Streams

 

 

Transportation Reauthorization

Transportation Nation

Fed Transportation Conference Report: Not a Touchdown. More Like A Field Goal.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Now that the Transportation Bill conference committee has finally released a report (ongress has all of two days to pass it before the June 30th deadline on the current (ninth) extension. That’s not much time to fully analyze the entire 599-page Conference Report, but fortunately the committee provided a “brief” 91-page Joint Explanatory Statement.

It appears from first glance that the document is in almost every way a lukewarm compromise bill:

  • It covers two years, not six.
  • It lacks the most extreme provisions contemplated over the past months: Keystone pipeline approval, relaxing coal ash regulations, cutting mass transit spending from the Highway Trust Fund.
  • It includes reforms that enjoyed bipartisan support—program streamlining, accelerated environmental review.
  • It maintains current funding, adjusted for inflation, without indexing the gas tax or limiting spending to its revenue.

Spending on biking, walking, and beautification “transportation enhancements” remains, and half of those funds will be sent directly to metropolitan areas. That's a win for supporters. And half will be sent to the states, which are free to spend them on roads instead. That's a win for detractors.

Transportation For America, one of several organizations created around what many expected would be a transformative, next-generation transportation bill in 2009, made note earlier this week that the last major re-authorization had expired more than 1,000-days ago.

In the context of those last several years of gridlock, this conference report, by its mere existence, amounts to something of a breakthrough.

Something of a breakthrough. The conference report makes useful changes but fails to put the nation on the solid footing that transportation advocates of both parties have been yearning for.  For example, it doesn’t replace or significantly augment gas-tax funding. Nor does it create or even allow a visionary level of investment--public or private.

It’s better than another punt, but by no means a touchdown, for anyone. We’ll call it a field goal. A victory for minimal competence. Some conference report highlights:

  • Consolidates the number of highway programs by two-thirds, making more resources available directly to states and metropolitan areas.
  • Allows acceleration of environmental reviews while maintaining environmental protections.
  • Introduces performance measures to better focus spending on measurable outcomes such as reducing congestion, improving road and bridge conditions, and freight movement.
    Expands the TIFIA program to $1 Billion per year.
  • Creates a pilot program for transit-oriented development planning.
  • Increases (modestly) spending on public transportation in Appalachian region and on Indian reservations.

Key proposals that were not included:

  • NO Keystone oil pipeline approval, nor language to weaken restrictions on coal ash, as proposed by House Republicans.
  • NO permission for transit agencies to use federal capital funds for operating expenses during periods of high unemployment, as proposed by Senate Democrats.
  • NO funding reductions for states based on mileage leased to private concessionaires, as proposed by Senate Democrats.

Check back with us soon for more news and analysis.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.


Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

House GOP Unveils 5-Year, $260 Transpo Bill

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

House Republicans rolled out parts of a $260 billion transportation infrastructure bill Tuesday, casting the legislation as a major vehicle for job creation and energy production.

The five-year bill reauthorizes highway, transit and safety programs but also eliminates or consolidates dozens of existing federal functions. Supporters said its designed to streamline federally-funded projects, cut bureaucratic red tape and give states more flexibility to spend money on projects they prioritize.

Congress hasn't approved a "permanent" transportation bill since 2005, and if this one succeeds it will be the first successful bid following eight temporary extensions. But while groups representing the construction industry, trucking and other interests are supportive, Republicans and Democrats are bound to clash in an environment where parties have been more interested in showing their differences than their ability to compromise.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said last week he gave the bill little chance of passage.

Republicans are calling their bill the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, and House GOP leaders are targeting it for floor action later in February. But there are some big hurdles standing between the bill and President Obama's desk. More on that in an minute. First, here are some of the key provisions:

-A $260 billion, 5-year bill that feeds the Highway Trust Fund at $35 billion per year via the federal gas tax. Republicans intend to make up a sizable funding shortfall with revenue from expanded domestic energy production, including natural gas, offshore drilling, shale and other projects. Republicans stressed that the bill contains no earmarks, which is notable considering that the transportation authorization bill is a traditional home for thousands of them.

-Consolidation or elimination of some 70 federal highway and transit programs

-Elimination of transportation "enhancements" that require states to spend up to 10% of their federal highway money on non-highway projects like bike paths or beautification projects. "We're going to get the maximum amount of money in our real infrastructure and hopefully people will see the difference," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fl., who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

-No federal Infrastructure Bank. Instead the bill expands from 10% to 15% the amount of federal highway dollars states can put into their own infrastructure banks, if they've got them.

-Expedited environmental review for many federal projects. Mica stressed that Republicans aren't "running over" environmental protection rules, but that times for those reviews should be shortened. The bill also shrinks some consecutive environmental assessments into concurrent ones.

-$1 billion in expanded funding for state and local transpo loans under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). It's a popular program, and that one has bipartisan support.

-Cuts AMTRAK funding by 25% in 2012 and 2013.

-Has no provisions for high speed rail except for what Mica described as "placeholders"

-Increases the allowable weight for trucks to 126,000 lbs, another provision that has the rail industry hopping mad.

-New incentives for states to require that convicted drunk drivers must use breathalyzer locks to start their cars. Beverage and Restaurant groups are up in arms over the provision and are vowing a fight. "We're going to work with everybody. The bill isn't final," said Mica, acknowledging the controversy.

And final it is not. Mica's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is set to mark up the bill in a marathon session Thursday. So long, in fact, that the chairman urged reporters to bring "hemorrhoid cream" to the session. But that's only part of the work that needs to be done. GOP leaders intend to use expanded energy revenue to help pay for the bill's big funding gap. That means that other committee's, including the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee have to get involved to authorize new projects and raise money.

After that's all done the bill goes head-to-head with a smaller, two-year Senate bill with significantly fewer reforms but higher spending for the Highway Trust Fund.

And here's a twist to watch: Over the weekend House Speaker John Boehner suggested Republicans may use the bill as a vehicle to try and force President Obama to approve the controversial Keyston XL oil sands pipeline. That's assuming the pipeline isn't passed as part of a deal to extend payroll tax breaks and unemployment benefits through the end of the year.

Mica, who is fond of stressing the commonalities he and Senate Democrats have over transportation issues, laughed when asked if inclusion of Keystone XL might upset the chances for an election-year compromise.

"What are you, some kind of troublemaker," he said.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich

Read More

Comment

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.)

 

 

 

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Republicans Grill LaHood About High-Speed Rail, MTA Testfies about Winter Storm Readiness

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Top stories on TN:

NY Governor Cuomo's deal on the MTA's payroll tax won't cut its budget--yet. (Link)
Following a drunk driving arrest last weekend, FAA head Randy Babbitt resigns. (Link)
HOT lanes deal for I-95 in Northern VA was announced. (Link)
A new poll says Californians would vote to kill high-speed rail funding. (Link)

A NYC bus stuck in the aftermath of the 12/26/10 blizzard (photo by John Chevier via Flickr)

House Republicans "treated Ray LaHood’s high-speed rail program like a piñata" at yesterday's hearing. (Politico/MT)

The prime minister of Somalia is back on the job in New York's Department of Transportation. (New York Times)

NYC transit officials told City Council they forgot about a stranded subway train during last year's blizzard. (New York Times)

The new head of New York's MTA is facing his first big labor relations test. (Gotham Gazette)

Are parking maximums as bad for New York City as real estate developers say they are? (Atlantic Cities)

More than half of Americans oppose body scanners because of cancer fears. (ProPublica)

Scottish politicians said they'd pay for high-speed rail if Parliament builds a network north of Birmingham. (Guardian)

Princeton's plan to add an arts and transit hub to the neighborhood moved one step closer to reality. (NJ.com)

More than 110 House members from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to the White House supporting a six-year transportation bill. (New York Times)

A Swedish group is offering insurance for fare beaters. (Atlantic Cities)

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

House GOP Marries Domestic Energy to Transportation Funds

Thursday, November 17, 2011

John Boehner (center), with representatives Tim Murphy (L) and Doc Hastings (R), introducing the American Jobs & Infrastructure Act

House Republicans unveiled the outlines of a transportation authorization bill Thursday, relying on controversial methods of paying for highways that are already arousing the ire of Democrats.

The GOP plan pays for highways by expanding domestic energy production in three areas: offshore oil drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf, oil shale, and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, otherwise known as ANWR.

In addition to domestic energy, the plan also calls for reforms and cuts in infrastructure programs. It eliminates so-called "transportation enhancements" that states now must fund out of federal highway dollars.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), flanked by several House GOP committee chairmen, teased the five-year bill for reporters but offered few specifics. The bill seeks to expand domestic energy production and also streamline and deregulate federally funded infrastructure projects. It's part of an effort to both fund highway construction and stretch scarce federal dollars further.

Some specifics of the bill were first reported Wednesday evening by Transportation Nation.

Republicans leaders want to use  expanded energy production to try and  match Senate Democrats' on highway funding, according to lawmakers familiar with the plan. Senate Democrats have offered a 2-year, $54 billion package for the Highway Trust Fund. That would suggest Republicans' Highway bill could run as high as $130 billion over five years, though the number could drop significantly if streamlining and deregulation cut the cost of doing projects.

"Our bill links job-creating energy production and infrastructure together," Boehner said at Thursday press briefing.

But Democrats were quick to lash out at the plan, even though it still exists only in outline form and has no price tag attached.

"They're not serious," said Rep. Nick Rahall, the senior Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He was referring to drilling in ANWR, a perennial partisan flashpoint in Congress and the epitome of 2008's Republican refrain, "Drill, baby, drill".

"Why would they talk about something that they know is going to raise the wrath and anger of our side," Rahall said. "We've been through this before."

Hearings are set to begin Friday, when the House Committee on Natural Resources is scheduled to hold a hearing entitled "ANWR: Jobs, Energy and Deficit Reduction."

Republicans are stressing the first two. Boehner late last week railed against President Obama's decision to delay construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, saying it would prevent the creation of 20,00o jobs. Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) Thursday said ANWR's North Slope could hold as many as 10.5 billion barrels of oil.

Still, politics aside, revenue is the big question. Democrats were quick to point out that expansions in offshore drilling royalties would only net $1 billion to $2 billion over ten years. And it dwarfs on-land drilling or shale production.

The bill is also, in large measure, the Republicans' answer to President Obama's election-year push for direct infrastructure spending as a vehicle for job creation. Democrats have spent more than a month applying political pressure to Republicans, pitting infrastructure projects and other popular programs against GOP opposition to tax increases on the wealthy. Boehner cast the bill in economic--and political--terms.

"We don't need more short-term stimulus gimmicks," he said. He decried "meddling and micromanaging our economy."

Boehner and other Republicans aren't talking about where they intend to get the money to pay for the bill. "They're not all available today," Boehner said, when asked about pay-fors for the plan. Boehner said he hopes to see the plan pass out of the House by the end of the year.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich

 

 

Read More

Comment

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.

Read More

Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

Single Senator Holding Up Transpo Funding Deal

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

US Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)

A deal between Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress to temporarily extend authorizations for both the Federal Aviation Administration and surface transportation programs has hit a snag. And that snag is Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

Coburn is blocking the Senate from moving on to a combined FAA-highway bill approved Tuesday by the House. He's objecting to long-standing language in the surface transportation funding bill, known as SAFETEA-LU, that directs 10 percent of some of the bill's funds to non-road projects. About 60 percent of funds under that provision, known as Transportation Enhancements, go to biking and pedestrian projects. Other uses range widely.

The Oklahoma budget hawk took to the Senate floor Wednesday to list some of the projects that may be funded under under what the highway bill designates as "enhancements." They include a simulator at a Corvette museum in Kentucky and "White Albino Squirrel Sanctuary." Coburn complained that such projects are a waste of transportation dollars at a time when the country faces both deep deficits and crumbling roads and bridges.

"There ought to be a time in which we say enough's enough," Coburn said.

Any individual senator can object to consent requests that let the Senate operate more quickly. Coburn's objection could force  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to go through procedural motions that would require days to pass the FAA-transportation extension deal.

That's not uncommon in the slow-moving Senate. But the problem here is that the FAA's current authorization expires on Friday. Failure to approve a temporary FAA reauthorization by then would mean another shutdown, one both parties intended to avoid.

Coburn's objection clearly irritated Reid, who on Thursday suggested the Oklahoma Republican was trying to act as "a dictator" in the Senate.

Coburn offered two ways around a potential FAA shutdown Friday: 1) separate the FAA and highway bills, pass the FAA bill and let the House do the same; or 2) amend the combined package before the Senate to take out the "enhancements."

Negotiations continue.

Stay tuned.

Read More

Comments [6]

Transportation Nation

No-Drama Extensions for FAA, Transpo, on Tap in Congress

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Washington, DC -- Even the most rabid prize fighters go to their corners to rest.

Just six weeks after an ugly and embarrassing showdown that shuttered the Federal Aviation Administration for several days, the House on Tuesday easily extended the agency's authorization for four months. They even combined it with a six-month extension of controversial federal surface transportation legislation. The melded package passed the House on a voice vote.

Now the package heads to the Senate, and while easy passage is never guaranteed, it appears headed for approval by week's end there too.

So how did we get from a toxic FAA shutdown in August to an easy, drama-free extension in September? A combination of political pressure and progress on broader issues are at play.

Republicans returned from the August recess last week acknowledging what they said was public disgust with Washington dysfunction. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) stressed that government shutdowns and brinkmanship do no good for a flagging economy. And with President Barack Obama now trying to hold lawmakers' to account for some election-year job-creation, the premium is now on cooperation--or at least the appearance of it.

In August, the FAA shutdown because Senate Democrats wouldn't accept a House Republican bill that cut about $16 million from a rural airport subsidy program known as the Essential Air Service. House Transportation Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) was seen by many to be intentionally antagonizing Democrats like Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

But the public, largely blind to the struggles of career lawmakers, saw it as a failure of an already failing Congress. Both sides seemed loathe to repeat the exercise so soon.

A senior House GOP aide maintained that the shutdown was entirely the fault of the Senate Democratic leadership. "It didn't make anybody in Congress look good," he said.

That conclusion by House leaders prevailed this week after Mica crafted another FAA extension bill, this one with budget cuts to the agency almost guaranteed to enrage Democrats. The bill was quickly supplanted by one crafted by House leaders that combines an essentially "clean" FAA extension with a highway bill extension at current funding levels.

"I had crafted another FAA authorization," Mica said in an interview Tuesday, just after House passage of the temporary extensions package. "It's basically been a good day. There have been some tough days to lead to a good day," he said.

But negotiations are also moving ahead on some of the tough political issues still dividing Republicans and Democrats in a separate, long-term FAA reauthorization. On Tuesday, Reid linked the easy FAA and highway bill temporary reauthorizations to progress on bigger issues in the FAA permanent bill.

"We're working very very hard to come up with a way of getting the FAA bill done on a permanent basis and getting the highway bill done on a longer term," Reid said.

Neither Mica nor Reid would elaborate on the issues they're discussing in longer term bills. But many of the issues are well-known. Republicans have insisted on repealing an Obama Administration rule, enforced through the National Mediation Board, making it easier for workers at non-union airlines and rail companies to organize. Republicans, both in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, are also going after a the White House for a National Labor Relations Board ruling that sanctioned Boeing for moving operations from Washington State to  South Carolina, where union protections are relatively lax.

"We're working very well with the leadership in the House, convincing them that we're doing our best, I'm convinced they're doing their best to try to get these done on a longer term basis," Reid said.

It is, of course, too early to say whether this-week's detente will lead to agreements between the parties on the FAA and sighway bills. The labor issues in the FAA bill play to the political cores of both parties. And House Republicans and Senate Democrats remain billions of dollars apart on their versions of transportation funding over the next several years.

One senior Senate Democratic aide said the temporary deal merely buys more time for a broader deal that may or may not materialize. "There's been a lot of happy talk, but there hasn't yet been any actual show of compromise," the aide said.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

Obama's Big Speech May Simply Ask for Things to Remain the Same

Thursday, September 08, 2011


The White House is holding the details of its infrastructure spending plan close to the vest, but as clear as anyone can make out it amounts to this:  don't spend less than we're spending now.

By all accounts, tonight President Obama will urge Congress to get $50 billion to $100 billion out the door on road and bridge construction spending as quickly as possibly, in the belief that getting money into the economy through construction jobs will help stop the economic hemorrhage.

(Note: I'll be live-chatting the speech over at our sister site, It's a Free Country, here. )

There's also widespread belief he'll push for an infrastructure bank -- a federally-backed bank that would funnel private capital to big projects like roads, bridges, and transit.

But as far as anyone can tell, much of what he'll be proposing won't be new money, it will just be a plan to front-load spending that, in a parallel universe, would have already been authorized by now.

Now, let's recap. In September, 2009, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill -- the massive, multi-year legislation that funds roads, bridges, and transit -- was set to expire.

At the time, everyone -- including Rep. John Mica (R-FL), then the ranking Republican member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (and the current chair) -- wanted the bill to double in size from $244 billion over four years to about half-a-trillion dollars over six years.

But no one knew how to pay for it.

There were ideas, to be sure.  Raise the gas tax, which hasn't gone up since 1993. Toll highways.  Charge people for the number of miles they drive.

But at that point in the Obama administration the focus was on reforming health care. Until that got done, there wasn't going to be any talk of raising taxes. The administration pushed for, and got, an 18-month extension to March, 2011.  The bill was extended again.  And now, at the end of this month, it expires again -- in an atmosphere where the GOP-controlled Congress has made clear its willingness to shut down a federal agency rather than cave on spending priorities.

Which brings us to our present circumstance.  Congress wants to drastically reduce the size of the transportation bill from current levels, to $230 billion over six years.  The Democratic Senate wants $109 billion over two years, essentially matching the current level of spending.

And the president wants spending to happen as quickly as possible.

But no one in Washington is suggesting a level of spending that, just two Septembers ago, had bi-partisan support.

On Thursday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a "clean extension" of the transportation bill, setting the stage for further discussions.

But what it amounts to is this:  in September 2011, the President's rare address to a joint session of Congress will be used, in part, to argue that to stimulate the economy, it shouldn't heave its budget axe.

Instead, it should do about half as much as it might have done anyway, two Septembers ago.

 

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

Senate Tees Up Transpo Fight with House Cost-Cutters

Thursday, July 21, 2011

UPDATED Senate lawmakers officially unveiled their crack at a new transportation authorization bill Wednesday, setting up a clash with the House that could see transportation legislation continue to languish.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) are trying to build support for their 2-year highway bill worth about $54.5  billion per year. That's just about what the surface transportation programs cost right now. And it's that fact that has the Senate on a collision course with cost-cutting House Republicans.

Senators are giving their bill the catchy moniker, "MAP-21", standing for "Moving Ahead with Progress for the 21st Century".  The bill, which exists only in outline-form for now, is looking for 35% more money per year for Highway Trust Fund than the competing House measure. What's more, senators want a quick 2-year extension that could be altered again in the next Congress. House Republicans, lead by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) want a six-year extension at $35 billion per year for highway programs.

The Senate bill has a $12 billion budget gap over gas-tax revenues that would need to be filled before the $109 bill 2-year bill could be passed.

Current transportation authorization law expires September 30th, which will either force a compromise or, more likely, result in a temporary extension of current law.

At hearings Wednesday, Boxer urged lawmakers to "act now", because cuts envisioned in the House bill would cost 630,000 jobs. "If we don't step up to the plate, we will see all these hundreds of thousands of jobs lost and we will see our infrastructure continue to crumble," she said.

That's not to say the Senate and Mica are completely at odds. Both bills inject $1 billion into the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, a favorite of city and regional officials because it fronts loans and loan guarantees for infrastructure projects. TIFIA is worth only about $120 million now, and the potential increase has hard-lobbying mayors ecstatic.

"Any reduction in funding to our nation’s transportation programs will deal a devastating blow to local projects, local jobs and the national recovery," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday. "Take it from an Angeleno, congestion is a job-killer," he said.

The Senate bill's other main feature is a consolidation regime that compresses more than 85 transportation and infrastructure programs down to 30. The idea is to pare down redundancy and give states more control over the specifics, according to aides.

"These changes will ensure that Americans get the most for their gas tax dollars Inhofe said Wednesday. He said the bill has lacks livability standards Democrats wanted, though it does not go far enough to streamline federally-funded projects.

"What we do have is a bill that can pass the Senate," Inhofe said.

What they also have is a bill that's going to pick a fight with spending hawks in the House and elsewhere. In fact, not even all of the transportation funding in MAP-21 is paid for by the trust fund, meaning tax-writers in the Finance Committee will have to go about the task of finding the difference in an austerity environment.

There are still more transportation proposals to come in the Senate. Split jurisdiction give responsibility for passenger rail and transit to other committees, so stay tuned for those proposals.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Dueling Transportation Bills Released in House, Senate; US and Mexico Reach Cross-Border Trucking Deal, and LA Girds for "Carmageddon"

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Dueling transportation bills will be rolled out today in both the House and the Senate. (Wall Street Journal)

The U.S. and Mexican governments reached an accord to resolve a 15-year cross-border trucking dispute. (The Takeaway)

The Twin Cities' transit system is facing a fare increase -- and a round of cuts. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Metro Atlanta is in for a reality check today when the Atlanta Regional Commission chops the region's $22.9 billion wish list of transportation projects in half. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

New York City won't test-drive a ban on cars in Central Park -- despite local community board support. (New York Daily News)

Officials broke ground on what will be Los Angeles County's first freeway toll lanes, the idea being that drivers will be willing to pay significant sums to avoid rush-hour traffic.  (Los Angeles Times)

Meanwhile, Los Angeles girds itself for the coming "carmageddon." (New York Times)

Some major US companies are leaving the suburbs and relocating their headquarters in cities. (Marketplace)

A flying car -- or "roadable aircraft," whichever you prefer -- has gotten regulatory clearance from the federal government. Watch the video below to see it in action -- folding wings and all. (Wall Street Journal)

Crafters: knit your own bike basket.

Read More

Comment

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.

 

 

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: How Livery Cabs Set Fares, Obama Administration Looks at Taxing Cars Based on Miles Driven, and Boom Times For Boston Transit

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Illinois got $186 million of Florida's rejected high-speed rail funding. (Chicago Tribune)

The Obama administration has floated a transportation authorization bill that would tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive.  (The Hill)

New York's City Council grilled DOT officials over the agency's pedestrian plaza program. (NY1)

Oil prices drop below $110 a barrel; but Marketplace's London correspondent says in his city, gas is "right around $9.00 dollars a gallon. Luckily I take the London Underground everywhere I need to go."

Boston's transit agency had its biggest jump in ridership in two years. (WBUR)

WNYC looks at how livery cabs set fares.

The golden age of airlines' frequent flyer programs is over. (Gannett via Asbury Park Press)

General Motors's quarterly profit tripled; the company also posted its fifth consecutive profitable quarter. (NY Times)

Speaking of GM: the company said (playfully, perhaps?) that it will bring back the El Camino if 100,000 people say they want it; Jalopnik calls their bluff.

1968 Chevrolet El Camino (photo by Useute via Wikimedia Commons)

Can a high-tech bike get kids interested in engineering? (Good)

Blimps rise again! (The Daily Climate)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--Ray LaHood will announce bus safety measures (link)

--NYC Transit is employing a 'station domination' ad strategy (link)

--Gridlock alert: the president is visiting Ground Zero today (link)

--the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride visited the White House (link)

--airfares rise; NJ has both most and least expensive (link)


Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Cost of Driving Up, Budget Battle Threatens Transpo Reauthorization, and it's Yankees Vs. MTA in the "Great New York Subway Race"

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

At a Municipal Arts Society panel (hosted by TN's Andrea Bernstein), NYC DOT head Janette Sadik-Khan talked about public plazas -- and Gridlock Sam talked about the backlash to current street changes. (Streetsblog)

The budget battle is endangering the Obama administration's transportation reauthorization plans. (Greenwire via New York Times)

The NY Daily News is reporting that an Inspector General probe found widespread misuse of police parking placards by lawmakers and other state officials, says Governor Cuomo will call for major changes in the way the parking passes are distributed.

AAA says the cost of driving rose 3.4% over last year. (USA Today)

San Francisco's Muni has a plan to bring riders more frequent service and faster trips on its busiest lines. But it will take nine years and cost $167 million - including at least $150 million the agency doesn't have. (San Francisco Chronicle)

The New York Yankees and the NY MTA are in a dispute about the "Great New York Subway Race." But it sounds like it was a misunderstanding and fans will hopefully see the epic battle between the B, D and 4 trains on the scoreboard soon.  (Article from NY Daily News; see video of the Subway Race below.)

March Madness fans broke Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority's light rail ridership record numbers with an estimated 148,000 basketball fans riding trains to and from the NCAA Final Four games during the four-day event. (Houston Chronicle)

Stanford University tops the League of American Bicyclist's list of bike-friendly university. (Kansas City Star)

Richard Branson has launched Virgin Oceanic, a deep-sea submarine project. (BoingBoing)

Actor Kevin Spacey rode a DC's bikeshare program bike. (DCist)

The 2011 NYC Cycling Map (pdf) is now available.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New York's MTA is installing...subway communicator thingies on some station platforms. California applies for high-speed rail funds. And the DOT says that airline tarmac delays were down last month.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comment

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)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.


Read More

Comments [2]

Transportation Nation

Governor Rendell on Transportation's Future, and His Own

Monday, November 22, 2010

Governor Edward Rendell in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in November 2009. (TED VAN PELT/Creative Commons via Flickr)

To transportation watchers, Governor Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania is a familiar face—and an unmistakeable voice. His raspy enthusiasm for the un-sexy world of infrastructure has been consistent and contagious. Two years ago, Rendell co-founded, with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Building America's Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials dedicated to "bringing about a new era of U.S. investment in infrastructure that enhances our nation's prosperity and quality of life."

In his eight years as Governor, Rendell showed a remarkably open mind when it came to financing infrastructure. He has repeatedly advocated for the indexing of the gas tax and recently suggested a profit tax on oil companies to pay for transportation. In 2007, he unsuccessfully sought permission from his state legislature to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private operators. When the legislature declined, Rendell sought approval from the USDOT to add tolls to his state's stretch of Interstate 80. The federal government denied that plan—twice—because the applicable pilot program restricts the use of toll revenues to the tolled facility itself, and Rendell had a statewide investment program in mind.

Though he is a Democrat, Rendell's eagerness to promote privatization and the tolling of sacrosanct Interstates put him in step with unpopular stances taken by Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters during the Bush Administration. Those ideas remain alive under President Obama, and several former Rendell associates now occupy high places in the USDOT:  his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Roy Kienitz, is now Undersecretary for Policy; and Polly Trottenberg, the former executive director of Building America's Future, is now Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy.

Transportation Nation's Matt Dellinger interviewed Governor Rendell last week, and asked about the new political atmosphere in Washington, how it could affect transportation policy, and where Rendell is headed after he leaves his post in January.

Matt Dellinger: Since you're one of the most outspoken advocates for transportation investment, I wanted to get your thoughts on where we are as far as federal re-authorization.

Governor Ed Rendell : Well, it's difficult to say exactly with the change in Congress. I think the chances of a megabill like Congressman Oberstar had proposed are probably pretty remote, and

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

Highways get a $3.7 billion boost in House bill

Thursday, July 01, 2010

(Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation, Washington, DC) National transportation programs get a $3.7 billion dollar boost over last year in the House’s latest appropriation bill funding the Department of Transportation.

The increase includes new money for highway repairs and improvements, which have been in limbo with Congress unable to reach agreement on transportation or highway policy bills.

The House Appropriations Committee released a summary of the bill Thursday as the bill works its way through the legislative process on its way to the floor later this summer. DOT would get a total of $79.4 billion in Fiscal 2011, which begins Oct 1. That’s $3.7 billion more than the agency’s budget this year and $1.7 more than requested by President Obama.

Most of the money in the bill—$45.2 billion--goes to federal highway maintenance and construction. It’s a $3.1 billion increase designed to help fill a hole left by the stalled transportation reauthorization bill.

Read More

Comment