Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 28, 2015

Posts in "Public-Private Partnerships"

February 25, 2015

How Oregon’s Pioneering Road Usage Fee Will Work

Mount Hood in Oregon (Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images)

Mount Hood in Oregon (Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images)

Jim Whitty is the evangelist for Oregon’s pioneering road user fee pilot program which begins on July 1.

Other states are watching how Whitty and Oregon conduct a 5,000-vehicle pilot program in which volunteers will pay a road usage charge of 1.5 cents per mile for the number of miles they drive, instead of the fuel tax. Drivers will get a credit on their bill to offset the fuel tax they pay.

Whitty, manager of the Office of Innovative Partnerships & Alternative Funding for Oregon’s Department of Transportation, is a wry, self-deprecating salesman for the program.

Full story

February 19, 2015

A Train Station, Or ‘An Incredible Destination’?

The lobby of the Radisson in Scranton, Pa., formerly the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad station. (Courtesy: Radisson Hotels)

The lobby of the Radisson in Scranton, Pa., formerly the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad station. (Courtesy: Radisson Hotels)

So valuable is some big city real estate that rail yards can’t be just rail yards anymore, and a train station must be far more than a place to get on a train, it must become a “destination” or better still a “a place to be seen.”

If you’re a utilitarian traveler from Washington to New York or from Washington to Philadelphia, you might be satisfied simply with “a clean, well-lighted place,” a crime-free train station with tolerably hygienic bathrooms.

Add a good coffee shop, and perhaps a place to get a glass of wine and a sandwich. And a newsstand, and maybe a book shop, like the late lamented Posman Books in New York’s Grand Central Station.

That’s enough for some travelers.

And most importantly, the train service itself should be frequent and reliable.

But if your calling in life is real estate development, those expectations are far too modest.

Full story

January 29, 2015

Governors Float Plan To Replace Notorious Bridge

President Obama speaks to a crowd in front of the aging Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River  in 2011 as part of his campaign for a job creation bill. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

President Obama speaks to a crowd in front of the aging Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River in 2011 as part of his campaign for a job creation bill. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

When a politician’s theme of the day is “aging infrastructure,” the default backdrop for the photo op is often the obsolete and overcrowded Brent Spence Bridge which connects Covington, Ky. and Cincinnati, Ohio.

On Wednesday Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, a Democrat, and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, a Republican, offered a plan to revamp the existing bridge, build a new bridge, and improve interstate approaches to the spans which cross the Ohio River.

The plan calls for:

  • Using a public-private partnership to design, build, maintain, and finance the project.
  • Splitting costs and toll revenues evenly between Ohio and Kentucky.
  • Providing a 50 percent discount in toll rates for frequent commuters.

According to governors’ statement, inflation is driving up the project’s cost (currently $2.6 billion) by $7 million every month.

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 12, 2015

Friday Q&A: Haystack Founder Eric Meyer, Part Two

Do you think the critics of Haystack are getting caught up in a theoretical argument about whether the parking space is a public or private space, rather than focusing on the facilitation of parking and reduction of congestion and pollution?

Parking is a public asset, but one so mismanaged that it benefits almost nobody. If Haystack can help make this public asset more efficient, then that’s a good thing for drivers, for the community and for the city as a whole.

Is Haystack still operating in Baltimore? If so, is it profitable?

We have paused our service in all cities following several roadblocks in cities critical to our model.

If cities aren’t willing to let Haystack facilitate use of parking spaces, could you or some other company purchase on-street parking spaces and then facilitate use of them?

In other words, make public space into a private space and then monetize its use. Or would the policing of that be too difficult?

It is an interesting idea; this is essentially the model that ZipCar uses, and it benefits neighbors, drivers and the city as a whole.  Bringing cities on board with this plan, given our many conversations across the country, would likely be an uphill battle.  It’s a shame more cities aren’t as progressive. Technology is a powerful tool that should be celebrated, not shunned.

January 9, 2015

Friday Q&A: Haystack Founder Eric Meyer, Part One

Eric Meyer of Haystack, second from left, at an Oct. 21 Washington Post panel discussion on transportation technology (Photo courtesy of Eric Meyer)

Eric Meyer of Haystack, second from left, at an Oct. 21 Washington Post panel discussion on transportation technology (Photo courtesy of Eric Meyer)

The Haystack app was designed to allow city drivers to hand off an on-street parking spot they were just leaving to another nearby driver who was looking for a space.

But the company, which collected a small fee for enabling each handoff, has halted the app after opposition from Boston officials. Here’s our conversation with Haystack founder Eric Meyer.

Last November, you told the Baltimore Sun that “going around the country and teaching city governments how to embrace new transportation technology isn’t a sustainable business model.” Can you explain why it isn’t a sustainable business model?

If cities are engaging in preemptive bans and legislating based on hypothesis and entrenched interests, it is difficult for our technology and similar crowd-sourced solutions to generate a user-base while facing fines upwards of $250 per use on consumers and our company alike.

Full story

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.

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Senate Rebuffs Cruz Critique of Travel Promotion

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas  (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In his last-ditch effort to stop the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday night, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, fired a glancing shot at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and at his support for Brand USA, a public-private partnership Congress created in 2010 to persuade foreign tourists to visit the United States.

Cruz ended up on the short end of a 56-to-40 Senate vote to pass the omnibus which includes a provision reauthorizing Brand USA.

The travel promotion agency is funded through a $10 fee added to the application charge paid by visitors to the United States from the 38 countries in the Visa Waiver Program. The 38 include most of the western European countries as well as a few others such as Japan and Australia.

Federal backing for Brand USA, limited to $100 million a year, is matched by U.S. travel and tourism companies and state and local visitor agencies.

In a Senate floor speech Friday night, Cruz called Brand USA “another bit of corporate welfare,” adding that it “is one of the current majority leader’s pet projects because it helps promote casinos in his home state. Last I checked, casinos were very profitable endeavors that didn’t need the taxpayers helping them out, didn’t need the Congress serving your hard-earned dollars and handing it out to promote casinos.”

But Jonathan Grella, senior vice president of public affairs at the U.S. Travel Association, said Brand USA is about far more than luring foreigners to Las Vegas.

He said many businesses in Texas who benefit from foreign tourism “would vehemently disagree with the senator, as would the main sponsors of the [Brand USA authorization] measure who hail from Minnesota, Missouri, Vermont, and Florida,” referring to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla.

“I think that says everything about how broad the benefits from Brand USA go,” Grella said. “The genesis of the focus on Vegas in particular is born out of the majority leader’s support. And anything that the majority leader supports, in the view of others, must be a sop to his home state, which is obviously not accurate.”

He added, “This program helps create jobs in all 50 states and that’s why it had such broad bipartisan support…. Many of the most active supporters are from smaller destinations who could use the help” in attracting foreign visitors.

Prior to the 2010 law which created Brand USA, Grella said, the United States was the only major developed country that did not have tourism marketing program.

November 14, 2014

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

 

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

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

November 13, 2014

Maryland Survivor Is Back to Push for P3s

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

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 10, 2014

The Week Ahead: Newly Elected Members Get Oriented

Newly elected members of the House pose for the freshman class photo in November of 2010. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

Newly elected members of the House pose for the freshman class photo in November of 2010. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

We will get insights this week from the people who run some of the nation’s biggest rail and airline companies, and from newly elected members of Congress as they arrive in Washington for their orientation.

Tuesday

Rob Knight, the chief financial officer of Union Pacific will address the Stephens 2014 Fall Investment Conference. He makes another presentation the following day at Baird’s 2014 Industrial Conference.

Full story

November 7, 2014

Friday Q & A: Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Part One

Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute

Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute

Analyst Marc Scribner at the Competitive Enterprise Institute examines transportation policy from a staunchly pro-market standpoint.

Here are excerpts from our conversation. (Note: We did the interview on Election Day, before we knew Republicans would gain control of the Senate.)

Full story

October 22, 2014

Infrastructure Loan Fears Misguided, Reader Says

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)

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 3, 2014

The Container’s Friday Q & A: Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s Randy Iwasaki, Part One

With a boost from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, there’s momentum in favor of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure networks that could better regulate traffic flows and allow cars and trucks to avoid collisions.

New evidence of that momentum came this week as the Contra Costa, Calif., Transportation Authority and Mercedes-Benz Research & Development of North America in Sunnyvale, Calif., announced that they’re setting up a test site at the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

Full story

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