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Infrastructure in the News 8.5.16


The New York Times (AP): Amtrak: New Locomotives Have Cut Delays Nearly 25 Percent

The introduction of 70 new locomotives on Amtrak's most heavily traveled line three years ago has contributed to a reduction in engine-related delays of nearly 25 percent, the national passenger railroad said Thursday.

The New York Times (AP): Report: Subway Expansion Built for Rio Olympics Overbilled

A $3 billion subway expansion built as one of the main Olympic legacy projects for Rio de Janeiro was overbilled by 25 percent, a report said Thursday.

CityLab: What Will Rio Really Get Out of Its New Subway Line?

On July 30th, after nearly 20 years in the works and more than doubling its initial cost estimates, the Line 4 subway officially opened in Rio de Janeiro. The mayor, the governor, and the interim president were all there to inaugurate the 10-mile subway line, and to claim some of the credit for finally getting it built. Also on hand was a figure arguably more responsible for the new subway line: Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.


New federal data from the U.S. Energy and Information Administration (EIA) show that the U.S. transportation sector has produced more carbon pollution than any other sector of the economy over the last 12 months, including the electric power, industrial, residential, and commercial sectors. The results mark the first time that carbon emissions from the transportation sector have exceeded emissions from each of the other sectors since 1979.

GovTech: 4 Ways Self-Driving Trucks Could Improve Transportation

The self-driving semi-truck will be just like the self-driving car ... except not really.


The Washington Post: Purple Line won’t be getting $900 million it expected on Monday

Maryland officials who had expected to clinch $900 million in federal funding Monday to build the Purple Line will have to wait after a court ruling made the light-rail project temporarily ineligible for federal aid.

Wall Street Journal: More digital screens coming to NYC subways, buses

More digital countdown clocks are coming to New York City's lettered subway lines.

Los Angeles Times: Without more walkable cities, building new transit won't reverse Metro's ridership decline

There is no place in the country better positioned to use transit to its advantage than Los Angeles County. With the upcoming ballot measure that would increase the county sales tax to fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the renaissance of downtown Los Angeles, the recent proliferation of development in built-up areas as opposed to outward sprawl, and the emerging consensus that road building won’t magically make traffic go away, this decade is truly a watershed period in the region’s history.

The Columbus Dispatch: Making Columbus transportation ‘smart’ will take years

The excitement that went with Columbus winning the nation’s “Smart Cities” challenge and the $50 million in grants that went with it is now hitting this reality: A lot of hard work comes next.

The Washington Post: Advocates go to court in fight to protect protest space outside Trump hotel

Free speech advocates are suing the District government and federal agencies over what they say is a “stonewalling” of efforts to determine what access the public will have to the sidewalk, plaza and street outside the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue once Donald Trump opens a $200 million luxury hotel there next month.

Dallas Magazine: Why the Second Downtown DART Line Should Be a Subway

As a kid, like many I presume, I loved building toy train lines during the holidays. I would build them as long and complex as I could. Or at least as long as the amount of tracks I had and the space my mother would allow.

KHOU Houston: Mayor, transit officials urge Houstonians to help end gridlock

It’s no secret how bad rush hour gets in Houston. Now, Mayor Sylvester Turner says anyone who uses the roads should be part of the solution to get things moving.

The Advocate: $170M Baton Rouge tram project one step closer to reality

The proposed tram that would link downtown Baton Rouge and LSU has taken another step closer to reality after the Federal Transit Administration issued a report Friday that the project would have no significant environmental impact on the 3-mile corridor.

AM New York: New MTA buses have Wi-Fi, but lack technology to speed travel time

The MTA’s flashy new bus fleet may come with Wi-Fi and USB ports, but they lack a feature that’s proved to improve travel times.

Politico Morning Transportation

By Lauren Gardner and Brianna Gurciullo | 08/05/2016 05:42 AM EDT

With help from Margaret Harding McGill and Eric Wolff

REMEMBERING LATOURETTE: Transportation groups, lawmakers and reporters paid tribute Thursday to the late Rep. Steve LaTourette as news of his death spread. Here's a smattering of statements honoring the Ohio Republican from the transpo world:

- House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster: "Steve was a really good friend and a tremendous mentor to me as a new member of Congress. He was a smart, hard-working champion for northern Ohio, and someone whose word you could trust. He was a great member of Congress - a member's member. He excelled at three things a member has to do to be successful: learn the rules and procedures of the institution, become an expert on an issue that's important to those you serve and to the country, and - most importantly - keep your word. Steve became an expert on transportation because he knew how it could improve our economy and the lives of Americans."

- National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi: "Congressman LaTourette was always pragmatic on every issue, a wonderful quality that truly made him special. He was a true NATCA champion, and I was so honored and proud to call him a personal friend of mine."

- Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department at the AFL-CIO: "During his nine terms in the U.S. House, Steve LaTourette put service and progress above partisan politics. I will forever remember the committee and House floor battles led by Rep. LaTourette in defense of transportation workers' jobs and rights. Whether the debate involved investing in our transportation system, demanding fair trade policy, or stopping legislation aimed at weakening worker protections or bargaining rights in our laws, Rep. LaTourette repeatedly stood on the side of working people."

- Airports Council International-North America President and CEO Kevin Burke: "While in Congress and in the years since his retirement, Steve was a friend of transportation, especially our nation's airports. Steve was able to bring stakeholders to the table and find sustainable solutions to pressing infrastructure challenges. His legacy lives on in our work to modernize airport infrastructure."

- House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer: "It was easy to be Steve's friend - he brought to the Congress a genuine desire to forge consensus, reach across barriers, and treat all he met with kindness. Throughout Steve's life and career, he regularly put country above party. His influence over the development of our nation's transportation networks cannot be overstated, and as an appropriator Steve sought to prioritize growth for Main Street and the middle class."

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

"We were out on a date in my daddy's car. We hadn't driven very far. There in the road straight ahead. A car was stalled, the engine was dead."

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NTSB SETS SAIL FOR EL FARO RECORDER: NTSB investigators are scheduled to launch their third mission today to try to surface the data recorder from the sunken El Faro cargo ship. The two previous missions to the site helped the agency and participating military officials locate the recorder. NTSB pegged the cost of this third trip at $500,000. The total for all three missions is now about $3 million.

NHTSA STEPS UP INVESTIGATION INTO ARC AIRBAG INFLATORS: Following a fatal incident in Canada, NHTSA has upgraded its investigation into airbag inflators manufactured by Tennessee-based ARC Automotive Inc., Reuters reports. GM, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai and Kia Motors used about 8 million of the inflators through 2004 and possibly in some newer cars. The agency first began its investigation last year after two incidents that led to injuries.

From Reuters: "NHTSA said the ARC inflators are a hybrid design using high-pressure stored gas and a small amount of ammonium nitrate to inflate the airbags. It said its preliminary investigation shows 'significant design differences between the ARC inflators and the Takata inflators currently under recall.'"

A lethal accident: Last month, a woman in Newfoundland driving a 2009 Hyundai Elantra died after an ARC airbag inflator exploded and sprayed her with shrapnel, The Associated Press reports. Investigators "are focusing on whether a manufacturing problem can block a vent in the ARC inflators. With no place for the gas to escape, a metal inflator canister can be blown into pieces."

"NHTSA still believes that airbags save lives and do more good than harm," the AP reports. "Mark Rosekind, the agency's administrator, told an auto industry conference near Traverse City, Mich., on Wednesday that airbags top a list of new technologies responsible for saving 613,501 lives." MT asked NHTSA to comment on this latest wrinkle in air bag safety concerns, but no one at DOT public affairs responded to our request.

BALLOON IN FATAL CRASH HIT POWER LINE: The NTSB released a preliminary report on the July 30 hot air balloon crash in Texas that killed all 15 passengers and the pilot. The report confirms that the balloon "crashed into a field after striking high voltage powerlines" and "was substantially damaged due to impact forces and post-crash fire."

HEAD OF METRO BOARD SLAMS SERIES OF 'IDIOTIC' EVENTS: Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans has had it with the system's string of safety failures and overall bad press. He's calling on the board to convene an emergency August meeting (they don't normally meet this month because Congress, Europe, the world writ large - everyone but your loyal MT scribes - take the month off) to publicly air out the recent issues, The Washington Post's Martine Powers reports.

Evans' anger comes after the NTSB said Wednesday that WMATA inspectors have been shirking their inspection duties at track crossovers across the system - and then there was the Metro Transit cop who was arrested for allegedly trying to send phone cards to ISIL fighters. "I am outraged," Evans said Thursday. "This cannot happen anymore. It makes it really hard for me, when I'm out going to talk to members of Congress and senators and business leaders, trying to get more money to Metro, and these idiotic things happen."

NORTON BLASTS PLAN TO CUT LATE-NIGHT METRO: Democratic D.C. Del.Eleanor Holmes Norton fired off a release Thursday saying Wiedefeld should have slowed down and consulted more people before he pushed for an end to Metro's late-night service. Norton, a member of the House Transportation Committee, said the proposal "seems to indicate Wiedefeld simply accepted the most obvious path without going through the most rigorous analysis of all the options to determine the best one. Even though the safety priority must remain paramount, there are many factors that would inform such an analysis. Among them would be the possible detrimental long-term effects on Metro ridership, the regional economy, and regional businesses and residents."

FOXX APPLAUDS DMV LEADERS: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx applauded D.C., Maryland and Virginia leaders this week for working toward creating an independent oversight body for WMATA. In February, Foxx told D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe that they needed to set up the group by February 2017 or they would lose federal funding. "The progress that the three jurisdictions have made to date clearly demonstrates that you are capable of meeting the deadline with continued focus," Foxx wrote in a letter to the trio.

SENATORS TO FCC: SET PRIVACY, CYBER RULES FOR V2V COMMS: Democratic Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal say the FCC should ensure that spectrum for vehicle-to-vehicle communications is only used for safety applications, Pro Technology's Margaret Harding McGill reports. "We must ensure that these vehicles have robust safety, cybersecurity, and privacy protections in place before automakers deploy vehicle-2-vehicle and vehicle-2-infrastructure communication technologies," the senators wrote in a letter to the agency. They also requested that the FCC require automakers to provide privacy and cybersecurity plans to the agency.

TRANSPO PASSES POWER FOR GHG EMISSIONS: The transportation sector produced more carbon emissions than the power sector for the first time in 40 years, the non-profit US PIRG says in a report. The green group looked at a rolling 12-month average of emissions using the latest Energy Information Administration data and found that electric power had fewer emission than any other sector (commercial, residential, industrial, transportation). Our friends at Morning Energy took a look at the data, and indeed transportation has produced more tons of CO2 than electric generation six of the last eight months reported by the agency.

REGIONAL AIRLINE FACES $500,000 FINE: The FAA on Thursday proposed a $500,000 fine for SeaPort Airlines, an Oregon-based regional airline accused of using three planes that weren't airworthy on 583 flights. The agency claims that inspections of the single-engine Cessna Caravans' turbine compressor blades were overdue. Rules requiring the inspections are meant to "prevent compressor turbine blade failures, which could cause an engine to lose power," according to an FAA release.

UBER FOR STEVE: GOP Sen. Steve Daines was expected to be the first Uber passenger in Bozeman, Mont., on Thursday night as part of the app's launch across the state - one of the last to get the service - this week, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports. MT wonders how many stars the senator will get from his driver.

YOU'RE UP: President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he intends to appoint George Hawkins to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council. Hawkins is the CEO and general manager of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority. He is a member of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's board of trustees.


- As Americans fear a next attack, dogs are being trained to be the new face of security. The Washington Post.

- Drone maker adds no-fly zones to devices for Olympics. The Hill.

- Purple Line won't be getting $900 million it expected on Monday. The Washington Post.

- Crashing, burning planes don't stop passengers from grabbing their luggage. Bloomberg.

- Tesla negotiating lease for first San Antonio site. San Antonio Express-News.

- Pilot of vanished Malaysian flight had deviant route on his simulator, minister says. The New York Times.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 55 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 420 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 94 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,520 days.


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Tributes pour in following death of transportation booster Steve LaTourette Back

By Lauren Gardner and Heather Caygle | 08/04/2016 09:20 AM EDT

Former GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio died Wednesday at age 62 after battling pancreatic cancer.

A centrist Republican who was a close friend of former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), LaTourette was known on Capitol Hill for his friendliness, common-sense approach to politics and memorable quips to reporters.

"All of us in the House will miss our friend and colleague, Steve LaTourette. Nobody could match his fierce sense of duty- or his great sense of humor," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement Wednesday night.

Remembrances from Democrats and Republicans started pouring in Wednesday night, with Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge tweeting her "heart was heavy" after hearing the news and GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi describing LaTourette as "a devoted servant," "mentor" and "one of a kind."

"His laughter, wisdom, wit and strong resolve will be missed by all who encountered him," Tiberi (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

Boehner also remarked on the loss of his close friend: "Steve LaTourette was one of the most honest and loyal souls I ever had the privilege of knowing. With his passing, I have lost a friend, and Ohio has lost a dedicated servant."

LaTourette was known as a transportation booster for northeast Ohio, having served for many years on the House Transportation Committee before taking a plum assignment on the Appropriations Committee. As an appropriator, he was a member of the panel responsible for setting transportation spending levels.

LaTourette retired amid frustration over the growing partisanship in Congress. At the time, he denied his reason for retirement was related to being passed over for the House Transportation Committee chairmanship.

Sharp-tongued and quick-witted, he wasn't afraid to take aim at his own party, calling the tea party "nutty" and ripping former colleagues who didn't back Boehner for speaker in 2013.

"What, these chuckleheads think that having Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House is better for the Republican Party? I don't think so," LaTourette said at the time. "So they really have to come to terms why are they here? If they're just here to vote no - we can train a monkey to vote no."

LaTourette served 18 years in Congress and is survived by his wife Jennifer and children.

"Steve LaTourette was known for his bipartisanship and his ability to get things done for Ohio," said Sen. Rob Portman, a fellow Ohio Republican. "He was a proud son of Cleveland, a tough prosecutor, and an effective legislator who could find common ground with just about anyone. But I will miss him most of all as a good friend with a great sense of humor."


Senators push FCC for vehicle-to-vehicle cyber, privacy protections Back

By Margaret Harding McGill | 08/04/2016 06:18 PM EDT

Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal want the FCC to take action to protect against cybersecurity and privacy vulnerabilities in vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today, the senators said the FCC should ensure that spectrum set aside for the vehicle-to-vehicle transmissions, also known as Dedicated Short Range Communications, is only used for safety applications. The communications can transmit vehicle speed and direction information, for use in crash-avoidance technology.

But the senators warn that using the spectrum for commercial applications, such as paying for tolls or parking, could make vehicles more vulnerable to threats.

"We must ensure that these vehicles have robust safety, cybersecurity, and privacy protections in place before automakers deploy vehicle-2-vehicle and vehicle-2-infrastructure communication technologies," Markey and Blumenthal wrote.

They also ask that the FCC require automakers to submit privacy and cybersecurity plans to the agency and notify authorities if a breach occurs.

The letter comes as the FCC seeks comment on a petition from Public Knowledge that asks the FCC to create cybersecurity and privacy rules for vehicle-to-vehicle communications before automakers deploy the technology.

Auto industry groups have said the DSRC system was designed with protections in place for cybersecurity and privacy.

The issue is part of a larger debate over whether the FCC should open up the spectrum for use in Wi-Fi.