Join The
Coalition
Get The
Facts

Infrastructure in the News 9.28.16

NATIONAL NEWS

 

Reuters: Exclusive-Uber to Move Freight, Target Trucking for the Long Haul.

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/09/28/business/28reuters-uber-trucking-exclusive.html?_r=0

With its recent acquisition of self-driving truck startup Otto, Uber Technologies Inc. is plotting its entry into the long-haul trucking business, aiming to establish itself as a freight hauler and a technology partner for the industry.

 

Washington Post: Driverless future? Not so fast say Americans

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/09/28/driverless-future-not-so-fast-say-americans/

Americans prefer the option to drive, even in a world where cars can drive themselves.

 

Wall Street Journal: Global Container Volume on Track for Worst Year Since 2009 (full article follows Morning Transportation)

http://www.wsj.com/articles/global-container-volume-on-track-for-worst-year-since-2009-1474994587

Global container volumes are on track for zero growth this year, which would mark the sector’s worst performance since the 2009 economic crisis and a sure catalyst for further bankruptcies and possible acquisitions in the beleaguered shipping industry, shipping executives said.

 

The Guardian: Will car drivers ever learn to share the road with bikes?

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/sep/28/will-car-drivers-ever-learn-to-share-the-road-with-bikes

Looking around at our streets, it’s startling when you first notice it: like waking from a dream and forgetting where you are. A moment of disorientation as your eyes make sense of the shadows and see the room for what it is.

 

The Boston Globe: Sustainable infrastructure after the Automobile Age

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/09/25/sustainable-infrastructure-after-automobile-age/XpXcdFR626Xw931oOGXTAL/story.html?s_campaign=bostonglobe%3Asocialflow%3Atwitter

THE BREAKTHROUGH AMERICAN infrastructure of the early 19th century was the Erie Canal, which connected the Midwest farm belt with the Port of New York and the eastern seaboard.

 

The Guardian: Lots to lose: how cities around the world are eliminating car parks

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/sep/27/cities-eliminating-car-parks-parking

With space for roughly 20,000 cars, the parking lot that surrounds the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, is recognised as the largest car park in the world.

STATE NEWS

 

New York Times: Cuomo’s Vision for Revamped Penn Station: New Home for Amtrak and L.I.R.R.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/28/nyregion/penn-station-new-york-andrew-cuomo.html

For nearly a quarter-century, governors and mayors in New York have been stymied in their attempts to fix Pennsylvania Station, one of the busiest transit halls in the Western Hemisphere and one of the most crowded and confusing.

 

Washington Post: Heads up, drivers: New laws take effect in Maryland on Saturday

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/09/28/heads-up-drivers-new-laws-take-effect-in-maryland-on-saturday/

Get ready, Washington-area drivers. Maryland has some new driving laws on the books, starting Saturday.

 

Syracuse.com (New York): Syracuse turns to tech developers for new infrastructure solutions

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2016/09/syracuse_turns_to_tech_developers_for_help_with_infrastructure_woes.html

City officials are turning to the region's tech developers for help processing swaths of data about Syracuse's infrastructure.

 

WTOP (Virginia): Va. budget shortfall to have some impact on transportation side

http://wtop.com/sprawl-crawl/2016/09/va-budget-shortfall-impact-transportation-side/

Virginia’s massive projected budget shortfall will likely hit transportation projects, but it is not clear yet exactly how.

 

La Crosse Tribune (Wisconsin): La Crosse planning board to explore transportation alternatives

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/la-crosse-planning-board-to-explore-transportation-alternatives/article_5a254529-d31a-5f80-90c2-04b77b33927b.html

Local leaders have agreed to start exploring non-pavement transportation alternatives at the urging of state transportation officials who have said their efforts will focus on roads.

 

Valley Record (Washington): State race candidates talk about education funding, transportation needs

http://www.valleyrecord.com/news/395007071.html

The Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce held the first of two candidate forums for the upcoming general election on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at the Snoqualmie TPC Golf Course.

 

22WWLP (Massachusets): MassDOT awards freight rail infrastructure grants

http://wwlp.com/2016/09/27/massdot-awards-freight-rail-infrastructure-grants/

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is awarding over $2-million in grants under the 2016 Industrial Rail Access Program (IRAP).

 

AJC.com (Georgia): Atlanta gets $500K to plan future Streetcar corridors

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/atlanta-gets-500k-to-plan-future-streetcar-corrido/nsgFj/

Atlanta has won a $500,000 Federal Transit Administration grant to plan future land uses along 16 miles of an expanded Atlanta Streetcar system.

By Brianna Gurciullo | 09/28/2016 05:40 AM EDT

With help from Jennifer Scholtes, Annie Snider, Lauren Gardner, Tanya Snyder and Eric Wolff

PLANES, NOT TRAINS: Just as senators have begun pushing legislation that would make TSA officials rethink the amount of time and money they spend on surface transportation, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has swooped in with a firm edict: aviation should remain TSA's top transportation security focus - period. The secretary didn't mince words on this one, telling senators Tuesday that protecting the aviation sector should be TSA's "No. 1 priority ... given the threat streams that we all see," as our Jennifer Scholtes reported.

The right ratio? Johnson says he needs to ponder whether rail hubs, in particular, should be getting a bigger slice of the resource pie. After all, he notes, rail stations have dedicated police forces to supplement TSA's presence. "I'm going to think about whether that's the right ratio or not. I continue to be concerned about aviation and airport security. And I believe that needs to be TSA's principal focus," he told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Conversation starter: The secretary's opinion on this could definitely come up during back-channeled talks about the bill (S. 3379) that Senate Commerce leaders just introduced this month to force TSA to align its spending with the risk of terrorism for each transportation mode.

IT'S WEDNESDAY: Good morning and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

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

"I'm going home on a southbound train with a song in my mouth. Silver train is a runnin'. Think I'm gonna get on now, oh, yeah." (h/t Zach Montellaro)

Want to keep up with all of MT's song picks? Follow our Spotify playlist.

HOUSE WILL VOTE ON FLINT AMENDMENT TO WRDA: The House Rules Committee agreed late Tuesday night to permit a vote on an amendment to the lower chamber's WRDA bill that would authorize $170 million in spending to help Flint, Mich. The aid package that the Senate passed is significantly different, as the upper chamber's measure would actually appropriate funding, Pro Energy's Annie Snider reports . The House could pass its WRDA bill as early as today, Annie reports, and leaders hope the deal will help end a showdown over keeping the government running. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats filibustered a continuing resolution that had aid for Louisiana flood victims but not Flint.

YES, YOU CAN BRING THAT THROUGH SECURITY: The House passed a bill (H.R. 5065) on Tuesday requiring TSA to remind airlines and screeners about the rules for carrying baby formula and breast milk on planes. The liquids are exempt from TSA's rule that travelers can only have one quart-size bag full of containers holding no more than 3.4 ounces, as Jennifer explained for Pros. But lawmakers say airport screeners have hassled parents at security checkpoints across the country. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), the bill's sponsor, said on the House floor that TSA has "forcibly tossed out" liquids for infants and forced some parents to miss their flights.

SITTING, WAITING, WISHING: North Carolina GOP Rep. Mark Meadows told our Lauren Gardner on Tuesday that he's still working on finding floor time for his "time-sensitive bill" extending pre-tax benefits for federal workers in D.C. to apps like Uber and Lyft during WMATA's SafeTrack initiative. While Meadows said he hasn't heard of any pushback from leadership, he also has no timeframe for getting it done as members scramble to finish must-pass items before Dec. 31. "I think any hesitancy is more a logistical issue of so many bills wanting to get done before the end of Congress," he said.

You know who else really wants to see the bill become law? Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who's waging a fierce reelection battle against Democrat LuAnn Bennett. "Really, the person pushing it probably the most on our side is Barbara Comstock because it means the most to her constituents, and so we're willing to invest as much political capital as need be to hopefully get it moved because it's common sense," Meadows said. "I think it's one of the times where Republicans can be seen in a give-back mode to the federal workforce, as they should."

Between a clock and a hard place: The bill's chances of getting across the House floor, much less the president's desk, before Election Day - when a legislative victory could help Comstock boost her case to voters - are infinitesimal.

AMERICANS NOT QUITE READY TO LET GO OF THE WHEEL: Though 63 percent of Americans think the roads would be safer with self-driving cars on the road, they're evenly split on whether they're ready to give up some control in exchange for that safety boost. That's the word from a new report by Kelley Blue Book on Americans' attitudes toward driverless cars. The researchers found that teenagers and people who already own cars with automated features, like self-parking and adaptive cruise control, are the most ready to embrace more advanced technology like full automation.

Best of both worlds: Researchers found that the "sweet spot" was so-called level four autonomous vehicles - ones that will safely do all the driving so you can put your feet up and zone out, but you can take over the controls any time you feel like it. That's similar to "autopilot" in airplanes, but so far there's no automotive option like it on the consumer market. The report found that nearly 1 in 3 Americans say they would "never" buy a fully autonomous vehicle without controls that can be operated by a human.

LET'S TALK AIRCRAFT EMISSIONS: The executive committee of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations aviation standards setting body, will talk over a suite of proposed rules this afternoon to lower greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft. Discussion of the proposals - which include a new carbon dioxide standard, a cap-and-trade system that intends to hold CO2 emissions at 2020 levels and research and development for biofuels - is scheduled to extend into Thursday morning. A coalition of environmental groups has criticized the current language of the resolutions as too weak.

MT MAILBAG: The Association of American Railroads sent off a letter to congressional transportation leaders Tuesday to "express the railroad industry's concerns with recent actions by the Surface Transportation Board." AAR wrote to the leaders of the House Transportation and Senate Commerce committees that the STB is attempting to "expand the agency's regulatory reach" through proposed rules, including one on reciprocal or "competitive" switching.

"These proposals indicate a reversal of the market-based approach established by Congress," AAR's president and CEO, Edward Hamberger, wrote. "Such action is especially troubling when Congress just last year laid out the path for the agency without making any of the changes the STB is now pursuing."

Checking in with Sen. Thune: When asked about AAR's letter, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune told MT on Tuesday that Congress gave the board more powers in reauthorization legislation last year. "But some of these things that [the STB is] talking about go above and beyond that bill ... and there are things that weren't contemplated in the legislation," he said.

THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):

- New direct digital link between tower and cockpit will speed planes on their way. The Washington Post.

- Amazon's newest ambition: competing directly with UPS and FedEx. The Wall Street Journal.

- Former Christie ally says governor was told about Bridgegate-related traffic as it happened. POLITICO New Jersey.

- Cuomo: Say farewell to "dirty" Penn Station, because Moynihan station "is happening." POLITICO New York.

- Disabled man gets license, shows driverless tech's potential. The Associated Press.

- South Korea orders recall of cars with Takata air bags. The Wall Street Journal.

- South Korea court says it has not yet decided whether sale of Hanjin Shipping is needed. Reuters.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 3 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 366 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 40 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,466 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

8:30 a.m. - Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Jim Kurose, assistant director of the National Science Foundation for Computer and Information Science and Engineering; and Janine Benner, associate assistant secretary for the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, speak at the Smart Cities Week conference. Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Pl. NW.

11 a.m. - Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx speaks at the Washington Ideas Forum, hosted by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute. Harman Center for the Arts, 610 F St. NW.

12:15 p.m. - The Washington Post holds a discussion on "the future of increasingly connected cities." The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW.

2 p.m. - Foxx delivers keynote remarks at a Center for American Progress and NextGen Climate America conference on infrastructure issues. The Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave. NW.

3:05 p.m. - Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson speaks at the Washington Ideas Forum. Harman Center for the Arts, 610 F St. NW.

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

To view online:
https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/09/johnson-defends-tsas-focus-on-aviation-security-019363

Stories from POLITICO Pro

DHS head: Airplanes, not trains, must be TSA's main focus Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 09/27/2016 02:58 PM EDT

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson insisted Tuesday that aviation security remain TSA's "No. 1 priority" despite growing calls from Congress to rebalance agency resources to better protect rail targets.

"Frankly, I believe that TSA's principal focus should continue to be aviation security, given the threat streams that we all see," Johnson told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee during a hearing on terrorism threats.

As a frequent rider on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and New Jersey Transit rail, the secretary said he is "very familiar with rail security" and noted that those systems are protected by their own transit police.

At the urging of Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Johnson said he will report back to the committee with a timeline for TSA to complete the congressional mandates on rail security that were enacted nearly a decade ago to codify recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Under that 2007 law, TSA was ordered to create new passenger rail regulations, assign rail carriers to high-risk tiers, create a rail training program and conduct security background checks on front line rail employees. But DHS' inspector general reported in May that the agency "has not prioritized the need to implement these rail security requirements" and therefore has little power to order rail security improvements.

Booker pointed to the bombing in March of a Brussels metro station and the explosives discovered this month in a trash can near a New Jersey rail station as examples of major plots to attack Western rail hubs. Despite that threat, he added, TSA has fewer than 800 full-time employees dedicated to protecting surface transportation assets - a figure that amounts to less than 2 percent of the agency's workforce.

"If you just look at the proportion we're applying to air travel versus surface travel, you'll see it's almost like we're still fighting the 9/11 efforts and not looking forward to the attacks that we're seeing consistently around the globe today," Booker told Johnson. "At least in terms of proportionality, does it seem a little out of whack?"

The secretary punted on the question, saying he wants to "think about that a little more" before deciding whether TSA is devoting the correct ratio of resources to surface transportation targets.

"I would like to see us continue to develop that aspect of TSA's mission so we're in a better place," Johnson said.

If Booker and several of his Senate counterparts get their way, the department will be forced to size up terrorism risks for each mode of transportation and to justify its resource allocations.

The New Jersey Democrat signed on as a cosponsor to a bill (S. 3379) that Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and ranking Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida introduced this month to require TSA to align its resources with risk.

That legislation follows the release this month of an inspector general report that claims TSA lacks a risk-based strategy for assessing how to spend time and money across transportation modes.

A Federal Railroad Administration official told POLITICO this month that the agency has been meeting more frequently with TSA and the Joint Terrorism Task Force to discuss rail security this year.

FRA officials have also met several times with Amtrak in 2016 and "prodded" the rail operator "on what would be helpful to increase security." And the agency has "pushed Amtrak to strengthen its relationships with state law enforcement," according to the FRA.

Back

Congress on verge of breaking impasse over Flint Back

By Annie Snider | 09/28/2016 12:06 AM EDT

House leaders appear to have reached a deal to break an impasse over aid for Flint, Mich., with the Rules committee agreeing late Tuesday night to allow a vote on an amendment to a water infrastructure measure that would provide $170 million to the city struggling with lead contamination.

The amendment to the Water Resources Development Act from Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) differs significantly from the Senate-passed aid package for Flint. The House provision would only authorize the spending, whereas the Senate deal would appropriate funding. The Senate deal, which includes an offset, also contains a provision to benefit communities across the country that is not in the House amendment.

Senate Democrats have demanded an "ironclad commitment" that their Flint package will make it into a final bill, and additional negotiations may occur in a conference committee during the lame duck session. The House is expected to pass its WRDA bill as soon as Wednesday.

House leaders appear hopeful this deal will help end a more immediate showdown over keeping the government open past this week. Flint has emerged as the key sticking point in negotiations to pass a short-term funding measure. Senate Democrats today filibustered a Republican-proposed continuing resolution because it contained emergency aid for flood victims in Louisiana and elsewhere without help for Flint.

Back

House passes bill to prompt TSA compliance with breast milk rules Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 09/27/2016 05:57 PM EDT

The House passed a bill this afternoon that would force TSA's chief to give airport screeners and airlines a refresher on the agency's rules for breast milk and baby formula.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle attest to credible accounts of TSA screeners hassling travelers who are trying to get through airport checkpoints with those liquids, which are exempt from the agency's rule that each passenger can only take one quart-size bag full of containers holding 3.4 ounces or less.

"I've been in this situation - this is critical," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), said on the House floor this afternoon. "There have been too many incidences reported by parents that TSA officials either didn't know or simply refused to follow these exemptions. Parents who are trying to follow these rules are consistently singled out for harassment-like scrutiny by TSA."

Herrera Beutler, who has a 3-year-old daughter, said TSA has "forcibly tossed out" some mothers' breast milk, broken breastfeeding equipment and caused travelers to miss flights because of holdups with screening those liquids.

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) echoed Herrera Beutler's concerns, saying there is "evidence that confusion about how these liquids are to be handled still exists."

Besides addressing TSA's guidelines on breast milk and baby formula, the bill (H.R. 5065) would require the TSA administrator to remind screeners and airlines about the agency's exemption allowing caretakers to carry on purified deionized water and juice for children.

Back

Wildstein says Christie was told about Bridgegate-related traffic as it happened Back

By Ryan Hutchins | 09/27/2016 12:12 PM EDT

NEWARK - Gov. Chris Christie's top appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey told the governor about the traffic caused by the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane closures as it happened, and he told Christie the local mayor's calls were not being returned, according to the admitted mastermind of the political scheme.

David Wildstein, a former Christie ally who worked at the Port, said from the witness stand in U.S. District Court Tuesday that he and his boss discussed the traffic jams with Christie at a Sept. 11 memorial event in 2013, on the third day of the lane closures. The claim was supported by numerous photos submitted as evidence in the Bridgegate trial.

In what Wildstein described as a "sarcastic" conversation, he said Bill Baroni - the deputy executive director of the bistate agency - brought up the traffic problems that had emerged in Fort Lee, where the bridge is located. Wildstein previously said the lane closures were created to punish the local mayor, Democrat Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing the Republican governor's reelection campaign.

Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, were indicted last May on charges of conspiracy, fraud and civil rights violations. They are accused of closing local access lanes to the bridge - the world's busiest - to punish Sokolich. Wildstein, who was the Port's director of interstate capital projects, has already pleaded guilty and has implicated the two others.

At the 2013 memorial event in Manhattan, Baroni told Christie, "there's a tremendous amount of traffic in Fort Lee this morning - major traffic jams," Wildstein said Tuesday from the stand. According to Wildstein, he added: "You will be pleased to know Mayor Sokolich is very frustrated he can't get his telephone calls returned - nobody is answering Mayor Sokolich's questions."

"He responded by saying, 'I imagine he wouldn't be getting his phone calls returned," Wildstein said of Christie.

"Mr. Baroni said to Governor Christie that I was monitoring the traffic, I was watching over everything," Wildstein said. "Governor Christie said, in the sarcastic tone of that conversation, 'well I'm sure Mr. Edge wouldn't be involved in anything that's political."

Then, Wildstein said, the governor laughed.

"Mr. Edge" is a reference to Wally Edge, the pen named Wildstein used when he ran a popular website about New Jersey politics.

A short time later, before the memorial event began, Wildstein said he and Baroni spoke again with the governor - this time also with David Samson, then the chairman of the Port Authority and a close friend of the governor. Samson, the former state attorney general, pleaded guilty to bribery charges earlier this year in an unrelated incident at the Port Authority.

During that conversation, Samson allegedly raised with the governor that Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop - another Democrat who had declined to endorse Christie - was seeking a meeting with Samson to discuss Port Authority issues.

Samson said to Christie, "I have to meet with him," Wildstein recalled from the witness stand.

"Governor Christie said, 'no; no meeting, no meetings, with Mayor Fulop. He's not getting any responses from the administration."

Wildstein said they discussed Sokolich in the same context, with the governor saying the same treatment applied to both mayors.

Christie, who is currently a top adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, has denied any knowledge of or involvement in the Bridgegate incident. On Tuesday, at an unrelated Statehouse press conference, the governor addressed the ongoing trial, telling reporters, "I have not and will not say anything different than I've been saying since January 2014. No matter what is said up there. I had no knowledge prior to or during these lane realignments. I had not role in authorizing it. I had no knowledge of it. And there's no evidence ever put forward that I did."

As a Jersey City councilman running for mayor, Fulop in 2012 began working for FAPS, a car import-related business that rents space from the Port Authority and at the time was in a lease dispute with the agency.

Emails released in the run-up to the trial showed Bill Stepien, the governor's campaign manager and now a national field director for Trump, and Wildstein attempted to use Fulop's position with the company and its dispute with the Port Authority to pressure him into endorsing Christie.

Fulop has refused to answer most questions about his work for FAPS, with his spokeswoman saying he had been advised by the U.S. Attorney's Office not to talk about it. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office said last month that the office never said that.

The governor has acknowledged canceling meetings with Fulop, according to a previously released summary of an interview he gave to federal officials. Christie said during the interview that, once learning that some of his cabinet members were going to meet with Fulop, "he expressed the view ... that he did not think that the meetings needed to occur because Mayor Fulop did not merit any kind of special treatment," prosecutors have said.

But an indictment secured by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, whose prosecutors are bringing the case, alleges the meetings were canceled as part of a "coordinated and deliberate refusal by the Conspirators to communicate with, meet, or respond" to Fulop after he said he would not be endorsing the governor.

Wildstein said in his testimony earlier Tuesday that he was told multiple times that the order came form the governor himself, and that it applied to the entire Christie administration and all of the governor's allies at the Port Authority.

Wildstein told jurors he was directed by the governor's office to treat Fulop with "radio silence." In one message, Stepien allegedly told Wildstein to "continue to ice him."

This story has been updated with comment from the governor.

Back

Cuomo: Say farewell to 'dirty' Penn Station, because Moynihan station 'is happening' Back

By Dana Rubinstein | 09/27/2016 05:49 PM EDT

Gov. Andrew Cuomo thinks Penn Station is gross and sepulchral and he plans to do something about it.

Correction.

"This is not a plan," said Cuomo. "I don't announce plans with caveats. This is what is going to happen."

The non-plan is that Related Companies and Vornado Realty - the same two companies that tried to turn the old post office into a train hall last time around - will join forces with construction giant Skanska to take another go at it.

They have agreed to pay $600 million for the right to develop 112,000 square feet of retail and almost 588,000 square feet of office space in the James A. Farley Post Office Building, which occupies a full block on Eighth Avenue between 31st and 33rd Streets.

Sure, Amtrak had plans to turn the old Corinthian-columned office across the street into a new train hall in 1992, and those plans didn't happen. Yes, former senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan championed the idea for decades, only to die in 2003 without seeing it realized. Yes, former president Bill Clinton and former governor George Pataki made another go at it, to no effect.

This time "it's happening," said Cuomo on Tuesday at a lunch attended by New York lobbyists, real estate and government types, who rewarded him with a standing ovation.

Using an additional $570 million from the state's economic development arm and $425 million from Amtrak, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Port Authority, and "federal government sources," the developers will transform the old post office into what Cuomo called a "magnificent" and "world-class" train hall, the sort of destination that New York hasn't seen "in decades and decades."

At 250,000 square feet and 10 stories high, the train hall with be 50 percent bigger than the existing Penn Station across the street, and larger than Grand Central Terminal, which has 233,000 square feet, according to Cuomo.

The post office's trusses will support an acre-sized glass ceiling. A 70,000-square-foot balcony will feature dining and shopping, "high end," as per Cuomo, "the best of the best."

The train hall will serve both Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad, according to Cuomo. But because the LIRR has only a limited number of tracks beneath the post office, it's not clear how useful the new train hall will be to Long Island commuters.

The existing Penn Station now serves 650,000 passengers a day, which Cuomo said was "more than all the airports combined" and "triple the capacity that the facility was designed for."

He said it reminds him of catacombs. It's "dirty, it is dingy, it is dark," he said.

It's getting an overhaul of a more limited, stopgap variety.

The LIRR concourse there will be expanded from 25 to 70 feet wide, and contractors will raise the ceiling a couple of feet. Commuters will get a make-believe sky.

"The ceiling will be an LED screen which will appear as a blue sky with clouds," said Cuomo, who was speaking at a midtown hotel under chandeliers whose hard surfaces were similarly painted blue. That will all cost $170 million.

The MTA will also refurbish the two subway stations there, to the tune of $50 million.

All of which appears to be a diminution of expectation for the east side of Eighth Avenue, where Cuomo's administration once envisioned a grand entrance in place of the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

That portion of the project will take a while longer, by necessity, according to Amtrak chairman Anthony Coscia.

"It would be one thing if we were building a train station in the middle of a cornfield," said Coscia. "But we're building one in the busiest train station in North America. So the only way you could possibly do anything meaningful with Penn Station is if you find a way to vacate significant portions of the station that are currently being used."

The project has evolved in other ways, too. No longer does the Cuomo administration refer to the entire project as the "Empire Station Complex," as it used to. It was a name that inspired jokes about Star Wars and seemed to downplay the contributions of Moynihan, with whom the project has long been identified.

Now, the Cuomo administration refers to it as the "Penn-Farley Complex."

Meanwhile, questions about funding abound.

While the Port Authority last week authorized $150 million for Farley, and Amtrak is kicking in some $100 million, it's not clear where the Empire State Development's half-billion contribution is coming from.

Nor, on the east side of 8th Avenue, is it entirely clear how the MTA plans to pay for the $170 million for the LIRR concourse rehab in Penn Station, or the $50 million rehab of the two attendant subway stations.

According to the MTA, $71 million has already been set aside for LIRR improvements at Penn Station in its existing capital plan. The sourcing for the remaining roughly $100 million has yet to be determined. The MTA will allocate $50 million from its "station enhancement initiative" to the subway stations.

(A spokesman for Empire State Development had no comment by press time.)

Nor is it clear what, if any, role NJ Transit, which also uses Penn Station, is playing in the project. A spokeswoman for NJ Transit referred questions to Cuomo's office.

Nor, for that matter, is the future of Penn Station entirely clear. Amtrak owns it, and plans to expand its infrastructure to accommodate additional trains, once the new Gateway, cross-Hudson tunnel is complete. But that's in the hazy future.

What is clear, or clearer, is that by the end of 2020, New York City will have a grand new train hall.

And that, according to Regional Plan Association president Tom Wright, is a good thing, because Penn Station will need the extra space once Cuomo follows through on his promise to bring Metro-North trains from the Bronx into Penn Station, and once the new LIRR terminal under Grand Central opens up, and Gateway comes online.

"What's important and positive about the statement today is that we can have some confidence that the Farley piece of it will be open in time, because that's going to be a critical backstop when those other pieces start to move," he said.

Wall Street Journal: Global Container Volume on Track for Worst Year Since 2009

Global container volumes are on track for zero growth this year, which would mark the sector’s worst performance since the 2009 economic crisis and a sure catalyst for further bankruptcies and possible acquisitions in the beleaguered shipping industry, shipping executives said.

 

Freight rates, the predominant source of income for shipping companies, fell 20% in the benchmark Asia to Europe trade route this week compared with last week to $767 per container.

 

Rates have mostly stayed well below $1,000 since the start of the year and operators say anything below $1,400 is unsustainable.

 

They aren’t expected to turn around soon. China’s Golden Week holiday starts at the beginning of October, marking the slow season for operators as many Chinese factories cut production levels after an output frenzy in the summer months when western importers stack up products for the year-end holidays.

 

“The industry faces its worst year since the Lehman Brothers collapse,” said Jonathan Roach, an analyst at London based Braemar ACM Shipbroking. “Demand is around zero and any moves to increase freight rates will likely fail.”

 

Hanjin Shipping Co., South Korea’s biggest operator and the world’s seventh largest in terms of capacity, filed for bankruptcy protection last month and is under court order to sell its own ships and returning chartered ships to their owners.

 

Container operators, which move everything from clothes and shoes to electronics and furniture, are burdened by 30% more capacity in the water than demand.

 

Many are fighting for survival as freight rates barely cover fuel costs.

 

China’s slowing growth is considered the main cause of the industry’s problems. The economy of the world’s biggest exporter grew 6.7% in the second quarter, far less than the double-digit growth figures of past years, as it tries to transform its growth model from heavy industry and construction to services and consumption.

 

The economies of two major importers—the U.S. and the eurozone—expanded 1.2% and 0.3%, respectively in the second quarter.

 

“Global growth is just stumbling along and this has had a profound impact on shipping,” said Basil Karatzas, a U.S. based maritime adviser. “Operators are bleeding money and if demand doesn’t pick up they could either go belly up or swallowed by bigger players.”

 

Most of the 20 biggest container lines, including A.P. Møller-Mærsk A/S’s Maersk Line, were deeply in the red in the second quarter and analysts expect them to report a collective $8 billion to $10 billion in losses for the full year.

 

Shipping analysts say any operator with less than 5% global share of the container shipping market may be taken over by bigger players or be confined to regional trades.

 

Only four companies among the world’s top 20 have more than 5% global share of that market. They include Maersk, Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Co., France’s CMA CGM and China’s Cosco Container Lines.

 

Soren Skou, chief executive of Danish conglomerate A.P. Møller-Mærsk said in an interview that Maersk Line, the group’s shipping unit and the world’s biggest container operator, is looking to buy smaller competitors “because many carriers haven’t made money for years and that can’t be sustainable in the long run.”

 

Shipping executives say the Japanese container trio of Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. and Nippon Yusen Kaisha Ltd. along with Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. and Taiwan’s Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. will likely be in the crosshairs of bigger players.

 

The crisis has hit some of the biggest banks financing shipowners. Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, one of the world’s premier shipping banks, said last week that it will be closing down its shipping business after failing to sell its portfolio.

 

Other banks, including Germany’s HSH Nordbank AG, Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale, and Bremer Landesbank have been struggling with billions of dollars in non-performing shipping loans over the past few years.