Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Department of Transportation’

Court Sides With Railroads in Amtrak Dispute

March 25, 2017

In the end Amtrak’s freight railroads prevailed in court.

A federal judge ruled in their favor by ruling that Section 207 of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act is unconstitutional and thus the metrics and standards that the Federal Railroad Administration had issued in 2011 in terms of evaluating on-time performance have now been struck down.

The ruling was made by Judge James E. Boasberg based on the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution against the taking of life, libery or property without due process of law.

The Association of American Railroads had filed suit challenging the legality of Section 207.

Boasberg’s ruling was made after the case had been remanded court by the U.S. Supreme Court with instructions as to how to proceed in the case.

Therefore, observers say, it is unlikely that the U.S. Department of Transportation will appeal the ruling.

In his ruling, the judge relied on a precedent set in an 1886 Supreme Court ruling involving Southern Pacific that found that rights granted to people by the Constitution are also granted to corporations.

The court ruled that the regulatory authority of the federal government rests only with individuals appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which is also known as the appointments clause.

The AAR had challenged Section 207, in part, because it allowed Amtrak to have some regulatory power even it is a part of the industry that is being regulated.

In July 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals found that Amtrak is a private company that may not be granted regulatory powers, overturning a May 2012 ruling by the District Court that Amtrak is a governmental entity.

A unanimous Supreme Court in March 2015 ruled that for the purposes of the constitutional clauses in question, Amtrak is a part of the government.

In sending the case back to the district court, the Supreme Court instructed it to rule further on the questions of due process and appointments.

The latest court ruling means that although Congress may lawfully create companies that act commercially within an industry and may also create regulatory bodies, it cannot create entities that do both at the same time.

AAR had asserted that Section 207 allowed Amtrak to do that.

Trump Budget Would Hit Ohio Public Transit

March 20, 2017

The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget submitted to Congress by the Trump administration would put funding-starved public transportation in Ohio in even more dire straits.

“We’re barely hanging on. It’s just going to make the existing problems even worse,” said Kirt Conrad, president of the Ohio Public Transit Association and CEO of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority.

President Donald J. Trump wants to cut the U.S. Department of Transportation budget by $2.4 billion, which is 13 percent.

Much of the adverse effect on public transportation could come from cuts to grant programs that benefit public transit systems.

The New Starts program, which was authorized to fund $2.3 billion in new rail or bus-rapid transit lines or to expand existing lines through 2020, was used by Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s HealthLine on Euclid Avenue.

“It [budget cuts] really potentially cuts future transit expansions in the country in general. It’s not just Ohio; in the whole country, public transit is at risk,” Conrad said. “In Ohio, without the federal support, I do not see those expansions.”

Also slated to be cut is the TIGER grant proram, which has also been used to fund transit in Ohio.

TIGER grants have funded rehabilitation of RTA stations, including the Little Italy-University Circle station and the University-Cedar station.

Two TIGER grants awarded in 2016 funded bicycle infrastructure in Cleveland and Akron.

Ohio transportation officials say the state’s transit systems rely on federal funding because Ohio limits the use of gas tax revenue to road projects.

Further squeezing public transit systems is a coming loss of revenue from a Medicaid MCO sale tax, which had been used for transit funding.

Starting in 2019, public transit systems in Ohio will lose $34 annually from that revenue source.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has proposed increasing state funding for public transportation by $10 million to make up part of the slack being left by the loss of the Medicaid MCO sales tax.

“Access to public transit is just getting worse, not better, in Ohio,” Conrad said.

Although the impact of the proposed Trump budget on highway construction and maintenance funding has yet to come into clear focus, transportation officials say that the loss of TIGER grants will have an adverse effect by removing another source of federal funding.

A $125 million TIGER grant helped pay, for example, for the new eastbound span of the George V. Voinovich (Innerbelt Bridge).

The Trump budget would also shift responsibility for air traffic control from the Federal Aviation administration to an independent, non-governmental organization.

Trump Wants to End Amtrak Long-Distance Train Funding, to Trim Public Transportation Funding

March 16, 2017

Here we go again. Another president has taken aim at Amtrak’s federal funding.

The proposed FY2018 budget released by the Trump administration this week calls for eliminating federal funding of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and would impose other steep cuts in transportation spending.

Amtrak would not lose all funding, but the funding it receives would be focused on supporting services within specific regions, specifically the Northeast Corridor and state-funded corridors in the East, Midwest and along the West Coast.

The budget described long-distance trains as inefficient and incurring the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses.

Trump is seeking to cut the U.S. Department of Transportation budget by $2.4 billion or 13 percent.

If Congress adopts the Trump budget blueprint, DOT will receive $16.2 billion.

Also slated for deep cuts in the budget are Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.

Funding of the New Starts program of the Federal Transit Administration will be slashed and limited to projects with existing full funding grant agreements.

In a statement with the budget, Trump said the DOT budget is being revamped to focus on “vital federal safety oversight functions and investing in nationally and regionally significant transportation infrastructure projects.”

A statement with the budget request said that the blueprint seeks to reduce or end “programs that are either inefficient, duplicative of other federal efforts, or that involve activities that are better delivered by states, localities or the private sector.”

In a statement, Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman said that Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains offer the only service in 23 of the 46 states that the carrier .

“Eliminating funding for long-distance routes could impact many of the 500 communities served by Amtrak,” Moorman said.

“These trains connect our major regions, provide vital transportation to residents in rural communities and generate connecting passengers and revenue for our Northeast Corridor and state-supported services. Amtrak is very focused on running efficiently  — we covered 94 percent of our total network operating costs through ticket sales and other revenues in FY16 — but these services all require federal investment.”

Moorman pledged to work with the Trump administration, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Congress to “understand the value of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and what these proposed cuts would mean to this important part of the nation’s transportation system.”

As for transit funding, the budget blueprint says that curtailing federal funding leaves funding up to “localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”
The American Public Transportation Association issues a statement saying it was surprised and disappointed with the budget details so far.

APTA noted that the administration has been touting a broad plan to spend $1 trillion for infrastructure investment, but “the White House is recommending cutting billions of dollars from existing transportation and public transit infrastructure programs.”

The trade group said the budget cuts would affect projects underway in Kansas City; Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas; Indianapolis; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville, Florida.

The cuts to the TIGER program is aimed at what the budget described as “unauthorized” projects. In January before Trump was inaugurated , DOT had announced that $500 million was available. The TIGER grants were first awarded in 2009.

Among the 2016 grant recipients are San Bernardino County, California., which received $8.6 million for passenger rail service; Mississippi’s 65-mile long Natchez Railway, which received $10 million for rehabilitation and upgrades for five bridges; and Springfield, Illinois, which received $14 million to build two underpasses for proposed high-speed service between St. Louis and Chicago.

Chao Confirmed as Secretary of Transportation

February 1, 2017

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Elaine L. Chao as the new federal secretary of transportation. The vote was 93-6.

US DOTChao is the only member of the Donald L. Trump administration cabinet to have previously served as a cabinet secretary, having been secretary of labor in the George W. Bush administration.

She drew bipartisan praise during her confirmation hearings and on the Senate floor.

Chao also served as chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission.

Her confirmation was lauded by the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Both trade associations are expecting Chao to take a railroad industry friendly approach to regulation.

“Ms. Chao has a deep appreciation of critical surface transportation issues. This includes the important role the rail industry plays in this country,” said Edward R. Hamberger, AAR president.

Amtrak Board Chairman Tony Coscia congratulated Chao, saying he looked forward to working with her to strengthen Amtrak. The DOT secretary has a seat on the Amtrak board of directors.

Transportation Infrastructure Needs Nearly $1B

January 17, 2017

Transportation infrastructure in the United States needs a $926 billion upgrade, the U.S. Department of Transportation says in a new report.

US DOTOf that, $26.4 million is needed per year to bolster the condition of rail and bus transit systems.

The report noted that transit route miles grew by more than 30 percent between 2002 and 2012

Light rail transit systems grew faster than any other mode of public transportation.

The report was given to Congress as part of DOT’s 2015 Conditions and Performance report, which is submitted on a biennial basis.

The last report, dated 2012, said that rail transit and bus systems needed a $17 billion per year upgrade.

CUS Gets Emerging Projects Agreement

January 14, 2017

The City of Chicago is joining with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, Metra and the Regional Transportation Authority to create an emerging projects agreement that they hope will be able to land $1 billion in federal funding to modernize Chicago Union Station.

Chicago Union StationBy creating the EmPA, the DOT will be able to provide technical assistance for obtaining federal credit through the Build America Bureau’s innovative programs.

The redevelopment of Union Station is a public-private partnership that is seeking to rehabilitate the depot for passengers as well as foster commercial developments surrounding the station.

NS Names 2 to Board, Chao to head DOT

November 30, 2016

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has been named to the board of directors of Norfolk Southern Corporation.

He will be joined on the board by Marcela Donadio, a retired partner at Ernst & Young.

Daniels is the president of Purdue University and served as the governor of Indiana between 2005 and 2013.

In other news, Elaine Chao is expected to become the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in the Trump administration.

Chao is a former deputy transportation secretary under President George H.W. Bush between 1989 and 1991, and served as the Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush between 2001 and 2009.

Toledo Amtrak Station to Get Improvements

October 10, 2016

Funding has been approved by the Ohio Rail Development Commission for a renovation of Toledo Central Union Terminal.

Amtrak 4Now known as Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, the station will receive such repairs as resurfacing the platforms used by Amtrak passengers, new drainage, improved signs and canopy repairs.

The project cost will $1.2 million. The two 1,500-foot station platforms were rebuilt by Amtrak in 2013.

They will receive tactile edges for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

ORDC gave the approval last month for spending $938,300 in federal funds for the station work.

Those funds were earmarked in 2009 in a U.S. Department of Transportation appropriation secured to support the development of a federally compliant development plan of passenger and freight rail service in the Detroit-Toledo-Cleveland corridor.

Work on that project was halted in 2011 when Ohio Gov. John Kasich ended all activities intended to develop a statewide network of 110-mph passenger trains and enhanced rail freight corridors known as the Ohio Hub Plan.

The Toledo Lucas County Port Authority, which owns MLK Plaza, is overseeing the station rehabilitation work and will contribute $250,000 of its own funds.

Other improvements that have been made in the past year at MLK Plaza have included spending $500,000 to add Greyhound station facilities and a 24- hour Subway sandwich shop.

Toledo is served by Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited.

Akron, Cleveland Land TIGER Grants

August 3, 2016

Although no rail projects in Ohio received a TIGER grant for 2016 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, projects in Akron and Cleveland did receive funding.

Tiger grantsThe City of Akron received a $5 million grant that will be used to transform portions of South Main Street in downtown Akron into a green street corridor that will include bicycle and pedestrian facilities as well as a roundabout.

The city’s application said the project will make the street an attractive multi-modal corridor as well as improve the safety for pedestrians and nearby residents. The total project cost is $14.5 million.

The Cleveland Metroparks District received a $7.9 million grant to be used to build four miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails as well as a bridge leading to Lake Erie.

The application noted that the $16.4 million project will provide better access to jobs, public transportation and green space along Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River.

Columbus Wins Smart City Challenge

June 27, 2016

Columbus has won the Smart City Challenge offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation and will receive millions of dollars in federal grant money to be used to reshape its transportation system.

US DOTThe city has already raised $90 million that will be supplemented with up to $40 million from U.S. DOT and up to $10 million from Vulcan, Incorporated.

In reshaping its transportation network, Columbus officials will be expected to integrate innovative technologies and use data, technology and creativity “to re-imagine how people and goods” move through the city.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a news release that the city is collaborating with public, private and nonprofit sectors.

“Smart Columbus will deliver an unprecedented multimodal transportation system that will not only benefit the people of central Ohio, but potentially all mid-sized cities,” he said.

Columbus nudged out Austin, Texas; Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; Pittsburgh; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco for the award.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said that finalists provided “thoughtful, intelligent, and innovative ideas that defined a vision for the future of the American city and formed a blueprint to show the world what a fully integrated, forward-looking transportation network looks like.

“The bold initiatives they proposed demonstrated that the future of transportation is not just about using technology to make our systems safer and more efficient – it’s about using these advanced tools to make life better for all people, especially those living in under served communities.”