Tag Archive for 'US DOT'

ARTBA Reports: Senate Passes FY 2020 Transportation Spending Legislation

By Dean Franks, senior vice president, Congressional relations, ARTBA

The Senate Oct. 31 passed a bundle of – FY 2020 spending bills, H.R. 3055 including one funding the U.S. Department of Transportation programs – in a modest sign of progress toward implementing full-year spending levels before the current spending law expires Nov. 21.  The House passed its version of the package June 25.

The Senate-passed legislation contains full-funding at authorized levels for highway and airport construction programs but falls short for public transportation capital grant programs.  Following recent precedent and in accordance with the two-year bipartisan budget agreement reached in July, the legislation also includes additional funding from the General Fund on highway, transit and airport programs beyond the authorized spending levels. A full breakdown of spending and a comparison to the House-passed version of this bill can be found below.

The ARTBA Co-Chaired Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) Oct. 30 wrote to the Senate to weigh in on various amendments to the legislation that were being considered.  The full letter can be found here.  The only amendment that was considered of the five the coalition supported or opposed was the Jones-McSally amendment to prevent a potential cut to core transit programs.  The 82-11 vote in support of the amendment demonstrates overwhelming support for public transportation spending at the federal level, a priority for ARTBA.

The 84-9 sweeping bipartisan vote on the entire bill reflects broad support for agencies funded by this package.  The legislation now heads to what is known as a “conference committee,” where differences between the Senate and House-passed bills will be negotiated.  ARTBA will continue advocating for maximum funding for highway, public transportation and airport construction programs and encourage Congress to enact a final bill before the current spending package expires Nov. 21.

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  US DOT is getting ready to start a fascinating study on how automated vehicles will impact “drivers and operators of commercial vehicles, including labor displacement.”  The prep work for the $1.5 million studies has been available for review lately because DOT is soliciting comments on the scope of the study.  “Labor displacement,” of course, could include truck drivers but it also could include new demands for coders and programmers to run – safely – some very big “systems.”  Cities are already well advanced in thinking about AV possibilities.  One Florida city said it could extend its Skyway people mover system into new neighborhoods with an automated system because – and here’s the important part – it could be expanded at grade, at street level.  This is critical: lower costs and community acceptance, people in older neighborhoods didn’t want the elevated structure but they will accept new transit at grade, that otherwise fits into the existing street network.  This study was requested by Congress in the 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriation act.  Unfortunately, the exact schedule for the Study is not available.
*  Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company filed an application with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeking authorization to “construct, install, modify, operate, and maintain the certain pipeline and compression facilities located in Massachusetts and Connecticut.”  This work will increase natural gas capacity on its pipeline system by approximately 72,400 dekatherms* per day. The projects include: (1) the construction, installation, operation, and maintenance of approximately 2.1 miles of pipeline loop, and (2) the abandonment and replacement of two compressor units with a new compressor unit at an existing compressor station.  This project includes service territory in or near Lawrence, MA, the site of Columbia Gas’ September 13 explosion.  People are a bit nervous and the FERC docket already contains challenges from environmental and alternate energy groups.  Just how – and whether – this project moves forward will provide important insights about gas and gas service in the Northeast states.
*  Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker established a “Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth” to advise his Administration on future transportation needs and challenges. The Commission’s work includes anticipated changes in technology, climate, land use, and the economy to determine likely impacts on transportation between 2020 and 2040. The Commission’s work is to provide “a robust grounding in facts and trends, development of plausible future scenarios, and formulation of recommendations,” due by December 1, 2018.  Transportation electrification is one focus for the Commission, the focus of one recent meeting.  The presentations were neither robust nor original, just a recitation of theoretical possibilities by people who present the same things over and over again, and get paid for it.
*A dekatherm (dth) is a unit of energy used primarily to measure natural gas, developed in about 1972 by the Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation, a natural gas pipeline company. It is equal to 10 therms or 1,000,000 British thermal units (MMBtu) or 1.055 GJ.

Dekatherm – Wikipedia

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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  Colman Dock in Seattle is Washington State Ferries’ largest ferry terminal. and supports transportation across Puget Sound.  Key infrastructure, though, has deteriorated and Washington DOT has a major replacement project underway.  Marine habitat disturbance is inevitable and US DOT has a request for comments on WA DOT’s plans to avoid incidental wildlife “takes:” accidental or unavoidable deaths of animals including seals, whales, porpoises, and dolphins.  WA DOT’s preventative efforts are extensive.  Highest estimated “takes” are to California sea lions and harbor porpoises which could reach 1,254 and 3,997 animals, respectively.  There’s a lot of numbers theory here, however, which is why this extensive document deserves a close review, especially regarding the impact on the harbor porpoise as a percentage of its total estimated population.  Comments are due June 21.
*  The Federal Transit Administration announced a competitive funding program for almost $26 million to support comprehensive planning associated with new fixed guideway and core capacity improvement projects.  This work would support economic development, ridership, multimodal connectivity and accessibility, increased transit access for pedestrian and bicycle traffic and mixed-use development near transit stations.  FTA wants big picture stuff: projects covering an entire transit capital project corridor, as opposed to proposals for individual station areas or smaller corridor sections.  Also important: “engagement with the private sector.”  Proposals are due July 23.
*  In April, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) requested public comments on offshore wind energy development within the New York Bight.  Last week, BOEM announced it is extending the public comment period to July 30, a move taken at the request of interested parties.  Potential wind energy developments would affect commercial and recreational fisheries and, of course, maritime operations, not to mention future energy customers.  A check with the docket shows 14 comments received so far, but none are yet posted for review.  The New York Bight is an area of shallow waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast.
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Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

US DOT received plenty of comments in response to the request – from the Secretary’s office – for “comments identifying unnecessary obstacles to transportation infrastructure projects that are contained in the Department’s policy statements, guidance documents, and regulations,” part of the President’s far reaching, cross-departmental effort at substantive regulatory reform.  This is surely a unique chance to get good ideas into the open and to position those ideas for action.  One DOT agency held a regulatory reform “listening session” last week to hear from stakeholders regarding initial reforms the agency has identified.

*  The focus on infrastructure was affirmed again last week with a new Executive Order “Establishing a Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure.”  The Council will have “not more than” 15 members, appointed by the President, and “drawn from the public with relevant experience or subject-matter expertise to represent the interests of the following infrastructure sectors,” a list including finance, labor, construction, environmental policy and economic development.  Interestingly, the Department of Commerce is given the lead role here.  It’s the Commerce Secretary, not Transportation, who has to prepare the basic questions, due in 60 days, setting a basis for the Council’s work.  One important task: “developing funding and financing options capable of generating new infrastructure investment over the next 10 years.”

*  Another important policy follow up and update was presented last week.  Remember the controversy with the “Waters of the United States” when the new Administration took over and ordered substantive changes?  EPA and the Department of the Army presented a proposed rule that describes and outlines next steps.  Actually it’s a two-part process that stays the changes proposed by the Obama Administration while challenges are reviewed by federal Courts.  A second step will start a new round of rule-making to conduct “a substantive reevaluation of the definition of ‘waters of the United States’.’’

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DOT updates Highway Trust Fund ticker as deadline, shortfall loom

imagesPosted by:  Anthony Foxx on


In June, we published graphs showing past balances and projected balances for the two Highway Trust Fund accounts, the Highways Account and the Mass Transit Account.  Those graphs showed the Highways Account balance quickly approaching zero with the Mass Transit Account balance not far behind.

A month later, we’ve updated the data for both accounts to reflect June’s activity.  I’m sorry to report that the situation has not really changed, and both accounts are dwindling fast.  In fact, we’re nearing the threshold for the Highways Account where we have to institute cash management procedures.logoHTF-Cash-Flow-Summary-through-06-26-15
The timing couldn’t be worse because summer is the season for road work –whether it’s patching potholes; renewing pavement, safety devices, and signage; or working on new projects.  And, as more and more of us are finding out each day, America’s roads are not in good shape.

Earlier today, we released fact sheets for every state documenting the percentage of bridges that need major attention, the percent of roads in bad or mediocre condition, and the annual cost to drivers of those maintenance challenges.

As I wrote here this morning, “It’s not a pretty picture.”

HTF-MTA-Status-FY2016-week-of-06-26-15And the picture for transit isn’t great either.  Many of our legacy systems are experiencing the same maintenance challenges our roads face.  And 45 percent of Americans don’t even have access to transit.

With current surface transportation law set to expire by the end of this very month, the time for Congress to act is clearly now.

We’ve sent them a proposal, the GROW AMERICA Act, that would address our road and transit challenges, but GROW can’t fix anything unless Congress passes it and sends it to the President’s desk for his signature.

Through the entire history of this country, we have been nothing if not a Nation of problem-solvers.

It’s time for Congress to live up to that legacy.  It’s time for a transportation bill that lasts more than a few months and increases investment in our roads, bridges, and transit systems.  It’s time to GROW.logo-1