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December 19, 2014

Posts in "Budget"

December 19, 2014

Most Encouraging News Of 2014, Part Two

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Encouraging news: BNSF’s $6 billion capital investment program (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Here’s our second selection of views from transportation advocates, analysts, and interest group representatives on the most encouraging or discouraging transportation developments of the past year….

 

“The Department of Transportation’s decision to move forward with vehicle-to-vehicle communication helps pave the way for the next generation of crash avoidance technology. The ability of vehicles to communicate with other vehicles and with the infrastructure around them is a promising step toward reducing the number of traffic and pedestrian fatalities, while also increasing the efficiency of our transportation system.”

Hilary Cain, director, Technology and Innovation Policy, Government and Industry Affairs, Toyota

Full story

December 11, 2014

Senate Names Highway In Honor of Oberstar

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At a 1997 House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting, chairman Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., left and ranking Democrat, Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., right (Congressional Quarterly photo by Scott J. Ferrell)

After a few more election cycles and a few more waves of retirements, there will be few House members who will have served with Rep. James Oberstar, D- Minn., former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who died last May. He lost his House seat in the 2010 Republican wave after 36 years in office. 

Oberstar’s portrait looked down benignly on the hearing on drones Wednesday in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing room in the Rayburn House Building.

Full story

December 10, 2014

Spending Bill Increases Mass Transit Funding

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Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., played a leading role in designing the omnibus spending bill.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill unveiled Tuesday night includes important transportation policy provisions.

Here’s a brief summary:

  • According to a summary from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the bill provides $2.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, an increase of $141 million over fiscal year 2014.

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December 9, 2014

Study: Data, Not Politics, Must Drive Infrastructure

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Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

State and regional transportation planners should start asking “what’s the return on investment?” to make sure that each infrastructure dollar is being well spent, says Emil Frankel, a top Transportation Department official in the Bush administration and the author of a study released Tuesday by American Action Forum, a center-right think tank, and the Eno Center for Transportation on using economic analysis to select transportation projects.

“In a time of scarce resources, we need better, more analytically driven decision making about how to use these resources more effectively and productively,” Frankel said in an interview Monday.

Full story

November 14, 2014

Transportation Unions Chart Strategy For New Congress

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Travelers at the Chicago Transit Authority’s Rosemont station. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

Labor unions are adjusting to the new balance of power in Washington. The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, representing the workers who build, operate, and maintain highways and mass transit systems, is looking to work with the new Republican leadership in 2015 on a long-term surface transportation bill.

Transportation Trades Department president Ed Wytkind met Thursday with Sen. Tom Carper, D- Del., White House economic aide Byron Auguste, and Peter Rogoff, undersecretary of transportation for policy, to examine the agenda for the new Congress. Vice President Joe Biden stopped by the meeting as well.

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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 13, 2014

Maryland Survivor Is Back to Push for P3s

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Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., is a champion of public-private partnerships. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Elected in 2012 with 59 percent of the vote in a Maryland district, which the state legislature had gerrymandered for a Democrat, Rep. John Delaney barely survived last week’s election. He won by 2,269 votes and got less than 50 percent against Republican Dan Bongino and a Green candidate.

But Delaney will be back for a second term as perhaps the House’s most committed and articulate proponent of public-private infrastructure partnerships (P3s).

Full story

November 12, 2014

Mass Transit Advocates Seek Tax Break Parity

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D- Ore., left, suggested that Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., center, who is up for re-election in 2016, has reason to back tax break parity for commuters. (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Unless Congress takes action in the lame-duck session, commuters who use mass transit and van pools will continue to get a smaller tax break than the one available to drivers who get a tax break for employer-provided parking.

Current law allows a $130 a month mass transit tax break (an exclusion from taxable income) compared to $250 a month for car commuters.

Mass transit and van pool advocates are urging Congress to restore tax break parity, which the tax code provided from 2009 until last year.

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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.

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Obama Restates The Obvious, But In a Timely Way

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President Obama, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in 2009. (Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Restating the obvious can sometimes be politically significant, especially when the person who does the restating is the president.

Lame duck though Barack Obama is, “there’s only one Democrat who counts, the president,” as Senate Minority (and soon to be Majority) Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Wednesday.

So we can’t let pass without notice that Obama used the word “infrastructure” five times in his post-election press conference Wednesday.

Full story

November 5, 2014

Democratic Defeats To Reshape Transportation Panels

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Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., will be the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call)

With the defeat Tuesday of 19-term Democrat Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon is in line to become the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Headed by Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the panel is preparing to produce both a surface transportation bill and a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration next year.

Full story

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

Airports, Travelers Also Have A Stake In Election

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Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., answers questions on the campaign trail in Baton Rouge, La. in September. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congressional appropriations committee staffers who spoke Tuesday at the aviation security summit sponsored by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) were hanging on tenterhooks just as much as other people were to see what outcome voters choose.

The current spending bill funds government operations only through Dec. 11.

Depending on how Tuesday’s elections turn out, Congress could pass a full-year continuing resolution (CR) which would essentially continue funding at current levels through next September.

Full story

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

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.

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