Congress adjourned last weekend and will not return until after the elections. The duration of the post-election lame duck session has yet to be determined. However, there is still much that needs to be done.
In the push to wrap up items prior to the end of the session, Congress was able to clear the following:
Stopgap 2007 federal funding – Congress passed a continuing resolution providing FY 2007 funding through November 17th for federal programs and agencies whose appropriation bills had not yet been enacted, including transportation.
Port security – Congress was also able to pass H.R. 4954, the port security bill. This bill was presented to the President on October 3rd but to date has not been signed.
Peter’s nomination – The Senate confirmed Mary Peters to be Secretary of Transportation by unanimous consent.
The following items will have to wait until after the election:
FY 2007 appropriations – Currently, only the 2007 defense and homeland appropriation bills have been signed into law.
SAFETEA-LU technical corrections bill –The House passed H.R. 6233, a bill making corrections to SAFETEA-LU, by voice vote. However, the bill was not brought up in the Senate prior to adjourning.
Water Resource Development Act – In July the Senate finally passed its versions of the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) – almost a year to the day after the House passed its version. House-Senate conferees still must meet to reconcile the two versions of the bill. The reconciliation must be passed by both houses before the end of the lame duck session. If this work is not completed prior to the end of the session, the slate will be cleared. Both the House and Senate will have to pass an authorization bill again in the next session.
2006 TDA Annual Meeting
Regardless of the outcome of the elections in November, there will still be significant transportation funding challenges. Wisconsin’s $1 billion plus general fund deficit will need to be addressed and transportation needs will still outpace revenue by nearly $700 million annually. The TDA annual meeting on October 26th will look beyond the elections and provide the perspective necessary to position the industry for success in the 2007-2009 state budget.
The meeting will begin with a real world example of why transportation matters. Dave Alamshah, director of transportation logistics for Harley-Davidson, will detail the critical role transportation plays in assembling, distributing and enjoying the world’s most popular motorcycles. Without an efficient transportation system, iconic companies like Harley-Davidson would not exist and expand in Wisconsin.
Following an overview of the current state of transportation funding, Erika Fowler a partner in the polling firm Capitol Opinion will review state and national transportation polling data. Erika’s research will reveal the public perceptions of the transportation system and willingness to meet future needs. This presentation will provide an honest assessment of where transportation ranks in the political priority list and what messages focus the public on transportation issues. TDA is producing a short video that will bring Erika’s information to life by discussing transportation issues with ordinary people. The discussions are sure to be entertaining and enlightening.
After looking at the public’s perception of transportation, Roger Putnam and Tim Roby will provide a look at the way legislators perceive transportation. Roger and Tim are the cofounders of the strategic communication firm Putnam Roby Communications. In addition to providing TDA and many other clients with message development and outreach advice, Putnam and Roby do weekly battle on Madison’s WMTV-NBC 15 5 o’clock newscast in a segment called “Unspun.” Unspun pits Democrat Putnam against Republican Roby as they debate the hot political issues of the week. Putnam and Roby will bring their unspun format to TDA, providing members with perspectives on transportation from both sides of the aisle. Their entertaining brand of give and take will parallel the position of leading policymakers as they craft the upcoming budget and show us how our issues are discussed behind closed doors in the capitol.
The meeting will conclude with a presentation of the TDA communication plan for 2007. This plan will focus on the need to broaden the transportation coalition.
Click here for more information and a registration form.
Petri Holds Hearing on Freight
On September 7th, Representative Petri, Chairman of the House Highways, Transit, and Pipelines Subcommittee, held the second in a series of hearings on freight mobility. The hearing was intended to provide information on how businesses rely on an efficient and reliable transportation system when making supply management decisions.
In his opening remarks, Representative Petri said, “Freight congestion problems have a direct impact on businesses that employ “just in time” inventory strategies and global supply chains. Predictability in shipping freight is the cornerstone of both of these business strategies. The reliability of our nation’s transportation system has a direct impact on the productivity of our economy.”
Testifying before the committee were representatives from three companies that rely heavily on freight logistics: Christopher Lofgren, president and CEO of Schneider National, Inc.; Douglas Duncan, president and CEO of FedEx Freight; and Tim Yatsko, senior vice president of transportation for Wal-Mart.
Lofgren identified six challenges facing the trucking industry including driver shortages, equipment and fuel costs, passenger vehicle safety, government intervention and infrastructure. According to Lofgren, infrastructure is deteriorating due to inadequate investment. Both Duncan and Yatsko agreed transportation infrastructure must be improved and expanded. Duncan went on to state FedEx supports increasing the federal fuel tax if the additional revenue would be used solely to improve highways. However, Duncan concluded, “…I would tell you that the issues we face in the trucking industry go beyond roads – railways, dams, rivers, ports, and airways all affect the movement of goods.”
The first hearing in this series – entitled “Highway Capacity and Freight Mobility: The Current Status and Future Challenges” – was held in May. Before the end of the year, Petri hopes to hold the third hearing in this series which will address the role of technology in improving mobility.
Commission Holds First Hearing in Dallas
The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission held a field hearing in Dallas. This hearing was the first of four scheduled through the remainder of this year and into next.
Texas was chosen as a venue for the hearing in part because the state is in the midst of planning and debating the Trans-Texas Corridor -- what some suggest could be an innovative and highly ambitious bypass of the current north-south Interstate 35 corridor including tolled and expanded highway lanes, as well as conduits for rail and utilities.
The Dallas hearing was sponsored by: The International Bridge, Tunnel & Turnpike Authority (IBTTA); the American Public Transportation Association (APTA); the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America); and the Texas Department of Transportation (Texas DOT).
Officials from these organizations also testified before the Commission. Officials of the transportation research firm Cambridge Systematics told the Commission that federal, state and local governments will need to come up with at least $157 billion more per year in order to properly maintain and improve roads and transit, nearly double what is spent currently. In order to achieve this objective, they recommended indexing the gas tax to inflation, tolling more highways and increasing the involvement of the private sector. Longer-term solutions could include charging drivers for each mile driven, or charging higher fees on congested roads.
Study Commission member Frank McArdle of the General Contractors Association of New York said, "We need to know a lot more. Somebody has to pay that revenue. We have to understand the impacts. At the end of the day, we have to hear from the people who use the system."
The commission’s final report is currently due in July 2007. However, a pending SAFETEA-LU technical corrections bill includes a provision extending the deadline to Dec. 31, 2007.
Judge Rules: EPA to Regulate Ballast Water
On September 18th, a federal district judge in northern California issued a ruling that is likely to have significant implications for Wisconsin ports. Judge Susan Illston ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must begin regulating contaminated ballast water discharges from freighters by 2008 under the Clean Water Act.
The EPA has refused to weigh in on the ballast water issue citing its own rule that exempts the agency from regulating the shipping industry for discharges that are incidental to normal operations. Pursuant to a suit brought by a coalition of west coast environmental groups and joined by six great lakes states, including Wisconsin, Judge Illston ruled that the EPA position was contrary to congressional intent of the Clean Water Act.
The ruling may finally result in a federal solution to the problem of invasive species in the great lakes. Great lakes port operators have advocated a federal solution to prevent states from enacting separate solutions that may put one state at a competitive disadvantage relative to neighboring states. Invasive species enter the great lakes when ballast water is gathered in the ocean and discharged in great lakes ports. The great lakes are now home to 182 non-native species and scientists identify a new species every 6 ½ months on average. One invader, the Zebra Mussel, is blamed for an estimated $2 billion in damage to great lakes industries.
New Amtrak President on the Job
Last month, Alexander Kummant assumed the duties of Amtrak President and CEO. Kummant is a veteran railroad and industrial executive.
Kummant previously served as a regional vice president for the Union Pacific Railroad, overseeing 6,000 employees and an 8,000-mile rail network. He has also held other executive positions with the railroad. In these positions, Kummant was responsible for substantially improved customer service, on-time delivery, and significant gains in financial and operational performance.
Recently, Kummant served as the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Komatsu America Corporation, a division of the second largest supplier of construction equipment worldwide.
“Alex Kummant has the outstanding credentials and experience to lead a changing Amtrak that is more customer-focused and fiscally responsible,” said Amtrak Chairman David M. Laney.
David Hughes, formerly chief engineer at Amtrak, has served as the interim president since November 2005 when David Gunn was fired by Amtrak’s governing board over on-going conflicts with the Bush Administration regarding the future direction of Amtrak.
Transportation in the News
The Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission discussed tax and fee increases and public-private partnerships as a way to meet the state’s $2 billion transportation funding shortfall. The Commission which was established by first term Democrat Governor Rendell is similar to Wisconsin’s Road to the Future Committee.
The idea of allowing private entities own and operate public transportation facilities was the primary topic of discussion at the commission’s sixth and final public hearing. Craig Shuey, director of the Senate Transportation Committee, told commission members that a bill to create public-private partnerships could be ready for consideration in October. The concept received support from Pennsylvania transportation advocates including the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors as long as proceeds are used strictly for transportation improvements.
A final report from the transportation commission is due on November 15th. The report is expected to include new taxes, fee increases and public-private partnerships to address the transportation funding gap.
Virginia legislators failed to enact legislation to address the transportation crisis facing Northern Virginia residents. The legislature met for a three day special session in late September with the specific goal of funding transportation after the transportation provisions were removed from the overall state budget enacted earlier this year.
The failure to enact a new transportation budget means Virginia residents, particularly those in gridlocked Northern Virginia, will receive no relief for another two years. Many top priority projects in Northern Virginia may have to be cancelled and the state may lose $63 million in federal funding for projects that are not likely to be built.
Democrat Governor Tim Kaine proposed $1 billion in new transportation spending in his initial state budget. However, a stalemate arose when conservatives in control of the legislature refused to consider new transportation spending. Legislators from traffic-clogged communities vowed to continue working on a solution, but progress is not expected.
After receiving a study that predicted significant toll increases, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich announced his opposition to selling the Illinois Tollway to a private entity. “One of the problems with privatizing the tollway is the private companies whose motivation is to raise profits. They are apt to raise tolls and they may be less apt to maintain the infrastructure,” said Blagojevich.
The Democrat governor also indicated that there was not enough support in the legislature to privatize the tollway. Judy Baar Topinka, the governor’s Republican opponent in the upcoming election, has also taken a position against privatizing the tollway.
Former State Rep. Dave Brandemuehl Dies
Former State Rep. Dave Brandemuehl died September 26th of an apparent heart attack at the age of 74. Brandemuehl, of Fennimore, served the 49th Assembly District from 1986 to 2000. During that time, he served on various highway or transportation committees, including time as chairman.
2006 Annual Meeting
Marriott Madison West
TRANSPORTATION INVESTMENT: Public Opinion & Political Will
Transportation in Wisconsin is at a crossroads.
Investment is not keeping up with needs, and in fact, we are falling further behind with each passing year. The next biennial budget will be crucial for Wisconsin Transportation. Without increased investment, programs will be cut and projects will be delayed. However, significant investment is unlikely unless transportation becomes a priority.
This summer, the state legislature’s Road to the Future Committee announced that up to $700 million of additional revenue is needed each year to deliver transportation programs already regarded as critical. This projection does not include unfunded needs in the areas of aviation, rail and ports. Wisconsin’s ability to compete both within the United States and globally is highly dependent on its ability to maintain and improve the state’s entire transportation system. It is our job to provide for Wisconsin’s future by ensuring the next biennial budget begins to fund the state’s transportation system adequately.
Please attend the 2006 TDA Annual Meeting for a closer look at public opinion and political will. At this meeting, we will discuss how the Wisconsin business community, the public and politicians view the funding of transportation and what TDA members need to do to make transportation investments a top priority.
Click here for the 2006 TDA Annual Meeting registration form.
TDA Lunch Roundtables
With the 2007-2009 state budget cycle about to begin, the state appears to be headed for another round of funding challenges. Transportation needs continue to outpace available revenues and the purchasing power of those revenues is declining almost daily. Despite the documented needs, the transportation fund may again be called upon to help finance programs unrelated to transportation.
We would like to hear your transportation priorities and issues and how TDA can become a more effective voice for transportation in your region.
TDA’s Executive Director, Bob Cook, invites you and any interested friends for a roundtable discussion and lunch. Please consider taking the time to share your perspectives so that together we can create a brighter future for Wisconsin transportation and the state’s economy.
Oct. 11 Eau Claire – Sweetwaters Restaurant, 1104 West Clairemont Ave.
Oct. 18 Janesville – The Speakeasy, 19 North High St.
Oct. 20 Milwaukee – Champps Americana, 1240 S. Moorland Rd., Brookfield
Note: New Date!
All lunch roundtables will begin at noon and end by 1:30 p.m.
There is no fee for attendance. However, please RSVP at least one day prior to the luncheon you wish to attend. You may contact the TDA office either by phone, (608) 256-7044, or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save these Dates
2007 TDA Fly-in
March 14th & 15th
Please plan to join the 17th annual TDA Fly-in.