Posts Tagged ‘Trump administration’

AAPA Critical of Proposed Funding Cuts

May 26, 2017

Another transportation interest group has come out in opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts for fiscal year 2018.

The Association of Port Authorities this week said the proposed cuts would reduce funding to programs that are “critically important to ports.” In a statement, the group singled out Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants and port security grants.

The AAPA said the Trump budget would reduce Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund outlays and assistance in reducing diesel emissions.

The group favors spending $66 billion in federal funds for port-related infrastructure over the next 10 years and investing $33.8 billion to maintain and modernize deep-draft shipping channels, as well as $32.03 billion to build vital road and rail connections to ports and improve port facility infrastructure.

The Trump budget does seek money for harbor deepening projects in Boston and Savannah, Georgia, but AAPA noted that Congress has authorized 15 such projects.

AAPA did say it was encouraged by the administration’s infrastructure proposal and favors the concept of using federal funds to leverage private sector investments. It said that competitive grants often attract non-federal dollars, including money from the private sector.

Trump Infrastructure Plan Included in Budget

May 25, 2017

It turns out that the Trump administration’s much-ballyhooed transportation infrastructure plan was tucked away inside the fiscal year 2018 budget announced on Tuesday although you can be forgiven for having missed it.

It was contained in a six page fact sheet as part of the budget proposal.

As hinted at by various administration officials, including Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, the plan proposes spending $200 billion over 10 years with the expectation that the money will attract and support $1 trillion in private/public infrastructure investment.

The budget document described the plan as a combination of new federal funding, incentives for private sector investment, and expedited projects.

“The administration’s goal is to seek long-term reform on how infrastructure projects are regulated, funded, delivered and maintained,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said at a news conference.

She said more details will be forthcoming, including a legislative package later this year, but Chao described the plan outlined on Tuesday as “the main key principles.”

The plan calls for making changes in regulations so as to speed up the environmental review and permit process and shifting more service to the private sectors.

One example of the latter mentioned in the budget document would be to transfer the air traffic control system from the Federal Aviation Administration to a nonprofit or nongovernmental entity in 2021.

Another change would be to expand the ability of states to impose tolls on interstate highways by reducing existing restrictions on that practice.

Related to that the plan is a proposal to allow private investors to construct and maintain rest stops along highways.

A report by The Hill, said that the infrastructure plan relies on leveraging private sector investment, ensuring federal dollars are targeted toward transformative projects, shifting more services and underused capital assets to the private sector and giving states and localities more flexibility.

Pilot programs will be proposed to explore new environmental reviews, designate a single entity to guide a project through the approval process; put some permitting into the hands of states and localities, and ensure that agencies don’t need to worry about making a permit approval process litigation proof.

Funding of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program will be boosted to $1 billion every year.

The proposal to allow states to impose tolls on interstate highways won the approval of Patrick D. Jones, executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, although with some qualifications.

“Congress should give states access to one more tool in the toolbox by allowing them to toll their interstate highways specifically to rebuild them,” he said. “This wouldn’t be a mandate. No state would be required to toll their interstates. This would simply give states an option, the flexibility to choose tolling if it makes sense to them.”

President Donald Trump had spoken often during his 2016 campaign about the need to improve the nation’s infrastructure.

He mentioned it again during an election night speech and during a Feb. 28 address to Congress, saying it would create millions of jobs.

In response, Democrats noted the Trump’s budget would provide just $5 billion in FY 2018 and did not provide any detail about where the money would go or how it would be paid for.

But Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune said the plan “recognizes important needs in our country and takes a long-term view on meeting those needs.”

Chao expects Congress to begin working on the infrastructure package in the third quarter of this year.

APTA Decries Proposed Grant Program Cuts

May 25, 2017

In a statement, the American Public Transportation Association was critical of plans by the Trump administration to end two grant programs that benefit public transit.

The administration’s fiscal year 2018 federal budget proposal seeks to end the Transportation Investment Generating Economy Recovery grants and to phase out the Capital Improvement Grants program.

“This budget proposal to eliminate critical public transportation infrastructure projects is inconsistent with addressing America’s critical transportation needs and helping America’s economy prosper,” said Richard White, APTA’s acting president and chief executive officer, in a news release. “These targeted cuts to public transit go directly against the president’s own calls for new infrastructure spending.”

An earlier “skinny budget” blueprint released by the White House had outlined the administration’s desire to slash both programs, but some public transportation officials had hoped that a backlash against those proposed cuts would change the administration’s mind.

APTA said that Congress has been annually funding the TIGER grant program “at significant levels.”

The proposed transit cuts would put 800,000 jobs at risk and a possible loss of $90 billion in economic output, APTA officials said, citing a recent economic analysis prepared for the association.

That analysis said the spending cuts would endanger $38 billion of already planned transit projects.

“We are extremely concerned with the administration’s proposal to phase out existing infrastructure programs that are putting people to work building projects that our communities need and support,” White said.

Trump Budget Slashes Amtrak Funding 45%

May 24, 2017

The Trump administration wants to slash Amtrak funding by 45 percent in fiscal year 2018.

The detailed budget proposed released this week proposed giving Amtrak $744 million.

In the current fiscal year, Amtrak received $1.4 billion. The cuts for next year include ending $289 for Amtrak’s long-distance train routes.

The budget document described long-distance trains as “a vestige of when train service was the only viable transcontinental transportation option. Today, communities are served by an expansive aviation, interstate highway, and intercity bus network.”

The document said Amtrak’s long-distance trains represent the greatest amount of Amtrak’s operating losses, serve relatively small populations, and have the worst on-time record.

The Trump administration would instead appropriate $1.5 billion for the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.

[The Northeast Corridor] “faces many challenges, and the 2018 Budget proposal would allow Amtrak to right-size itself and more adequately focus on these pressing issues,” the budget document said.

Nonetheless, the Trump administration has proposed cutting funding for the development of New York’s Penn Station by 64 percent from $14 million to $5 million.

The Amtrak funding cuts make up the lion’s share of the 37 percent cut proposed by the Trump administration for the Federal Railroad Administration.

The agency’s parent organization, the U.S. Department of Transportation, would receive $16.2-billion in FY 2018, a decline of 12.7 percent over what it received in FY 2017.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s budget would drop by 37 percent from $1.7 billion to $1.05 billion while Federal Transit Administration will decline by 5 percent from its FY 2017 appropriation of $11.8 billion.

The FTA would receive $11.2 billion, which includes $9.7 billion for transit formula grants. The FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program for new starts would be cut by 43 percent from $2.16 billion to $1.2.

Funding would be continued only for programs that FTA is legally bound to support through full-funding grant agreements.

Funding for the Transportation Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be eliminated.

The budget document said projects that are attempting to receive TIGER funding could still earn grants through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highways Projects fund managed by DOT’s Build America Bureau.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation programs would remain in place, but receive no additional funding.

The National Transportation Safety Board would receive $106 million, which is no change from FY 2017.

The Surface Transportation Board would receive a $5 million boost to $37 million in order to implement regulatory changes under the STB reauthorization law of 2015.

The Trump administration budget proposal is likely to undergo numerous changes as Congress considers federal funding priorities for FY 2018.

Infrastructure Plan to be Released by Late May

May 19, 2017

Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao told a Senate committee this week that the Trump administration’s U.S. infrastructure revitalization plan will be released before the end of May.

However, Chao said in her testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that it will be fall before a more detailed plan is presented.  She said that will coincide with a congressional timetable.

“In the interim, obviously the president is very impatient, and he has asked that principles be released, so they should be coming out shortly,” Chao said.

She declined when pressed to provide any details other than to repeat earlier statement that the plan will be focused on using federal dollars to attract additional funding from state and local governments, and the private sector.

“The infrastructure proposal is being put together with a much greater view of principles,” Chao said. “Given the decentralized nature of our transportation infrastructure, there will be seeding of federal dollars that, hopefully, will leverage other monies from the private sector, state and local to $1 trillion.

“Federal funding often displaces state and local funds. We believe that the infrastructure needs are so great that all entities need to collaborate,” she said.

Some senators used the hearing to actively promote transportation projects in their states, ranging from transit capital funding to the Caltrain’s Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project to the need to rebuild Northeast Corridor infrastructure.

Some senators also expressed concern about the future of DOT TIGER and FASTLANE competitive grant programs.

Chao acknowledged that TIGER grants were popular with Congress. A Trump fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint has proposed ending TIGER funding, but Chao said it could re-emerge in a different form.

“The thought was that going forward there be a more holistic approach to infrastructure, and these TIGER grants would be recast some way in the future,” Chao said.

Chao Hints at Infrastructure Plan Contents

May 16, 2017

Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao gave a hint on Monday about the proposed Trump administration’s infrastructure repair plan, saying that it will involve $200 billion in federal funding that the administration expects to attract $1 trillion in private funding over the next decade.

Chao did not say when the plan will be announced other than it will be during the next several weeks.

“There has never been a more exciting time to be involved in infrastructure,” she said at an event marking national infrastructure week. “It’s a national priority, and has growing public support. There is also rare bipartisan consensus that now is the time to act.”

Chao has indicated that the plan will also include steps to streamline the permit and approval process and give the highest priority to states and cities that have already secured funding for local projects.

Infrastructure Plan Might Not Benefit Amtrak

May 15, 2017

Public-private partnerships are unlikely to provide much, if any, benefit to Amtrak an executive of the carrier said last week during an industry conference to discuss the pending Trump administration infrastructure program.

Many attending the conference, which was sponsored by the Association of American Railroads, believer that the yet-to-be announced Trump plan will rely heavily on private investment.

That won’t provide much help to Amtrak said Caroline Decker, Amtrak’s senior vice president for government affairs and communications.

“There’s a lot discussion about an infrastructure package with PPPs, but when it comes to Amtrak and our infrastructure, most of that is going to require direct federal investment,” Decker said in an interview with Trains magazine.

Decker said during the a panel discussion that Amtrak’s infrastructure needs range from replacing aging bridges, tunnels and power distribution systems on the Northeast Corridor to buying new passenger cars to replace rolling stock that’s 50 years old and older.

Also speaking at the conference were other executives representing the AAR and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Ian Jeffries, a senior vice president for government affairs with AAR, said freight railroads are not seeking federal funding but instead looking to resolve funding shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund and other user-pay systems.

AAR believes that the practice of underwriting the trust fund from general revenue, which has been going on for several years, gives the trucking industry a competitive advantage.

“Truckers are our biggest partners, and our biggest competitors,” Jeffries said.

AAR also wants to see some streamlining of environmental reviews when seeking permits for new construction.

Jo Strang, the vice president for safety and regulatory policy, of the short line association said that policy makers should be reminded that short-line railroads are small businesses and that changes in policy could have unintended consequences.

She cited raising the weight limit for trucks on highways as an example of a change that could harm short lines.

Nicole Berwin, vice president for government affairs with the Railroad Supply Institute, said Congress should view the industry as an integrated whole that includes railroads and their suppliers.

Kan Nominated for Key U.S. DOT Post

April 11, 2017

Derek Kan has been nominated by President Donald Trump to become the undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Kan has served on the Amtrak board of directors since 2015 and is general manager of Lyft in Southern California.

He previously served as director of strategy at a Silicon Valley startup and has been a management consultant at Bain & Company.

Kan has been a policy adviser for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and served as the chief economist for the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

Transit Looks to Trump Infrastructure Plan

April 10, 2017

Faced with federal budget cuts, rail and transit agencies are hoping that the Trump administration will be open to helping to fund transit capital projects as part of a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that has been promised.

It is not clear yet when the plan will be rolled out or what it will seek to fund.

President Donald Trump recently said that the infrastructure plan will be for at least $1 trillion and that there may be a 90-day deadline to get started in order to receive funding.

Trump has said the plan will be revealed as early as next month.

That timeline was echoed by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao who said the administration is “working on a legislative package that will probably be in May, or late May.”

Chao said the plan will focus on investments for roads, bridges, airports and potentially broadband access, veteran hospitals, and improvements for the electrical grid and water systems.

She added that the bill containing the infrastructure plan will tackle reducing regulations.

In particular, rail and transit authorities are concerned about how the administration’s “skinny budget” seeks to reduce grant funding from the Federal Transit Authority and the U.S. DOT’s TIGER program. Hence, their interest in obtaining funding for capital projects through the infrastructure plan.

Sumwalt Named as NTSB Vice Chairman

April 7, 2017

The Trump administration has named Robert L. Sumwalt as vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

President Donald Trump said he plans to nominate Sumwalt for another five-year term on the board.

Sunwalt will replace as vice chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr, whose duties in that position  ended this week.

Dinh-Varr had served as acting chairman since March 16 and remains a board member.

The NTSB has five members, all of whom are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve five-year terms.

The NTSB also said that it was 50 years ago this week that it conducted its first investigation, a probe of a plane crash at Lexington, Kentucky, on April 3, 1967.

The board has since issued more than 2,400 safety recommendations for railroads, more than 200 recommendations in intermodal transportation, and several thousand additional recommendations for other modes of transportation.