Jessica Wehrman

Infrastructure plan could point to sea change for schools
Federal role in public school construction opposed by conservatives

The nation’s roads and bridges may be falling down, but its schools aren’t far behind.

So education proponents paid attention last week when, unveiling a $760 billion legislative infrastructure framework, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that any infrastructure package would ultimately include federal dollars for school construction.

Trump scales down once-grand infrastructure ambitions
Infrastructure gets passing mention on State of the Union address; Democrats' ambitious proposal not mentioned at all

President Donald Trump used 189 words of his 2018 State of the Union address to call for a $1.5 trillion investment in U.S. infrastructure.

On Tuesday night, the former real estate mogul signaled how much times have changed.

Trump popularity reigns in Ohio county tying its future to natural gas
‘I’m not tired of winning,’ car wash owner says

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ohio — The oldest county in Ohio was founded two years before the other Washington — the nation’s capital.

Back then, the pioneers placed their hopes in a rich swath of unsettled land.

Ambitious infrastructure plan hits reality check: How to pay for it
Disagreements illustrate how difficult it will be to bring plan to fruition

On Wednesday morning, House Democrats presented an ambitious vision for a massive infusion of federal dollars in the nation’s infrastructure. 

By Wednesday afternoon, members of the House Ways and Means Committee illustrated how difficult it will be to bring that plan to fruition.

House Democrats tout five-year, $760 billion infrastructure plan
GOP members offer infrastructure ideas as well, urge bipartisan legislation

House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious five-year, $760 billion infrastructure framework, part of a concentrated election-year effort to show they can pursue aggressive legislation even as they make a case for the Senate to remove President Donald Trump from office.

“These are not message bills,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “We are hoping we’ll have the support of Republicans and the president of the United States.”

DeFazio readies 'transformative' infrastructure bill
Zero-emission vehicles, new transit options to be included in plan. Republicans say they have their own ideas

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter A. DeFazio said Tuesday he will push for a “transformative” infrastructure bill that will aim to eliminate carbon emissions from transportation, encourage the government to build carbon-neutral buildings, make renewable fuels more available to airlines and increase transit options, including rail.

DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, will present what he characterizes as a framework to House Democrats on Wednesday morning, with tentative plans to publicly roll out that framework later in the day.

How to pay for infrastructure? Ways and Means will count the ways
Raising long-stagnant fuel taxes is an option, but some Republicans have other ideas. Pay per mile?

When the House Ways and Means Committee meets Wednesday to take its first tentative steps to deciding how to pay for a federal infrastructure bill, its members will revive a perennial battle that could derail the whole debate: whether to raise a gas tax unchanged since 1993.

Since it was created in 1956, the Highway Trust Fund — paid for primarily by a federal gas tax — has largely funded highway construction and maintenance as well as transit.

Emotional support animals could be banned from planes under DOT rule
Airlines would still have to board specially trained service dogs. No miniature horses, capuchin monkeys or peacocks.

Snakes on a plane? Probably not —at least in the cabin.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Wednesday released a proposed rule that would let airlines ban most "emotional support" animals in airplane cabins and board only specially trained service dogs to assist people with disabilities.

Emails ensure Boeing scrutiny will continue, DeFazio says
Transportation and Infrastructure chairman questions whether the company has given his panel the ‘full picture’

The chairman of the committee investigating how the troubled Boeing 737 Max made its way through the Federal Aviation Administration flight certification process questioned on Friday whether the company has given his panel the “full picture” of the jet’s development, saying he believes Boeing may be trying to scapegoat lower-level employees.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he will press Boeing attorneys to release more documents, saying he will continue the investigation into the crash even as his committee pushes toward legislation to prevent similar tragedies.

Emails show Boeing employees derided FAA and worried about 737 Max simulators
Chairmen investigating FAA's handling of ill-fated aircraft say 'incredibly damning' messages show 'troubling disregard for safety'

Long before two separate Boeing 737 Max airplane crashes killed 346 people, employees of the company exchanged internal messages displaying deep concern about the aircraft’s simulators as well as disdain for federal regulators.

In dozens of pages of messages released to congressional committees investigating the October 2018 crash of a Lion Air jet in Indonesia and the March 2019 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft in Ethiopia, employees expressed dismay about a flight simulator used to test the aircraft, criticized the culture of the company and bantered about tricking regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration to certify the aircraft.

FAA review predicted fatalities after first Boeing 737 Max crash
The review predicted at least 15 more 737 Max crashes over the lifetime of the 4,800 jets in service. Another came within months.

 

About a month after a Boeing 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189 people in October 2018, the FAA privately conducted a grim analysis that predicted more fatal crashes for the aircraft, according to a report released at a House hearing Wednesday.

NDAA provision targets Chinese rail cars and electric buses
Defense bill bars spending federal dollars on vehicles made by state-owned or controlled companies

Tucked in the conference report of the NDAA is a provision aimed at blocking Chinese companies from building rail cars or buses used in U.S. transit. 

The final version of the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act released Monday night would bar federal dollars from being used to purchase passenger rail cars or buses from state-owned or state-controlled enterprises, such as those from China.

Train safety technology hasn't quite reached the station
Fatalities add up as cost and complexity delay full implementation of 'positive train control' system

After years of delays, a railroad safety system that federal regulators say could have prevented some 300 deaths since 1969 is finally close to full implementation — but large gaps remain, with commuter railroads using the system on fewer than half of the tracks required by December 2020.

Overall, the news for supporters of the so-called positive train control system is promising — 92 percent of the 58,000 track miles required to implement the safety system have it installed, according the Federal Railroad Administration, which is overseeing compliance with the law. 

Two agencies, two different approaches to drone threats at airports
FAA considers registering drones, DHS contemplates shooting them down as sightings near airports increase dramatically

DeFazio wants to go big on infrastructure despite hurdles
Plan embraces automated vehicles and intelligent transportation roadways

House Democrats are renewing their push for a major infrastructure bill without the support they once hoped to get from President Donald Trump.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter A. DeFazio, D-Oregon, presented a comprehensive infrastructure plan during a closed-door meeting of House Democrats late Thursday. The legislation is still being drafted, he said, and he declined to offer any cost estimates.

Lawmakers aim to thwart Amtrak forced-arbitration policy
New rule prevents lawsuits over injuries or deaths of passengers in rail accidents

Lawmakers are in the initial stages of determining whether they can prevent Amtrak from implementing a forced arbitration policy that would bar passengers from suing if they’re hurt or killed in crashes.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, said Wednesday that he was trying to determine how best to stop the government-supported passenger rail service from imposing the forced arbitration policy on customers. Amtrak began imposing the policy in January.

Report: Puerto Rico’s infrastructure failing as federal aid remains on hold
Engineers group says hurricane-ravaged island needs up to $23 billion investment over 10 years

More than two years after hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island’s bridges, dams, drinking water, ports, roads and power grids are at a breaking point — and the federal dollars to fix that infrastructure remains out of reach.

So says the American Society of Civil Engineers in a report released Tuesday that assigned the island’s infrastructure an overall grade of D-.

Lawmakers: Southwest flying 49 jets that don’t meet FAA standards
Paperwork to assure safety was overlooked in planes airline bought overseas

Southwest Airlines is flying 49 aircraft despite concerns that they do not comply with mandatory federal safety standards, according to documents released by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

At issue are 88 Southwest Airlines Boeing 737s previously operated by 16 different foreign air carriers between 2013 and 2017. None of the aircraft are the 737 Max model, which has been grounded by the FAA after two fatal crashes.

Transportation and data service providers battle for bandwidth
FCC chairman says it’s time to take ’fresh look’ at how frequencies are used

Two big industries are fighting over radio frequencies that each could use to provide game-changing services.

On one side is the transportation industry, including auto and truck makers and their suppliers. The frequencies would allow smart vehicles of the near future to talk to each other to use roadways more efficiently and avoid collisions.

Boeing chief at Senate 737 Max hearing: ‘We made mistakes’
Senators question whether Boeing held back key information and whether its culture contributed to unsafe aircraft

As he prepares for Wednesday’s oversight hearing with the embattled Boeing CEO, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter A. DeFazio must sort through a corporate culture that he believes compromised safety and find out what, if any, legislative remedies there are to be had.

The crash of two Boeing 737 Max aircraft over the past year — Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March — took the lives of 346 people and profoundly wounded the reputation and bottom line for the Chicago-based aircraft maker. The aircraft has been grounded in the U.S. since March.