Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 22, 2014

Posts in "Highway Trust Fund"

December 22, 2014

Most Encouraging News of 2014, Part Three

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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt event on Sept. 8, 2014 in San Francisco. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Here’s the third in our series in which we ask transportation advocates, analysts, and interest group representatives to identify the most encouraging or discouraging transportation developments of the past year….

“One of the most encouraging developments of 2014 was President Obama’s proposal to lift the ban on tolling existing Interstate highways for purposes of reconstruction. While we don’t wish to see the Federal-aid highway program fail, it appears that the strangling of the system is causing people to think outside the box.”

Patrick D. Jones, executive director and CEO, International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association


“The most discouraging transportation development for me is Bertha [the world's largest tunneling machine] getting stuck in Seattle. In my opinion that [State Route 99 tunnel] project should have never started. New freeway capacity in cities is disappointing. We know so much about how cities create value, and it’s not with more space for cars.

“The most encouraging is the citizen-led push in Dallas to tear down a freeway and to connect neighborhoods that were split by it.”

Jeff Wood, urban planner in the San Francisco Bay area and head of transportation consulting firm The Overhead Wire


“The most encouraging transportation development in 2014 was NHTSA’s decision to move forward with vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology in new light vehicles.  V2V technology has the potential to dramatically reduce highway fatalities and its safety benefits will be extended beyond auto passengers to include pedestrians and other road users.”

Alice Tornquist, vice president of government affairs, Qualcomm


“The continued booming expansion of transportation network companies (Uber, Lyft, etc…), as well as bike-share and car-share companies, that are transforming metropolitan transportation by providing more viable transportation options and vastly greater mobility. This development is incredibly encouraging because it shows how the disruptive power of technology continues to create competition, innovation, and economic and social benefits in transportation.”

Joshua Schank, president and CEO, Eno Center for Transportation

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.

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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

December 5, 2014

A Look Back At Our Week: Tax Break, Cargo Preference

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Commuters at the Times Square Subway stop in New York City. (Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Mass transit and van poll advocates have urged Congress to enact permanent tax break parity between those who get employer-provided parking benefits and those who use mass transit. That parity ended at the end of 2013.

Parity crusaders will need to wait until next year and try to persuade the new Congress.

  • We also heard from rail infrastructure advocates who want the new Congress to enact a dedicated source of funding.

To make their case, they point to the tangible achievements of President Obama’s $830 billion stimulus, such as the new Niantic River Bridge along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in Connecticut.

  • Finding money for infrastructure, whether rail or highways or subways, is of course the seemingly permanent and inescapable problem, as a new report this week from the Eno Center for Transportation reminded us.

The report suggests that perhaps policymakers should simply decide that Congress is not going to increase the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and should consider relying on general tax revenue to pay for infrastructure.

The current system “is really not working well… for anybody. So there’s a much greater reason to consider alternative to the user pays/Trust Fund structure at this point,” said Eno president Joshua Schank.

  • We reported on the confirmation hearing for Mark Rosekind, Obama’s choice to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As the agency tries to cope with multiple auto and auto parts recalls, senators urged Rosekind to be bold in re-invigorating it.

“If you are not feared and respected, then you cannot do a good job policing the safety of automobiles in this country,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told Rosekind. “I don’t think that NHSTA is either feared or respected at this point.”

  • We also looked at the controversy over the cargo preference, which requires that a certain percentage of commodities purchased by the government be shipped in U.S.-flagged vessels. The cargo preference is designed to preserve U.S. merchant marine jobs and the U.S. shipping industry.
  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn., pledged to stop a House-passed Coast Guard bill which they say would in effect strengthen the cargo preference and make it more costly for the Agency for International Development to ship food to countries affected by famine or food shortages.

December 3, 2014

Eno Report: Consider Scrapping Trust Fund

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Chicago highway traffic (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Why not scrap the beleaguered Highway Trust Fund and the concept of dedicated user fees (gasoline taxes) going into it?

Instead, why not rely entirely on general tax revenues to pay for highways and mass transit?

That’s one possibility raised by a report issued Wednesday by the Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington think tank.

Full story

December 1, 2014

The Week Ahead: Transit Tax Break, Takata, And Sustainable Investment

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., is working to restore tax break parity for mass transit users. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call)

Members of Congress try to complete their lame-duck spending bill and decide on the fate of a package of tax breaks – including reviving one that expired at the end of 2013 that gave the same tax benefit to employer-provided mass transit commuting as to employed-provided parking.


The OneRail Coalition, which includes the American Public Transportation Association, the Association of American Railroads, and railroad workers’ unions, holds a Capitol Hill briefing to promote federal and private sector investment in rail projects.

Full story

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

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.

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 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

McGovern Weighs Voters’ Contradictory Infrastructure Views

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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

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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

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