A number of candidates to transportation-related oversight posts in the federal government whose nominations were returned to President Donald Trump in early January have been renominated to those posts.
Thelma Drake has been renominated to be the administrator of the DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Lynn Westmoreland, Joseph Gruters and Rick Dearborn are again under consideration for positions on the Amtrak board of directors.
SMART Transportation Division opposes the nomination of Westmoreland, whose voting record as a U.S. representative shows he has a long history of voting against Amtrak funding.
“As a longtime member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Westmoreland has a hostile voting record against Amtrak, which includes efforts to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak entirely. In addition, Westmoreland has been an original cosponsor of the ‘National Right-to-Work Act’ on multiple occasions, which would significantly weaken our ability to collectively bargain. For these reasons, we oppose his nomination as it would undermine the core mission of Amtrak and its employees,” we reported when his nomination was initially introduced in October 2017.
Also renominated by the president are Michelle Schultz to the Surface Transportation Board (STB), and Michael Graham and Jennifer Homendy to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Homendy is currently serving a term on the board that runs out at the end of 2019.
Two nominations also were made to highway oversight positions — Heidi King to administer the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Nicole Nason to administer the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).
These nominations will be considered by U.S. Senate subcommittees before potential advancement for consideration by the full Senate.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said at CES, an annual technology show in Las Vegas, that she plans to take steps toward creating policy guiding the development of self-driving transportation for trucks, buses, transit systems and trains. One of the steps that Chao plans to take toward creating this new policy is to deregulate these industries.
“I also want to take this opportunity to announce that the Department (DOT) will be seeking public input from across the transportation industry to identify existing barriers to innovation. This includes not only barriers that impact vehicles, but also impediments to innovations that can impact our highways, railroads, trains and motor carriers,” Chao said.
In response to Chao’s announcement, SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch wrote in an email, “This rush to autonomous vehicles of all kinds should worry all transportation workers.
“We have been working with Congress to limit legislation on self-driving vehicles to automobiles and to not include buses and trucks. So far our efforts on that front have been successful,” Risch said. “We will continue to work on this issue, but the times they are a-changing.”
As part of Chao’s efforts to deregulate the transportation industry, notices for public comment have appeared in the Federal Register on behalf of DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Click here to read the Request for Information on Integration of ADS into the Highway Transportation System as published by the Federal Register – to be published 01/18
Click here to read the Request for Comments on Automated Transit Buses Research Program as published in the Federal Register
Click here to read the Request for Comment on Removing Barriers to Transit Bus Automation
Click here to read the Request for Comment on Removing Regulatory Barriers for Automated Vehicles from the Federal Register
Dollar value of goods moved on the transportation network greater than ever before
WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) released the first product from the newest version of the “Freight Analysis Framework,” the most comprehensive publicly available data set of freight movement. The new data show an increase in the dollar value of goods moved on the transportation network. Earlier this week the Department released the draft National Freight Strategic Plan, which offers specific policy proposals and solutions to address the growing challenges of moving freight in this country and this data underscores the need for a plan like this.
“A transportation network that can support the freight needs of this country is essential to a healthy economy,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “The need for infrastructure investment is growing more urgent every day.”
Secretary Foxx emphasized the importance of freight to the economy in the Department’s study of transportation trends, “Beyond Traffic”, conducted earlier this year. The study pointed to a 45 percent growth in freight in the United States by 2040.
The newly baselined Freight Analysis Framework estimates show that in 2012, nearly 17.0 billion tons of goods worth about $17.9 trillion were moved on the transportation network, which equates to 47 million tons of goods valued at more than $49 billion a day moved throughout the country on all transportation modes – compared to $45 billion per day in 2007. Trucks remain the most commonly used mode to move freight, transporting 64 percent of the weight and 71 percent of the value in 2012 – compared to 65 percent of the value in 2007.
“Once again the importance of highways to the economy is underscored even as the passage of a long-term reauthorization bill continues to be uncertain,” Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau said. “Efficient freight movement will be at the core of business success for decades to come.”
“BTS’ Transportation Services Index issued last week shows that freight on the nation’s transportation system has grown by almost a third since the low point during the recession in April 2009,” Bureau of Transportation Statistics Director Patricia Hu said. “Today’s release of the new Freight Analysis Framework, built on BTS’ Commodity Flow Survey, is the first in a series of tools that will help officials at all levels of government plan for continued freight growth.”
The “Freight Analysis Framework” includes data on the amount and types of goods that move by land, sea and air between large metropolitan areas, states and regions. It is designed to provide information on national level freight flows across the nation’s transportation network. This information helps the public and private sectors at all levels better understand freight movement; transportation planners use it to target resources to improve operations or increase capacity. Today’s product focuses on the origin and destination component of FAF. Additional elements are planned for future release.
More detail on the “Freight Analysis Framework” is available here.
The Department also continues to welcome feedback and comment on the draft National Freight Strategic Plan. Click here to submit your thoughts and to learn more about the draft plan.
The grants will be awarded to Operation Lifesaver organizations in California, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. These state programs will use the funding to spread “See Tracks? Think Train!” safety messages via television, radio, billboards, sporting events and movie theatre advertising; create eye-catching displays for public education at large events; and target students, school bus drivers, Spanish-speaking populations and the news media to raise awareness about the dangers near tracks and trains.
“The grants will fund a wide variety of projects to expand the reach of our ongoing safety campaign and further Operation Lifesaver’s mission of eliminating collisions, injuries and deaths at crossings and along rail property,” said Joyce Rose, OLI’s president and CEO. “Through our partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, these grade crossing safety education activities will help us reach critical audiences in many of the states where these incidents are most prevalent.”
The Federal Highway Administration, a national partner and advisor of Operation Lifesaver, provides the funding for this new grant program, which complements similar grant programs with the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration.
“Our rail safety partnership with Operation Lifesaver is very important to FHWA, and we are proud to be a part of the “See Tracks? Think Train!” educational campaign. Safety is our number one priority at FHWA,” said Federal Highway Administrator Greg Nadeau.
Projects funded by the FHWA grants include:
California Operation Lifesaver will initiate a campaign with billboard and bus advertisements featuring the “See Tracks? Think Train!” safety message in key locations in Fresno, Kings, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties during September, which has been designated Rail Safety Month across the state.
Operation Lifesaver Georgia will air the “See Tracks? Think Train!” radio and television public service announcements (PSAs) throughout the state.
Illinois will work with Metra Commuter Rail to place “See Tracks? Think Train!” banners on the outside of commuter rail cars and on electronic signs in the Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago.
Indiana will target communities along the Jeffersonville to Indianapolis rail corridor with outreach to schools, truck driver and driver education organizations, “See Tracks? Think Train!” radio PSAs on iHeart Radio stations, signage at crossings, and law enforcement safety blitzes.
Michigan’s project involves creating and distributing a booklet detailing crossing safety laws, including the “See Tracks? Think Train!” graphics and message, to law enforcement agencies, judges and prosecutors across the state.
Minnesota plans a multi-faceted approach that will incorporate “See Tracks? Think Train!” PSAs and messages at the Minnesota Transportation Museum in St. Paul, the North Shore Scenic Railroad in Duluth, the Minnesota State Fair, and at an event with the Minnesota Towards Zero Deaths Coalition, among other venues.
Ohio will conduct targeted “See Tracks? Think Train!” billboard, online and radio advertising in communities along rail corridors experiencing increased freight rail traffic.
Oregon will reach professional truck drivers by distributing safety brochures and visor cards through the state’s Department of Transportation; in addition, they will air radio and television PSAs on Spanish language stations across the state.
South Carolina will target schools throughout the state in close proximity to train tracks with a plan to distribute “See Tracks? Think Train!” materials and PSAs to students and school activity bus drivers.
Texas will conduct a 60-day digital truck stop ad campaign at truck stops targeting CDL drivers of tractor-trailers and large trucks along Texas freight corridors in the South and Southeast.
Utah will purchase “See Tracks? Think Train!” TV and movie theater ads to combat dangerous driver behavior at railroad crossings, and distribute posters to school districts and trucking companies.
Wisconsin conducted a statewide Rail Safety Week effort using the “See Tracks? Think Train!” radio and billboard ads that included safety blitzes, social media and other events.
The 13 approved grants were awarded through a competitive process. Selections were made by a panel of safety experts using criteria including successfully leveraging the federal funds with private partnerships, targeted messaging and frequency of highway-rail collisions.
Operation Lifesaver plans to announce the results of a similar grant program for rail transit safety education projects this fall.