anthony_foxx

Foxx

WASHINGTON – With federal surface transportation funding set to expire on May 31, thousands of stakeholders will rally together for Infrastructure Week to urge Congress to say “no” to more short-term measures and “yes” to a long-term funding solution. In support of the third annual Infrastructure Week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is participating today in kick-off events in Washington and will then head out to meet with state and local leaders, business leaders, and academics in Tennessee, California, and Iowa.

“Our nation’s economy and the way we live both depend on having strong infrastructure,” Secretary Foxx said. “But the truth is that our current levels of investment are falling short of what is needed just to keep our existing system safe and in good condition. To make matters worse, over the past six years, Congress has passed 32 short-term measures that have stripped away the ability of state and local governments to complete big projects.”

Today, Secretary Foxx also sent letters to State Transportation leaders to notify them that all federal participation in highway transportation infrastructure construction will stop after May 31 if the current federal funding authorization is allowed to expire. Without authority to continue funding agency operations, States will not be reimbursed for construction costs or receive technical support and will have to shoulder the burden themselves.  Click here to see a copy of the letters.

Throughout the week, Secretary Foxx will highlight an alternative to that funding shortage, which is the Obama Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act, a surface transportation bill that would provide six years of funding certainty and grow overall investment by 45 percent. The $478 billion proposal would increase funding in our roads, highways and transit systems, and for the first time would provide dedicated funding for passenger rail, rail safety, and a national freight program.

Secretary Foxx’s trip will begin in Tennessee, a state that has a $6 billion backlog in highway projects, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.  He will visit two projects that would improve safety for drivers and reduce traffic congestion, but both are delayed due to inadequate federal funding. On Tuesday, May 12, in Knoxville, Secretary Foxx will meet with Mayor Madeline Rogero and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization to discuss the proposed Alcoa Highway project. Later in the morning, the Secretary will hold a media availability with Knoxville Mayor Rogero, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, and, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson at the Knoxville Convention Center.  He will then travel to Memphis where he will be joined by Mayor AC Wharton, and the Memphis Urban Planning Organization to discuss the Lamar Avenue project.

On Wednesday, May 13, Secretary Foxx will visit Delphi Labs in California’s Silicon Valley to announce new connected automation safety initiatives. This visit will build on the national conversation he launched earlier this year with the release of Beyond Traffic, a report that examines how new technologies and public policy will shape U.S. transportation systems to enable new safety, mobility, growth, and economic benefits for our future.

The next day he will travel to Los Angeles to join Mayor Garcetti at the construction site of the soon-to-be-finished Division 13 Bus Maintenance and Operations Facility. The project was funded by the Federal Transit Administration and demonstrates the potential of increased transit investment to create jobs and greener infrastructure.

Secretary Foxx’s Infrastructure Week tour will conclude Friday, May 15, in Des Moines, Iowa, with a visit to the Southeast Connector Project, which is a crucial element in a series of infrastructure enhancements that will revitalize industrial areas, create jobs, and improve road safety.

“When you have had 32-short term measures in six years, any funding bill put forward that is actually big enough to meet the country’s challenges will be labeled by some as unrealistic,” Secretary Foxx said. “But I also think it is unrealistic to think that if we continue underinvesting in infrastructure that we will be able to meet the needs of 70 million more people in 30 years. We are in a big ditch, and we have to take some bold steps forward and solve it with a big solution.”

Infrastructure Week has nearly 80 affiliate organizations in business, labor, and advocacy, including the National Association of Manufacturers, American Society of Civil Engineers, AFL-CIO, Brookings Institution, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Building America’s Future. More than 40 events will be held to highlight the need and benefits of modernizing America’s infrastructure.

DOT_Logo_150px SOMERVILLE, Mass. – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a $996 million federal grant agreement to extend Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Green Line light rail service from East Cambridge to Somerville and Medford. The extension will provide faster and more efficient travel to jobs in downtown Boston and will serve some of the region’s most densely populated communities. Secretary Foxx and Acting Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan participated in a ceremony to commit the funds with Governor Deval Patrick, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Michael Capuano, representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and MBTA, and other officials.

“This project will put time back in the lives of commuters along this corridor, but the real story is about the potential for change this smart investment will bring for residents,” said Secretary Foxx. “We are proud to support projects like this one  because when you connect people to more jobs, education, and medical care, you create the ladders to opportunity that strengthen families and the communities in which they live.”

The 4.7-mile light rail extension will extend existing MBTA Green Line service from a relocated Lechmere Station in East Cambridge to Union Square in Somerville and College Avenue in Medford. The project will serve some of the Boston region’s most heavily populated areas not currently served by rail transit – where 26 percent of residents do not own or have access to cars.

“The Green Line extension will improve transit options for residents of Somerville and Medford by eliminating the need for bus to rail transfers and providing a one-seat transit ride to thousands of jobs in downtown Boston and along the Green Line,” said Acting Federal Transit Administrator McMillan. “This project will make a huge difference for thousands of residents along the corridor who need and deserve reliable access to jobs and educational opportunities throughout the Boston metropolitan area.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation will contribute approximately $996 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Capital Investment Grant Program (New Starts) funding over the course of the $2.3 billion project. State funding sources will cover the remainder.

MBTA estimates the new extended light rail line will provide approximately 37,900 daily trips when the extension opens in 2021. The project will include construction of six new stations, purchase of 24 new light rail vehicles, construction of a new vehicle maintenance facility, construction of a community bicycle and pedestrian path in Somerville, and relocation of some existing commuter rail track.

By Richard Deiser
Vice President, Bus Department

Kudos to Alternate Bus Vice President-East Calvin Studivant and Alternate Bus Vice President-West Bonnie Morr for being chosen as delegates to the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh, where a highlight was President Obama’s speech that may be viewed on the UTU Web site at www.utu.org.

Calvin reports that he shook the president’s hand!

Congratulations also to UTU International President Mike Futhey on his election as an AFL-CIO vice president and his appointment to the federation’s Executive Council.

Several bus locals have been involved in contract negotiations, and the trend is towards shorter agreements in the hope that the economy will improve in the near future.

If that becomes reality, we will be able to negotiate wages and benefits from a far stronger position than in the current recession.

General Chairperson James Williams (Local 1564, Los Angeles) reports his members have ratified a new one-year agreement with the LACMTA after hard work and patience of all the committee members.

General Chairperson Nelson Manzano (Local 710, Elizabeth, N.J.; One Bus) praised the work done by Vice General Chairpersons James Powell and Jose Rivera in reaching a one-year agreement with Coach USA, holding the cost-sharing for health care.

Local 1558 in Westwood, N.J., (Rockland Coaches) reached a similar accord under the direction of General Chairperson Keith Mack, assisted by Mike Byrne, Helaine Parsons, Ed Pollard, Bob Panarotti and Abe Tsay.

Calvin Studivant’s Local 759 in Paramus, N.J., (Community Transit) won an important arbitration, which resulted in an employee being restored to work status with full back pay and benefits.

Also, General Chairperson Bill Koehn (Local 1670, Laredo, Texas; Laredo Metro) is keeping a watchful eye on bus inspections at the Mexican border.

The U.S. DOT has significantly reduced the number of buses inspected, leading to worries about safety, operator fatigue and equipment maintenance on these bus lines that operate far into the U.S. American companies cannot compete effectively when confronted by cheap labor, shoddy maintenance and falsified driver logs.

WASHINGTON — By unanimous voice vote, former Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) was confirmed by the Senate Jan. 22 as President Obama’s transportation secretary. A day earlier, the Senate Commerce Committee enthusiastically recommended the confirmation.

LaHood becomes the 16th transportation secretary since DOT was created by Congress in 1967. A listing of his predecessors is found, below.

Over the next week, LaHood is expected to meet with prospective modal agency heads and make his recommendations for nomination to the Obama transition team.

Among DOT agencies of special interest to UTU members for which chiefs are to be nominated are the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. A nomination to the three-member Surface Transportation Board also is expected.

LaHood now heads the 60,000-employee DOT and its various modal agencies that regulate transportation safety, administer Amtrak and highway funding, and regulate railroad mergers, abandonments and freight rates paid by captive shippers.

At his confirmation hearing, LaHood expressed strong support for Amtrak and increased funding for the national intercity rail passenger network. He said he also would focus on public-private partnerships to increase funding sources for projects bringing roads, bridges and other forms of infrastructure to “a state of good repair.”

Additionally, LaHood expressed support for new infrastructure spending to improve freight transportation by rail, and he supported and increased spending on commuter transit programs.

LaHood said his position as a Republican member of a Democratic president’s cabinet will enable him to find consensus on a variety of issues affecting transportation policy.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), told LaHood that “after years of neglect, Congress finally passed a long-term Amtrak authorization last fall that provides strong support for our national railroad. As secretary, I will be looking to you and the department to fully and quickly implement this bill and to further pursue the development of high-speed rail corridors in areas where such service can help alleviate highway and aviation congestion.

“On the freight rail side,” said Rockefeller, “I’m hoping you’ll help us develop ways to improve competition and service in the railroad industry while ensuring that the railroads are able to adequately invest in their infrastructure to meet growing demand.”

Without being specific, LaHood said that if he is confirmed as DOT secretary, safety would remain the “central focus” of DOT.

LaHood, 63, was chief of staff for former House Minority Leader Robert Michel (R-Ill.) for 10 years before Michel retired and LaHood replaced him in Congress. LaHood took office in 1995 as Republicans gained control of the House for the first time in 40 years, and relations between the GOP and congressional Democrats were at a low ebb.

At his confirmation hearing, LaHood was praised by his Illinois colleague, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who introduced him at the hearing, for efforts to improve relations between Democrats and Republicans.

Earlier this week, the Senate confirmed former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary.

The nomination of former Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), to be labor secretary, remains stalled in the Senate owing to Republican opposition to her congressional support for the Employee Free Choice Act.

The AFL-CIO called Solis a longtime friend of the labor movement. It observed that while in Congress, she not only voted for the Employee Free Choice Act, but also voted to raise the minimum wage, protect the wages of construction workers, strengthen fair and equal pay laws for women, and to impose tough workplace safety standards.

Previous transportation secretaries:

Alan Boyd, January 1967 – January 1969

John Volpe, January 1969 – February 1973

Claude Brinegar, February 1973 – February 1975

William Coleman, March 1975 – January 1977

Brock Adams, January 1977 – July 1979

Neil Goldschmidt, August 1979 – January 1981

Drew Lewis, January 1981- February 1983

Elizabeth Dole, February 1983 – September 1987

Jim Burnley, December 1987 – January 1989

Sam Skinner, February 1989 – December 1991

Andrew Card, February 1992 -January 1993

Federico Pena, January 1993 – February 1997

Rodney Slater, February 1997 – January 2001

Norman Mineta, January 2001- July 2006

Mary Peters, October 2006 – January 2009

By Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus Department

As we enter the new year, we must be on the lookout for new opportunities to organize the unorganized, increase financial resources and gain political power.

We also must take advantage of new training and educational opportunities to aid our members.

The winds of unionism may have waned in recent years, but with strong leadership and dedication, and with increased resources, we can and will adjust the sails to improve our opportunities at the bargaining table, with federal regulatory agencies and lawmakers.

As we adjust to take advantage of every opportunity to better represent, serve and build our union, I will be meeting with each of our bus locals to address their concerns. I will schedule those locals with the biggest problems first and provide the attention and help they need.

One of the issues we will be watching closely is new school-bus safety standards being established by the U.S. DOT. Under the standards, scheduled to take effect within a year, school districts will have access to federal funds to equip buses with 24-inch seat backs, which is four inches higher than currently in use.

And within three years, all new smaller buses, which have an increased rollover risk, must have three-point seat belts instead of lap belts. School districts will also be encouraged to use federal funds to equip larger buses with seat belts. The new rules are available for inspection on the Internet at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.