Posts Tagged ‘US DOT’

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.

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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.

Rosen Confirmed for Top USDOT Post

May 18, 2017

Jeffrey Rosen was confirmed this week by the Senate to be deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Rosen becomes the 18th deputy secretary in USDOT’s 50-year history.

“I am delighted to welcome Deputy Secretary Jeff Rosen to the department. His extensive background in transportation, budget, regulatory reform and management will be invaluable as we implement the president’s agenda,” said UDOT Secretary Elaine Chao.

Rosen graduated from Harvard Law School and served as general counsel and senior policy adviser for the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2006 to 2009. He was general counsel at USDOT from 2003 to 2006.

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.

2016 Tiger Grant Winners Being Named

July 29, 2016

Although the U.S. Department of Transportation has not announced the winners of the 2016 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, word is beginning to leak out about which bids have been chosen.

Thus far public officials in Tiger grantsIllinois, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island and Washington have issued news releases detailing funding awarded to projects in those states.

DOT is awarding $500 million for the eighth round of TIGER. It received 585 applications requesting $9.3 billion.

The agency has said that its 2016 focus is on capital projects that generate economic development and improve access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation for urban and rural communities.