Transportation & Infrastructure

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.

Romney, Manchin want new rescue committees to address trust fund solvency
Bipartisan, bicameral effort calls for setting up joint committees

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, wants to set up a bipartisan process to address entitlements. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Mitt Romney is leading a new bipartisan effort to try to force lawmakers to come together to address looming funding shortfalls in several government trust funds.

In a draft bill shared first with CQ Roll Call, a bipartisan contingent led by the Utah Republican wants to establish “Rescue Committees” to write legislation providing 75 years of solvency for trust funds identified in a report to Congress from the Treasury Department. Examples of funds that would likely qualify include Social Security and the Highway Trust Fund.

DeFazio: Uber, Lyft need to ‘clean up their acts’
DeFazio said ride-hailing companies must change if they want partnerships with agencies using federal dollars

Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., left, and ranking member Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., conduct a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing in February 2019. DeFazio said the committee is still struggling on how to regulate ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft hope to ever partner with agencies that use federal dollars, “they are going to have to clean up their acts,” the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Wednesday.

Noting reports of explosive growth of those companies as well as low-paid and unvetted drivers, the panel’s subcommittee on highways and transit is wrestling with how best to regulate a burgeoning industry that has recently advocated for federal dollars as it grapples with massive losses.

Uber’s commitment to safety
We take seriously our responsibility to riders and drivers

Uber is committed to working with local and federal policymakers to identify the solutions that are best suited for our riders and our driver partners, Burr writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — At Uber, our safety team has a simple, critical mission: to help set the standard for ridesharing safety. We know that every time riders open their Uber app, they are putting their trust in us — to not only get where they need to go, but to get there safely. Local and federal policymakers have proposed solutions to enhance ridesharing safety, and Uber is committed to working with them to identify the solutions that are best suited for our riders and our driver partners.

Over the past three years, we’ve introduced new safety features, including an in-app emergency button; strengthened our driver background check and screening processes; and made investments in new technologies to help improve the safety of the platform. In fact, we’ve developed more safety features in the past couple of years than we did in the previous eight. And that’s just the start of our commitment to safety.

Probe faults Boeing over 737 Max details given to FAA before certification
Multinational review follows two crashes that killed 346 people

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are seen parked on Boeing property along the Duwamish River near Boeing Field in August in Seattle, Washington. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Boeing did not adequately brief regulators about the flight control system blamed for two crashes of its 737 Max aircraft that killed a total of 346 people, according to a multinational task force that reviewed the plane’s certification process.

In a report released Friday, the Joint Authorities Technical Review, a panel chartered by the Federal Aviation Administration that included aviation regulators from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe and other countries as well as representatives from the FAA and NASA, found that increasingly complex aircraft systems have certification requirements that the FAA has yet to match.

Supreme Court term to be punctuated by presidential politics
Docket ‘almost guarantees’ court shifting further and faster to the right, expert says

Activists hold up signs at an abortion-rights rally at Supreme Court in Washington to protest new state bans on abortion services on Tuesday May 21, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Supreme Court will confront ideological issues such as immigration and LGBT rights that have sharply divided Congress and the nation in a new term starting Monday that will bring more scrutiny to the justices during a heated presidential campaign season.

In many ways, the nine justices are still settling into a new internal dynamic with two President Donald Trump appointees in as many years. The court had few high-profile cases last term, amid the drama of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation that gripped the nation and solidified the court’s conservative ideological tilt.

Appropriators seek clarity on aircraft inspector qualifications
Lawmakers asked FAA response to findings that safety inspectors lacked training to certify 737 Max pilots

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are seen parked on Boeing property along the Duwamish River near Boeing Field on August 13, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Top Senate appropriators pressed the Federal Aviation Administration chief to respond after a federal investigator found that safety inspectors lacked sufficient training to certify Boeing 737 Max pilots.

Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jack Reed, D-R.I., the chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, asked FAA chief Steve Dickson in a letter Tuesday provide more information about the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s report and the FAA’s response to it.

DOT official denies allegations that Chao helped her family’s company
Oversight committee questioned whether Transportation secretary's TV appearances with family in China were improper

Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao shakes hands with Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee on Sept. 19. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Allegations that Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao used her office to help the shipping company owned by her father and sister are “simply false,” a Transportation Department official told the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday.

Adam Sullivan, the departments’s assistant secretary of governmental affairs, said in a letter to Chairman Elijah E. Cummings that Chao is not involved with the management or operations of her family’s shipping company, Foremost Group, and does not have a financial stake in the company.

How ‘resilience’ became a politically safe word for ‘climate change’
Both parties increasingly agree on investing in infrastructure upgrades to better withstand extreme weather

Water floods Highway 12 in Nags Head, N.C., as Hurricane Dorian hits the area on Sept. 6. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

Climate change remains a deeply divisive term in some corners of Capitol Hill, but lawmakers from both parties are embracing the concept of “resilience” — building infrastructure engineered to better withstand devastating wind and floods associated with a warming planet.

The idea of building infrastructure better equipped to deal with natural disasters is appealing to fiscal conservatives who are loathe to keep spending taxpayer dollars rebuilding federal infrastructure just to see it destroyed again.

FAA misled Congress on inspector training, federal investigator finds
FAA appears to have misled Congress in its responses to questions about employee training and competency, an inspector’s letter said

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are seen after leaving the assembly line at a Boeing facility on August 13, 2019 in Renton, Washington. A federal investigator has released a new letter that says the FAA appears to have misled Congress in its responses to questions about employee training and competency. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

The FAA appears to have misled Congress in its responses to questions about employee training and competency leading up to grounding of 737 Max jets in March, according to a federal investigator.  

Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner, in a letter Monday to President Donald Trump, said Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors “lacked proper training and accreditation” to certify pilots, including those flying the Boeing 737 Max, putting air travelers at risk.

Youth climate activists on climate change: Listen to the scientists

Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg, center right, sits with other youth climate activists at a press conference to discuss climate change in Washington on Tuesday September 17, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

A panel of four youth climate activists appeared before a joint hearing on climate leadership Wednesday, urging members to take action on climate change.