By Brianna Gurciullo and Lauren Gardner | 10/12/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Stephanie Beasley and Tanya Snyder
WORKING THE LINE: Every week, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) is busy making calls to his colleagues' constituents to pitch Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster's (R-Pa.) air traffic control overhaul plan to general aviation. "I don't know how I've done dozens of those," he told reporters Wednesday, noting that he gets two or three requests per week.
Call me, maybe? But when it comes to the Trump administration's long-awaited infrastructure plan, a timeline seems to be anyone's guess. "It could be this week. It could be next week," Graves said. "It possibly could be the week after." While lawmakers haven't yet put forward a marker of their own as they wait for the White House's latest iteration of infrastructure principles, Graves said the Transportation Committee has prepared for them by holding a series of hearings (like one Wednesday) featuring representatives of different modes and businesses with a stake in any eventual proposal. "Obviously, this is an administration priority, and we're going to wait for them to come forth with their ideas and their priorities in this," he said. "But this is going to be a team effort."
Sort P3s and assets separately: Shuster repeated the usual caveats about making the existing funding stream for surface transportation infrastructure sustainable while being open to other financing ideas. But he then zeroed in on asset recycling - an idea the Trump administration has batted around and that Australian officials are shopping around - as one concept Congress "ought to consider," noting that the country "hardly" sold off any assets. "Leasing is far different from selling," he said. Still, ranking member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said he wasn't sold. "It was such a grand success, they did it for two years," he scoffed.
IT'S THURSDAY: Thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports. Send along tips, feedback and lyrics to email@example.com or @brigurciullo.
"In a fast German car / I'm amazed that I survived / An airbag saved my life."
GET LISTENING: Follow MT's playlist on Spotify. What better way to start your day than with songs (picked by us and readers) that are all about flying, driving, commuting and sailing?
NIELSEN GETS THE NOD: President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated White House insider Kirstjen Nielsen to fill the top spot at DHS. POLITICO's Eliana Johnson, Andrew Restuccia and Daniel Lippman got the scoop on the administration's plan to tap Nielsen to fill the post left vacant by her current boss, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Nielsen now serves as principal deputy chief of staff and was also Kelly's top aide when he was DHS secretary. Later Wednesday, the official White House notice came through.
The South remembers: Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) made it clear that he did not consider Nielsen's track record on President George W. Bush's Homeland Security Council as a mark in her favor, Steph reports. Thompson, the House Homeland Security Committee's ranking member, said the Bush administration's "botched" response to Hurricane Katrina and the Trump administration's response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands made him doubtful of Nielsen's fitness to head DHS.
TRUMP STILL <3s TRUCKS: Trump praised truckers Wednesday evening as he gave a speech in Harrisburg, Pa., about his tax plan, calling them "heroes" and giving a shout-out to the American Trucking Associations. "'America First' means putting American truckers first," Trump said, going on to outline how he thinks his plan will boost the industry. At one point, Trump called out Kevin Burch, the president of Jet Express and the chairman of ATA. "Kevin says that if Congress passes our tax relief and reform plan, he will be able to invest in new equipment and additional training for his dock workers, drivers and technicians," Trump said.
'No potholes': The president said his administration is "committed to passing a historic infrastructure package that will generate $1 trillion to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure - with a special focus on roadways and highways." Trump added that "American trucks will glide along our highways. So beautiful will those highways be - smooth, beautiful, no potholes."
Barletta shout-out: Trump voiced confidence in the Senate bid of Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), the chairman of the House Transportation Economic Development Subcommittee, who was at Wednesday's event. "He's gonna win," Trump said at the start of his speech. "You're gonna win big."
FIRST IN MT: Nearly 30 groups and companies sent a letter Wednesday night to Trump calling for a pilot program for the FAA, states, local governments and industry to collaborate on integrating drones into U.S. airspace. The groups - including the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, AOPA, A4A, Amazon, FedEx, Intel, NATCA and UPS - say they have pitched the idea to lawmakers for months. "A pilot program would allow for a data-driven process, within a controlled operational environment, to explore the best options for states and municipalities to address their needs, as it relates to different types of UAS operations," the letter to Trump reads. "Additionally, a pilot program is the best option for informing future regulatory and congressional action that will help enhance innovation and increase economic impact."
NO WAY: Delta Air Lines will refuse to pay the tariffs that the Commerce Department has proposed to levy on Bombardier's C-Series airplanes, CEO Ed Bastian said Wednesday. "We are not going to be forced to pay tariffs or anything of that ilk," Bastian said during an earnings call, as USA Today reported . Bastian also said: "I can't tell you how this is going to eventually work out. There may be a delay in us taking the aircraft, as we work through the issues with Bombardier, who is being a great partner in this." He claimed that Delta's agreement with Bombardier to purchase 75 planes didn't harm Boeing, as the American company doesn't manufacture similar aircraft anymore.
FOR YOUR RADAR: Will Sen. Susan Collins make a gubernatorial run? The Maine Republican, who chairs the Senate's transportation appropriations panel, is going to announce her decision Friday, CNN reports.
INSIDE UBER: Our Pro Technology colleagues Steven Overly and Li Zhou recently chatted with Liane Hornsey, Uber's chief human resources officer. They touched on issues ranging from alleged discrimination and sexual harassment at Uber to how the ongoing immigration debate could affect the company's employees. They also talked about Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's new CEO. "He definitely has talked about wanting to make sure, particularly with gender, that we have good representation from the top down, all the way through," Hornsey said. "He's talked about how he achieved that at Expedia and how important it was to him personally and his value set." Khosrowshahi was Expedia's CEO for 12 years.
VIDEO DU JOUR... via the Associated Press: "Have a look inside JFK Airport's old TWA Flight Center - a midcentury classic that's being restored for use as a hotel - in this #360video."
LET'S REVIEW: Concerns remain about the safety of moving crude oil and other flammable energy products by rail a decade after the domestic shale boom, as old tank cars continue to ride the rails and track defects proliferate, the Transportation Research Board said in a report released Wednesday. The panel recommended that PHMSA study the "successes and failures" it's had in responding to safety challenges that have arisen in that time, and it urged the FRA to encourage more-frequent track inspections of routes with heavy energy-products traffic. Lauren has more for Pros.
ON THE DEFENSIVE: FedEx's CEO said Wednesday that if U.S. Open Skies agreements with Middle East nations weren't in effect, national security would be worse off. "Without these Open Skies agreements in full force, the U.S. military would face longer transit times for getting their defense supplies to critical locations, thereby impairing the military's readiness levels and potentially our country's national security," Fred Smith said at a National Defense Transportation Association and U.S. Transportation Command event, according to his prepared remarks . FedEx is a part of a group called U.S. Airlines for Open Skies, which is critical of American, Delta and United's position that the United Arab Emirates and Qatar unfairly subsidize three of their carriers, flouting their Open Skies agreements with the United States.
QUIT COMPLAINING, AIRFARES ARE GOING DOWN - OR ARE THEY? In a new policy brief released Wednesday, the Eno Center for Transportation said airline ticket prices have fallen more than 40 percent since the industry was deregulated in 1979 - despite public grumbling over airfares and fees. The U.S. Travel Association, however, says Eno's analysis undercounts taxes and airline-imposed fees, providing an incomplete picture of the costs of flying. Tanya breaks it down for Pros.
TEN THOUSAND LAKES AND ONE SSO PROGRAM: Minnesota is the second state to get FTA certification for a safety oversight program, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Wednesday at an American Public Transportation Association event in Atlanta. All states with rail transit must set up such a program by April 2019 - or the federal government could withhold funding for transit. Ohio became the first state to earn certification in August. Five states - Illinois, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee - as well as Puerto Rico "still require state legislative or executive action prior to FTA certification," DOT said in a release.
THE AFTERMATH: Although TSA has urged transportation hubs to revamp their security plans in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, there are no broader plans for DHS to issue guidelines for protecting "soft targets," DHS spokesman David Lapan told reporters Wednesday. DHS officials met with state and local law enforcement after the shooting and will continue to track emerging threats, but it has no plans to offer any kind of official guidance at this time, Lapan said. Instead, the department will continue to approach threats on a case-by-case basis.
A-EYE: Customs and Border Protection will conduct a 30-day trial of facial recognition technology at one terminal in John F. Kennedy International Airport, the agency said in a release Wednesday. CBP and TSA will use biometric scanners to take photos and compare them to travel documents. Already, CBP has set up the technology at eight U.S. airports with international flights and eventually plans to roll out a national biometric entry/exit system. CBP also has been meeting with privacy advocacy groups to address their concerns about the initiative. The agency has pledged to use images just for "analytical purposes" and delete them within two weeks.
SHIFTING GEARS: "Liam Donovan has joined Bracewell's Policy Resolution Group as a lobbyist specializing in tax, infrastructure, energy and other issues," our friends at Morning Energy report. "He comes from the Associated Builders and Contractors where he was as senior director of legislative and political affairs."
REMEMBERING DAN O'NEAL: A. Daniel O'Neal, a former chairman of the now defunct Interstate Commerce Commission, died Tuesday. He was 81, Railway Age reports. Prior to joining the ICC, O'Neal was the Senate Commerce Committee's transportation counsel. He worked at a law firm following his time at the ICC. Recently, he was a member of the Greenbrier Companies' board. He was the director of Gunderson, a Greenbrier subsidiary, for two decades.
- "Totally driverless cars could be allowed on California roads by June 2018." The Los Angeles Times.
- "U.S. embassy racks up 11 million [pounds in] traffic debt in London." POLITICO Europe.
- "FAA's panel fails to agree on need for drone security measures." Bloomberg.
- "Lufthansa set to buy parts of Air Berlin - source." Reuters.
- "Highway funding impasse hits home in Milwaukee." Governing.
- "Game of Drones: U.S. poised to boost unmanned aircraft exports." Reuters.
- "Volkswagen wants to fill the roads with heavy-duty electric trucks and busses." Mashable.
- "Ross sets hard line on NAFTA auto rules." POLITICO Pro Trade.
THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 58 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 171 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,085 days.
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