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Infrastructure in the News 9.15.16


Seeking Alpha: Infrastructure Spending Does Not ‘Grow The Economy’

Infrastructure Spending Does Not 'Grow The Economy'

Associated Press: Tesla's Autopilot System Under Scrutiny in Fatal China Crash

Tesla faces new scrutiny in China about its vehicle autopilot system after state television broadcast allegations that a man killed in a fatal crash had activated the driver-assist feature of his car.

Detroit Free Press: Ford shifting all U.S. small-car production to Mexico

Ford plans to eventually shift all North American small-car production from the U.S. to Mexico, CEO Mark Fields told investors Tuesday, even though the company's production investments in Mexico have become a lightning rod for controversy in the presidential election.

Associated Press: Louisiana, Florida Governors Take Different Approach on Aid

It's a tough time for a governor to come to Washington, hat in hand, to ask for billions of dollars for a hard-hit state, especially with Congress in the midst of election-season dysfunction and dominated by tightfisted tea party Republicans.

Wall Street Journal: Hanjin Creditors Seek to Keep Ships Anchored in U.S. Waters (full article follows Morning Transportation)

Creditors of Hanjin Shipping Co., fearful of having their collateral disappear over the horizon, have asked a U.S. bankruptcy judge to reconsider a ruling preventing them from seizing several of the South Korean carrier’s ships.

Wall Street Journal: Unit, Plans Autonomous-Car Services

Ford Motor Co. made its latest plea for investors to view the auto maker more like a Silicon Valley company, promising lofty returns on future ventures while warning near-term profit will be pinched by deep investment.


Washington Post: Virginia transportation agency shows power of cooperation

A few years ago, the Virginia state government launched an experiment in which it gave money and power to local officials in the D.C. suburbs and told them to decide what transportation improvements they wanted.

For The Win: Slow-moving freight train interrupts Pennsylvania marathon

A group of marathoners hoping for a time fast enough to gain entry into the Boston Marathon may have seen their hopes dashed by a slow-moving freight train.

LA Times: Frustrated transportation groups urge the Legislature to come back in a lame-duck session

Saying that "it is time to stop ignoring the transportation needs of our state," a coalition of more than four dozen economic and local government groups urged state lawmakers on Wednesday to restart talks on a transportation funding agreement before the end of November.

Boston Herald: Transportation czar: Car-tracking technology to be used only in emergencies

Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the toll collection gantries springing up on the Mass Pike could be used to track license plates in the case of an Amber Alert or similar situations when authorities are on the hunt for a specific car — but will not keep or store data for everyday drivers when they drive underneath beginning on Oct. 28.

WHEC (NY): Governor Cuomo announces $27M for rail and port infrastructure improvements

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced state funding to help improve rail safety and increase economic competiveness.

Associated Press: Metro to curtail northern Va. service for maintenance

Metro riders in northern Virginia are preparing for an autumn of discontent.

Washington Post: Fewer people might be riding Metro, but Blue Line riders haven’t noticed

Barbara Carpaldi-Carrion has traveled Europe on trains, ridden subways in Rome, Vienna, Madrid and Barcelona.

Associated Press: California water tunnels would need US funding, analyst says

Giant tunnels that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to build to haul water across California are economically feasible only if the federal government bears a third of the nearly $16 billion cost because local water districts may not benefit as expected, according to an analysis that the state commissioned last year but never released.

Washington Post: DOT’s special adviser on Metro steps down

Kathryn Thomson, appointed in May to be Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s special adviser on Metro, has left the post for a job in the private sector.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 09/15/2016 05:40 AM EDT

With help from Annie Snider, Lauren Gardner, Jennifer Scholtes and Alex Guillén

LET THE WRDA HIT THE FLOOR: The Senate voted Wednesday to end debate on the Water Resources Development Act, setting up final passage for this afternoon, Pro Energy's Annie Snider reported. Rep. Bill Shuster said Wednesday that his staff is talking to GOP leadership "every hour, probably," about getting the House version of WRDA to the floor before lawmakers leave town. The House Transportation Committee chairman said he's hoping the lower chamber will get there next week, our Lauren Gardner reported for Pros. His panel passed the legislation (H.R. 5303), which is narrower than the Senate's bill, in May. It's unclear whether members of the House will have to stay in session after next week, and pushing through a continuing resolution to fund the government will only reduce the need to remain in Washington.

LOOKING TO NEXT YEAR: When asked what next year holds for transportation and infrastructure policy, Shuster said both candidates for president "have said frequently and quite forcefully they want to do something on infrastructure spending. And I think there's going to have to be some sort of, and I believe there will be some sort of, tax reform. And in that, tax reform will give us an opportunity" to address the Highway Trust Fund's solvency.

'Up in the air': When asked how he would walk the fine line on a trust fund debate since Ways and Means has jurisdiction over revenues and taxes, Shuster said "we need to consider everything that's out there, and right now I have no preconceived solution." To make it happen, he said lawmakers would need the White House to step up. "The last time every leader in Congress and the president said 'no' to doing anything with funding, but we were able to cobble together the dollars and do a long-term bill," Shuster said. "So it's up in the air."

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.

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"The secrets that we keep/We say them in our sleep/and wrestle down our souls if they would speak/I watched you board a train in the London rain/and waved bye-bye as you slipped out of view."

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GIMME THE METRO BENNIES: The House Oversight Committee will mark up a bill today to give federal workers in D.C. the opportunity to use their transit benefits to pay for ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft to get to and from work. The legislation was originally slated for a markup before the August recess but got pulled so its authors could collaborate more with Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, whose panel shares jurisdiction.

Quick changes: The bill was reintroduced this week and would apply through the end of 2018 in a nod to Metro's admission that the SafeTrack program will take longer to complete than originally anticipated. It's unclear how or whether the new version might address any feedback the Joint Committee on Taxation gave to members.

Light at the end of the Metro tunnel? So Hill denizens and agency worker bees - will Congress have mercy on your commuting plight? Could this bill feasibly jump onto a moving legislative vehicle like a commuter trying to beat the (non-elevator-like) doors before they close? Time will tell, but co-sponsoring Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told our Lauren Gardner the timing is certainly "propitious." "I would say that, at this point, the fact that we're marking it up is a good sign because why mark it up if it's not going to go anywhere?" he said.

TOOTH EXTRACTION FOR BILL BANNING CUBA FLIGHTS: So that Cuba-flight-ban bill wouldn't actually halt flights anymore. Several reporters and aviation industry insiders were surprised to discover this week that the House Homeland Security Committee actually adopted a substitute amendment striking the original language that would have put commercial air service to and from Cuba on pause until TSA completed a study on Cuban airport security. Paper copies of the amendment weren't publicly distributed during the markup, and some industry folks had trouble tracking down the text as well.

A new mandate: Now the bill says TSA would only have to report to Congress on security screening equipment used at Cuban airports, the canine teams utilized there, vetting and training for Cuban airport security personnel and perimeter security at those hubs.

SURPRISE! NO AIR MARSHALS ON CUBA FLIGHTS: Commercial flights have been underway between Cuba and the U.S. for two weeks now. And it turns out not a single one of those scheduled trips has had a U.S. air marshal on board, despite previous statements suggesting the contrary. As our Jennifer Scholtes reported for Pros, TSA's second in command admitted to lawmakers on Wednesday that Cuba has yet to agree to allow air marshals on scheduled airline flights from the island - only charter flights.

Lying by omission? That newly public truth comes in contrast to testimony this year by a top policy official from DHS, who told House lawmakers in May that U.S.-Cuba air service wouldn't begin until air marshals were allowed to board those U.S.-bound planes. And the TSA sent out a vague statement in August that Rep. John Katko says "misled" the American public to think that air marshals would be aboard the kind of regular old commercial flights most folks take.

Intentionally vague: TSA Deputy Administrator Huban Gowadia told lawmakers this week that her DHS colleague "misspoke" in making the initial promise and explained that TSA's statement in August left out the distinction between chartered and non-chartered flights in the interest of security.

TAKIN' CARE OF BUSINESS: The House Transportation Committee approved bills Wednesday involving emergency responses on railroads, veterans working in the FAA and Coast Guard navigation, our Lauren Gardner reported for Pros. The first piece of legislation (S. 546) would create a new FEMA National Advisory Council subcommittee to improve first responder training in cases of hazardous material spills on the rails. The second (H.R. 5957) would apply a new category of sick leave for wounded veterans to the FAA. The third bill (H.R. 5978) calls for a land-based positioning system as a reinforcement for GPS.

GOING FOR A SPIN: Uber's self-driving car pilot program in Pittsburgh launched Wednesday. Reporters from BuzzFeed News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Wired and pretty much every other outlet out there recently took rides in the Steel City.

FTA COMMITS $1 BILLION TO SAN DIEGO TROLLEY PROJECT: The FTA has committed to providing $1.04 billion in grant money to the Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project in San Diego, about half of the total cost of the trolley extension, acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers announced Wednesday. The San Diego Association of Governments plans to extend the Blue Line Trolley about 11 miles from San Diego's downtown area to University City. The light-rail service will complete an estimated 24,600 trips each weekday beginning in five years.

$100 million to start: "With the population along the Mid-Coast corridor expected to grow nearly 20 percent in the coming decades, this trolley extension will offer a much-needed alternative to traffic congestion in the years ahead," Flowers said in a statement. The money is coming from FTA's Capital Investment Grant Program. To start, the agency awarded $100 million to the project Wednesday and the rest of the funding will come in pieces annually over the next 10 years. Congress will need to approve funding through appropriations.

SURVEY SAYS - AUTO PART MAKERS LIKE FUEL ECONOMY GOALS: A survey of 23 companies that sell parts to automakers found that majorities support the Obama administration's fuel economy standards set through 2025 and are against altering those goals. Seven out of 10 want to see fuel economy standards for 2025 remain as is, while 65 percent agreed with the decision to set standards that far out. However, results were more mixed on issues such as how oil prices affect the sale of efficient technologies or how important electric vehicles will be to meeting the 2025 standard. The survey was backed by CALSTART, a clean transportation group, and conducted by Ricardo Energy & Environment.

ATU BACKS CLINTON: Hillary Clinton on Wednesday snagged the endorsement of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which supported Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary. Larry Hanley, president of ATU International, said in a release that the union believes Clinton "will fight to rebuild the middle class by restoring the rights of Labor, and bolster our economy through unprecedented investment in public services like transit." The union is planning to mobilize public transportation users.

DEPARTURES AND ARRIVALS: Peter Plocki will replace Katie Thomson as special adviser to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on WMATA safety oversight, The Washington Post reported. Thomson is now a partner at Morrison & Foerster. Plocki has served as deputy assistant general counsel for litigation and enforcement at DOT.


- Ford shifting all U.S. small-car production to Mexico. Detroit Free Press.

- Metro releases updated SafeTrack schedule that pushes completion back at least a month. The Washington Post.

- Boston will begin testing self-driving cars by the end of this year. The Boston Globe.

- Volkswagen says it might not resume U.S. sales of diesel vehicles. Reuters.

- Eye-tracking technology for cars promises to keep drivers alert. The Wall Street Journal.

- Autopilot cited in death of Chinese Tesla driver. The New York Times.

- Mobileye says Tesla was "pushing the envelope in terms of safety." Reuters.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 14 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 379 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 53 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,479 days.


9:30 a.m. - The Railroad Safety Advisory Committee holds its 56th meeting. National Association of Home Builders, National Housing Center, 1201 15th St. NW.

10 a.m. - The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee marks up the Transit Benefits Modernization Act, the Modernizing Government Travel Act and other legislation.

10 a.m. - Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety holds a press call on the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act with two of the lawmakers introducing the bill, Democratic Reps. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

10 a.m. - The International Coalition on Sustainable Aviation holds a press call to discuss its concerns over a global market-based measure ahead of an ICAO Assembly meeting.

1 p.m. - The Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee meets. FAA, 800 Independence Ave. SW, 10th floor, MacCracken Conference Room.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know at

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Senate tees up WRDA for final passage Back

By Annie Snider | 09/14/2016 03:41 PM EDT

The Senate has teed up the Water Resources Development Act for final passage.

Lawmakers voted 94-3 to end debate on the measure. That clears the way for a final passage vote that is now expected Thursday afternoon, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said today. Aides had previously suggested that the measure could be ready for final passage as soon as this afternoon, but the delay does not appear to be related to concerns with the WRDA bill itself.

Senators also voted 85-12 this afternoon to waive a budget point of order against the measure.

Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) argued the pay-for being used to offset $220 million in new spending under the bill to address the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., and other infrastructure needs across the country was in appropriate. The WRDA bill would offset that new spending by winding down the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program. Enzi argued that funding should not qualify as an offset, though, since it was originally appropriated as emergency funding which was not itself offset.

"Phrased simply: If ATVM money didn't count going out, it can't count coming in," Enzi said.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster earlier today said he hopes to be able to move his narrower WRDA bill through the lower chamber next week. But the two chambers remain divided on the Flint aid and several other issues.


Shuster: WRDA may hit House floor next week Back

By Lauren Gardner | 09/14/2016 11:32 AM EDT

House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster said today he hopes a water resources bill will be considered on the House floor next week, ahead of a prolonged recess.

Shuster said he and his staff are talking to GOP leadership "every hour, probably" about getting the legislation (H.R. 5303), which passed the committee in May, to the floor before members leave to campaign in their districts later this month.

While the House is expected to be in next week, it's unclear whether lawmakers will need to stick around after that, especially if they enact a continuing resolution funding the government by then.

"Hopefully, we can get it on the floor next week, and we're still talking and negotiating" to get it there, Shuster told reporters after a committee markup.


House Republicans' Cuba flight ban bill scaled back in markup Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 09/14/2016 04:22 PM EDT

A bill approved Tuesday by the House Homeland Security Committee that initially sought to ban commercial flights to Cuba was significantly watered down through a substitute amendment not publicly circulated at the markup.

The original text of the measure (H.R. 5728) would have stopped commercial flights to and from Cuba until the TSA completed a study on the foreign country's airport security. But the panel adopted a substitute amendment in a 14-9 party line vote Tuesday that scraps that language and instead calls for a report from TSA, absent any mandate that flights be paused in the meantime.

Panel Republicans did not detail the major change during the bill's markup or publicly distribute the text of the substitute amendment when it was adopted. But the committee says it circulated the language among lawmakers and some aviation industry stakeholders in advance of the markup.

As amended, the bill would require the TSA to submit a report to Congress on security screening equipment used at Cuban airports, the canine teams utilized there, vetting and training for Cuban airport security personnel and perimeter security at those hubs. The agency would also have to weigh in on terrorists' ability to use Cuba as a gateway into the United States.

The measure would require the Department of Homeland Security to try to clinch an agreement with Cuba that allows TSA inspectors to access all areas of Cuban airports that operate flights to the United States. And the bill would amend current law to put DHS in charge of assessing foreign airport security, rather than the Department of Transportation.


TSA admits Cuba hasn't signed agreement for air marshals Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 09/14/2016 02:21 PM EDT

A top TSA official divulged Wednesday that Cuba has yet to agree to allow U.S. air marshals aboard scheduled airline flights between the two countries - meaning there have been no air marshals on board thus far, despite representations officials made previously.

At a House hearing, TSA Deputy Administrator Huban Gowadia confirmed that air marshals are currently only allowed on charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba because the Cuban government has yet to sign the agreement U.S. officials provided in August to expand that security protection to scheduled flights.

The disclosure comes after Seth Stodder, an assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, told the House Homeland Security Committee in May that new scheduled air service to and from Cuba would not begin until air marshals were allowed on board those flights. Additionally, in August, TSA provided the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, as well as reporters, a statement explaining that the United States and Cuba had "entered into an aviation security agreement that sets forth the legal framework for the deployment" of air marshals "on board certain flights to and from Cuba."

Rep. John Katko, chairman of the Transportation Security subcommittee, told Gowadia during a full committee hearing that TSA "misled the American public when you issued that press release saying that it was going to be on select commercial flights."

"And you did it at a time right before the flights were about to start," he added.

Gowadia defended her reluctance to publicly acknowledge that U.S.-Cuba air service commenced in late August without air marshals on board scheduled flights, citing security concerns. Additionally, she said Stodder "misspoke" when he told lawmakers that the new service would not start until air marshals were allowed on those flights. And she argued that the Obama administration withheld the distinction between chartered and non-chartered flights also in the interest of security.

"It is important that the exact deployments, the types of flights that are covered by FAMs, be retained for the security enterprise, of which you are definitely a part," she told Katko, "which is why we have as many meetings with you and your staff on a regular basis."

Gowadia said the TSA continues to pursue agreements for allowing federal air marshals aboard flights from all foreign airports with service to the United States and that there is "no reason to believe" that Cuba will resist U.S. efforts to place the security officers on U.S.-bound planes.

"We need the partnership of our international colleagues - our nation-state partners, the airlines, the airports," she said. "And we must continue to work with them in a collaborative way so that we can negotiate those agreements, share the right kinds of information and be able to raise the level of security across the globe. That desire is constant between you and us."

Katko argued that the TSA's vagueness on which Cuban flights would get air marshal protection hurts the agency's reputation among lawmakers and the public.

"I think that is the type of thing that causes rifts in relationships and trustworthiness between agencies and oversight persons such as myself," Katko said. "And it pains me to bring this up in a public setting. But I do it as an example of why we need more openness and more collaboration instead of obfuscation between the agencies."


House T&I OKs bills on rail safety, FAA veteran workers Back

By Lauren Gardner | 09/14/2016 11:26 AM EDT

The House Transportation Committee approved bills today to promote emergency response training to hazardous material spills on the rails and hiring veterans at the FAA.

One measure (S. 546) would establish a new subcommittee within FEMA's National Advisory Council focused on improving training for local first responders who arrive at the scene of a crude oil or other hazardous material spill involving a railroad. The committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) to add PHMSA's chief safety officer, members of rail labor and others as members of the FEMA panel.

Another (H.R. 5957) would ensure a law passed last year to create a new category of sick leave for wounded veterans working in federal jobs would apply to the FAA, which has a unique personnel management system.

The panel also approved a bill (H.R. 5978) making changes to some Coast Guard authorities. The legislation would direct the commandant and DOT to develop and operate within three years a land-based positioning navigation system as a backstop to GPS. It also would require the commandant to be kept updated on any new developments within the military branch's major acquisition programs.

All of the bills were approved by voice vote during the speedy markup.


Hanjin Creditors Seek to Keep Ships Anchored in U.S. Waters

Creditors of Hanjin Shipping Co., fearful of having their collateral disappear over the horizon, have asked a U.S. bankruptcy judge to reconsider a ruling preventing them from seizing several of the South Korean carrier’s ships.

A group of creditors who have gone unpaid for services such as towing and fueling say that the judge’s order shouldn’t apply to vessels chartered by Hanjin because they aren’t legally its property. The creditors have liens against Hanjin ships that would ordinarily allow them to foreclose on the vessels.

Unless the U.S. judge intervenes, ships that have unloaded their cargo in the U.S. are free to set sail for foreign ports that may not recognize the creditors’ rights.

At least seven Hanjin vessels have been “arrested” at ports in China, Singapore, India and elsewhere, according to a carrier’s vessel status report.

Dan Harris, a lawyer at the boutique Seattle law firm of Harris Moure, often works with businesses with operations in China. He said shipowners and other Hanjin creditors will be looking to arrest vessels in places that won’t enforce a U.S. court order.

“China does not enforce U.S. judgments,” Mr. Harris said. “They’re not required to under any international law and they don’t.”

Hanjin filed for the equivalent of chapter 11 bankruptcy in South Korea last month and sought recognition of its bankruptcy in the U.S. days later by filing for chapter 15 protection, the section of the U.S. bankruptcy code that deals with insolvencies overseas.

The immediate aftermath of Hanjin’s bankruptcy left the company fearful that its ships would be arrested by creditors as soon as they pulled into port. And it was unclear whether terminals, tugboats crews, crane operators and the army of other workers needed to unload ships would be paid for docking the ship and unloading its cargo.

Hanjin’s many customers, meanwhile, have some $14 billion worth of goods on board Hanjin’s ships and are anxious to have the vessels unload at ports as soon as possible. It is unclear, however, what would happen to shipments if the ships carrying containers are seized. Many cargo terminals around the world have refused to allow Hanjin ships to reach docks, and cargo workers have refused to handle the carriers containers without up-front payments.

The carrier still has a total of 93 of its cargo vessels—79 container ships and 14 bulk carriers—stranded at sea globally, a Hanjin Shipping spokeswoman said Tuesday. Some Hanjin vessels are running low on supplies for crew, and to keep the ships running the company says it has begun supplying daily necessities—including food and water—to stranded crews on certain ships.

On Friday, Judge John Sherwood of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Newark, N.J., handed down a provisional order granting recognition of the South Korean proceeding and extending legal protections to Hanjin that prevent creditors from foreclosing on ships or other assets. The decision effectively allowed container ships operated by Hanjin to dock safely in U.S. ports and unload their cargo without an intrusion by creditors.

Creditors such as World Fuel Services Inc., which provided fuel to the Hanjin Montevideo, urged Judge Sherwood to reconsider his ruling, saying its right to take over the ship under maritime law is both “ancient and venerable.”

Following Judge Sherwood’s order, which applies only to U.S. ports, the Hanjin Greece, one of its chartered vessels, docked in Long Beach, Calif.,on Saturday and began unloading cargo Sunday. The Hanjin Gdynia, the Hanjin Jungil and the Hanjin Montevideo are expected to follow suit.

The Port of Oakland, Calif., said Wednesday that it expected the Hanjin Greece to dock in Oakland by the end of the day, and the Hanjin Boston should arrive Friday.

Mike Zampa, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland, said it would likely take less than 24 hours to unload each ship and have them prepared to depart.

It remains unclear as to whether Hanjin will liquidate or attempt to survive bankruptcy through a restructuring. But owners of Hanjin ships have begun selling them off indicating a likely liquidation.

The Seoul central district court had given Hanjin until Nov. 25 to submit a rehabilitation plan that will determine whether it can continue operating, but that was recently extended into Dec. 19.

Last week, a cash infusion started to thaw the supply chain freeze cause by the shipper’s bankruptcy after Korean Air Lines Co., its largest shareholder and Hanjin Group’s flagship company, agreed to lend the shipper 60 billion won ($54 million), using Hanjin Shipping’s Long Beach port-terminal assets as collateral.

The airline’s agreement is part of Hanjin Group’s larger pledge to put up at least 100 billion won in aid to help resolve the cargo crisis. Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho provided the remaining 40 billion. Mr. Cho’s predecessor, Choi Eun-young, has separately pledged 10 billion won in private funds.

Ford Rolls Out Business Services Unit, Plans Autonomous-Car Services

Ford Motor Co. made its latest plea for investors to view the auto maker more like a Silicon Valley company, promising lofty returns on future ventures while warning near-term profit will be pinched by deep investment.

The Dearborn, Mich., car maker told investors that its new business services unit eventually will deliver 20% margins, two-and-a-half-times its core auto-making operation. It updated its plans for venturing into robo-taxis, electric cars and other transportation services like bike-sharing and shuttle vans.

“We’ve always thought about the ‘thing’ and how many ‘things’ were sold,” Chief Executive Mark Fields told investors gathered on Wednesday at its headquarters. “Now, we’re opening up the aperture of the lens.”

Ford’s share price has declined under Mr. Fields, who took over in 2014 after former chief Alan Mulally spent nearly a decade unwinding earlier initiatives and getting Ford back to auto-making basics. The new chief’s strategy has shifted to winning a technology race with rivals including General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

The new strategy will be costly and risky. Capital spending will rise to 5.6% of revenue in the next two years, from 4.9% in 2016, as Ford steps up investment and acquisitions related to the new businesses. The No. 2 U.S. car maker also said profit will shrink in 2017 due to investments, then rebound in 2018 amid an expansion of its car and truck lineup and $3 billion in annual cost cuts achieved during a three-year span beginning this year.

It had warned in recent months that this year’s financial results will be hurt by a safety recall, costs related to Brexit and a slowdown in the U.S. auto market

Mr. Fields also is scrambling to catch up with Uber Technologies Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Tesla Motors Inc. and other nontraditional car companies ahead of Ford in electric-vehicle development, autonomous-vehicle testing and services allowing customers to share rides or cars.

The 113-year-old company this year has unveiled a flurry of partnerships and investments, reminiscent of the company’s frenzy 15 years ago during the dot-com bubble to develop new ventures and acquire luxury brands. Those initiatives drained Ford’s coffers and few panned out.

‘Ford is a solid investment with attractive upside.’

—Mark Fields, Ford CEO

Mr. Fields sought to reassure wary investors Wednesday the company is in a strong position to weather a downturn and primed for growth. “We’ve given you clear evidence that Ford is a solid investment with an attractive upside,” Mr. Fields said.

The stock was off nearly 2% at $12.14 at 4 pm. in trading on Wednesday.

Ford didn’t put a timetable on its lofty 20% margin target for new initiatives, which compares with a forecast of an 8% margin in its auto business.

The company thinks autonomous vehicles will account for up 20% of total vehicle sales by the end of the next decade, and its first deployments will be in urban areas, such as New York City and Metro Detroit.

Ford plans to roll out in 2021 its fully autonomous car with no steering wheel or pedals, selling about 100,000 a year for commercial purposes only. A personal-use driverless car will be available in dealerships around the middle of next decade, Mr. Fields said.

Tests of these types of vehicles indicate auto engineers still have a long way to go in making autonomous vehicles behave in a way that reflects real-world driving patterns.

Ford’s recent string of announcements, which include the purchase of a van-shuttle service in San Francisco and taking a stake in laser-sensor maker Velodyne Inc., have done little to soften Wall Street concerns about a cool-down in the U.S. market. Ford’s stock is down 11% since the start of 2016 despite the success of the F-150 pickup truck and the coming launch of F-series heavy-duty trucks, which are among the most profitable vehicles sold in the world.

Ford says its operating cash flow will remain positive through 2018 and the company expects financial results to improve in troubled Russia and South America as restructuring efforts take hold there.