Nathan Hurst

House GOP Touts Water Bill as a Sign of Thriving, Post-Earmark World

Updated, May 17, 3:31 p.m. | The notion of passing a major infrastructure bill through the House and Senate without earmarks seemed, at first, unthinkable.

After all, it’s a highly dysfunctional Congress, there’s an army of outside conservative groups ready to thwart legislation that doesn’t meet their standards and members from both parties have complained an earmark moratorium is a reason it’s tough to get anything done.

Surface Transportation Increase Unlikely -- Despite Infrastructure Needs, Public Transit Wants

Senators writing a six-year surface transportation bill are planning to keep status quo spending levels and skip an administration proposal to boost public transit programs and update the nation’s aging infrastructure.

Bike Sharing Is a Winner in the Senate Tax Bill

Bike sharing systems would be among the winners under draft legislation extending a laundry list of tax incentives that Senate tax writers approved last week.

Transit Advocates Won't be Caught Napping as Highway Bill Advances

Public transit advocates were blindsided when House Republicans introduced a five-year highway bill two years ago that proposed eliminating the Highway Trust Fund’s transit account.

Critics of GM Bailout Wonder Whether Government Ownership Hindered Response

Critics of the Obama administration’s bailout of the domestic auto industry are questioning whether regulators may have ignored safety defects in General Motors Co. vehicles while the carmaker was under taxpayer ownership.

In Wake of GM Recall, Lawmakers Are Set to Scrutinize Regulators, as Well as Automakers

The recall of about 1.7 million General Motors Co. vehicles for ignition switch defects linked to 13 deaths has renewed congressional scrutiny of the federal agency charged with regulating highway safety.

Local Governments Fear Plan to Tax Bond Interest Threatens Road Funding

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s proposed tax overhaul got high marks last week from federal transportation leaders for committing to prop up the ailing Highway Trust Fund, but it is drawing criticism from state and local officials who depend on municipal bonds to finance infrastructure projects.

Airport Operators Worry Tax Overhaul Would Ground Improvement Plans

In addition to worrying road builders, state highway officials and transit agencies, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s tax overhaul plan has struck a nerve with airport operators.

Lawmakers Seek Investments to Make Bicycle Commuting Safer

As cycling to work becomes more popular, it also is getting more dangerous — and a lawmaker is proposing to address the problem by dedicating new funding for construction of infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians.

New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is proposing an $11 million low-cost loan program to help state and local governments build sidewalks, trails and dedicated bicycle lanes. His bill (HR 3978) enjoys support from Republican co-sponsors Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who both represent parts of greater Miami, and Indiana Democrat André Carson.

Doctors Pitch the Health Benefits of Bicycling

Bicyclists and pedestrians are joining forces with public health advocates in their bid for a larger share of federal transportation infrastructure.

Leaders of the Partnership for Active Transportation are scheduled to meet Tuesday with House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Chairman Tom Petri, R-Wis., to discuss the public health benefits of increasing federal investments in biking and walking facilities. Ranking Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C. also will attend.

More Funding Provided for Electric Car Research

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is continuing the Obama administration’s programs aimed at helping automakers develop more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Moniz announced the latest $50 million round of grants last week at the Washington Auto Show, building on the department’s existing “EV Everywhere Grand Challenge.” It’s a program that aims to make electric vehicles that are more affordable and convenient than gas-powered counterparts within a decade.

Lawmakers Take On Carmakers Over Repair Parts

Two weeks ago, automaker Chrysler Group LLC sued parts manufacturer LKQ Corp., seeking damages for what it alleges was infringement on 10 patents for the design of car repair parts.

The lawsuit was part of a recent trend by original equipment manufacturers — commonly known as OEMs — to defend their patents. Some lawmakers are concerned that the aggressive litigation against makers of aftermarket parts will reduce competition, driving up the cost of repairs and insurance for consumers.

Airlines Seek to Deny Funding for Overseas Customs Station

The dispute about Norwegian Air Service’s request to expand service to the United States piggybacks on the fight by American air carriers and their pilots to deny funding in fiscal 2014 spending legislation for a U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi’s international airport.

The $65 million facility, already under construction, would be funded mostly by the United Arab Emirates government, which also owns a controlling interest of Etihad, the flagship airline.

U.S. Carriers Wary of Norwegian Airline's Cut-Rate Wages

U.S.-based airlines and their pilots are waging a new battle against a foreign carrier they contend is taking advantage of provisions in international law to unfairly compete on American routes.

The latest lobbying fight centers on an expansion of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, an Oslo-based company that started out as a regional carrier but has spent much of the past decade rebuilding itself as an aggressive low-cost airline with wide reach across Europe. More recently it has begun pushing into Asia and the United States, staffing those international flights with Thai flight attendants who are paid about $500 a month, far less than the wages earned by its Norway-based attendants.

Food Service Losses Could Derail Support for Amtrak Subsidies

Florida Republican John L. Mica bristles at the idea of Amtrak partnering with master chefs to upgrade meals on its long-haul trains at a time when the passenger railroad continues to lose tens of millions of dollars a year on its food services.

“Taxpayers would choke if they knew the costs of these gourmet meals,” the chairman of a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee said earlier this year. He said “extravagant chef-designed dishes” should “be considered for the chopping block.”

Airlines, Pilots, Aircraft Makers Look to Ease FAA Permitting Backlog

Aircraft manufacturers, airlines and pilot groups are hoping congressional action will help speed up Federal Aviation Administration certification processes for aircraft, operators and repair stations, all severely backlogged as tight budgets have kept staffing thin.

More than 1,000 certifications are backed up at the FAA, according to the agency’s inspector general office, causing big headaches for aircraft manufacturers and others who depend on quick decisions by regulators to conduct their day-to-day business.

Pilot ID Mandate May Complicate Licensing

A small provision in last year’s Federal Aviation Administration authorization threatens to complicate government issuance of airman’s certificates to commercial airline pilots.

Former House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John L. Mica, R-Fla., insisted on including language in the 2012 bill (PL 112-95) that requires biometric eye and fingerprint data from recipients of airman’s certificates to be gathered and stored.

Oregon Eases Privacy Fears About Mileage-Based Highway Tax

The architect of a new mileage-based tax system in Oregon says his state has figured out how to assuage privacy fears, paving the way for serious consideration of the plan as a replacement for the gas tax.

Under an expanded pilot program made law last year, Oregon’s Transportation Department will sign up 5,000 drivers to pay 1.5 cents per mile in road taxes instead of 30 cents per gallon on the gas they buy. Participants can choose from a variety of reporting devices, including some that use global positioning system technology and others that don’t.

Congress Eyes Virginia's Model for Funding Transportation Projects

The model for fixing the federal transportation funding shortfall may lie just across the Potomac River.

Virginia enacted a plan this year that is projected to bring in $5.9 billion for transportation projects over the next five years — without increasing the per-gallon gasoline tax.

Diplomats Try to Defuse Dispute Over EU's Aviation Emission Rules

The airline industry’s attention will turn to Montreal later this month, where European environmental regulators and a host of skeptical nations — including the United States — will square off at the United Nations civil aviation arm’s triennial meeting over how to control jet aircraft emissions.

At issue is whether the International Civil Aviation Organization can negotiate a deal that would effectively cap the aviation industry’s emissions worldwide and supersede European Union rules that many foreign airlines say are too expensive and impractical. Some critics of the play say it exceeds the union’s jurisdiction.