Transportation & Infrastructure

Former Delta pilot named to lead FAA as Chao seeks Max 8 audit
The agency faces questions about its handling of the Boeing 737 Max plane, involved in two catastrophic crashes

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is escorted into her chair by R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, before a Senate Environment and Public Works Senate Committee in Dirksen Building titled “The Administration’s Framework for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America” on March 01, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Delta Air Lines executive and pilot Stephen M. Dickson was nominated Tuesday to take over as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, an agency facing questions about its handling of the Boeing 737 Max plane involved in two catastrophic overseas crashes.

Also on Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she had asked the department’s inspector general to conduct a formal audit of the certification process for the 737 Max 8.

Trump’s DOT stalling for revenge, say backers of NY-NJ project
The agency is accused of stalling Amtrak’s Gateway project because of Democratic opposition to a Mexico border wall

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., conducts a news conference after the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senators from New Jersey and New York accused the Trump administration of stalling Amtrak’s Gateway project linking their states as revenge for Democratic opposition to a Mexico border wall. One said a deputy transportation secretary lied about the project, and that could hurt his nomination to serve in the Justice Department.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen, who has been nominated for deputy attorney general, said Monday there was no funding for Gateway in the fiscal 2020 budget or in the fiscal 2019 appropriations package that Trump signed in February to end a standoff over the wall.

Trump is leaving infrastructure details to lawmakers. That has stymied them before
‘Few Republicans will go down this road,’ expert says of WH proposal in budget plan

President Donald Trump delivers a speech on June 7, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio about transportation and infrastructure projects. Despite it being a major 2016 campaign promise, he has been unable to get anything on the topic moving on Capitol Hill. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has talked about the “necessity” of a massive infrastructure overhaul since he became a presidential candidate in 2015, but his latest budget plan offers Congress the kind of vague proposal that has left them confused and stymied before.

The administration is asking lawmakers for $200 billion as an initial payment toward the president’s goal — up to $1.5 trillion from $1 trillion — for a sweeping project to upgrade the country’s roads, airports, bridges, tunnels, seaports and broadband networks. But senior officials say they won’t lay out a plan for which projects in which states Trump would like to see receive any of those dollars.

Boeing faces increasing political pressure to ground 737 Max 8
Elizabeth Warren weighs in through her presidential campaign, for one

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., issued a statement from her presidential campaign that Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes should be grounded, adding to a growing chorus of concern about the airplanes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Amid concerns over the safety of new Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, the debate is spilling into presidential politics.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren was among those calling for the United States to join other countries in grounding the planes on Tuesday after two crashes abroad.

Stew’s next stop
Longtime McConnell spokesman is heading to the Association of Global Automakers

Don Stewart is leaving the Senate after more than two decades. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Don Stewart, the outgoing deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a Senate fixture for more than two decades, has his next destination.

Stewart is expected to finish up in the Kentucky Republican’s office this week before starting at the Association of Global Automakers on March 25.

5 ways Congress may try to fix the Highway Trust Fund
Better mileage and slower growth in miles traveled have combined to produce less revenue than Congress voted to spend

A symbol based on the original Route 66 road signs is seen painted on the highway near an abandoned gas station (L) and Cafe in Ludlow, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

For nearly half a century, taxes on gas and diesel fuel funded what Congress spent from the Highway Trust Fund on roads, bridges and, after a 1982 compromise, mass transit.

For the past decade, however, better mileage for cars and trucks and slower growth in the number of miles Americans traveled combined to produce less revenue than Congress voted to spend.

Green New Deal: Some Democrats on the fence
Top Democrats who would oversee legislation in the House are reluctant to endorse plan that would remake economy

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have championed the Green New Deal on Capitol Hill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A resolution outlining the goals of the Green New Deal capped off its first week of a somewhat messy rollout with mixed reviews, even from typically Democratic strongholds like labor unions.

In the House, the top two Democrats who would oversee any legislation that comes out of the plan have remained reluctant to fully endorse it, stopping at lauding the goals and the enthusiasm behind them. And Republicans quickly branded the Green New Deal as an extreme, socialist plan with unrealistic proposals to eliminate air travel and cows.

The change-makers: Roll Call’s people to watch in 2019
A surge of energy from activists has defined the Trump era. What’s the end game?

Varshini Prakash co-founded the Sunrise Movement, an environmental group, in 2017. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images file photo)

Several activists who will be on the front lines of some of the biggest policy battles in the year ahead rank among Roll Call’s People to Watch in 2019. 

They include the leader of a fledgling environmental group pushing for aggressive action on climate change; the new president of Planned Parenthood, the lightning rod in the raging debate over abortion; and an expert on transportation safety who will be insisting on strong regulations to prevent deaths and injuries from driver-less vehicles. 

Trump offers 61 words on infrastructure, follow-up awaited
President Donald Trump declared Tuesday night that passage of an infrastructure package was a “necessity,” but didn’t provide specifics

President Donald Trump is seen in the House Chamber during his State of the Union address along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and VP Mike Pence on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It was only 61 words in a State of the Union speech that ran close to 5,500 words, but President Donald Trump declared Tuesday night that passage of an infrastructure package was a “necessity.”

Lawmakers and industry groups that were hoping he would mention it agreed, though they said he will need to follow up if he’s serious.

Road closures for Tuesday’s 2019 State of the Union
Here’s what you need to know, and avoid, on the Tuesday night Washington evening commute

All roads leading to and from the Capitol will be closed to vehicles starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

All roads leading to and from the Capitol will be closed to vehicles starting Tuesday at 7 p.m. in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m., the roads closest to the Capitol will be restricted to people credentialed to attend the event and authorized pedestrians. Those include:

First House infrastructure hearing to highlight costs of delay
“We need to begin thinking about what are the costs and the potential for calamity if we don’t make these investments,” Chairman Peter DeFazio tells CQ

DeFazio says he wants people to think about the costs of potential calamities if the U.S. doesn't improve its infrastructure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will kick off its effort to boost highway and transit spending this year with a hearing Feb. 7 to emphasize the cost of delaying upgrades to aging roads, bridges, transit systems and airports.

“What happens if the rail tunnels under the Hudson River fail, what happens when the tunnel under Baltimore fails, built in the Civil War?” Chairman Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., told CQ last week during an interview. “What happens when two bridges, one 89 years old and one 60 years, over the Columbia River, they’re going to fail during an earthquake. And then I-5 is cut off?

Senate shutdown talks hastened after airline disruption
Trump announces deal that would open shuttered government agencies and negotiate DHS funding

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate floor after Senate rejected two attempts from Republicans and Democrats to reopen government on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Discussions between Senate leaders of both parties on how to end the 35-day government shutdown picked up with renewed urgency Friday as the record-setting government shutdown began halting flights scheduled to land at LaGuardia Airport — in Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s home state of New York.

President Donald Trump announced Friday afternoon that a deal had been reached that would fund shuttered government agencies for three weeks while providing time to negotiate funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

Atlanta fears shutdown impact on Super Bowl travelers
About 120,000 partiers are expected to depart on “Mass Exodus Monday”

Stranded passengers relax near baggage claim at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Dec. 18, 2017, as hundreds of flights were canceled after a power outage at the airport. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images file photo)

Worried about “Mass Exodus Monday” when an estimated 120,000 Super Bowl partiers will leave Atlanta en masse, the city is taking matters into its own hands to help keep unpaid airport screeners on the job.

An Atlanta credit union will be offering zero interest loans to Transportation Security Administration employees to try to prevent them from calling in sick after the game, said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat.

Republican urges Trump to ‘jump-start’ infrastructure push

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., walks through the Capitol on Oct. 25, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats in Congress say they want to do it. President Donald Trump says he wants it, too.

But if a major transportation bill is going to happen this year, the ranking Republican on the House committee that would write it says Trump needs to get his own party on board, and that starts with State of the Union speech.

Government shutdown pushing Metro off the rails to the tune of $400K every weekday
Issues could get worse if benefits are not transferred after January 21

Metro is facing $400,000 in lost revenue each business day that the government is partially shut down . (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Metro, which operates trains buses and parking garages in and around Washington, D.C., is losing roughly $400,000 from its receipts for every business day that the partial government shutdown persists.

That revelation from WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld came in a letter to the Democratic senators from Maryland and Virginia who represent many users of the Metro system, including federal employees.