Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 24, 2014

Posts in "Bridges"

November 18, 2014

Freight Coalition Looks For Dedicated Revenue Stream

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Container terminal in the Port of Los Angeles (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

A coalition of shippers, port authorities, retailers and other business groups is calling for a new revenue source to go solely to paying for large-scale infrastructure projects that would ease the movement of goods.

The Freight Stakeholders Coalition doesn’t have a unified position on what this new revenue source should be. But the Coalition will focus on the revenue issue as Congress begins to work on next year’s surface transportation bill.

Full story

November 14, 2014

A Look Back: Slow Down, New Yorkers, Road Salt & Girding For 114th Congress

 

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New York City drivers must adjust to a new 25 mile per hour speed limit. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

This week we looked at New York City’s new 25 mile per hour speed limit. Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner, said public attitudes toward speeding will need to change just as they did toward drunk driving in the past few decades.

A culture change is what’s needed since “Culture eats policy for breakfast,” she said.

Snow storms have hit parts of the country this week and we examined the cost increases that states and counties are facing for a commodity they need to keep highways open: salt.

 

Full story

Thune Not Taking Revenue Options Off The Table

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Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

As the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee next year, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., will have an agenda crowded with complex issues, with transportation financing only one of them.

Thune has begun his policy making role, taking time to confer with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx who visited South Dakota Tuesday.

Was there a meeting of the minds between the two on how to pay for infrastructure?

Full story

November 12, 2014

McGovern Weighs Voters’ Contradictory Infrastructure Views

mcgovern 254 091312 445x296 McGovern Weighs Voters Contradictory Infrastructure Views

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., is a seasoned observer both of his state’s politics and of the politics of transportation.

We got McGovern’s assessment Wednesday of Massachusetts voters’ defeat last week of automatic gasoline tax increases, as well as their election of Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker over Democrat Martha Coakley.

Full story

November 11, 2014

Crumbling Infrastructure Creates Opening For Railroads

95832292 445x296 Crumbling Infrastructure Creates Opening For Railroads

A Union Pacific freight train in California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

In one sense, the deteriorating highway infrastructure that road builders and members of Congress complain about is good news for freight railroads.

In a presentation at the Stephens Fall Investment Conference in New York Tuesday, Rob Knight, the chief financial officer of Union Pacific, said the trucking industry “faces continued challenges from regulations, highway congestion, and a deteriorating infrastructure.”

One reason that highway infrastructure is deteriorating, of course, is that Congress and most states haven’t been willing or able to raise new revenue to fix and expand it.

By contrast, Knight said, rail traffic moves “over a right of way privately owned and maintained.”

Full story

November 6, 2014

The Curious Case Of Gov. Corbett

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett got only 45 percent of the vote in his loss Tuesday. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Transportation advocacy and lobbying groups often say they want politicians courageous enough to push for big infrastructure bills, even if higher taxes are part of the package.

But this week’s elections provided one case of a governor, Pennsylvania Republican Tom Corbett, who pushed for and signed into law a significant transportation funding package, and yet went down in an overwhelming defeat to Democrat Tom Wolf on Tuesday.

Full story

November 5, 2014

Mass. Rejects Automatic Gasoline Tax Increases

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There were contrasting results in Massachusetts and New Hampshire Tuesday on gasoline taxes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

There was no consistent pattern on Election Day in voters’ willingness to pay higher taxes to finance transportation infrastructure. The outcome depended on where a voter happened to live.

Massachusetts voters repealed annual automatic gasoline tax increases, reversing a decision the state legislature made last year.

Fifty-three percent of voters supported a ballot measure to rescind the law which adjusted the state’s gasoline tax every year by the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Full story

November 4, 2014

In GOP Senate, Thune Would Be Pivotal Dealmaker

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Sen. John Thune, R-S. D., speaks to reporters as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listens. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

South Dakota Sen. John Thune is in line to become a pivotal transportation policy maker if his party wins the Senate majority.

Thune would be the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in a GOP-controlled Senate. He also serves on the Finance Committee which would need to approve any new revenue source for transportation funding.

A veteran labor union leader involved in transportation issues said that he and some unions with interests in the committee would be able to work with Thune who has a reputation as a pragmatist.

Full story

November 3, 2014

Voters Get Their Say On Indexing Gasoline Tax

martha 445x235 Voters Get Their Say On Indexing Gasoline Tax

Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker debate indexing the gasoline tax.

Massachusetts voters Tuesday get a chance to rescind the decision their state legislators made last year to peg the state’s gasoline tax to the inflation rate.

But voters’ apparent confusion about the wording of the ballot measure, listed as Question 1 on the ballot, may skew the outcome.

A poll released by Suffolk University last Thursday found that more than three out of five voters think that the state’s gasoline tax increases should not automatically be tied to the Consumer Price Index.

Full story

October 30, 2014

New Hampshire Election Gives Read On Gasoline Tax

New Hampshire is one case where we’ll get a reading on Election Day on voters’ preferences on raising taxes to pay for infrastructure.

The increase in the state gasoline tax, which Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law last May is an issue in ads which the Republican Governors Association is running against her.

It was also a focus of the televised debate Wednesday night between Hassan and her Republican opponent Walt Havenstein.

The bill Hassan signed increased the state’s excise tax on both gasoline and diesel from 18 cents to 22.2 cents per gallon.

Full story

October 24, 2014

‘Catastrophic’ Distracted Driving, And Not By a Teenager

169601728 445x295 ‘Catastrophic’ Distracted Driving, And Not By a Teenager

Smoke from a May 28, 2013 truck-train collision in Rosedale, Md. caused by a truck driver’s distracted driving. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

We’re just concluding Operation Safe Driver Week, a joint effort of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

FMCSA notes that nearly 4,000 people are killed annually in large truck and bus crashes.

This week also happens to be National Teen Driver Safety Week, with the familiar warnings to teenage drivers to not text when driving.

Full story

October 22, 2014

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.

Full story

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.

Full story

October 17, 2014

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

3064307 445x299 The Containers Friday Q&A: ARTBAs Peter Ruane, Part One

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

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