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Infrastructure in the News 8.26.16

NATIONAL NEWS

Bloomberg: Long-Awaited U.S. Infrastructure Spending Comes to Fruition

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-26/long-awaited-muni-bond-infrastructure-spending-comes-to-fruition

America’s states and cities are finally seizing on record-low interest rates to finance needed work on roads, bridges and schools.

Huffington Post: Private Investment in Infrastructure Takes Off

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-likosky/private-investment-in-inf_b_11687500.html

Not since the 19th century, have we seen so much private investment into our public infrastructure. So-called public-private partnerships. Or, private-public partnerships which happen mainly within the energy sector. Most projects happen within energy.

New York Times: How Uber Lost More Than $1 Billion in the First Half of 2016

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/26/technology/how-uber-lost-more-than-1-billion-in-the-first-half-of-2016.html?_r=0

Uber has upended the transportation industry in the span of a few years. But the ride-hailing company has been losing a lot of money while doing so.

Washington Post: Auto, technology industries clash over talking cars

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/auto-technology-industries-clash-over-talking-cars/2016/08/25/7e1ef05a-6ad4-11e6-91cb-ecb5418830e9_story.html

Cars that wirelessly talk to each other are finally ready for the road, creating the potential to dramatically reduce traffic deaths, improve the safety of self-driving cars and someday maybe even help solve traffic jams, automakers and government officials say.

Washington Post: If your flight is canceled, is your airline obligated to get you to your destination?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/if-your-flight-is-canceled-is-your-airline-obligated-to-get-you-to-your-destination/2016/08/25/8364dc28-693f-11e6-8225-fbb8a6fc65bc_story.html

If your flight is canceled, does your airline still have an obligation to get you to your destination on time?

Washington Post: A transcript of Jill Stein’s meeting with The Washington Post editorial board

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/08/25/a-transcript-of-jill-steins-meeting-with-the-washington-post-editorial-board/?utm_term=.71d6e0ebed23

Green party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein met with The Washington Post editorial board on Aug. 25.

USA Today: Remember those long TSA lines? Poof! They're gone ...

http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/todayinthesky/2016/08/25/remember-those-long-tsa-lings-poof-theyre-gone/89342730/

Remember those long airport security lines that became a big travel story earlier this year?

STATE NEWS

Washington Post: D.C. Streetcar to launch Sunday service

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/08/25/d-c-streetcar-to-launch-sunday-service/

Remember when it seemed like the D.C. Streetcar would never start running?

Wall Street Journal: Citi Bike Pushes Further Into Brooklyn (full article follows Morning Transportation)

http://www.wsj.com/articles/citi-bike-pushes-further-into-brooklyn-1472141253

Citi Bike riders can now zip to and from Red Hook and deeper into other Brooklyn neighborhoods as New York City’s bicycle-sharing system pushes into new areas of the city.

Washington Post: Metro leaders field questions on summer’s mishaps and embarrassments

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/metro-gm-paul-wiedefeld-fields-questions-on-summers-mishaps-and-embarrassments/2016/08/25/6d2c90b0-6ae1-11e6-99bf-f0cf3a6449a6_story.html

It was about this time last year that Metro board members gathered after a worrisome derailment, demanding answers from the agency’s leaders in light of a series of damning federal reports that questioned the safety of the system.

Washington Post: Biden announces new funding for Amtrak Northeast Corridor

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/biden-announces-new-funding-for-amtrak-northeast-corridor/2016/08/26/ef0f3d74-6b6a-11e6-91cb-ecb5418830e9_story.html

Federal officials are announcing new funding for Amtrak’s passenger rail system and stressing the need for continued investment in America’s transportation infrastructure.

OregonLive: Transportation Department hobbled by credibility and cultural problems (Opinion)

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/08/odot_opinion.html

Let me add fuel to the considerable fire generated by op-eds by Catherine Mater ("Transportation Department's credibility problem is really the governor's problem"; Aug. 14) and David Bragdon ("ODOT's blurry mission drives chronic failures"; Aug. 17).

KAZU: (California) Desperate for Transportation Funds, Monterey County and Others Turn to Ballot Box

http://kazu.org/post/desperate-transportation-funds-monterey-county-and-others-turn-ballot-box#stream/0

California's counties are desperate for transportation funds as state and federal dollars dry up. Eleven have put tax measures on the November ballot, including Monterey County. Transportation officials there are asking voters to raise the sales tax to fund an array of improvements.

Brownwood News: (Texas) TxDOT Plans for $70 Billion to Fund Transportation Projects Over Next 10 Years

http://www.brownwoodnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=21636:txdot-plans-for-70-billion-to-fund-transportation-projects-over-next-10-years&catid=35:news&Itemid=58

The Texas Transportation Commission today approved the 2017 Unified Transportation Program (UTP) with $70 billion worth of projects to help TxDOT meet the state’s growing transportation demands. The plan is the largest of its kind in the agency’s history that addresses capacity, maintenance and safety needs around state.

Seattle PI: Sound Transit sets records for light rail ridership

http://www.seattlepi.com/local/transportation/article/Light-rail-riders-spike-ridership-to-record-highs-9185445.php

Ridership on Link light rail on weekdays was up 76 percent over last year, Sound Transit reported Thursday.

Dallas Morning News: A subway for downtown Dallas? Maybe, but we need more answers about costs, timing and competing priorities.

http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/20160825-a-subway-for-downtown-dallas-maybe-but-we-need-more-answers-about-costs-timing-and-competing-priorities..ece

After years of planning, conversations and compromise, DART and the city of Dallas agreed on where to put a badly needed second light-rail line in the heart of downtown. Turns out, DART has decided that agreed-upon route needs some changes.

Christian Science Monitor: Gas is cheap and US drivers use it to log more miles than ever

http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/In-Gear/2016/0825/Gas-is-cheap-and-US-drivers-use-it-to-log-more-miles-than-ever

With the summer travel season more than halfway over and gas prices still quite low, U.S drivers have already logged a record-breaking number of miles traveled.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 08/26/2016 05:49 AM EDT

With help from Lauren Gardner, Jennifer Scholtes and Kathryn A. Wolfe

WMATA BOARD HASHES OUT SAFETY FAILURES: WMATA's board of directors convened a special meeting Thursday to review the system's recent spell of safety issues, from troubled track inspections to a transit cop accused of trying to support ISIL. Our Lauren Gardner was there and reported back with a few highlights:

- Metro Transit Police Chief Ronald Pavlik Jr. maintained that law enforcement officials monitoring Nicholas Young, an officer who allegedly tried to help ISIL, had plans in place if they ever believed he posed a danger to Metro employees or riders. Pavlik said Young's performance as an officer was considered "below-average to average," though he added that Young never did anything to warrant being fired.

- Patrick Lavin, Metro's chief safety officer, said he wasn't "taken aback" by the findings in FTA's damning track inspection report issued a few weeks ago, and agency and board officials noted during the meeting that many of the feds' findings weren't new to the troubled system. Lavin said he didn't believe FTA specifically cited the crossover near where a train derailed last month when voicing concerns about conditions on the Orange Line to Metro officials. Indeed, FTA confirmed to POLITICO this week that federal officials "did not specifically inspect the interlocking" in question before the incident. But they have quickly notified Metro when they discover track integrity problems as a matter of course. Federal investigators found that WMATA inspectors weren't examining tracks as often as required under the agency's standards.

- Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld declined to say much about the ongoing investigation into the July derailment near the East Falls Church station, now that MTPD is involved in a parallel inquiry to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing, such as falsifying inspection documents. All he'd say was that officials have gotten "conflicting information and disturbing information" over the course of the investigation - and he wants to get to the bottom of it.

- Wiedefeld also noted that WMATA instituted single-tracking along part of the Orange Line recently during a peak travel period when officials uncovered problems with fasteners along the tracks, citing that as an example of the shift in thinking he's seen. "Several months ago, I don't think we did that," he said.

WAMU 88.5 and The Washington Post were also at the meeting and have more details.

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.

Please keep sending tips, feedback and, of course, song lyrics to bgurciullo@politico.com or @brigurciullo.

"I can take you for a ride on my big green tractor. We can go slow or make it go faster. Down through the woods out to the pasture. Long as I'm with you it don't matter."

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Morning Transportation will not publish from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5. Our next newsletter will publish Sept 6. Please continue to follow Pro Transportation issues here.

NEFFENGER PLEDGES NATIONWIDE PROGRAM FOR FASTER CREW SCREENING: Within a month, airline crew members will consistently be able to use quicker screening lines, if all goes according to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger's plan for a new national program, our Jennifer Scholtes reports for Pros. "We're working that pretty hard right now. And we will have a national program as soon as I can get one out there," Neffenger said at an Air Line Pilots Association conference Thursday. "So if in a month you haven't seen that, you come to me and I'll make sure we get it right. But I think it makes perfect sense to me." He acknowledged that "Known Crewmember" queues at airports have been limited because of constraints on TSA staffing. But Neffenger now thinks he has enough people to keep queues open for longer and at more airports. If an airport doesn't get a queue, crew members should be able to use PreCheck, he said.

COMING SOON: 'COMMON STANDARD' FOR ANIMAL CARRIAGE FLIGHTS: Neffenger also said that next month TSA expects it will start analyzing the risks of animal carriage flights lacking hardened cockpit doors and ensuring animal handlers are vetted properly, Jennifer reports again. "I want to know what the real challenges are in those aircraft," Neffenger told the room full of pilots. "We'd like to work with you on that. Certainly I'd like to understand it better. And then let's get to a common standard that makes sense to people ... that the operators are comfortable with as we go forward."

PETER NEFFENGER, THE PILOT SAILOR: It seemed a little odd when President Barack Obama nominated Neffenger last year to run the TSA. While it wasn't unheard of for a Coast Guard guy to be in charge of transportation security (Coastie James Loy ran the agency in 2002 and 2003), there's certainly a leap from maritime operations to a primary focus on aviation security. But in Neffenger's case, the pick is starting to make a lot more sense. We were pleased to give you some personal details about the administrator last month, explaining that his dad was a chemical engineer and his mom was a musician. And now we've got some more family anecdotes that add a little context to the longtime sailor's interest in keeping planes safe.

Belly laughs and barrel rolls: At ALPA's conference this week, Neffenger explained that his mom was a general aviation pilot who worked at a small, regional airport in Northern Ohio and took the kids out in a Cessna 172 when he was growing up. "She forced us all to become licensed, private pilots because she was worried that someday she would pass out in the air and wouldn't get home unless we brought her there," the administrator told the audience. "You can tell by my eyesight that I couldn't carry that far forward into my career, but it was a lot of fun growing up with her." Occasionally, Neffenger continued, his mom would "stick one of us in the back of one of those Pitts Specials" flown by aerobatic pilots. "I think a couple hundred barrel rolls and I decided maybe a maritime career wasn't a bad idea after all."

TESLA, SOLARCITY ADVANCE $2.6 BILLION MERGER: Tesla cleared a hurdle Thursday in its $2.6 billion deal to combine with SolarCity, securing antitrust approval from the FTC. Pro Energy's Esther Whieldon has more for Pros: "The independent members of the SolarCity and Tesla board of directors on Aug. 1 voted to allow the merger to proceed about a month after Tesla CEO Elon Musk sought to merge the companies in order to offer an all-in-one home electricity supply and storage package. The deal also could ease rooftop solar leasing giant SolarCity's dependence on state-level net metering programs that are coming under attack across the country." Tesla and SolarCity are looking to close the transaction during the last quarter of 2016.

REUTERS: VW REACHES PRELIMINARY SETTLEMENT WITH DEALERS: "Volkswagen has agreed to spend more than $1.2 billion to compensate its 650 U.S. dealers for their losses from the German automaker's diesel emissions scandal, two sources briefed on the matter said on Thursday," Reuters reports. "The company and a lawyer for the VW brand dealers announced a tentative settlement at a court hearing in San Francisco on Thursday, but declined to disclose the amount. The settlement, which followed talks that began in May, came as a judge ordered VW to move quickly to decide whether to fix or buy back 85,000 luxury vehicles with polluting engines."

Compensating losses: "The settlement includes about $1.2 billion in payments for the reduction in value of VW dealerships, and additional payments for vehicles that could not be sold, the sources briefed on the settlement said. VW has also agreed to continue to make certain incentive payments to dealers, the sources said. ... VW's U.S. dealers have been barred from selling new diesel vehicles for nearly a year. The agreement in principle must still be approved by the court." http://reut.rs/2bJpmip

SCOOP: AAR AIMS MEGAPHONE AT CLINTON, TRUMP: With the presidential campaign heating up, the Association of American Railroads is out with a new letter to the candidates that touts the economic impact of the freight rail industry, calling it "one of America's greatest deregulation stories." AAR President and CEO Edward Hamberger wrote, "The freight rail sector believes rules and regulations require thorough stakeholder input, including from industry, and think that reviewing and improving the process for regulations would further extend the benefits of American industry to the larger economy."

BRIEF GROUND STOP IN SOUTHERN FLORIDA: The FAA ordered a ground stop for Miami International and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airports Thursday after a power outage affected air traffic control. The power was out from 11:24 a.m. to 11:29 a.m. "During that time, FAA technicians switched the facility to backup engine generator power and began restoring air traffic control equipment," the agency said in a statement. "Operations returned to normal by 1 p.m." The outage was caused by a "problem with an uninterruptible power system." Fourteen flights were diverted to other airports.

THE HARSHEST STATES ON RISKY DRIVERS: Arizona, Alaska and Georgia are the strictest states when it comes to handling DUI, speeding and reckless driving, according to a new analysis by WalletHub. South Dakota, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Ohio are the least strict. Overall, red states tend to be tougher on "high-risk" drivers than blue states. In its ranking, WalletHub considered a state's criminal penalties and increases in insurance costs. Where the DMV stands: D.C. is 43rd in terms of strictness, Maryland is 33rd and Virginia is tied with Delaware for fifth.

SLICE OF PI: The Pastorum Group, a communications firm, promoted Tory Brown to partner and hired Lia Weintraub, formerly of Weber Shandwick, as an associate. Since joining the firm a year ago, Brown has worked against spinning off air traffic control from the FAA, Isaac Arnsdorf reports for POLITICO Influence.

THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):

- VW fix for diesel cars falls short. The Wall Street Journal.

- Remember those long TSA lines? Poof! They're gone. USA Today.

- Auto, technology industries clash over talking cars. The Associated Press.

- Uber loses at least $1.2 billion in first half of 2016. Bloomberg.

- Canadian carriers appear set to join U.S. voluntary air-safety program. The Wall Street Journal.

- Amazon, expanding its automotive business, launches vehicle research portal. Automotive News.

- When unemployment falls, thousands of Americans die. Bloomberg.

- GM cleared in second U.S. verdict over crash blamed on ignition switch. Reuters.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 34 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 399 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 73 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,499 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

3 p.m. - Vice President Joe Biden gives a speech at the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station as part of an event to "announce new investment in rail service that will benefit Amtrak and to underscore the importance of investing in our nation's transportation infrastructure." 100 French St., Wilmington, Del.

THE WEEK AHEAD:

Monday - The House Transportation subcommittee on railroads holds a field hearing in San Francisco focusing on oversight of California's high-speed rail project. Witnesses include FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg. A livestream will be available here: http://bit.ly/2bJxKjf.

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

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/08/wmata-board-hashes-out-safety-failures-018967

Stories from POLITICO Pro

TSA head promises special airline employee screening nationwide Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 08/25/2016 05:36 PM EDT

TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said today that he expects to have a national program stood up within a month for ensuring airline crew members are consistently able to use speedier screening lines.

"We're working that pretty hard right now. And we will have a national program as soon as I can get one out there," Neffenger told an audience this afternoon at a conference hosted by the Air Line Pilots Association. "So if in a month you haven't seen that, you come to me and I'll make sure we get it right. But I think it makes perfect sense to me."

ALPA's president, Tim Canoll, noted that airline workers don't always have access to special security screening lines because "Known Crewmember" queues are not available at every airport and are not always open at the locations that do use the vetting process.

"We've been desirous of is a national standard for the use of PreCheck in lieu of a closed or nonexistent Known Crewmember program," Canoll told Neffenger. "We're hopeful and interested if there is a chance we could get a standard for the entire country so that it wasn't an optional thing. It would be available to crewmembers with an ID who didn't have access to Known Crewmember."

Neffenger conceded that the Known Crewmember program has been limited by TSA staffing constraints but said he now has the bodies to keep those queues open for longer and to open them at more locations. Where the program still doesn't exist, he added, there is no reason the agency can't ensure airline employees are able to use PreCheck lanes.

Back

TSA readies for risk assessment on animal carriage flights Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 08/25/2016 06:11 PM EDT

TSA plans to start sizing up the security risks next month for animal carriage flights that don't have hardened cockpit doors.

Administrator Peter Neffenger told a room full of pilots this afternoon that his agency plans to begin a risk analysis to make sure animal handlers are properly vetted for those flights and that the right security standards are in place.

"I want to know what the real challenges are in those aircraft," Neffenger told the audience at a conference hosted by the Air Line Pilots Association. "We'd like to work with you on that. Certainly I'd like to understand it better. And then let's get to a common standard that makes sense to people ... that the operators are comfortable with as we go forward."

Capt. Ted Wallace, a security officer for FedEx ALPA, told Neffenger that an incident on a horse carriage flight last week highlights some of the organization's security concerns.

A horse handler rushed into the cockpit of a Boeing 767 and tried to grab a tranquilizer syringe next to the pilot, Wallace explained.

"They did that without authorization and against the brief, and you can see all the problems that this implies," he said, noting that many of the animal handlers are foreign nationals.

Back

FTC clears Tesla, SolarCity merger Back

By Esther Whieldon | 08/25/2016 11:23 AM EDT

Tesla today received antitrust approval for its proposed $2.6 billion merger with SolarCity.

The Federal Trade Commission granted the companies' early termination request, which means the FTC and DOJ's Antitrust Division have reviewed the case and will not take any enforcement action against the merger.

The independent members of the SolarCity and Tesla board of directors on Aug. 1 voted to allow the merger to proceed about a month after Tesla CEO Elon Musk sought to merge the companies in order to offer an all-in-one home electricity supply and storage package. The deal also could ease rooftop solar leasing giant SolarCity's dependence on state-level net metering programs that are coming under attack across the country.

Under the agreement, SolarCity has 45 days, until Sept. 14, to look around for other would-be buyers. The companies hope to close the transaction in the fourth quarter of this year although the agreement does not terminate until the end of April 2017. The companies still need regulatory approvals and to meet other conditions.

Citi Bike Pushes Further Into Brooklyn

Citi Bike riders can now zip to and from Red Hook and deeper into other Brooklyn neighborhoods as New York City’s bicycle-sharing system pushes into new areas of the city.

New stations where riders can check out and park the blue bicycles have been installed and activated in recent days. They are the latest step in Citi Bike’s plan to extends its reach into southwestern Brooklyn and upper Manhattan this year with 139 additional stations.

A new Citi Bike station at Union Street and Fourth Avenue means commuters can hop on a Citi Bike and pedal to the transit hub at Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street instead of waiting for a relatively infrequent R local train to take them one stop so they can switch to an express train.

Or riders can use the system to get to places that aren’t served by the city’s subway.

“This is a great day for public transit in this neighborhood and far beyond,” Brad Lander, a New York City councilman who represents neighborhoods including Park Slope, said at a Thursday morning news conference at one of the new Citi bike stations in Brooklyn.

There was some initial skepticism. Jared Horowitz, who lives in Park Slope, said he was “not psyched” about having a Citi Bike station directly outside his apartment when it is installed, as planned, at a local public library branch.

But he said he was broadly in favor of promoting cycling and improving New York City’s transit options.

“This puts us more in that direction so I’m all for it,” said Mr. Horowitz, 38 years old.

Citi Bike is expected to include a network of 10,000 bikes by the end of this year, up from 6,000 when it started three years ago. The system is slated to grow to 12,000 bicycles by the end of next year.

Have something to say about an article in Greater New York? Email us, along with your contact information, at gnyltrs@wsj.com. Letters will be edited for brevity and clarity. Please include your city and state.

The bike-share program began expanding farther uptown in Manhattan around the beginning of August.

The expansion is another sign of a reversal of fortune for Citi Bike and its operator in recent years. In late 2014, facing a cash-crunch and technical problems, the operator that would later be renamed Motivate was sold.

Jay Walder, a former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief, was installed as its leader. Citi Bike equipment was replaced and new bicycles became part of the fleet.