Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 23, 2014

October 22, 2014

Boeing: Oil Price Won’t Hurt Demand for Fuel-Efficiency

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Boeing is counting on sustained demand for its fuel-efficient 787 aircraft (Photo credit should read Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing reported healthy profits Wednesday as Boeing Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney assured investors that declining oil prices won’t crimp airlines’ desire to buy more fuel-efficient planes.

McNerney seemed to allude to events such as the shooting down of Malaysia Flight 17 over Ukraine in July when he said, “Notwithstanding a somewhat richer mix of global economic and geopolitical developments throughout this year, which we are monitoring very carefully, global passenger traffic trends are strong and air cargo traffic continues to gradually improve, although the latter still remains a watch item for us.”

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Infrastructure Loan Fears Misguided, Reader Says

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A Staten Island ferry heads across New York harbor. New ferry terminals were built in 2005 with TIFIA loan backing (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

TIFIA is the federal loan program, which uses Treasury funds to help finance state and local governments’ infrastructure projects: bridges, ferry terminals, toll roads, etc.

Last week I mentioned that the new bridge across the Hudson River in New York is financed partly by a $1.6 billion TIFIA loan. TIFIA, which is run by the Department of Transportation, stands for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

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Bipartisan Accord on Travel Ban? Well, Maybe

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New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There was bipartisan accord in Tuesday night’s New Hampshire Senate debate that barring travelers from three Ebola-affected African countries is, or at least might be, necessary.

And there was bipartisan accord about the need to be bipartisan. And yet Republican candidate Scott Brown repeatedly attacked President Obama’s handling of the Ebola outbreak.

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October 21, 2014

Debate Just Starting on Mandate for ‘Talking Vehicles’

169021616 445x301 Debate Just Starting on Mandate for ‘Talking Vehicles’

The aftermath of a highway accident last year in Brentwood, Calif. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Should the federal government require your new car to be equipped to communicate with other cars on the highway, in order to prevent accidents?

The comment period closed Monday for initial public and interest group response to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposal to create a standard requiring vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication capability for cars and light trucks.

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Ebola Shift Shows Fine Line Between Reassuring And Deterring Travel

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Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said she’d support Ebola “travel bans if they would work.” (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

It’s a change that will affect only about nine passengers a day, but Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced Tuesday that all passengers traveling to the U.S. from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone must travel through the five U.S. airports with heightened Ebola screening.

Administration officials had said that 94 percent of the approximately 150 daily arrivals in the United States from the three African countries were already using the five designated airports.

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Steady Travel Industry Nerves Needed Amid Ebola Fears

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Travelers at the international arrivals terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

After a plunge in airline stock prices following the first Ebola case in the United States on Sept. 30, those stocks have recovered. Investors in the airline and the hotel industries await the next episode in the Ebola outbreak.

The industries have been understandably guarded in their comments on the outbreak.

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October 20, 2014

From Texas To Wisconsin, Voters To Determine Transportation Policy

In two weeks, voters decide which party will control the Senate and House, as well as choosing 36 governors and 6,049 state legislators.

In some places voters will also be making transportation policy directly through ballot initiatives and referenda.

A common factor in three states, Texas, Maryland and Wisconsin, is the attempt to ensure that some tax revenues are used only for transportation and aren’t diverted to other purposes.

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With Gasoline Under $3 A Gallon, Drivers Are Thriving

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American drivers are enjoying an autumn windfall of lower gasoline prices (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Sometimes the bit of data that makes transportation news is staring you right in the face. So it was this weekend when I drove from Washington, D.C., to Princeton, N.J., and back.

I was driving a rental car and normally don’t pay too much attention to the price of gasoline.

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The Week Ahead: Distracted Teen Drivers, Earnings Reports & Another Ebola Hearing

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Boeing CEO Jim McNerney will discuss his company’s third quarter earnings on Wednesday. (Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)

This week we’ll be watching the Ebola effect on commercial aviation as tighter screening proceeds at five U.S. airports and as the political debate continues over a ban on issuing visas to would-be visitors from three Ebola-affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Some earnings reports out this week will also give an indication of the health of the transportation sector.

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October 17, 2014

A Look Back: Autonomous Vehicle Scenarios, 2014 Campaign and Pets on Trains

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Boarding an Amtrak train in Jacksonville, Fla. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Amtrak)

This week we looked at futuristic scenarios for autonomous vehicles on our roads as envisioned by the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole and others.

If self-driving vehicles become the norm, will that lead to the withering away of mass transit in most metro areas, and traffic lights and speed limits becoming obsolete? We may know in about 30 years. Full story

The Container’s Friday Q&A: ARTBA’s Peter Ruane, Part Two

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Peter Ruane, president of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Here is the second part of our interview with Peter Ruane, president of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton is talking about a new sales tax on gasoline, in addition to the state’s 28.6 cents per gallon tax on gasoline. I think Virginia made a similar move last year.

What do you make of states trying to make some revenue changes on their own to pay for transportation projects?

We had seven states do this last year, on their own, either passed a state gasoline tax increase or some form of that, a sales tax, some creative ways to bring recurring revenue. That the key word: recurring.

If Minnesota goes in that direction, I think that’s outstanding. Some of that is a reflection of their lack of faith that the feds are going to do their job and come up with a solution to the [shortfall in] the Highway Trust Fund.


There’s a lot of talk now about vehicle-to-vehicle communications and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications.

For example, if you had a vehicle-to-infrastructure system, it could relay information about traffic patterns and potholes back to the transportation authority.

But Bob Poole at the Reason Foundation has said that if you’re talking about embedding information technology in highways, bridges, overpasses, etc., it’s an immensely expensive idea.

It is very topical and there’s an awful lot out there. All the big auto companies have put out a lot of information on this lately and have made commitments that they’re going to accelerate their research.

We welcome it. Those kind of improvements are going to lead to gains in the safety area: we will see fewer accidents and fewer lives lost.

But there was an article in the Wall Street Journal recently and the headline was “The Internet of Asphalt Will Take a Long Time to Pave.”

We are all in favor of ITS [intelligent transportation systems], but don’t use it as a red herring. Don’t let these sexy technological solutions distract us from the immediate thing in front of us. Let’s deal with the Trust Fund, deal with the urgent situation we have right now.

The Container’s Friday Q&A: ARTBA’s Peter Ruane, Part One

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Congress is facing the need to come up with new revenue sources for highway funding. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

Peter Ruane, president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, is one of Washington’s most forceful advocates for infrastructure spending.

We discussed with him whether Congress can devise a long-term solution to the nation’s infrastructure funding dilemma. Full story

October 16, 2014

‘Pets on Trains’ Plan Set in Motion

Rail passengers traveling along Amtrak’s busy Northeast corridor could someday bring along a furry, four-legged companion, if a group of Capitol Hill lawmakers get their way.

Tucked away in a passenger rail measure that sailed through a House panel last month is language that would create a pilot program for riders to carry pets aboard some trains, including those running between Boston and Washington. On Sept. 17, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee easily advanced the bill in a voice vote less than a week after it was introduced.

The pet proposal calls on Amtrak to let its customers ditch the pet-sitter and instead travel with their cat or dog in tow. Traveling animal-lovers would have to abide by a few rules of the rails, though, including paying a fee and keeping their pets stowed in carriers as either cargo or carry-on luggage.

The measure closely mirrors the “Pets on Trains Act” introduced last year by Rail subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham, a California Republican. That bill has the backing of The Humane Society, boasts nearly 40 cosponsors and inspired a Senate companion from Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

But Amtrak passengers shouldn’t prep their pets for travel just yet. Lawmakers’ quick work on the rail measure in September was designed to tee up a broader bicameral debate in the next Congress. In the meantime, riders will have to make do with Amtrak’s own test program that allows pets to ride certain rail routes in Illinois.

Chief Touts FAA Competence In Recovery from Fire

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Administrator Michael Huerta of the Federal Aviation Administration (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Amid public concerns about the federal government’s competence in handling emergencies sparked by the Ebola outbreak, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday touted his agency’s success in recovering from the September 26 fire that disabled the air tariff control center near Chicago.

The facility, which manages the airspace over seven Midwest states, was back in full operation on Monday.

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For New Hudson River Span, Toll Prices Must Wait

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo attends a ceremony last week to welcome one of the world’s largest floating cranes to work on the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge. (Photo by Jim Alcorn/Getty Images)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is far ahead in the polls and cruising to what appears to be certain election on Nov. 4 for a second term.

He’s out with a new memoir, “All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life.”

But he hasn’t yet told voters what the tolls will be on the Tappan Zee Bridge in order to help pay for a new span across the Hudson River.

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