60 this year. To commemorate that shared birthday, the St. Louis-based commercial photographer has been documenting the negative impact highways have had on his Missouri city’s neighborhoods.

Washington Post: Metro opens police investigation into East Falls Church derailment

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/metro-opens-criminal-investigation-into-east-falls-church-derailment/2016/08/18/80581080-6571-11e6-8b27-bb8ba39497a2_story.html

Metro Transit Police and two former federal prosecutors are launching an investigation into whether criminal wrongdoing may have contributed to last month’s derailment of a Silver Line train, the agency said Thursday.

USA Today: Meeting set for proposed Second Ave. roadwork

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/08/19/meeting-set-proposed-second-ave-roadwork/88944628/

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will hold a public meeting to discuss proposed improvements to Second Avenue between Gaynor Avenue and State 13.

USA Today: Stop State 10 expansion in its tracks

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/columnists/2016/08/18/stop-state-10-expansion-its-tracks/88910576/

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is re-evaluating the proposed new State 10 corridor. The environmental document pertaining to this “proposed highway” is more than three years old, according to information supplied by WisDOT at a June meeting at Ben Franklin Junior High School in Stevens Point and the Federal Highway Administration requires new evaluations.

Wall Street Journal: Clashes Halt Work on North Dakota Pipeline

http://www.wsj.com/articles/clashes-halt-work-on-north-dakota-pipeline-1471554332

Work on a 1,154-mile pipeline that would carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois was halted this week near the Missouri River, amid growing confrontations between members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and police guarding a construction site.

Topeka Capital-Journal: Officials hear public comments on meeting regional transportation needs

http://cjonline.com/news/2016-08-18/officials-hear-public-comments-meeting-regional-transportation-needs

L.J. Polly thinks public officials here place too much transportation emphasis on accommodating bicyclists.

KUT.ORG (Austin, TX): City Council Takes Final Step to Send $720 Million Transportation Bond to Austin Voters

http://kut.org/post/city-council-takes-final-step-send-720-million-transportation-bond-austin-voters

It’s official. Austin voters will decide on a $720 million transportation bond come November 8. Council members took a final vote on the ballot language this afternoon, after nearly two hours of discussion. The final count? Seven council members for, three abstaining, one hard no.

Associated Press: Fate of crumbling DC subway rests with 'nuts-and-bolts guy'

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/275aa425367d4709ab5e122255cf90f0/fate-crumbling-dc-subway-rests-nuts-and-bolts-guy

Paul Wiedefeld stood on an overcrowded platform at Union Station, watching as trains came and went, too full to pick up more commuters. Metro was making him — the general manager of Washington's subway system — late for a meeting about customer service.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 08/19/2016 05:38 AM EDT

With help from Kathryn A. Wolfe, Li Zhou and Alex Guillén

UberSELFIES: The rush toward self-driving cars got an adrenaline jolt Thursday with Uber's announcement that it plans to take them to the streets - literally - and not just for testing. Uber plans to soon start deploying driverless cars (with safety drivers in the front seat ready to take the wheel) to haul actual Uber passengers around the streets of Pittsburgh, with an eye toward eventually doing away with its increasingly pesky cadre of drivers. The company even plans to groom driverless car passengers not to speak to the drivers in the front seat - and not for safety reasons. "The goal is to wean us off of having drivers in the car, so we don't want the public talking to our safety drivers," the company's engineering director told Bloomberg.

The rub: Uber plans to use its drivers to speed their own demise, saying it will use data from its app to improve mapping and navigation systems that will be part of the technological toolkit necessary to help driverless cars safely move through Steel City.

Question time: Most believe deployment of self-driving cars are years, if not decades, away for reasons both societal and regulatory. Silicon Valley, and even some automakers, have begun to call for the feds to establish a national standard. But so far NHTSA has taken a stately pace, mostly focusing on "guidance" documents intended to help states with best practices. Will Uber - which has marched into localities like an invading army - force more action from Washington, D.C.?

All's well, as long as there's a licensed driver: Uber didn't need to jump through additional regulatory hoops because drivers will still be present in the cars, notes Kurt Myers, the deputy secretary for driver and vehicle services at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. "Current law under the vehicle code allows the operation of the motor vehicle as long as there is a licensed driver in the driver's seat," Myers told our friends at Morning Technology. "So what Uber is doing is perfectly permissible." And while lawmakers will be watching this trial closely, the next major legislative questions center on experimental testing that will take place when there are no drivers in the vehicle. In that case, "there would have to be a law change," Myers said.

Room to experiment on the state level: In anticipation of that step in the self-driving car development process, PennDOT's autonomous vehicle task force is establishing a framework that prioritizes safety and forces companies to clarify key attributes about how their vehicles work. The framework is meant to work in concert with guidance that DOT is expected to issue shortly. Such guidance will not dictate exact laws on a federal level, leaving states an opportunity to craft their own legislation on the subject.

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.

"When you left this town, with your windows down/And the wilderness inside/Let the exits pass, all the tar and glass/'Til the road and sky align."

METRO TRANSIT POLICE INVESTIGATING DERAILMENT: WMATA's police force is investigating last month's derailment of a train near the East Falls Church stop, raising questions about whether the incident involved any criminal acts, yours truly reports for Pros. The agency explained in a release that General Manager Paul Wiedefeld made the decision to involve police "following a briefing in which investigators advised him of concerns arising from employee interviews, inspection reports, rail defect tracking, and video recordings." WMATA didn't comment further to MT, only referring to the release.

Former prosecutors also involved: Two former assistant U.S. attorneys are helping Metro's general counsel as special investigators in an "internal administrative review." "The information uncovered to date raises potentially serious concerns, and we will take all actions necessary to get answers and hold people accountable," Wiedefeld said.

FTA TO HIRE CONTRACTORS FOR WMATA OVERSIGHT TRAINING: FTA plans to spend up to $900,000 on contractors who will learn to inspect WMATA's rail system after local leaders failed to task their own workers with training as part of a transition toward handing off duties to a yet-to-be-established oversight body, I report again for Pros. Acting FTA Administrator Carolyn Flowers wrote in a letter to the heads of the local transportation departments that the agency asked D.C., Maryland and Virginia "several times" this summer to "make individuals available to FTA" for training, which "would help the jurisdictions better understand and prepare for the nature and extent of their safety oversight obligations and would facilitate a faster, more efficient transition of oversight authority from FTA" to a new group. "To date we have not received any assurances from the jurisdictions that you intend to provide the requested resources," Flowers wrote. The two states and D.C. are supposed to establish a new oversight body by February 2017.

INHOFE SLAMS PROPOSED FHWA RULE: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe blasted FHWA's proposed rule to measure greenhouse gas performance, saying in an op-ed for the Eno Center for Transportation that "the Obama administration appears to be diverting FHWA's time and resources away from achieving the performance goals set forth in law," referring to the FAST Act and MAP-21.

Claiming the agency would overstep: "Unfortunately, rather than implementing the law passed by Congress, FHWA is proposing to divert attention and resources away from highway and bridge conditions, performance, safety, and attainment of national ambient air quality standards by proposing to adopt a greenhouse gas ... performance measure," Inhofe wrote. The Oklahoma Republican argued that the highway agency lacks the authority to create such a test and warned of legal challenges. He added: "The goal of the laws I co-authored is to improve the safety and advance the modernization of our roads and bridges. FHWA's proposed GHG regulation would divert the limited time and resources of States and local governments away from this goal to pursue instead the administration's unlawful and overzealous climate agenda."

DOJ, EPA SETTLE WITH HARLEY-DAVIDSON: Pro Energy's Alex Guillén with a spot-on Judas Priest reference: "Harley-Davidson riders may have to do a little less freewheel burning after the motorcycle maker agreed to stop selling defeat devices that had EPA spitting flames." The federal government claims that the motorcycle company sold 340,000 aftermarket defeat devices called "super tuners" since 2008 that increase performance but contribute to smog, Alex reports for Pros. Harley-Davidson will cease selling, buy back and destroy the devices, pay a $12 million civil penalty and spend $3 million on an air quality mitigation project for its Clean Air Act violations, which were found after a "routine inspection."

FORMER GM CHAIRMAN WON'T VOTE FOR TRUMP: For the first time, Daniel Akerson, former General Motors chairman and CEO, won't vote for the Republican nominee for president, POLITICO's Nick Gass reports. In a Washington Post op-ed , Akerson wrote: "The compelling rationale behind this decision: leadership. A good leader must demonstrate such qualities as competence, integrity, empathy, character and temperament. Hillary Clinton has these essential qualities. Donald Trump does not." Contrasting Trump with himself, Akerson wrote: "In every chief executive job I have had, my team and I spent countless hours analyzing global trends, listening to experts, learning from others and making informed, reasoned decisions. Trump does none of that." Nick notes that "Trump previously called out General Motors as a company moving its production to Mexico in June but later removed it from a statement."

THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):

- What happened in Austin after Uber and Lyft got up and left. CNBC.

- Fate of crumbling D.C. subway rests with "nuts-and-bolts guy." The Associated Press.

- United Continental names new CFO, commercial chief. The Wall Street Journal.

- Long-awaited Night Tube service launches this weekend as London Underground boss says it is "not just for revellers." The Telegraph.

- U.S. judge rejects Uber's proposed $100 million settlement with drivers. The Wall Street Journal.

- Porsche drivers fume: Where's our VW diesel payout? Bloomberg.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 41 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 406 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 80 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,506 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

9 a.m. - The RTCA special committee on Internet Protocol Suite and AeroMACS wraps up its three-day meeting. RTCA, 1150 18th St. NW, Suite 910.

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

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/08/rush-toward-self-driving-cars-gets-an-adrenaline-jolt-018857

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Metro Transit Police also investigating East Falls Church derailment Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 08/18/2016 02:56 PM EDT

WMATA's police department is investigating last month's derailment of a train at East Falls Church, the agency announced today.

General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said he made the decision to open a criminal probe "following a briefing in which investigators advised him of concerns arising from employee interviews, inspection reports, rail defect tracking, and video recordings." WMATA would not elaborate on details around the necessity of a police probe.

WMATA had already been investigating the derailment as a safety matter.

"The administrative review uncovered information that warrants further investigation by Metro Transit Police," Wiedefeld said in a statement. "While Safety Department investigations determine cause and accountability, it is even more important to understand if other issues must be addressed with the way track inspections and maintenance have been conducted."

Two former assistant U.S. attorneys are helping Metro's general counsel as special investigators in an "internal administrative review," according to WMATA.

"The information uncovered to date raises potentially serious concerns, and we will take all actions necessary to get answers and hold people accountable," Wiedefeld said.

Metro is also working with an external engineering firm to evaluate how it inspects tracks.

Back

FTA to spend $900,000 to hire and train contractors for new Metro oversight body Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 08/18/2016 06:38 PM EDT

FTA plans to spend up to $900,000 on contractors who will learn to inspect WMATA's rail system, after local politicians failed to task workers to learn how to inspect the system as part of a transition toward handing off duties to a new, yet-to-be-created oversight body.

The money was initially set aside for the local transportation agencies to work on safety oversight. Carolyn Flowers, FTA's acting administrator, wrote in a letter sent to the heads of the local transportation departments today that the "contractors will gain experience and training for appropriate safety oversight procedures that will be critical to the new [oversight body] once it is established."

The agency has asked D.C., Maryland and Virginia "several times" this summer to "make individuals available to FTA" for training, which "would help the jurisdictions better understand and prepare for the nature and extent of their safety oversight obligations and would facilitate a faster, more efficient transition of oversight authority from FTA" to a new group.

"To date we have not received any assurances from the jurisdictions that you intend to provide the requested resources," Flowers' letter reads.

FTA assumed oversight of Metrorail safety last year after the federal agency found that D.C., Maryland and Virginia's tri-state oversight body "was incapable of providing adequate safety oversight as required by law." The two states and D.C. are supposed to establish a new oversight body by February 2017.

Back

Feds reach settlement with Harley-Davidson over defeat devices Back

By Alex Guillén | 08/18/2016 12:32 PM EDT

Harley-Davidson riders may have to do a little less freewheel burning after the motorcycle maker agreed to stop selling defeat devices that had EPA spitting flames.

In a lawsuit and settlement announced today, the Justice Department and EPA allege that Harley-Davidson sold 340,000 "super tuners," after-market defeat devices that can be installed on motorcycles to boost their performance. But they also increase emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog formation.

The company has agreed to buy back and destroy the devices, which it sold at dealerships across the U.S. since 2008. It also will pay a $12 million civil penalty and spend $3 million on air quality mitigation projects.

"Given Harley-Davidson's prominence in the industry, this is a very significant step toward our goal of stopping the sale of illegal aftermarket defeat devices that cause harmful pollution on our roads and in our communities," said John Cruden, DOJ's top environmental prosecutor.

The violations were discovered following a "routine" inspection, according to the agencies.

Any tuners Harley-Davidson looks to sell in the future will have to be approved by the California Air Resources Board.

DOJ and EPA also say Harley-Davidson sold more than 12,000 bikes from 2006 to 2008 that were not covered by a key EPA certification. The company agreed to have all future motorcycle models certified by EPA.

The deal is open to a 30-day public comment period and judicial approval.

Back

Former GM chief bucks Trump, endorses Clinton for 'leadership' Back

By Nick Gass | 08/18/2016 08:26 AM EDT

Another lifelong Republican is revved up for Hillary Clinton.

Former General Motors chairman and chief executive Daniel Akerson has instilled in his Catholic beliefs in his children, as well as in "God and country," and the Navy veteran has always voted for Republicans for president.

"Not this year," Akerson wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published Wednesday evening. "The compelling rationale behind this decision: leadership. A good leader must demonstrate such qualities as competence, integrity, empathy, character and temperament. Hillary Clinton has these essential qualities. Donald Trump does not."

Trump does not have the "competence" to be commander in chief, wrote Akerson, who led the auto company from 2010 to 2014 before serving as vice chairman and special adviser to the board of directors at the Carlyle Group from 2014 to 2016. Trump previously called out General Motors as a company moving its production to Mexico in June but later removed it from a statement.

"His knowledge of economic policy and foreign affairs is rudimentary, at best; his views are misguided," Akerson said. "His threat to impose prohibitive tariffs on trade would repeat mistakes that contributed to the Great Depression. His words and actions have rattled our European and Asian allies at a time when Russia and China are resurgent. He has demonstrated neither the capacity nor the inclination to learn from experts in global economics."

Akerson went on to criticize Trump for failing to do what he did as the leader of GM, namely spending "countless hours analyzing global trends, listening to experts, learning from others and making informed, reasoned decisions."

"While running a successful hotel business is honorable and hard work, there is no comparison to running a sophisticated global operation such as the U.S. government," he wrote. "Trump is simply not up to a job of this complexity."

Recalling the Navy saying he once learned and made his life motto - "Ship, shipmate, self" - Akerson explained that the "civilian equivalent" is "country, fellow citizen, self."

"As individuals and as a nation, we must aspire to serve the greater good. We must exhibit the empathy that places the greater good of the nation and its people above individual self-interest," Akerson said. "Unfortunately, Trump has appealed to the lowest common denominators in our society: prejudice, xenophobia and intolerance. He has mocked people with disabilities, tarred ethnic minorities, demeaned women and insulted religious leaders, including the pope."

Akerson also took issue with Trump's "schoolyard name-calling" and distortions of the truth.

"I simply do not believe that Trump could stand tall like John F. Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile Crisis, demonstrate the strength of Ronald Reagan in bringing about the end of the Cold War or articulate the vision of George H.W. Bush to support a unified Germany when the wall came down," Akerson said, writing that on the other hand, "Clinton has been tested. She has demonstrated balance, calm and an even temperament."

Clinton, he said, "has an unparalleled knowledge of foreign and economic policy; she has run complex organizations such as the State Department."

While acknowledging that "[l]ike other leaders, including myself, she has made mistakes," Akerson said he believes she has learned from them and is "ready to be commander in chief on Day One."

"Many of my fellow chief executives will question my decision to speak out," he concluded. "My choice is grounded in the Midwest values that I learned from my parents and grandparents. I hope and believe that one day my grandchildren will be proud that I stood up to speak out about what is right for our country. Ultimately, our greatest duty to our country is to put our future, and our children's future, above partisan politics."