Join The
Coalition
Get The
Facts

Infrastructure in the News 8.25.16

NATIONAL NEWS

Wall Street Journal: U.S. LNG for China Arrives via Panama Canal (full article follows Morning Transportation)

http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-lng-for-china-arrives-via-panama-canal-1472044735

The first shipment of liquefied natural gas from the lower 48 U.S. states to China arrived this week, thanks to the recently expanded Panama Canal’s easing access to the robust Asian market for U.S. gas exporters.

The Packer: Timeliness remains transportation’s big test

http://www.thepacker.com/marketing-profiles/transportation/timeliness-remains-transportation%E2%80%99s-big-test

For trucks, trains and ships carrying fresh produce, the mission is simple, according to logistics companies.

Reuters: Big oil tankers' need for retrofit delays use of new Panama Canal

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-panama-canal-tanker-idUSKCN10Y29K

The promise that some oil traders and brokers saw for an expanded Panama Canal to become a new route for large tankers will take longer to realize than expected because many ships must first undergo inconvenient retrofits to transit through the new locks, shipping industry experts said.

The Guardian: Decrepit infrastructure denies millions urgent natural disaster aid, study says

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/aug/25/decrepit-infrastructure-denies-millions-urgent-natural-disaster-aid-report-says

Countries with dilapidated transport networks and unsafe power grids stand a greater risk of extreme natural events becoming humanitarian disasters, a report has found.

Washington Post: Self-driving cars reach a fork in the road, and automakers take different routes

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/self-driving-cars-reach-a-fork-in-the-road-and-automakers-take-different-routes/2016/08/24/5cdeaba8-63d9-11e6-8b27-bb8ba39497a2_story.html

Cars capable of driving themselves may be on the showroom floor sooner than you think, but whether they should come with all the current essentials — including a steering wheel and pedals on the floor — has the auto industry at a fork in the road.

Washington Post: World’s first self-driving taxis debut in Singapore

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/worlds-first-self-driving-taxis-debut-in-singapore/2016/08/24/fbb2811e-6a5f-11e6-91cb-ecb5418830e9_story.html

The world’s first self-driving taxis began picking up passengers in Singapore starting Thursday.

STATE NEWS

Washington Post: Japan authorizes $2M to study high-speed train in Maryland

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/japan-authorizes-2m-to-study-high-speed-train-in-maryland/2016/08/24/f1268dbc-6a5a-11e6-91cb-ecb5418830e9_story.html

Japan’s ambassador to the U.S. says his country has authorized $2 million to support a feasibility study on building a high-speed train between Baltimore and Washington.

Washington Post: FTA cites Metro’s ‘universal misunderstandings’ on storing, securing rail cars

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/fta-metro-employees-have-universal-misunderstandings-on-how-to-store-and-secure-railcars/2016/08/24/1a8471da-6a36-11e6-99bf-f0cf3a6449a6_story.html

Federal officials on Wednesday admonished Metro for the manner in which it stores and secures trains in rail yards, saying the agency’s employees have “universal misunderstandings” on how rail cars should be stowed — oversights that potentially put employees and passengers at risk.

Washington Post: Metro Board to seek answers on safety, communications at emergency meeting

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/metro-board-to-seek-answers-on-safety-communications-at-emergency-meeting/2016/08/24/229ce74c-6a06-11e6-8225-fbb8a6fc65bc_story.html

In preparation for Thursday’s emergency Metro Board meeting, Chairman Jack Evans has told General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld that there are three answers that he doesn’t want to hear: “We’ll get back to you.” “It’s under investigation.” “We’re looking into it.”

Washington Post: U.S. asks court to reconsider order setting back Purple Line light-rail construction

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/us-asks-court-to-reconsider-order-setting-back-purple-line-light-rail-construction/2016/08/24/ead4a244-6a2a-11e6-ba32-5a4bf5aad4fa_story.html

The Federal Transit Administration has asked a federal judge to reconsider his order potentially delaying construction of the light-rail Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs.

Washington Post: New ferry ready for service between New Jersey and New York

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/new-ferry-ready-for-service-between-new-jersey-and-new-york/2016/08/24/4d055b6a-69e6-11e6-91cb-ecb5418830e9_story.html

A new ferry soon will be carrying commuters between New Jersey and New York City.

Wall Street Journal: NYU Proposes Replacements for the L-Train (full article follows Morning Transportation)

http://www.wsj.com/articles/nyu-proposes-workarounds-for-l-train-closure-1472084114

The planned shutdown of the L subway-train tunnel is already causing flutters of anxiety among Brooklynites and businesses, but a new report says such worries could be eased with more ride-sharing services, dedicated bus lanes and even aerial gondolas high over the East River.

San Francisco Examiner: Development first, infrastructure second

http://www.sfexaminer.com/development-first-infrastructure-second/

On Aug. 18, the Examiner ran an article about San Francisco’s transportation and increasingly aggressive land use development ongoing along the waterfront between Hunters Point and AT&T Park. Billions of dollars in new development is expected to be approved in the next three years.

AM New York: Pacific Park in Brooklyn is beginning to take shape after years of setbacks

http://www.amny.com/real-estate/pacific-park-in-brooklyn-is-beginning-to-take-shape-after-years-of-setbacks-1.12218716

Development near the Atlantic Terminal has been ramping up with the long awaited towers going up fast around the already popular Barclays Center, transit hub and mall.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 08/25/2016 05:51 AM EDT

With help from Lauren Gardner and Jennifer Scholtes

FAA BRACES FOR FLOOD OF DRONE INTEREST: The new small drone rule doesn't set in until Monday, but aspiring unmanned aircraft pilots are so eager to get legitimate FAA credentials that the agency has already pre-registered more than 3,300 people to take the written test next week. Earl Lawrence, who heads the FAA's office on drone integration, made his way to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to give congressional aides a rundown on what the agency will do to prepare over the next few days. "This is unusual for the FAA. Monday is a big day," he said. "We're introducing a brand new rule. And we've done that before. But we don't usually have as much interest in that particular day."

Testing the test: Hoping to ensure the FAA doesn't make "the wrong kind of news on Monday," the agency has sent inspectors to each of the thousands of testing centers throughout the country to make sure the system is running smoothly, he said. Already stifled by technological issues, the agency had to reschedule an online seminar this week to teach law enforcement about the final rule, after the overwhelming number of participants gummed up the webinar system.

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.

FYI: Uber is again offering a $30 deal for D.C.-area users this month. Like last time, you pay $30 and get 20 rides, with uberPOOL rides costing $1 a pop no matter the surge. But what's new is you also get uberX rides at no more than $9 apiece throughout the month. Check your app. Also, please send tips, feedback and, of course, song lyrics to bgurciullo@politico.com or @brigurciullo.

"Well I'm on the Downeaster Alexa. And I'm cruising through Block Island Sound. I have charted a course to the Vineyard. But tonight I am Nantucket bound."

PRIVACY GROUP SUES FAA OVER DRONE RULE: The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a research and advocacy nonprofit, is suing the FAA for not including privacy provisions in its new rule on small drones. In its lawsuit, filed earlier this week with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the center explains that it has repeatedly tried to "ensure the FAA adequately addresses the privacy implications of drone deployment." But it's a fight the FAA has squirmed away from since Day One.

Let's try this again: EPIC and other groups asked the agency to create privacy rules in 2012. The FAA rejected that request two years later, saying it would consider EPIC's input as it worked on its small drone rule. When the agency proposed drone regulations the following year, it said privacy issues were "beyond the scope of this rulemaking." EPIC then took the matter to court, which determined that the group had to wait for a final rule from the FAA before suing.

FAA says it's powerless: In its final rule , the FAA said "its mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world, and does not include regulating privacy." The agency claims that when Congress mandated that the FAA develop small drone regulations, it didn't call for the inclusion of privacy protections. It also said that "state law and other legal protections may already provide recourse for a person whose individual privacy, data privacy, private property rights, or intellectual property rights may be impacted by a remote pilot's civil or public use" of a drone, and "it would be overreaching for the FAA to enact regulations concerning privacy rights." Law360 first reported on EPIC's lawsuit.

WHOSE JOB IS IT ANYWAY? FRA has revamped guidance to states sponsoring passenger rail service about who exactly is responsible for complying with federal safety rules, our Lauren Gardner reports . "The guidance, which was sent to states earlier this month, says FRA will consider Amtrak to be its main contact on safety oversight matters when the company is operating and maintaining the trains running on routes largely subsidized by the states. ... However, the revised guidance notes that FRA still expects states to help as needed with the development and implementation of safety-related programs to meet regulatory requirements, citing its recently finalized system safety rule as an example."

An eye on contracting: Most states still use Amtrak to drive and maintain trains on short routes they're largely tasked with financing, thanks to a 2008 law. But some are experimenting with contracting at least some tasks out to other companies to try to save money and get more bang for their buck, and that's where FRA wants to ensure all safety requirements are being met. Lauren again: "A state that opts to change contractors for any of the services associated with running passenger trains ... may need to be the primary contact for federal safety regulators. In those cases, FRA won't consider those services as being integrated into Amtrak's national system."

Wait for it: It's unclear whether the tweaks are enough to mollify states that had concerns about the earlier draft guidance, which they critiqued as vague and possibly too onerous on issues like liability.

PUMP THE BRAKES: WMATA employees have failed to follow guidelines for making sure their vehicles don't roll away, the FTA found in its last "safety blitz" report on the agency, adding to a summer of bad headlines for Metro's safety procedures. FTA said WMATA's rules for properly securing unattended railcars are vague and the agency needs to do more to ensure its workers understand storing requirements, Lauren reports again for Pros. WMATA's "supervisors in rail transportation and car maintenance generally discourage use of these safety devices," according to FTA, because of "challenges in applying handbrakes, the length of time required to apply them, and the difficulty in confirming their disengagement prior to moving trains under power." The agency must now propose a new redundant protection system, edit its rules handbook and train employees in following those new requirements.

METRO BOARD HOLDS EMERGENCY MEETING: Metro's board of directors will convene an emergency safety meeting this morning to go over FTA's earlier "safety blitz" report on red-light overruns and the East Falls Church derailment that immediately preceded the feds' scathing report on WMATA track inspections. Chief Safety Officer Patrick Lavin is expected to update everyone on how Metro is addressing the accompanying safety directives the feds laid down on those issues.

Expected updates: On track inspections, Lavin will detail Metro bringing in six FRA-trained track inspectors this week to conduct a minimum four-month embed with WMATA teams, as well as an inspection training program next month that will bring University of Tennessee reps to the agency. WMATA also recently awarded contracts for a system-wide track condition assessment and for a track inspection manual rewrite, both of which are scheduled to be completed in January.

PASCRELL: VETS SHOULD PAY LESS TO APPLY FOR PRECHECK: Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) wants veterans to apply for TSA PreCheck for free or at a discount. The application fee can be waived for active members of the military. "While I understand the application fee covers the administrative cost of the program, including background checks, I am concerned that the $85 fee may be prohibitively expensive for many veterans," Pascrell wrote to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger on Wednesday. He points out that in "some cases, they received security clearances and underwent periodic reinvestigations, which should make the background check process simpler to complete."

CONSUMER ADVOCATES PUSH FOR V2V PRIVACY RULES: Groups like Public Knowledge and Consumer Watchdog want the FCC to write cybersecurity and privacy rules for vehicle-to-vehicle communications before manufacturers start using Dedicated Short Range Communications systems, Pro Technology's Margaret Harding McGill reports . Margaret explains:"The DSRC systems are meant to help drivers avoid collisions by transmitting speed and direction data between vehicles. A forthcoming proposed mandate from the Department of Transportation would require the technology to be installed in new vehicles." Some of the same groups also want the FCC to prohibit automakers from using the spectrum allocated to V2V communications for commercial purposes.

MUSICAL CHAIRS:

- Randy Babbitt, the senior vice president of labor relations for Southwest Airlines since 2012, will retire in the fall, our Lauren Gardner reports for Pros. Babbitt, the FAA's administrator before Michael Huerta, resigned in late 2011 - when Ray LaHood wasTransportation secretary - after he was arrested for allegedly driving drunk. The charges were later dismissed.

- The House Transportation Committee has a new deputy communications director: Jeff Urbanchuk, who starts Monday. Urbanchuk has served as vice president of Stanton Communications and previously worked in Rep. Bill Shuster's office as communications and new media director.

- Over at National Association of Railroad Passengers, Betsy Nelson was named director of resource development. Nelson will help the association "communicate to partners, transit agencies, elected officials, and other organizations on the importance of establishing rail and intermodal transportation for sustainable economic and population growth." She previously worked as a realtor, travel agent, IRS legal assistant and computer programmer.

- Fred Reid, former Delta president and founding CEO of Virgin America, has joined OneJet's board of directors. For the past year, Reid served as an adviser to OneJet. "Whereas innovative companies such as Virgin America have helped to redefine the travel experience for customers in some of the country's largest transcontinental and other markets, OneJet represents the opportunity to help similarly redefine the traveler's experience at the regional level," Reid said in a statement.

- Shervan Sebastian is now senior manager of government and political affairs at Airports Council International - North America. He was previously a legislative analyst for the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

CLARIFICATION: In a recent piece on DOT funding, DOT CFO Shoshana Lew said that the fiscal 2016 funding levels are adequate to maintain current programs with some modest funding increases in areas like transit. But she also noted the administration has long argued for higher funding levels, including as part of the 21st Century Clean Transportation Plan included in the president's budget proposal.

THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):

- World's first self-driving taxis debut in Singapore. The Associated Press.

- Local highway drivers bear brunt of road funding gap. The Wall Street Journal.

- Metro still clearing backlog of "gauge rods" problem identified in 2015 incident. WAMU 88.5.

- The world's largest aircraft crashes after second test flight. CNN Money.

- Self-driving cars reach a fork in the road, and automakers take different routes. The Washington Post.

- Pilot accused of being drunk in Michigan pleads no contest. The Associated Press.

- U.S. asks court to reconsider order setting back Purple Line light-rail construction. The Washington Post.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 35 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 400 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 74 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,500 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

8 a.m. - The last day of the Air Line Pilots Association's Air Safety Forum begins with registration and coffee. Nav Canada President and CEO Neil Wilson will deliver the luncheon keynote address at 12:15 p.m. TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger will deliver the closing keynote address at 4 p.m. Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW.

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

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/08/faa-braces-for-flood-of-drone-interest-018944

Stories from POLITICO Pro

FRA revamps guidance to states on passenger rail safety Back

By Lauren Gardner | 08/24/2016 02:31 PM EDT

FRA has revised guidance on how regulators will oversee the safety of state-sponsored passenger rail operations after some states raised concerns that an earlier draft was too heavy-handed.

The guidance, which was sent to states earlier this month, says FRA will consider Amtrak to be its main contact on safety oversight matters when the company is operating and maintaining the trains running on routes largely subsidized by the states. While most states that finance passenger rail service on relatively short routes still use Amtrak to drive the trains and service the equipment, some have experimented with farming out those tasks.

The previous version said that states sponsoring passenger service - even if they merely provide funding for Amtrak to operate a route - are typically "ultimately responsible for purposes of enforcing and applying Federal Rail Safety Requirements." States complained that the document was vague and could pin liability on them that they can't assume.

However, the revised guidance notes that FRA still expects states to help as needed with the development and implementation of safety-related programs to meet regulatory requirements, citing its recently finalized system safety rule as an example.

A state that opts to change contractors for any of the services associated with running passenger trains must work with the agency to ensure safety mandates are being met, FRA said, and may need to be the primary contact for federal safety regulators. In those cases, FRA won't consider those services as being integrated into Amtrak's national system.

Back

FTA: Metro falls short on vehicle securage standards Back

By Lauren Gardner | 08/24/2016 03:17 PM EDT

The Washington, D.C. Metro's employees and supervisors don't follow the agency's own requirements for ensuring stowed vehicles are properly secured so they won't roll away, FTA said today in its final "safety blitz" report on WMATA.

Those rules and procedures for securing unattended railcars are ambiguous, and WMATA doesn't ensure its employees comprehensively understand requirements for storing the vehicles, FTA said.

Federal investigators found that, "due to challenges in applying handbrakes, the length of time required to apply them, and the difficulty in confirming their disengagement prior to moving trains under power, supervisors in rail transportation and car maintenance generally discourage use of these safety devices."

The agency released an accompanying safety directive requiring Metro to take six actions to address concerns raised in the report, including proposing a new redundant protection system, editing its rules handbook to clearly reflect its procedures for preventing "unintended train movement," and training transportation and vehicle maintenance employees on those new mandates.

This last report in FTA's targeted investigation of three major safety concerns builds on the agency's previous findings that lack of compliance with or understanding of WMATA's internal rules is widespread among personnel.

"Verifying that a train has been properly secured is a common sense solution to prevent accidents," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

Back

Groups urge FCC to create cyber, privacy rules for vehicle communications Back

By Margaret Harding McGill | 08/24/2016 12:17 PM EDT

Public Knowledge and six other consumer groups urged the FCC to grant a request to create cybersecurity and privacy rules for vehicle-to-vehicle communications, arguing that the messages will make vehicles vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The comments filed today follow up on a petition from Public Knowledge in June asking that the FCC create the rules before automakers deploy Dedicated Short Range Communications, or DSRC, systems.

The DSRC systems are meant to help drivers avoid collisions by transmitting speed and direction data between vehicles. A forthcoming proposed mandate from the Department of Transportation would require the technology to be installed in new vehicles.

"The auto industry plans to put DSRC in every car," Public Knowledge Policy Fellow John Gasparini said in a statement. "That imposes an enormous responsibility to ensure that DSRC technology protects user privacy and guards against cyberattack."

Wade Newton, a spokesman at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said the DSRC systems don't raise consumer privacy issues. "We believe that DSRC systems for V2V don't collect, transmit or store information that's linkable to a particular person or vehicle," Newton said.

Separately, 18 consumer groups including Public Knowledge, the Consumer Federation of America and Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a letter with the FCC urging the commission to prevent the auto industry from using spectrum set aside for vehicle-to-vehicle communications for commercial applications.

That's part of a larger debate over the best use of the spectrum in the 5.9 gigahertz band.

Back

Former FAA chief Babbitt to retire from Southwest Airlines Back

By Lauren Gardner | 08/24/2016 11:38 AM EDT

Former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt is retiring from Southwest Airlines this fall, the airline has announced.

Babbitt has served as Southwest's senior vice president of labor relations since 2012. He resigned his FAA post in December 2011 following an arrest for allegedly driving drunk, for which he was later cleared in court.

Babbitt began his career at Eastern Airlines before becoming an Air Line Pilots Association official and starting an aviation consulting firm.

Back

U.S. LNG for China Arrives via Panama Canal

The first shipment of liquefied natural gas from the lower 48 U.S. states to China arrived this week, thanks to the recently expanded Panama Canal’s easing access to the robust Asian market for U.S. gas exporters.

The shipment was chartered by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company confirmed to The Wall Street Journal. The cargo, from the Sabine Pass export facility in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, was delivered to the Yantian Port on Monday in southern China and was purchased by China National Offshore Oil Corp. as part of a long-term contract, according to S&P Global Platts, an energy and commodities information provider.

Cnooc didn’t respond to a request for comment.

U.S. LNG, which is usually transported on large ships that can’t fit in the older Panama Canal locks, hasn’t been able to compete in Asia. The new locks, which opened in June and can accommodate larger ships, mark a significant moment for U.S. exporters.

“The expansion has significant implications for LNG trade, reducing travel time and transportation costs for LNG shipments from the U.S. Gulf Coast to key markets in Asia and providing additional access to previously regionalized LNG markets,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

The new locks can reduce the travel time from the U.S. to North Asia for ships that couldn’t fit in the old locks by about one third—to 20 days—and cut transportation costs by about 30 cents to $1 per million British thermal units, said research consultancy Energy Aspects,.

“This shipment could be the start of many more U.S. gas cargoes coming to Asia, especially now more Chinese smaller independent gas companies are keen on buying foreign gas on a spot basis, ” said Peter Lee, an Asian energy analyst at BMI Research.

LNG is natural gas that is cooled in ultralow temperatures to a liquid form so it can be stored and transported by ship. Prices have recently come under intense pressure in Asia, which makes up 70% of the world’s demand, due to a gusher of new supply.

LNG producers expect to add 40 million metric tons of capacity in 2016 alone.

Meanwhile, demand in Japan and South Korea—the top two importers of LNG in the world—is falling due to such factors as a decline in overall power demand and an increasing reliance on coal. Moreover, many buyers have already signed contracts to take LNG from suppliers for the next decade or more.

“[This leaves] China as the main growth story for LNG in the region,” said Stuart Elliot, an LNG analyst at S&P Global Platts.

China’s LNG imports were up 21% on-year in the first six months of this year to 11.5 million tons. Australia and Qatar were the leading two suppliers, according to China’s General Administration of Customs.

Chinese government officials have said they want to increase the ratio of natural gas in the country’s total energy mix to 10% from the current 5% by 2020.

NYU Proposes Replacements for the L-Train

The planned shutdown of the L subway-train tunnel is already causing flutters of anxiety among Brooklynites and businesses, but a new report says such worries could be eased with more ride-sharing services, dedicated bus lanes and even aerial gondolas high over the East River.

Released this week by New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation, the report recommends many ways for both the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and businesses to soften the impact on neighborhoods like Williamsburg.

“The L train is packed on weekends and the evenings because people go to Williamsburg for the bars, the social life and the music,” said Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center. “We believe it’s essential to use some of the newer transportation modes as part of the planning for the L shutdown.”

Starting in January 2019, the tunnel is expected to shut down for 18 months to fix damage to the tube beneath the East River caused by superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Mr. Moss said that while the MTA should “make sure the buses and subways are fully expanded and improved,” businesses should also provide solutions. For example, he said, restaurants could help subsidize customer costs for app-driven car services.

The report also asks policy makers to consider connecting the Lower East Side to Williamsburg with an aerial cable line of high-speed gondolas, a proposal being pitched by an organization called East River Skyway.

The MTA and other public agencies are already considering several of the report’s recommendations, including increasing ferry service on the East River and service on connecting subway lines.

In an email, MTA spokeswoman Beth DeFalco said the agency is “committed to open partnership and community engagement as we develop alternative service plans to minimize impacts on L train riders and surrounding businesses during the closure.”

Jonathan Butler, co-founder of the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg food vendor fair, said connections such as the Brooklyn Bridge and ferry services will likely keep Williamsburg waterfront businesses somewhat sheltered.

He predicted sharper impacts for neighborhoods further out—places beyond inexpensive taxi trips from Manhattan.

Even so, Mr. Butler said, “It kind of seems unbelievable that it’s going to happen” near Williamsburg, an area that has grown so much over the past decade. “It’s like kicking a sprinter in the shins.”

Rachel Beider, who owns a massage-therapy business, has operated in Williamsburg for eight years. Ms. Beider said she has about 30 employees, many of whom live in Manhattan and are bracing for a longer commute.

She said she is glad she recently opened a second location in Greenpoint. “If I were dependent on just one location in Williamsburg,” she said, “I feel like I might be in trouble.”