Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Department of Transportation’

CSX VP to Head DOT Hazmat Unit

September 12, 2017

A CSX executive will be named by President Donald J. Trump to become Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Howard R. “Skip” Elliott has served for the past decade as CSX group vice president of public safety, health, environment and security.

His duties have included hazardous materials transportation safety, homeland security, railroad policing, crisis management, environmental compliance and operations, occupational health management and continuity of business operations.

Elliott is a receipient of the Association of American Railroads Holden-Proefrock Award for lifetime achievement in hazardous materials transportation safety.

A 40-year railroad industry veteran, Elliott is a graduate of Columbia Southern University and Indiana University, where he received the first ever Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Criminal Justice, and is a current member of the IU College of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean’s Advisory Committee.

PHMSA, which is housed within the Federal Railroad Administration, holds regulatory responsibility for hazmat transported in railroad tank cars. Among its most recent actions was overseeing development of the DOT-117A tank car for crude oil and ethanol transportation, and regulations governing phasing-out of older, “legacy” DOT-111 tank cars.

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DOT Taking TIGER Grant Applications

September 8, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation is taking applications for its TIGER grant program.

The program has $500 million set aside that will be awarded on a competitive basis for projects that have a significant impact on the United States, a metropolitan area or a region.

Federal legislation recently approved by Congress mandates that TIGER grants must be between $5 million and $25 million with the minimum for rural areas set at $1 million.

The selection criteria remain about the same as in previous years, DOT officials said.

However, the 2017 TIGER program will afford special consideration to projects that emphasize improved access to transportation for rural communities.

TIGER applications are due Oct. 16. DOT will hold webinars on Sept. 13 and Sept. 19 to provide technical assistance for grant applicants.

Since the TIGER program was established in 2009, DOT has awarded $5.1 billion for capital investments in surface transportation programs.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed ending the TIGER program in the fiscal year 2018 budget.

Bus Public Transit Ridership Declining

August 22, 2017

Ridership of public transportation bus systems in the United State is on a steady decline across the country.

U.S. Department of Transportation figures shows that during the second quarter of 2017 city bus ridership fell 13 percent when compared with the same period in 2007.

The data show that 3.8 million people took the bus, which was the most popular form of public transportation. Many riders are low-income workers.

Declining ridership has meant that many transit agencies have increased fares and reduced service. In many cities, transit agencies are operating fewer bus routes.

Among the factors depressing bus ridership are the rise of Uber and Lyft, low gasoline prices, and younger adults moving to city centers within walking or biking distance of work.

Ridership of the nation’s subway systems has increased by 12 percent over the past decade. Intercity bus companies showed a 22 percent increase in trips between 2010 and 2015, according to the DOT data.

Ports of Indiana to Benefit From DOT Grant

August 8, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed nearly $79 million in grants for freight-related rail, port and roadway infrastructure projects under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

One of those grants would involve $9.85 million to the Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor for enhanced intermodal facilities with rail and truck marshaling yards projects.

Once completed, the project would allow the Ports of Indiana to increase its cargo-handling capacity.

The project includes construction of a new 2.3-acre bulk berth facility, a truck-barge-truck conveyer system, a new westside rail yard and new rail connection that will connect the port’s main terminal with the new rail yard; dockside improvements, and construction of a truck marshaling yard.

DOT sent a notice to Congress on Aug. 2, thereby starting a 60-day period during which Congress could vote to disapprove the proposed projects if it finds a project objectionable.

The proposed awards would be distributed under the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies grant program, which the Trump administration now refers to as the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program.

DOT is accepting applications until Nov. 2 for fiscal year 2017 large projects and FY2018 large and small projects under the INFRA grants program.

DOT Inspector General to Review PTC Progress

July 25, 2017

At the urging of a South Dakota senator, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation will review how railroads in the United States are implementing positive train control.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, asked for the review out of concern that freight and passenger railroads are not moving fast enough toward meeting a 2018 deadline.

The review will consider how railroads are using federal funds to install PTC, which can stop or slow trains that are speeding.

At present, PTC is in operation on 27 percent of freight-rail route miles and 23 percent of passenger-rail route miles.

The technology was to have been installed by the end of 2015, but at the prodding of the railroad industry Congress reset the deadline to the end of 2018.

The industry said it was struggling to meet the original deadline due to the cost of implementing the technology.

Senators Express Dismay Over Proposed DOT Budget Cuts

July 18, 2017

Although members of a Senate committee are displeased with the Trump administration’s proposed cuts of the U.S. Department of Transportation budget for fiscal year 2018, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao was unmoved during a hearing held last week.

Trump has proposed slashing the DOT budget by $2.4 million. If Congress adopts the administration’s budget proposal, the DOT budget would fall from $18.6 billion to $16.2 billion with major cuts made from the hide of Amtrak and various transportation grant programs.

The budget proposal received a hearing from the Senate Appropriations Committee where some members spoke out in favor of keeping Amtrak as it is now.

“With regard to Amtrak, I am concerned about the impact that elimination of long-distance service would have on shared infrastructure with state-supported routes, such as the Downeaster in Maine,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman of the subcommittee on transportation.

“Long distance routes contribute in part to the capital expenditures for the Northeast Corridor,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the ranking member on the subcommittee. “That’s something of concern to many of us on the committee”

In response to a question asked by Reed as to whether DOT would be able to focus additional resources on the capital infrastructure needs of the Northeast Corridor, Chao said the Northeast Corridor is the only Amtrak route able to sustain itself and that DOT is working closely with Amtrak and local and state authorities in that region.

However, Chao said there is no money available for the Northeast Corridor except what’s in the president’s budget.

In response to a question asked by another senator, Chao suggested that finding more funding for Northeast Corridor repairs is Amtrak’s problem, not DOT’s

“These are repairs which have been delayed and the maintenance requirements are immense,” she said. “There has to be some way of looking at all these repairs, strategically figuring out [how] best to prioritize these repairs, have a program, and then execute [it].

“Amtrak has a new president, and I am very hopeful the president and the board will be able to address some of these issues.”

The Trump administration has proposed diverting money used to pay for Amtrak’s long-distance routes into funding NEC infrastructure work.

Some funding for Northeast Corridor capital projects would come from transit and commuter rail projects under the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program.

Amtrak is relying on a Capital Investment Program grant to finance some costs of building a new tunnel under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York Penn Station.

At the same time, the administration has proposed ending the TIGER grant program, which is used to help fund rail capital projects nationwide, including those that benefit intercity passenger rail.

Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., expressed concern that cuts in funding for Amtrak intercity service would increase congestion on the highways.

As Chao sees it, though, ending funding of long-distance passenger trains would enable Amtrak to focus its resources on what she termed its most vibrant component.

DOT Freight Index Set Record in May

July 17, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation said last week that its Freight Transportation Services Index was a record 126.8 in May, besting the previous best of 126.0 set in February 2017.

The index is based on the amount of freight carried by for-hire transportation entities and it increased by 2.2 percent from April.

The Freight TSI registered its largest month-over-month gain since it rose 2.9 percent from November to December 2011, DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics said.

“The May increase was broad-based, with gains in most modes, especially water and pipeline, while air freight and trucking were stable,” BTS officials said in a statement. “The increase took place despite mixed performance in other indicators in May.”

The Freight TSI increased 1.8 percent in May compared with the same period in 2016.

The Passenger TSI, which is based on month-to-month changes in travel provided by air, local transit and intercity rail services, fell 0.2 percent in May.

However, the Passenger TSI index of 126.7 was a 1.4 percent increase from May 2016.

May’s combined TSI of 126.7 was a 1.4 percent increase from April 2017 and a 3.3 percent from May 2016.

DOT Revamps FASTLANE Grant Program

July 1, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation has reworked a grant program to focus on freight-related infrastructure projects that receive some funding from the private sector and other non-federal sources.

Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies, better known as FASTLANE, has been renamed Infrastructure for Rebuilding America and will make $1.5 billion available for infrastructure projects.

In a news release, DOT said the grant guidelines have been revised to “evaluate projects to align them with national and regional economic vitality goals and to leverage additional non-federal funding.”

INFRA grants will also be used for safety-oriented projects.

For a large project, the INFRA grant must be at least $25 million. For a small project, the grant must be at least $5 million. For each fiscal year of INFRA funds, 10 percent of available funds are reserved for small projects and at least 25 percent of funding will go toward rural projects.

The FASTLANE program was authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act to provide competitive grants or credit assistance to nationally and regionally significant freight and highway projects.

Heath Hall Named to FRA Post

June 28, 2017

Heath Hall has been named deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administrator.

Hall, whose position does not need Senate confirmation, was named by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who has known him since his days working in the deputy DOT secretary’s office and in the Peace Corps.

Now a vice president in the marketing and external affairs department of non-profit Innovate Mississippi, Hall also manages Pointe Innovation magazine.

He has served as senior vice president of external affairs at the Mississippi Economic Council, the State Chamber of Commerce, and as executive director of Mississippians for Civil Justice Reform/STOP Lawsuit Abuse in Mississippi.

Hall also served as Gov. Kirk Fordice’s director of public affairs, deputy press secretary, and deputy director of communications for Fordice’s re-election campaign.

In federal government service, Hall served as an FRA intern in the public relations office before moving into the USDOT deputy secretary’s office.

During the administration of George H.W. Bush, Hall served as an intern in the White House Office of Political Affairs.

The FRA is still without a permanent administrator. Patrick T. Warren, the FRA’s executive director, is serving as acting administrator.

Railway Age magazine reported that an administrator is unlikely to be appointed before August and that the agency is without an official mandate from the Trump Administration.

U.S. DOT Seeking Public Views on Regulations

June 19, 2017

Public views are being sought by the U.S. Department of Transportation on policies, guidance documents and regulations that may create obstacles to transportation infrastructure projects.

The agency is undertaking a review of its existing polices, guidance and regulations that may be unnecessary.

As part of that review, DOT is asking affected stakeholders and the public to help identify non-statutory requirements that should be removed or revised.

Comments should be received no later than July 24.

Instructions for filing comments can be found via this link.