Transportation & Infrastructure

Powerful patrons duel over California projects in final spending package
Pelosi seeks Presidio park while McCarthy pursues Shasta Dam expansion

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are pushing for this year’s final spending bills to include projects for their home state of California. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House are pushing for their own home-state projects in this year’s final spending bills — a spectacular park overlooking San Francisco Bay and a dam across the largest reservoir in California — but without agreement from each other in the negotiations’ final days.

The two items in dispute — the Presidio park project championed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Shasta Dam expansion sought by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy — are among some 200 disagreements that need to be resolved by leadership to finish up the appropriations legislation.

FAA review predicted fatalities after first Boeing 737 Max crash
The review predicted at least 15 more 737 Max crashes over the lifetime of the 4,800 jets in service. Another came within months.

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes stored on employee parking lots near the company's plant near Seattle, Wash. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

 

About a month after a Boeing 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189 people in October 2018, the FAA privately conducted a grim analysis that predicted more fatal crashes for the aircraft, according to a report released at a House hearing Wednesday.

NDAA provision targets Chinese rail cars and electric buses
Defense bill bars spending federal dollars on vehicles made by state-owned or controlled companies

While other transit systems have two years to implement the spending provision, Washington’s Metro system would have to abide by it immediately.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Tucked in the conference report of the NDAA is a provision aimed at blocking Chinese companies from building rail cars or buses used in U.S. transit. 

The final version of the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act released Monday night would bar federal dollars from being used to purchase passenger rail cars or buses from state-owned or state-controlled enterprises, such as those from China.

Pelosi: Climate panel is not just ‘an academic endeavor’
Select committee headed by Castor said to be readying recommendations for ‘major’ legislation in 2020

Castor's climate panel is to make recommendations for legislation in 2020.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats will unveil major climate legislation in the spring after the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis releases a set of recommendations, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday.

Pelosi said House Democrats would follow the conclusions of the committee, which was established at the start of this Congress and has held more than a dozen hearings on climate change and its underpinning science, to draft what she said would be bipartisan legislation.

Appropriators seek to wrap up talks this weekend
But panel members acknowledge ‘hurdles’ as Dec. 20 deadline for bill passage looms

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, on Thursday said he was “more enthusiastic than I was a couple of days ago” that final negotiations on spending bills could be done this weekend. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Spending bill negotiators set their sights on wrapping up a year-end deal by this weekend, but they differed on how realistic that deadline might be.

With only two weeks left before current funding runs dry, appropriators are hoping to finalize work on all 12 spending bills and pass them by Dec. 20 to avoid another stopgap measure or possible government shutdown. But unless a deal comes together in the next several days, lawmakers have warned, there likely won’t be enough time to write the bills and move them through both chambers before the holiday recess.

Train safety technology hasn't quite reached the station
Fatalities add up as cost and complexity delay full implementation of 'positive train control' system

Rescue crews and investigators inspect the site of a May 2015 Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia . (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

After years of delays, a railroad safety system that federal regulators say could have prevented some 300 deaths since 1969 is finally close to full implementation — but large gaps remain, with commuter railroads using the system on fewer than half of the tracks required by December 2020.

Overall, the news for supporters of the so-called positive train control system is promising — 92 percent of the 58,000 track miles required to implement the safety system have it installed, according the Federal Railroad Administration, which is overseeing compliance with the law. 

Two agencies, two different approaches to drone threats at airports
FAA considers registering drones, DHS contemplates shooting them down as sightings near airports increase dramatically

Passengers at Gatwick Airport wait for their flights after delays and cancellations brought on by drone sightings near the airfield in December 2018. (Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images file photo)

California Democrats seek EPA watchdog help amid Trump threats
Members want to know if political influence played a role in retaliation against their state

California Democratic Reps. Doris Matsui, left, and Anna G. Eshoo, seen after a caucus meeting in the Capitol, both signed on to the letter to the EPA watchdog. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A group of California Democrats on Monday pressed the EPA’s internal watchdog to investigate whether the agency has retaliated against their state for political reasons, including by threatening to withhold federal funds for multiple transportation projects.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler threatened in a Sept. 24 letter to the California Air Resources Board, the state’s air agency, to withhold federal funding for highway projects if local regulators did not implement plans, known as “state implementation plans,” or SIPs, to improve air quality.

DeFazio wants to go big on infrastructure despite hurdles
Plan embraces automated vehicles and intelligent transportation roadways

House Transportation Committee chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., is pushing an ambitious bill that could help House Democrats show they are trying to do big things beyond impeachment (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats are renewing their push for a major infrastructure bill without the support they once hoped to get from President Donald Trump.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter A. DeFazio, D-Oregon, presented a comprehensive infrastructure plan during a closed-door meeting of House Democrats late Thursday. The legislation is still being drafted, he said, and he declined to offer any cost estimates.

Lawmakers aim to thwart Amtrak forced-arbitration policy
New rule prevents lawsuits over injuries or deaths of passengers in rail accidents

Emergency crews at the scene of an Amtrak train derailment that killed three people in December 2017 near DuPont, Wash. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Lawmakers are in the initial stages of determining whether they can prevent Amtrak from implementing a forced arbitration policy that would bar passengers from suing if they’re hurt or killed in crashes.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, said Wednesday that he was trying to determine how best to stop the government-supported passenger rail service from imposing the forced arbitration policy on customers. Amtrak began imposing the policy in January.

Report: Puerto Rico’s infrastructure failing as federal aid remains on hold
Engineers group says hurricane-ravaged island needs up to $23 billion investment over 10 years

A downed electric pole sits in mud more after Hurricane Maria hit the island in October 2017. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

More than two years after hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island’s bridges, dams, drinking water, ports, roads and power grids are at a breaking point — and the federal dollars to fix that infrastructure remains out of reach.

So says the American Society of Civil Engineers in a report released Tuesday that assigned the island’s infrastructure an overall grade of D-.

Lawmakers: Southwest flying 49 jets that don’t meet FAA standards
Paperwork to assure safety was overlooked in planes airline bought overseas

A Southwest Airlines jet parked at Boeing's Renton, Wash., factory. (Photo by Gary He/Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines is flying 49 aircraft despite concerns that they do not comply with mandatory federal safety standards, according to documents released by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

At issue are 88 Southwest Airlines Boeing 737s previously operated by 16 different foreign air carriers between 2013 and 2017. None of the aircraft are the 737 Max model, which has been grounded by the FAA after two fatal crashes.

Transportation and data service providers battle for bandwidth
FCC chairman says it’s time to take ’fresh look’ at how frequencies are used

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has talked about taking a “fresh look” at using radio frequencies for transportation safety purposes, but he hasn't put the change on the agency’s agenda yet. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Two big industries are fighting over radio frequencies that each could use to provide game-changing services.

On one side is the transportation industry, including auto and truck makers and their suppliers. The frequencies would allow smart vehicles of the near future to talk to each other to use roadways more efficiently and avoid collisions.

Boeing CEO grilled over 737 crashes

Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing, arrives to testify before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing in Hart Building on aviation safety and the future of the Boeing 737 MAX on Tuesday, October 29, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Boeing President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Tuesday.

Boeing chief at Senate 737 Max hearing: ‘We made mistakes’
Senators question whether Boeing held back key information and whether its culture contributed to unsafe aircraft

Nadia Milleron, whose daughter Samya Stumo was killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, holds a sign with victims of the crash Tuesday behind Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, foreground, during the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on aviation safety and the future of the Boeing 737 MAX. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As he prepares for Wednesday’s oversight hearing with the embattled Boeing CEO, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter A. DeFazio must sort through a corporate culture that he believes compromised safety and find out what, if any, legislative remedies there are to be had.

The crash of two Boeing 737 Max aircraft over the past year — Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March — took the lives of 346 people and profoundly wounded the reputation and bottom line for the Chicago-based aircraft maker. The aircraft has been grounded in the U.S. since March.