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Infrastructure in the News 8.22.16

National News

Washington Post: With a comfortable lead, Clinton begins laying plans for her White House agenda

Hillary Clinton’s increasingly confident campaign has begun crafting a detailed agenda for her possible presidency, with plans to focus on measures aimed at creating jobs, boosting infrastructure spending and enacting immigration reform if current polling holds and she is easily elected to the White House in November.

U.S. News & World Report: The Infrastructure Opportunity

As we careen toward the November election, there does not seem to be much upon which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agree. One of those very few things, however, is the opportunity to create good paying jobs by rebuilding our nation's crumbling infrastructure. And for good reason.

Washington Post: What happens when a group of transit wonks ‘Play with Traffic’?

In a sunlit Crystal City penthouse, a few dozen transit wonks and software developers pondered a fundamental question: How can technology be used to improve our experience on the roads?

Washington Post: The inside story of how billionaires are racing to take you to outer space

Later this year, tech entrepreneur turned space pioneer Elon Musk is planning the blastoff of a new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, that would be twice as powerful as any other in use and one of the biggest since the Apollo era’s mighty Saturn V. The stage for the rocket’s debut: the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took off for the moon in 1969.

Washington Post: Yes, America needs infrastructure spending. No, it is not a federal responsibility.

Regarding the Aug. 16 Wonkblog excerpt, “When it comes to investing in U.S. infrastructure, Trump is right on the money”: We need to borrow funds now to pay for infrastructure costs before rates increase, but infrastructure investment should not be a responsibility of the federal government and financed by federal taxpayers.

New York Times: A Rare Agreement on Climate Rules

With most of President Obama’s efforts to combat climate change tied up in litigation, it is heartening, if not downright astonishing, to see an industry targeted by an aggressive rule to reduce greenhouse gases welcoming that rule. It is also heartening to be able to provide proof to a reflexively hostile Congress — whose members yap incessantly about “job-killing regulations” and “executive overreach” — that regulators and industry can, in fact, produce a mutually acceptable result.

New York Times: Lyft Is Said to Seek a Buyer, Without Success

It is not an easy thing to be an independent ride-hailing company these days.

New York Times: Amtrak Picks Freight Rail Veteran as New Leader at a Critical Time

Amtrak, which is pressing to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey, on Friday named a freight rail veteran as its next chief executive.

Wall Street Journal: Humans: Unsafe at Any Speed (full article after Morning Transportation)

“If someone had told you 10 years ago—even five years ago—that a major American car company would announce the mass production of a vehicle with no steering wheel, you would have said they were crazy.” With these words, Ford CEO Mark Fields hopes to wave regulators out of the way of fully self-driving cars.

Philly.Com: An infrastructure plan or two, and how to pay for it

Whoever wins the White House this fall, each party claims it will put more people to work updating this nation's embarrassingly worn roads, rails, bridges, ports, airports . . . And shopping malls?

State News

Standard Speaker: Recalling ‘The Road Gang,' 50 years after junction opened

It is no accident or coincidence two major interstate highways intersect near Hazleton.

Washington Post: Even for practiced Virginia commuters, Metro SafeTrack Surge No. 8 poses challenges

Metro’s next SafeTrack surge was pushed back a week — to Aug. 27 — a last-minute change for Northern Virginia commuters who have already dealt with more than their share of disruptions caused by the agency’s long-term maintenance blitz.

Washington Post: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan plans to call for repeal of a transportation-funding law

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) plans to call for the repeal of a new transportation finance law opposed by him and by county officials who are alarmed by the scores their projects have received under a state system for prioritizing funding.

Washington Post: Maryland governor to end predecessor’s septic tank mandate

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Saturday he will end a statewide mandate for homeowners and businesses to use what’s called “best available technology” in septic systems when they construct or enlarge buildings, a policy put in place by his predecessor to fight pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

Washington Post: APNewsBreak: Ohio Turnpike may soon see self-driving testing

Ohio’s toll road, a heavily traveled connector between the East Coast and Chicago, is moving closer to allowing the testing of self-driving vehicles.

Washington Post: FTA to spend $900K to hire new Metro inspectors

In order to ensure the Metro system is following through on safety recommendations, the Federal Transit Administration says it’s spending $900,000 in funds designated for regional transportation departments to hire new inspectors.

USA Today: Still no NTSB report 18 months after N.Y. train-SUV crash

More than a year and a half after a commuter train-SUV crash in New York, officials continue to await a National Transportation Safety Board report on the incident that killed six people and injured 15.

New York Times: ‘Like a Furnace’: New Yorkers Sweat It Out as Reports of Hot Subway Cars Rise

In the sweaty days of August, when stifling subway platforms become almost unbearable, riders are even more anxious than usual for their trains to arrive so they can cool off inside.

New York Times: As Ridership Soars, PATH Service Disruptions Cut Deep

Scrambling through a crowd of frazzled commuters at a Lower Manhattan train station on a recent Saturday, Romany Saad navigated his limited options for getting to work, hoping he would not be late for the second weekend in a row.

Albuquerque Journal: ART gets go-ahead — for now

Mayor Richard Berry’s administration is free to start building the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project, following an order by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Boston Globe: Property in Somerville’s Green Line corridor getting pricey

It’s been pretty clear the proposed Green Line Extension has boosted property values in Somerville, even before major work has begun.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 08/22/2016 05:36 AM EDT

With help from Lauren Gardner

A NEW ERA OF LEADERSHIP FOR AMTRAK: As expected, Amtrak has decided to replace president and CEO Joe Boardman with a freight rail vet - Charles "Wick" Moorman, who recently left Norfolk Southern after a 40-year stint, our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros. He will take the reins in September.

The intermediary: Anthony Coscia, the chairman of Amtrak's board of directors, told The Wall Street Journal that he's hopeful Moorman will ease tension between Amtrak and freight railroads. "He clearly understands both worlds, and he's going to be in a position to try to get us all to a much better place," Coscia said. At Norfolk Southern, Moorman was credited with doing more to collaborate with passenger railroads. He'll earn a salary of $1 a year at Amtrak, according to WSJ. But there's a possibility of a $500,000 bonus if the company meets performance goals.

The executive: Moorman will take over as Amtrak looks to federal courts to hammer out what sort of regulatory authority it has to ensure freights help keep passenger trains running on time. The company has two on-time performance complaints against three freight railroads - including Moorman's old employer - pending before the Surface Transportation Board, which recently finalized a rule defining passenger train punctuality based on arrival at all station stops. Freights are challenging the regulation, so it'll be worth watching how Moorman handles that controversy.

The advocate: He will also oversee efforts to begin work on a multibillion-dollar project laying two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River connecting North Jersey to New York City - an endeavor that will require some monetary aid from Congress. Farther south: Amtrak, FRA and state and local officials are weighing their options for bringing passenger rail service back to the Gulf Coast after a decade-long hiatus - another effort that will require extensive negotiations with a freight line (in this case, CSX) and cash from sources inside and outside the federal government.

Here's a sampling of kudos for Moorman:

- Edward Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads: "Wick Moorman is a proven railroader whose track record of success demonstrates his commitment and adherence to rail safety, efficiency and service to customers. His contributions and leadership in the freight rail industry, I believe, will advance the working partnership the freight railroads have with Amtrak."

- Jim Mathews, president and CEO of the National Association of Railroad Passengers: "It was my understanding that Wick was looking forward to enjoying well-earned time off with his family. The fact that he came out of retirement to help Amtrak meet the opportunities and challenges that come with 15 years of explosive growth demonstrates a true passion for America's rail system."

- Greg White, chairman of the Southern Rail Commission: "On behalf of my fellow commissioners at the Southern Rail Commission, we are eager to work with Mr. Moorman to bring new passenger rail service to the Deep South and restore critical passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast, connecting millions of people in those communities - and tourists from beyond - with another valuable, efficient, affordable option for traveling to, from and along the Gulf Coast."

- Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO: "Mr. Moorman can continue the progress that has been made under Boardman by further strengthening Amtrak's partnership with its employees - one based on mutual trust and cooperation. The men and women who work for Amtrak - members of our affiliated unions - have held the system together despite many years of financial neglect, deteriorating infrastructure and political attacks from lawmakers."

- Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Transportation Committee chairman, and Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Railroads Subcommittee chairman: "He knows the railroad business extremely well, and we believe he is capable of running Amtrak like a business, rather than a bureaucracy. This will be essential to improving U.S. passenger rail service, and fostering a more business-like structure at Amtrak was our goal in the rail provisions of the FAST Act."

- Sarah Feinberg, FRA administrator, on Twitter: "Looking forward to working with Wick Moorman, a great choice for Amtrak Pres and CEO."

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.

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

"She look so cool in her new Camaro. It's black as coal and it goes boy, go go go. I brought my fight next to her Camaro. And when I fire on a smile then she blows, she blows."

READY FOR TAKEOFF ... ALMOST: While official approval from DOT is still pending, JetBlue and American Airlines secured Cuba's permission to fly passengers from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to the island nation this fall, the Miami Herald reports . JetBlue is first with a flight scheduled for Aug. 31 from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Santa Clara. American Airlines plans to operate flights starting Sept. 7 from Miami International Airport to Cienfuegos and Holguín. Both airlines have started to train Cuban personnel, but they still need to send over equipment for checking in passengers. The Herald also notes that JetBlue and American will have more restrictive baggage policies than charter flights.

PROPOSED FHWA RULE UNDER FIRE: Twenty-three groups, including the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, ATA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, together sent comments to FHWA on Friday opposing the agency's proposed rule to measure greenhouse gas emissions. They wrote, "FHWA lacks the authority to administer any GHG measurement and management requirement," and "even if FHWA should claim such authority, it should not exercise it."

The local impact: "Our view is that the proposal would not result in significantly reduced GHG emissions, but would subject highway planners and engineers to new and burdensome regulations that slow projects at a time when the public wants to get the greatest possible benefit out of each transportation dollar," the groups wrote. The comments complement those of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, who explained his view in an Eno Center for Transportation op-ed last week.

The other side: In a counterpoint to Inhofe's op-ed, ranking member Barbara Boxer wrote: "To achieve the environmental goals established by Congress, carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases must be part of the transportation planning process." The California Democrat contends that "DOT has broad authority under transportation law ... to establish a performance-based approach to reduce transportation-related air pollution" and the department "has clear authority to act." Boxer's entire op-ed:

CRANE UPGRADE IN JACKSONVILLE: New cranes, at almost $40 million a pop, are coming to the Port of Jacksonville this year to accommodate Post-Panamax ships, Daniel Ducassi reports for POLITICO Pro Florida. The cranes can reach across 22 containers instead of only 16. "The addition of these cranes is a critical step toward supporting the ever-larger ships calling on the port through the Suez Canal as well as the newly expanded Panama Canal," Jacksonville Port Authority CEO Brian Taylor said in a statement. The port is also pushing a $684 million plan to make 13 miles of the St. Johns River deeper.


Monday - FMCSA's Medical Review Board kicks off a two-day meeting to make recommendations "on the disposition of comments from medical professionals and associations, as well as safety advocacy, labor, and industry groups" regarding the agency's and FRA's proposed rule on "safety-sensitive rail and commercial motor vehicle ... drivers with moderate to severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea." The MRB will also decide whether its 2012 report on OSA needs updating. And the Air Line Pilots Association begins its four-day Air Safety Forum.

Wednesday - NATCA President Paul Rinaldi speaks during the Air Safety Forum's opening ceremony. NTSB Chairman Chris Hart delivers the luncheon keynote address.

Thursday - TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger delivers the closing keynote address at the ALPA forum.

MUSK TO GIVE SPEECH ABOUT MARS: Elon Musk will give a keynote speech at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico next month called "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species." The CEO and lead designer of aerospace company SpaceX will talk about the "long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars," according to a release for the event, which is organized by the International Astronautical Federation.

SLICE OF PI: Matt Kiessling was promoted from director of coalitions and grassroots to vice president of short-term rental policy at the Travel Technology Association, Isaac Arnsdorf reports over at POLITICO Influence.

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: Our Lauren Gardner is back on the WAMU 88.5 Metropocalypse podcast. She and Martin Di Caro discuss WMATA's "Summer of Stumbles," including a series of red light overruns and the federal government's involvement in safety oversight. Download the episode here:


- Sen. Chuck Schumer calls for security review after JFK airport scare. The Wall Street Journal.

- Train derails in Roanoke, Texas, sending several cars into Denton Creek. The Star-Telegram.

- Lyft is said to seek a buyer, without success. The New York Times.

- Ohio Turnpike may soon see self-driving testing. The Associated Press.

- These airlines are making it easier to share miles. The New York Times.

- Tesla owner in Autopilot crash won't sue, but car insurer may. Bloomberg.

- Massachusetts to tax ride-hailing apps, give the money to taxis. Reuters.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 38 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 403 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 77 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,503 days.


8 a.m. - ALPA's Air Safety Forum begins with registration and coffee. ALPA holds a series of invitation-only meetings throughout the day, including a general session for members as well as workshops on aircraft design and operations, air traffic services, airport and ground environment and accident analysis and prevention. Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW.

9 a.m. - FMCSA's Medical Review Board meets until 4:30 p.m. The FMCSA National Training Center, 1310 North Courthouse Road, Arlington, Va., Sixth floor.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

To view online:

Stories from POLITICO Pro

Sources: Amtrak's new CEO will be Charles Moorman Back

By Lauren Gardner | 08/19/2016 11:11 AM EDT

A former top freight railroad executive will become Amtrak's next president and CEO, sources with knowledge of the decision told POLITICO this morning.

Charles "Wick" Moorman, who recently retired as chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern, has reached an agreement with Amtrak's board of directors to lead the passenger railroad. He will replace current Amtrak chief Joseph Boardman when he retires this fall, after eight years.

Amtrak observers have largely expected the company's next boss would come from the private sector.

Boardman made $350,000 annually, at least through 2015.


POLITICO Pro Florida: Port of Jacksonville gets new higher capacity cranes Back

By Daniel Ducassi | 08/19/2016 04:46 PM EDT

The Port of Jacksonville received new container cranes that will allow the port to handle cargo from a new generation of larger container ships, the Jacksonville Port Authority announced today.

The new cranes are part of a broader, but controversial, push by the port to accommodate larger container ships known as Post-Panamax following the widening of the Panama Canal, including a $684 million dollar dredging plan for 13 miles of the St. Johns River.

The cranes are capable of servicing the wider ships with the ability to reach across 22 containers, as opposed to the 16 container-width capability of the current cranes.

"The addition of these cranes is a critical step toward supporting the ever-larger ships calling on the port through the Suez Canal as well as the newly expanded Panama Canal," said JAXPORT CEO Brian Taylor in a statement.

The port authority expects to have the cranes, which cost nearly $40 million, offloaded and fully-operational by the end of the year.

See the new cranes here.

This news first appeared on POLITICO Pro Florida on Aug. 19, 2016.

Humans: Unsafe at Any Speed

“If someone had told you 10 years ago—even five years ago—that a major American car company would announce the mass production of a vehicle with no steering wheel, you would have said they were crazy.” With these words, Ford CEO Mark Fields hopes to wave regulators out of the way of fully self-driving cars.

Ford announced last week its fully autonomous cars will be on the road by 2021. This makes Ford the first traditional auto maker to join Google in focusing on cars that can’t be driven by humans. The combined influence of Google plus Ford might just be enough to outpace regulators, whose instinct is to ban anything they don’t fully understand.

The prospect of mass-producing cars without steering wheels or pedals means U.S. regulators will either allow these innovations on American roads or cede to Europe and Asia the testing grounds for self-driving technologies. By investing in autonomous vehicles, Ford and Google are presuming regulators will have to allow the new technologies, which are developing faster even than optimists imagined when Google started working on self-driving cars in 2009.

“The appropriate first-mover unit of innovation is not the car, or even the car company,” writes innovation consultant Chunka Mui in Strategy+Business. “It is the nation.” Singapore’s government has invited developers of self-driving cars to relocate to the island nation to avoid what he called “the tangled web of competition, policy fights, regulatory hurdles and entrenched interests governing the pace of driverless-car development and deployment in the U.S.”

Google has armed itself for its regulatory battles by hiring four former top regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including a former head. Reuters reported that when Google was disappointed by draft legislation in California that would require self-driving cars to have backup steering wheels and pedals, it headed to Texas. There, “Google executives made no bones about wanting regulations more accommodating than California’s.” Austin approved the cars in exchange for assurances on safety and liability.

When Ralph Nader called cars “unsafe at any speed,” he turns out to have been right—but for the wrong reason. He blamed manufacturers, but the chief reason cars are unsafe is their drivers. Six million accidents a year in the U.S. result in 35,000 deaths and two million injuries. More than 90% are caused by human error. Google and Ford argue autonomous cars are safer than partially self-driving cars that rely on drivers taking over occasionally. Autonomous vehicles would also give new mobility options to people who can’t drive because of age or disability.

The industry is looking for ways to get people comfortable with the idea. Uber announced last week that randomly selected passengers in Pittsburgh will get free rides in exchange for agreeing to be driven by a self-driving car. An engineer will still sit at the wheel, with a co-pilot to monitor the performance of the software. CEO Travis Kalanick sees a day when, without the expense of a driver, “the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle.”

The Obama administration is long overdue on its pledge to issue new regulations allowing innovation. Car companies hope regulators will let innovation proceed to see how well technology can develop safe self-driving cars, instead of banning technologies before their potential is known.

Google and Ford need “permissionless innovation,” a concept popularized by George Mason University’s Adam Thierer, which means allowing new technologies and business models to develop by default, with regulations following as needed. This approach explains the success of the internet, where websites and services were launched without having to ask bureaucrats for permission until the Obama administration imposed regulations on prices and practices.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx instead recently confirmed the worst instinct of regulators by signaling an end to open innovation for self-driving cars. “I’ve been encouraging our team to think about . . . the extent to which we should encourage pre-market-approval steps,” he said at an industry conference in San Francisco last month. “That would require industry and the department to be more in sync and more rigorous on the front end of development and testing.”

Mr. Foxx’s regulatory approach follows the traditional “precautionary principle” under which bureaucrats prohibit new innovations until their developers can prove them safe. It stifles experimentation by curtailing innovations too soon.

Any “pre-market-approval steps” of the kind the Obama administration now threatens would give bureaucrats the power to pick which technologies can develop and which are banned. If that happens, the winner in the race to the next revolution in transportation is likelier to be Singapore than Detroit or Silicon Valley.