Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

Week’s Transportation Highlight Will Be Senate Passage of Highway Funding Bill

Months of hand-wringing, anguished warnings, and legislative maneuvering culminate in the next five days, as the Senate prepares to pass a bill to refill the Highway Trust Fund and avert what Democratic leaders were calling “the transportation equivalent of a government shutdown.”

The Senate is up against its August recess, so if all goes as planned, the federal money will keep flowing to state transportation departments. That means the earth movers and concrete mixers will keep working during this highway construction season.

Before final passage, senators will debate four amendments to a bill to shift about $10 billion from general revenues and from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust fund into the Highway Trust Fund.

One is Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s attempt to fast-track infrastructure building after natural disasters and emergencies, and override most environmental laws.

Before that Senate vote occurs, the House will vote Monday on a bipartisan bill to undo a 2012 regulation from the Department of Transportation that requires air lines and ticket agents to include taxes and fees in the advertised price of a plane ticket.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said the bill will allow air carriers and ticket agents “to display the actual cost of air travel in a clear and transparent way— enabling passengers to see the base airfare as well as the government-imposed taxes and fees.”

The 2012 DOT rule was prompted by complaints from travelers who were sometimes chagrined when the actual price of a plane ticket turned out to be significantly higher than the advertised price (which didn’t include all taxes and fees).

Also Monday the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts a panel discussion on how data aggregation is transforming the transportation sector.

On the panel: Uber’s federal public policy lead Brian Worth; Paul Feenstra, senior vice president of government and external affairs at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America; Jack Belcher, the chief information officer for Arlington County, Va.; and Joseph Kopser, the CEO of Ride Scout, a company which developed a mobile application that allows travelers to compare costs and travel times among taxi, bus, and other modes of transport for shorter trips.

On Tuesday the House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation Security Subcommittee holds a hearing on the Transportation Security Administration’s Screening Partnership Program, which allows an airport operator to use a private company — rather than TSA screeners — to screen passengers and baggage.

Currently 18 airports, including those in Key West, Fla., and Kansas City, Mo., are taking part in the program.

Also on Tuesday the Property Casualty Insurers Association holds a briefing on intelligent vehicles and highway safety with Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official Nat Beuse, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s Feenstra, and others.

Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s Surface Transportation subcommittee holds a hearing on truck safety.

And then sometime late in the week, members of the House and Senate board their flights taking them back to their states and districts to mingle with the voters.

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