TDA Wisconsin
Issue 1215

U.S. Drivers on the Go
In Business Wisconsin Blog
Changing Commerce
2016 Appropriations
Transportation News
News Coverage
Association Notes
TDA Fly-in

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A Record-Setting 100 Million Holiday Travelers Projected

The number of holiday travelers is expected to top 100 million for the first time this year according to AAA.  That is one in three Americans hitting the road, skies or rail this holiday season.   This represents a 1.4 percent increase over last year and the seventh consecutive year of year-end holiday travel growth since the low of 85.7 million in 2008 during the recession.

Nearly 91% of travelers will drive to their destination, while 5.7% will fly.

“Rising incomes and low gas prices are helping to fill stockings this year, and more people than ever will choose to spend those savings on travel this year,” said Marshall Doney, AAA President and CEO.

AAA expects most drivers will pay the lowest gas prices on New Year’s Day since 2009.

AAA projections are consistent with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data which shows that U.S. driving reached new highs almost every month in 2015. This continued in October with 273.5 billion miles, the highest of any October on record. And drivers have logged more than 2.63 trillion miles so far this year.

TDA wishes you and your family safe travels this holiday season.

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In Business Wisconsin Blog
For Retail Shopping There is a New King
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By Craig Thompson, TDA Executive Director

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again for retailers everywhere. As some traditions endure, others are started. While online shopping has been all the rage in recent years, it has now become the norm.

Cyber Monday was a term invented about a decade ago to give Internet shopping a brand similar to Black Friday. While this year’s Cyber Monday saw a 16% jump from the previous year with shoppers spending over $3 billion, according to the Adobe Digital Index, the real news is that Cyber Monday is actually passé. It didn’t stand out that much more than the previous three days following Thanksgiving. In fact, for the first time, online shopping surpassed the (break out in a full sweat because I want to ram into every cart that stops in front of me) brick and mortar shopping during that time frame. My wife and kids have told me that I’m not an ideal companion to go shopping with.

Apparently, staying at home and shopping on your PC, tablet, or phone doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be waiting in line. saw such an incredible response to its Cyber Monday deals that it wasn’t able to keep up. The volume of traffic doubled the site’s previous record set three days prior. Some visitors received the following message:

According to ChannelAdvisor, Amazon continues to be our fave for online shopping, having increased by 21% over its 2014 Cyber Monday. That means that the 1 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Kenosha was busy, busy, busy. While operations started some time ago, the grand opening for this colossus that employs more than 2,000 workers was just last October. Take a look at this video to get an idea of the size, scope, and complexity of this operation.

It is breathtaking to think of the systems that have been put in place to process and “fulfill” consumers’ desires within a day or days. If you didn’t watch the video, shame on you. If you did, you would have heard the site’s general manager, Brian Urkiel, explain, “We're able to leverage 20 years of learning, algorithms, technology, into this type of fulfillment center.”

As impressive as what goes on inside this fulfillment center is, it is also incredible the promises Amazon is able to keep to gift givers and receivers all around the world (they ship to 185 different countries) once the package leaves the facility.

That is where other amazing companies like UPS and FedEx take over. Their ability to “Synchronize the World of Commerce” as UPS brands it, requires juggling over-the-road shipping with air, rail, and waterborne freight. Here is one more video that will give you a glimpse of what that means.

In the spirit of “whatever you can do, I can do better,” Amazon is contemplating taking over direct responsibility for the entire process. According to Baird, the company is considering creating its own logistics company to ship its packages and perhaps compete with UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service. Control freaks? Perhaps. Maybe they just see a great business opportunity, but in the end aren’t we all control freaks if we have the means?

One of the things that these companies don’t have complete control over is the transportation infrastructure upon which they are directing their intricate symphonies. Amazon chose to perch its fulfillment center on the newly reconstructed and widened I-94 in Kenosha, but that, of course is only the beginning of the journey for the gads of outgoing packages.

So, here’s to wishing that, however they go, your gifts reach their destinations on time and are cherished — and, more importantly, that you safely reach your holiday destinations to share time with friends and family. 

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Congress Year-End Clean Up

Congress has reached a deal to clear up some end-of-the-year items, including the omnibus appropriations package for fiscal year 2016, the year-end tax extenders bill and the repeal of the ban on U.S. crude oil exports among other things.

The appropriations bill provides $76.1 billion in gross new budgetary resources to the Department of Transportation, up 5.2% from last year. This increase was made possible by the by the passage of two pieces of legislation in the last couple months – the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which increased the budget cap on non-defense discretionary spending, and a surface transportation authorization bill, which provided the resources to increase funding from the Highway Trust Fund.

Earlier this month, Congress passed a $305 billion bill – called the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) – authorizing 5 years of surface transportation programs. The bill authorizes about $225 billion in federal-aid highway spending through fiscal year 2020 and $61 billion for Federal transit programs, including $49 billion in HTF contract authority and $12 billion in authorizations from the general fund. The shortfall between Highway Trust Fund receipts and the amount authorized in the bill was covered by a number of unrelated “payfors.”

The omnibus appropriations bill lives up to the promise of the FAST Act by funding Highway Trust Fund programs up to the level authorized: $42.36 billion for highways and $9.35 billion for mass transit formula and bus grants.

The general fund appropriations were a little short of the FAST Act levels, about $390 million. The big-ticket items were close: mass transit new starts received $2.18 billion, 95% of the FAST Act recommendation, and Amtrak $1.39 billion, 96% of the amount included in the FAST Act.

Other appropriations of note: the TIGER grant program will continue to receive $500 million and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program $3.350 billion.

Congress passed another short-term continuing resolution which will give them until December 22 to pass the FY 2016 appropriations bill.

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Transportation in the News

Minnesota – Governor Mark Dayton has officially proclaimed dead the gas tax increase he has sought for more than a year. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives was always cool to the idea, but the opposition was solidified with the announcement of a $1.2 billion state surplus.

There is still hope for a comprehensive transportation package with on-going and sustainable revenue enhancements. The House has proposed dedicating the sales tax on auto parts, rental vehicles and motor vehicle sales to the highway fund. This revenue stream would not be constitutionally dedicated to transportation and could be redirected to the general fund by future legislatures.

Tennessee – A new Vanderbilt University poll shows support for an increase in the gas tax to support transportation. Two out of every three respondents are willing to support a two-cent gas tax increase. When the increase is raised to eight cents, a majority – 54% – are still willing to support the increase. Support evaporates at higher levels.

The state gas tax is currently 21.4 cents per gallon and has not been increased since 1988.

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Interesting News Coverage

Spooner Advocate, December 15, 2015 - "Bill would allow moving manure by pipeline along and under highways in Wisconsin"

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 11, 2015 – “Report: Millennials like Milwaukee's amenities, not its crime”

Wisconsin State Journal, December 9, 2015 – “Metro Transit riders give high marks for overall satisfaction with concerns on crowding”, December 8, 2015 – “Uber’s testing a new mass transit alternative”

The, December 7, 2015 – “Next stop for lawmakers after highway bill: Aviation funding”, November 30, 2015 – “Bicycling tourists are older, wealthier, and in demand”

Washington Post, November 25, 2015 – “What happens when cities and states try to prepare for self-driving cars”

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Association Notes
TDA Welcomes a New Member!

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TDA Fly-in to Washington, D.C.
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26th Annual Fly-in
April 6th-7th

It’s almost that time of year again – the time of year TDA members join together to show our delegation just how important federal transportation investment is to Wisconsin.

Click here to see how you can add your voice and participate in the 2016 TDA Fly-in.

Given an unusual election year schedule, the House will be in recess the week of April 4. However, the Senate will be in session. Meetings will be made with appropriate staff.

We are excited about a tour we've booked of the Speaker's Office. What a view!

If you are thinking about attending, please make note of the following:

  • Air transport is not included in the package. Start looking now for deals on your flight.
  • Industry consolidation has resulted in fewer flight options than in years past, so don't wait to book your flight.
  • The April 7th schedule will allow attendees to make the 3:45 p.m. nonstop Southwest Airlines flight (#1465) from D.C. to Milwaukee.

Don't wait! Book your flight and register today. Registrations are due March 4th. 

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@TDAWisconsin, Now on Twitter
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Racine buses. Green Bay port. Rail lines in Superior. Waukesha Airport. Roads we all use. WI’s transpo network: heart of our economy.

Follow TDA for the latest in transportation news.

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