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Transportation Nation

LaHood: Politics Means No Surface Transportation Bill This Year

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood doesn't think there's much chance Congress will pass a surface transportation spending bill this year.

The bill is on its way to being three years late -- it was supposed to be reauthorized in September, 2009.

"Given the politics, the number of days that remain, the differences between what the Senate and House are looking at -- I think its very unlikely we will have a surface transportation bill during this year of Congress," LaHood told a gathering of transportation professionals at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting.

"When you look at the number of days that Congress will be in session -- it is limited.  Given the political atmosphere that is around us now with presidential politics and every member of Congress seeking reelection in November that obviously will play into what happens."

LaHood told reporters after the panel that another big obstacle is the differences between the two-year Senate bill and the five-year House bill, which as of yet has no "pay-fors." "I think the difference between a two-year bill and a five-year bill is a pretty big gulf to overcome particually given the number of legilsative days," LaHood said.

But his remarks seemed to take his own top aides by surprise.

"I didn't hear him say we're not going to have a reauthorization bill this year," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, who was in the audience and left with Secretary LaHood.. "I'm an optimist, the real way we are going to put people to work the fastest and make progress on all these policies, is by getting a reauthorization bill as soon as possible."

LaHood's comments came at a panel of transportation secretaries going back to Alan Boyd, who was Lyndon B. Johnson's transportation secretary.  The moderator asked the secretaries if they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future of transportation funding.

“I’m hopeful but I’m very concerned," said Boyd, who went first, "because it seems to me looking and listening as I do now from my vantage point in Seattle so many of my fellow Americans want to have good roads, good bridges, but they don’t want to pay for it, they want somebody else to pay for it. There is this sense to me  around the country: no new taxes.  The world keeps changing and if America is going to be the leader it says it is and wants to be its got to improve its infrastructure. "

(LaHood did express optimism about the future of high speed rail -- that story here.)

 

 

 

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Transportation Nation

Senate Releases Text of Transportation Authorization Bill

Monday, November 07, 2011

Senator Barbara Boxer

We'll have more analysis at the mark-up this week (November 9), but in the meantime, here's the statement on the release of the Senate Transportation reauthorization bill, along with links to the bill and the bill summary.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, today released the bill text for Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the nation's transportation programs for two years. Senators Boxer, Inhofe, Baucus and Vitter are all co-sponsors of MAP-21.

Senator Boxer said: "I am proud to be Chairman of a committee that has joined together across party lines to write a strong, job-creating transportation bill. I believe that our bill will not only protect the 1.8 million existing transportation jobs, but we will also create up to an additional million jobs thanks to the way our bill leverages federal funds. My deepest thanks to my Ranking Member, Senator Jim Inhofe, the Subcommittee Chair, Senator Max Baucus and Subcommittee Ranking Member, Senator David Vitter."

Senator Inhofe said: "I commend Senators Boxer, Vitter and Baucus for their work in striking the right balance on our highway bill, and I am pleased to join them as we unveil it today. Yesterday's votes on both the Democrat and Republican infrastructure bills showed that there is a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate that supports putting Americans back to work by building our roads and bridges. I look forward to working with my EPW colleagues to pass this bill - which is proven to help strengthen our economy and create jobs - in the committee next week."

Senator Baucus said: "Maintaining a strong transportation system is a proven way to create jobs and keep America strong and competitive, something we need now more than ever. Because Montana is a highway state, we know firsthand that the smart transportation investments in this bill will deliver big returns in construction jobs in the short term and they will support American commerce around the country and around the world for years to come. This is a bipartisan package everyone can support."

Senator Vitter said: <"I'm encouraged that we've found an efficient way of addressing some of our most important transportation needs. The American people - and many American businesses - depend on reliable infrastructure, and I'm glad that we were able to find some common ground with this bipartisan bill."

The legislation maintains funding at current levels, reforms the nation's transportation programs to make them more efficient, and provides robust assistance for transportation projects under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program to leverage state, local, and private-sector funding.

Here are the:  bill text for MAP-21 and a bill summary.

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Transportation Nation

Republicans to Introduce Transportation Reauthorization Bill Tomorrow

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

House Republicans will formally introduce their surface reauthorization bill Thursday.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair John Mica (R - Florida) is scheduled to unveil the bill at 11am. It's being broadcast live via webcast on the committee's web page.

Democrat Barbara Boxer, who heads the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, said today that the Republican plan would cost Americans hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed a six-year, $556 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill. No word yet on a dollar amount for the House bill, but some reports said Republicans will propose cutting funding for highways and transit by one-third.

 

 

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Transportation Nation

California: Florida's HSR Loss Could Be Our Gain

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) If U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is unable to put together a deal to save Florida's high speed rail, California wants the $2.4. billion.  And California is likely to get a bunch if it if the Florida deal falls through: it has the most advanced program, after Florida, in the nation.

Governor Jerry Brown and Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have already issued statements similar to those released after Wisconsin and Ohio returned their funds. "It is now clear that California will lead the way in demonstrating the viability of high speed rail to the rest of the country," wrote the senators; "The $2 billion that Florida rejected are more than welcome here," said Brown.

At least one congressman has also gotten in on the action; John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) wrote "we’re prepared to show the rest of the country what a modern transportation network looks like and will gladly invest every penny the federal government is willing to provide."

The politicians' statements get at the curious paradox of high-speed rail in this country: the more states reject high-speed rail because of perceived political and financial risk, the better the chance that the systems that do get funded will have the resources to avoid those problems. "The money reallocated to us from Ohio and Wisconsin enabled us to double the length of our initial construction," said California High Speed Rail Authority spokeswoman Rachel Wall. "We know how to use this money." Wall said the Authority is currently in discussions with the Federal Railroad Administration about whether and how California would obtain the funds.

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Transportation Nation

Mica: "We'll Get to Finish Line on Transportation Bill"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"I had a great night tonight  with Barbara Boxer, she’s going to chair the effort on the Senate side, and we have a whole host of ideas we’ve already agreed on. We can do it. We’re going to drag Obama kicking and screaming to the finish line."

Representative John Mica

TN correspondent Todd Zwillich caught up with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committtee Chair John Mica last night after the State of the Union address, and he and a few other reporters got his reaction to the president's speech and upcoming plans for a transportation reauthorization bill.  You can listen to the congressman here -- or read the transcript below.

Reporter: How do you balance this in your own party, with the needs you know are out there?

John Mica: Well, again, there are good investments and bad investments; they missed the mark last time with stimulus, they only put 7% of $787 billion. 30 days before the election only 39% was spent. So they lost the election by 1) derailing a six-year transportation bill and by 2) coming up with a plan that didn’t allow the money to even be spent to employ people, so now we have a chance to correct that, and we hope we don’t make the same mistake twice. But we’ll work with the president, some of his math as I said doesn’t work on high-speed rail–-we have a hearing at 10:00 in New York City, at Grand Central Station, to sort out some of the differences this week.

Reporter: how do you plan to pay for this transportation bill without the administration getting behind some innovative financing with more than just the word ‘innovative’? It seems like he fleshed out (crosstalk)

JM: Well, first of, I’m gonna take –

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Transportation Nation

What do road builders think of the new Congress?

Friday, January 07, 2011

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) What do road builders think of the new Congress? Attendees of the sixth annual Texas Transportation Forum in Austin got an earful about that Wednesday from Brian Deery, the Senior Director of the Highway & Transportation Division of the Associated General Contractors of America.

Brian Deery, Senior Director of the Highway & Transportation Division of the Associated General Contractors of America. (Video still from AASHTO)

Brian Deery, Senior Director of the Highway & Transportation Division of the Associated General Contractors of America. (Video still from AASHTO)

Just today AGC issued a renewed call for a long-term reauthorization bill, citing dwindling stimulus funds and industry job loss. But the Congress that would have to pass that reauthorization in the next two years seems more divided than it was for the last two.

Deery spoke for half an hour, and made passing swipes at the Obama Administration's agenda of "livability" and high speed rail, both endeavors which he finds to be unwarranted drains on highway funds. He was also highly critical of the recent rule change by House Republicans to allow raiding of the Highway Trust Fund.

Most of Deery's his comments concerned Congress, and he ended up making an interesting juxtaposition between John Mica, the Republican chairperson of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, and Barbara Boxer, the Democratic chairperson of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. It was hard to know which party—and which chamber—would be the construction industry's better friend, he said.

Excerpts from Deery's comments after the jump:

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Boxer rends garments over House rules: Scott casts doubt on FL High Speed Rail; NY Subway Signal Fraud May Be Vast; But Hey, You Can Ride You

Friday, January 07, 2011

A downtown Manhattan parking meter--whose rates ARE rising (Kate Hinds)

New Florida Governor Rick Scott's Administration releases a report prepared by a Libertarian group that says Florida's High Speed Rail might be too costly. (WESH-TV, Orlando)  Scott said during the last debate that he wasn't necessarily against the Orlando-Tampa rail line, now funded with some $3 billion federal dollars -- but only if it didn't cost Florida taxpayers another penny.

California Senator Barbara Boxer, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, says if House Republicans act on threats to raid transportation fund "all our plans to do more...are thrown aside." (Streetsblog)

New York rolls back parking meter hikes--but only outside of Manhattan. (WNYC)

Subway officials unsure of extent of signal fraud in NYC subways:  (NY1)

NJ Governor Christie proposes a five-year, $8 billion transportation infrastructure spending plan that relies on borrowing -- as well as repurposing ARC money.  (Wall Street Journal, New York Times)

An advisory panel says the Texas Department of Transportation needs new leadership, consolidated financial operations and better communication with the public. (AP via Houston Chronicle).

Colorado's New Gov, John Hickenlooper Tells NY Times "Rather than  going to health care first, I would have gone, I think, to transportation infrastructure." (NY Times)

The US proposes reopening roads to Mexican trucking companies. "We can't say the Mexican trucking dispute is over, but we can now say that, at last, the end appears to be in sight," says one stakeholder. (AP)

The Illinois legislature voted to give the state's top ethics official new watchdog power over Chicago's mass transit agencies. (Chicago Tribune)

Norfolk tests light rail (AP via Washington Examiner).

Tesla releases some engineering porn to a car-hungry public (via Wired/Autopia). Video: Tesla Vehicle Engineering - Part 1 from Tesla Motors on Vimeo.

A Wisconsin woman bikes to the hospital...while in labor. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

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Transportation Nation

California to Feds: You Gonna Keep That High-Speed Rail Money?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) One of the biggest challenges facing California’s high-speed rail effort is the question of funding: Is there going to be enough of it, available over a long enough period of time, to actually see the project through?

When you’re in that kind of  tenuous situation, it always helps to get an unexpected bonus--and that’s what Golden State politicians are banking on. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as outgoing governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, have all written letters to the Department of  Transportation, urging them to reallocate money rejected by the newly-elected leadership of Ohio and Wisconsin, plus anyone else who might want off the high-speed rail… uh… train.  Money quote:

“It is with a certain sense of astonishment that we note recent announcements from some of our gubernatorial colleagues that they are uninterested in federal contributions to their high-speed rail systems. You are more than welcome to redirect that money to California –- where we know how to use it to generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and provide a clean, fast and low-cost way to travel.”

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Daley Pines for High Speed Airport Rail Link, Villaraigosa wants better federal transit financing, and roll-bar rebate rolling out in Vermont

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

LA Mayor Villaraigosa testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asks feds to create a "national program of innovative financing tools" for major transit projects (Los Angeles Times). At same hearing, committee chair Barbara Boxer questions the need for President Obama's proposed infrastructure Bank (Streetsblog).

NYC's Department of Transportation rescues engagement ring after would-be groom drops it during proposal on the Brooklyn Bridge. (New York Post)

Delta flight attendants begin voting on union representation today. (Minnesota Public Radio)

Caltrain installs suicide prevention signs on tracks. (Silicon Valley Mercury News)

Roll-bar rebate: a new Vermont program will reimburse farmers to prevent tractor rollover deaths -- the leading cause of death on farms. (Burlington Free Press)

Chicago's Mayor Daley visits China, admires high speed rail, hopes that foreign investors will build a similar link between O'Hare and downtown (ABC7Chicago).

Just how politically divided is the country over the issue of high-speed rail? The Infrastructurist has a chart that breaks it down by state. Just about every Republican candidate opposes it, while Democrats support it.

Following up on last week's story about a man who commutes to work via kayak, here's a more...vertical commute story: follow along as a technician climbs 1,700 feet into the air to get to his job, repairing broadcast antennae (via AltTransport).

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