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Infrastructure in the News 8.31.16


Automotive News: The other bump on path to driverless cars: Crumbling roads

You should take claims of self-driving cars being road-ready soon with a 50-pound bag of salt, not a grain.

GlobalTrade Magazine: Growth in Air Freight Volumes Sluggish for First Half of 2016

Air freight markets posted marginal 0.5-percent growth for the first half of this year on a year-to-date basis.

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Watchdog Seeks Assurances on Planned Shipping Alliance (full article at conclusion of clips)

The U.S. maritime watchdog won’t give the green light to a giant shipping alliance unless it provides guarantees of fair pricing for clients moving cargo in and out of the U.S., a senior industry executive said.

Associated Press: More Mitsubishi models in Japan found with inflated mileage

The mileage scandal at Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is widening after the Japanese government ordered sales of eight more models halted after finding their mileage ratings were falsely inflated.

Washington Post: If it feels like morning traffic suddenly got much worse, you’re right

If it suddenly feels like traffic, especially on your morning commute, is growing more maddening by the day, you’re right — and the hard numbers that prove your misery show that it’s going to get even worse.

Reuters: First U.S.-Cuba Scheduled Flight in Decades Set to Depart

The first regularly scheduled commercial flight between the United States and Cuba in more than half a century is set to depart on Wednesday, starting a new chapter in the Obama administration's bid to open trade and travel with the former Cold War foe.


The Morning Call: Truckers scrutinizing Pa. Turnpike payments to PennDOT

The decision in a federal case in New York state has thrown a new element into the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s attempt to get out from under a $450 million annual payment to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for public transit: The payments may not be legal.

Miami Today: Gas tax might fund specific transportation needs

Miami-Dade’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) might consider taking a page from Orlando’s book to secure funding for specific transportation needs.

Associated Press: Delaware eyes mileage fees as alternative to gas tax

Delaware’s Department of Transportation has received a $1.49 million federal grant for a pilot study regarding the feasibility of charging drivers a mileage-based user fee to help pay for road projects.

Leader-Telegram (WI): Providers try ride-hailing services for patients with transportation issues

Edith Stowe, 83, waited patiently on a recent afternoon at the bus stop outside MedStar Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia. It’s become routine for her, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Temple Daily News (TX): State approves transportation funding for Bell County

The Texas Transportation Commission approved a plan to fund $70 billion worth of projects to improve the state’s transportation infrastructure, a TxDOT press release said Tuesday.

The Daily Astorian (OR): Editorial: It’s past time to fix crumbling infrastructure

Warrenton’s efforts to upgrade aged water and sewer lines are part of a nationwide problem that demands creative solutions. There are growing warnings around the country that consumers face steeply higher utility bills.

Washington Post: Metro track workers ‘hired directly off the street,’ but at least they’re enthusiastic!

Under-trained workers, confusing inspection manuals, a lack of communication – yup, sounds like Metro.

Associated Press: Google to expand Waze carpooling service in San Francisco

Google is preparing to expand a San Francisco carpooling program in a move that could that could set up a showdown with its one-time ally, the popular ride-hailing service Uber.

Associated Press: Hogan: $5 million study set for new Chesapeake Bay crossing

Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday announced a $5 million study to explore a potential new Chesapeake Bay crossing.

Morning transportation hasn’t been published this week.

U.S. Watchdog Seeks Assurances on Planned Shipping Alliance

The U.S. maritime watchdog won’t give the green light to a giant shipping alliance unless it provides guarantees of fair pricing for clients moving cargo in and out of the U.S., a senior industry executive said.

The Federal Maritime Commission delayed last week the approval of the Ocean Alliance, an alliance of a group of European and Asian container operators, that together move 39% of all cargo between Asia and North America and 35% between Asia and Europe.

“I am concerned about possible joint contract issues,” said William Doyle, an FMC commissioner on Tuesday. “An alliance is not a merger and if they are using their combined strength to negotiate prices with shippers and other parties like tugboats, and bunkering operators, that’s a concern.”

Mr. Doyle said that Ocean Alliance members—France’s CMA CGM, China’s Cosco Group, Hong Kong’s Orient Overseas Container Line and Taipei-based Evergreen Marine—must give assurances that they will be negotiating as individual operators, rather than as a group.

“If they get together, sharing information, then there is room for a price effect,” he said.

A spokeswoman, for CMA CGM, the group’s biggest player, said the company would cooperate with the FMC’s inquiry.  The Ocean Alliance is set to start operations next year and must also get approvals from Chinese and European regulators.

Alliances have taken on increased importance in a global-shipping industry buffeted by overcapacity, low freight rates and slowing volumes.

By entering into alliances—in which firms share everything from ships to port calls—companies significantly cut operational costs. Container ships move 95% of the world’s manufactured goods ranging from designer dresses and food to electronics, toys and furniture.

Customers say vessel-sharing agreements slow down cargo movements.

“I have not seen any sign of higher prices, but I have seen fewer ships having container space for low-value products, like ours,” said Bob Haberman, who runs Number 9 Hay LLC, based in Ellensburg, Wash. “I fear service quality will deteriorate with fewer players out there.”

Mr. Haberman ships around 5,000 containers of hay a year to Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan. He said that in the past 10 days he told customers that scheduled shipments would be delayed for two weeks.

In April, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, a Washington-based trade body, asked the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee to press the FMC for a thorough review of shipping alliances.

The alliances have already caused problems for exporters because the various members share space on giant ships, mixing cargo and making it more difficult for exporters to get their goods to the right destination than in the past when the operators used smaller ships, cargo owners in Europe, Asia and the U.S. say.

The confusion is exacerbated because shipping operators switch alliances as the industry consolidates.

“In the short term, the formation of a new alliance is disruptive for customers,” said a spokesman of Maersk Line, which has formed the 2M alliance with Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Co. “There will be periods with frequent changes and fluctuating reliability.”

Container operators say that by next year, the alliances will offer better service compared with individual operators. Their shared resources will give cargo owners more sailings at the best price, they have argued.

The 2M, already approved by regulators, has a 16% market share in the Asia to North America route and a 34% share for Asia to Europe. A third grouping called THE Alliance, made up of German, Japanese and Korean operators, is also awaiting regulatory approvals and will have a 39% market share for Asia to North America and 30% for Asia to Europe.