By Brianna Gurciullo and Tanya Snyder | 04/19/2017 10:01 AM EDT
With help from Stephanie Beasley
TRUMP'S INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN IS ALREADY CREATING JOBS: One job, that is. James Ray, a principal at KPMG, has been picked for a newly created position heading up DOT's infrastructure task force. As we reported last week, DOT chief of staff Michael Britt will be replaced by Geoff Burr, who worked for Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao at the Labor Department. Britt is moving to a new position as senior adviser for FAA modernization. It's unclear whether "modernization" also implies air traffic control, though President Donald Trump has signaled his support for the idea. Lastly, Matt Kopko has been named counselor to the deputy secretary.
NOBODY'S GOT TIME FOR THAT: DHS chief John Kelly is not here for political games, especially when they involve using his employees as "pawns." As our Stephanie Beasley reports for Pros, Kelly told an audience at the George Washington University on Tuesday that he is tired of hearing complaints from Congress as well as local and state lawmakers every time news reports surface about potential abuses at airports, border crossings and other points of entry into the United States.
'Shut up': Kelly said DHS is struggling to do its job with fewer resources and "pointless bureaucracy and political meddling." The agency shouldn't also have to serve as the whipping boy for lawmakers when it enforces the rule of law, he said. If members of Congress don't want to change the legislation that they passed, "they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines," Kelly said. POLITICO's Madeline Conway also has more about Kelly's speech here.
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MT CONTEST: When will the Trump administration release an infrastructure proposal? Whoever's guess is closest to the actual date will be invited to our office for coffee and donuts with their favorite transportation reporters. (That's us, jerks.) Place your bets: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: Infrastructure contest. April 30 will be the last day to send your guess.
TRUMP'S SUNNY INFRASTRUCTURE FORECAST: Trump vowed Tuesday that "infrastructure is coming, and it's coming fast." As POLITICO's Nolan McCaskill reports, Trump said while in Wisconsin that he still wants to get a health care bill through Congress, followed by a tax overhaul and then legislation on infrastructure. As he's mentioned before, he said he'd like to pair infrastructure "with something else that's a little bit harder to get approved in order to get that approved."
ANOTHER UNITED-RELATED BILL: Freshman Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) plans to roll out a bill that would forbid airlines from taking seated customers off flights because they're overbooked, following the notorious United Airlines incident. "The legislation requires the secretary of Transportation to revise federal rules governing how airlines treat travelers with confirmed tickets on over-booked flights," Dunn's office said in a statement Tuesday. If his bill becomes law, carriers wouldn't be able to "involuntarily remove a person from their seat on an over-booked flight simply to make room for another passenger - airline employee or otherwise."
Figure it out pre-boarding: United has endured fierce criticism for the way it handled the April 9 incident, including how it asked several passengers - after they had boarded - to take a different flight so it could fit crew members. "The SEAT Act will require airlines to sort out over-booking before allowing passengers to board the airplane," Dunn said in the statement.
BY THE NUMBERS: The 12 airlines that report information to DOT for its monthly Air Travel Consumer Report said they bumped passengers who hadn't volunteered at a rate of 0.62 per 10,000 last year. It was "the lowest annual rate based on historical data dating back to 1995," DOT said Tuesday. The previous year, the rate was 0.73 per 10,000 travelers. This month's full report is here.
Plus: In addition, DOT unveiled a webpage Tuesday on passenger rights. It has information about delays, cancellations, fares and fees, refunds, accessibility for those with disabilities, discrimination, luggage issues, bumping passengers and making complaints to DOT.
INFLATION, INFLATION, INFLATION: PHMSA is raising penalties for companies that don't properly move hazardous materials - a change the agency says will account for inflation. Pro Energy's Ben Lefebvre reports: "PHMSA can now seek a maximum of $182,877 for violations that result in death, serious illness or injury, or severe destruction of property. It can also charge a maximum of $78,376 for knowing violations of a less serious sort. ... Hazmat accidents have been rising in recent years, although their severity is down, according to PHMSA data." Pros get the full download here.
SCHUMER WORRIED ABOUT CRUDE-BY-RAIL RISKS: Back home in New York for the Easter recess, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer visited Rockland County, where a CSX train derailed earlier this month. The train wasn't transporting oil, but Schumer said in a statement that a number of trains in that area indeed transport it and the community "dodged a bullet." He pressed DOT and the Department of Energy to "finalize the on-going assessment of the need for oil stabilization standards." DOT did not respond to MT's requests for comment.
WHERE WE'RE GOING, WE DON'T NEED ROADS: In their third report on "highway boondoggles," the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and the Frontier Group claim that money is "wasted" on building new highways and widening current ones. Such spending, one of the report's authors say, has "been proven ineffective at decreasing congestion, pollution and traffic, and instead add[s] strain to already limited budgets, while hurting public health and the environment."
The report lists the nine "most wasteful" highway projects in the nation, which together could cost $10 billion or more. The writers say that resources should actually be directed toward maintaining infrastructure already in place.
THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Senate Banking Committee ranking member Sherrod Brown thinks Trump's executive order on "Buy America, Hire America" won't do enough. The Democrat from Ohio said Tuesday that "reviewing Buy America" - as the order demands - "alone won't put construction workers back on the job, and until we apply Buy America to all our infrastructure and public works projects" - think: iron and steel - "we will allow this business to go to foreign countries at the expense of Ohio taxpayers." Pro Trade's Megan Cassella has more.
LOBBYING UPDATE: The American Road and Transportation Builders Association tapped Washington Council Ernst & Young to lobby on "infrastructure financing." The group of lobbyists includes Ray Beeman, former tax counsel and special adviser on tax reform to the Ways and Means Committee; Adam Francis, former deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Ways and Means member Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio); and Tim Urban, former Ways and Means staff associate for former Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.).
SLICE OF PI: Our friends at POLITICO Influence report: "Emily Hartman has joined Kia's Washington office as manager of events and branding. She was previously manager of public relations for Children's National Health System."
- "United Airlines isn't firing anyone over violent passenger removal." USA Today.
- "Amtrak determines Friday tunnel incident was 'not caused' by its infrastructure." POLITICO New Jersey.
- "New CEO shakes up railroad, starting with 'hump yards.'" The Wall Street Journal.
- House Transportation Committee Democratic leaders write a letter to the editor about the idea of separating air traffic control functions from the FAA. Washington Post.
- "Amtrak defends self from lawsuit brought by engineer in 2015 fatal derailment." Legal Newsline.
- "Malaysia Air is first airline to track fleet with satellites." Bloomberg.
- "Baidu to open source its self-driving technology." The Wall Street Journal.
- "Is Metro getting better? New numbers say yes. Rush hour, not so much." WAMU 88.5.
- "Europeans' visa-free access to U.S. needs review, Kelly says." Bloomberg.
THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 9 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 164 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,261 days.https://secure.politico.com/settings/settings
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