Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 1, 2015

Posts in "Interstate System"

January 30, 2015

Overseas Cash Alluring Idea For Infrastructure Funds

Rep. John Delaney, D - Md., during his 2012 campaign. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. John Delaney, D – Md., during his 2012 campaign. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In his Fiscal Year 2015 budget last March, President Obama said he wanted to use “one-time transition revenue resulting from business tax reform” to pay for highways, roads and transit systems.

Now Rep. John Delaney, D- Md., has introduced a bill that fills in details of a concept about which Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, and several others have been thinking aloud: pay for infrastructure with tax revenue from repatriated profits of U.S. corporations.

But Delaney said his bill is “much more comprehensive” than what Obama sketched out last March.

Delaney’s measure would impose an 8.75 percent tax on overseas profits and would, he said, raise $170 billion, more than enough to both fill the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund for six years and to create a new $50 billion infrastructure funding entity.

It would also give Congress what he called “a nice long runway” for lawmakers to devise ways to cope with the anticipated decline in revenues from taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel.

Full story

January 28, 2015

Left Versus Right On How To Build Infrastructure

Traffic on Interstate Highway 110 through downtown Los Angeles. (Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

Traffic on Interstate Highway 110 through downtown Los Angeles. (Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

Two sharply contrasting views of transportation policy were on display in Washington Tuesday.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, I- Vt., announced his Rebuild America Act, a $1 trillion, five-year plan to repair and build transit systems, bridges, highways, railroads, ports, the national electric power grid, and national parks.

He did not include financing proposals in the bill.

“What I wanted to do was focus on the need to build the infrastructure and not start the debate right away on how we fund it. There are many ways to fund it and honest people can have honest differences of opinion,” Sanders told reporters.

Sanders serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee which will be working on a highway reauthorization bill this year. He was skeptical about proposals to use repatriated profits of U.S. corporations now held overseas to pay for infrastructure.

He also said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D- Md., the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, is a co-sponsor of his bill.

Meanwhile, the limited-government, free-enterprise think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, issued its 2015 legislative agenda.

Full story

January 27, 2015

CBO Reminder To Congress: Infrastructure Funding 101

House Speaker John A. Boehner has repeatedly rebuffed the idea of a fuels tax increase (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Speaker John A. Boehner has repeatedly rebuffed the idea of a fuels tax increase (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In its annual budget and economic forecast Monday the Congressional Budget Office reminded members of Congress of some of the basics that set the bounds of the infrastructure debate:

  • While federal spending on highways and mass transit has been running at about $53 billion a year in recent years, “annual receipts from highway taxes, which are largely dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund, are projected to stay at $38 billion or $39 billion each year between 2015 and 2025….” Thus the shortfall is about $14 billion a year.
  • CBO predicts that over the long term gasoline consumption will decline, as vehicles’ fuel economy improves. This will “more than offset increases in the number of miles that people drive stemming from both population increases and real income gains per person.”
  • But just for this year, the drop in gasoline prices (down nearly 40 percent from this same point last year) will cause drivers to drive more miles, so CBO projects that “gasoline use and tax revenues will be roughly in line with last year’s figures….”
  • CBO predicts that oil prices will rise again later this year – a forecast which some private-sector economists and investors don’t agree with at all.

Full story

January 21, 2015

Infrastructure Funding Deal Not Yet Clear

President Obama arrives in the House chamber to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Obama arrives in the House chamber to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

What was not made clear in President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night was whether he’d be willing to sign a stand-alone bill to use profits of U.S. corporations now held overseas to pay for infrastructure.

Would he instead insist on a bill that included some of the tax increases that the White House sketched out over the weekend such as higher tax rates on dividends and capital gains?

Obama said Tuesday night that Congress must “close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America.”

The idea of using an overhaul of corporate taxes to come up with revenue for infrastructure was an element of his $302 billion Grow America Act unveiled last April.

But it’s an open question whether the president would sign a bill along the lines of the Partnership to Build America Act sponsored by Rep. John Delaney, D-Md. and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R- Pa.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Rep. Michael Bennet, D- Colo. have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The measure would let U.S. companies repatriate some of their overseas profits tax free if they invested them in infrastructure bonds.

Despite later in the speech lamenting the use of “gotcha” moments in politics, Obama took an opportunity to ding the proponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline by saying “let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline; let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year” as the Keystone XL project.

Absent from Obama’s speech was any mention of the simplest, but politically unpalatable, expedient of raising the gasoline tax to pay for a new infrastructure bill. Obama did not join the chorus of those saying, ‘why not raise gasoline taxes since the price at the pump is now so low?’

As infrastructure advocates wait for the repatriation-for-infrastructure details to be worked out, their goals haven’t changed.

As American Road & Transportation Builders Association president Pete Ruane said Tuesday night, what they seek is “a long-term revenue stream to ensure state governments have the reliable federal partner they need to make overdue improvements to America’s roads, bridges and transit systems.”

And Patrick Jones, CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, said Obama and Congress ought to give states “greater flexibility to meet their individual transportation funding needs—including the right to use tolling on their existing Interstate highways for the purpose of reconstruction.”

January 16, 2015

Gasoline Tax Increase Not Gaining Momentum

House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, right, with Speaker John A. Boehner, before the 114th Congress was sworn in on the House floor, Jan. 6, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, right, with Speaker John A. Boehner, before the 114th Congress was sworn in on the House floor, Jan. 6, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“We won’t pass a gas tax increase,” House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday at the Republican retreat in Hershey, Pa.

That was almost immediately after he said, “We would like to have a long-term highway bill, but we’ve got to see how we can for pay it.”

Ryan left the door open to a corporate tax overhaul that might raise revenue for infrastructure, an idea which last year he said has merit.

So, for the major players on the Republican side, here’s an updated scorecard on their recent comments on infrastructure financing:

Full story

January 15, 2015

Tolling Expert Sees Bay Area as Place to Watch in 2015

This week we asked Matthew Click, vice president and director of priced managed lanes for HNTB, an infrastructure design and construction management company, what he thinks will be the most interesting place in country in 2015 to watch for development of toll lanes and congestion pricing.

Click’s choice: the San Francisco Bay area.

Here are the points he made: Full story

January 12, 2015

The Week Ahead: Annual Gathering Of The Policy Wonks

A worker makes repairs to a pedestrian walkway and bike path near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. One topic at TRB anual meeting: how states can pay for transportation projects. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A worker makes repairs to a pedestrian walkway and bike path near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. One topic at TRB anual meeting: how states can pay for transportation projects. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The week’s marquee event in Washington is the 94th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, a five-day extravaganza of panel discussions, research presentations, and speeches by government officials, corporate leaders, and academic and think tank experts.

On the are nearly 750 workshops and sessions, on topics ranging from “Self-heating Electrically Conducting Concrete for Pavement De-Icing” to “Understanding the Gender Gap in Urban Biking.”

Monday

At the TRB meeting, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will forecast the year ahead for transportation and also discuss opportunities and challenges facing America’s transportation network over the next thirty years.

Also on Monday’s TRB agenda is a presentation from Timothy Butters, acting head the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Scott Darling, acting head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and other transportation officials who will explain how they go about the federal rule-making process for various modes of transportation.

Tuesday

At the TRB annual meeting, National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Christopher Hart and his colleagues unveil the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements for 2015.

Last year’s NTSB list included banning the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices by anyone while driving a car or a truck, or while piloting a plane, a ship, or a train.

Tuesday’s TRB meeting features a session with state transportation department chiefs on steps they are taking to fund major capital projects in light of the continued uncertainty of federal funding. Featured speakers include Anthony Tata of North Carolina, Charles Zelle of Minnesota, and Joan McDonald of New York.

Thursday and Friday

As the TRB meeting continues, the World Bank is staging its own transportation event, Transforming Transportation: Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity. It features policy makers and experts from several countries including a panel discussion on The Role of Technology in Fostering Sustainable Mobility and Inclusive Growth, with Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar, and others.

January 9, 2015

Cole Suggests Replacing, Not Raising, Gas Tax

Rep. Tom Cole, R- Okla., who has just been elected to his seventh term (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Tom Cole, R- Okla., who has just been elected to his seventh term (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Capping a week in which some Republicans, most notably Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, indicated an openness to a possible increase in the gasoline tax, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said Friday that raising the gasoline tax isn’t what Congress should do to raise revenue for infrastructure.

Asked on C-Span’s Washington Journal whether low gasoline prices – at their lowest levels in four years – make it easier now to pass a gasoline tax increase, Cole replied, “Most of my constituents would say, ‘Don’t take away the benefits of lower prices.’”

Full story

December 31, 2014

Transportation Hurdles Ahead In 2015 For Congress

Christmas travelers walk past a man focused on his smartphone on Dec. 23, 2014  at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. during the hectic Christmas travel week.    (Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Christmas travelers walk past a man focused on his smartphone on Dec. 23, 2014 at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. during the hectic Christmas travel week. (Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

In the New Year, Congress faces far-reaching policy and spending choices that will put members under both time and political pressure. Will there be enough time to accomplish all that needs to be done, or will decisions be postponed in favor of short-term expedients?

Here are some of the issues that are likely to be contentious in 2015

  • Unmanned aerial systems: Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee let Federal Aviation Administration officials know at a Dec. 10 hearing that they’re fed up with the agency’s slowness in devising a rule to integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into the nation’s airspace.

Congress may take some of these decisions into its own hands if the FAA doesn’t act quickly enough. Some members see the UAV industry’s vast potential being stymied by the FAA’s inaction. Full story

December 24, 2014

A Look Back At Our Favorite Stories Of The Year

Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, left, in July called a temporary FAA ban on flights to the Tel Aviv airport an economic boycott of Israal. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, left, in July called a temporary FAA ban on flights to the Tel Aviv airport an economic boycott of Israal. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Since we launched The Container in June, transportation news has been dominated by one big trend, the decline in oil and gasoline prices, by an Ebola outbreak that caused jitters in the aviation industry, and by a range of tough policy choices that Congress has faced.

Here’s a glance back at the some of our favorite stories since we launched…

  • Unless you’re the Nigerian or Russian energy minister, you’re probably happy about declining oil and gasoline prices. We took note when the price at the pump fell below in $3 a gallon.
  • The price of oil has been driven down in part by the boom in production in North Dakota’s Bakken shale. In July we got some perspective on shipment of Bakken crude from a major player in the industry, Global Partners CEO Eric Slifka, who made the case why rail shipment is better than pipelines.
  • On Capitol Hill, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. won a victory in his battle for less costly shipping of food aid to countries in need….
  • …while some House members still waxed nostalgic for the now-banned earmarks that they say would make it easier to enact a major transportation spending bill.
  • In the crowded skies, drones swooping over your neighborhood to survey real estate (but only if the Federal Aviation Administration gives its OK) was a provocative scenario we heard about
  •  Also aloft, one airline industry analyst complained that “we as customers still feel entitled to have access to that [luggage] bin space with our ticket. Why is that?”
  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has a knack for making news with pungent statements and in July, to our benefit, he weighed in on the FAA temporarily banning U.S. flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, calling it an economic boycott of Israel. The FAA acted after a rocket landed about a mile from the airport as fighting raged between Israel and Hamas.
  • The alarm about the Ebola virus peaked in October and we pondered how Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sounded as much like an economist as an epidemiologist. We also got the views of an airport administrator who is on the Ebola front lines: “to chase anonymous vomit. That’s what my job has become.”

Note: The Container will resume regular publication on Jan. 5.

December 22, 2014

Most Encouraging News of 2014, Part Three

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)

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

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

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 15, 2014

High-Profile Toll Project Opens in D.C. Suburbs

One of the nation’s most prominent public-private toll road partnerships opened Sunday in Virginia with a Yuletide two-week free sample period before tolls begin on a 29-mile stretch of Interstate 95 south of Washington, D.C.

There’s been some backlash against highway tolling in Texas and other states, and a separate and highly contentious P3 project, U.S. 460 in the Hampton Roads area, has been halted by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Full story

December 11, 2014

Senate Names Highway In Honor of Oberstar

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)

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 3, 2014

Eno Report: Consider Scrapping Trust Fund

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

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

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