Marine Transportation System

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Proposed: Short Sea Transportation Grants

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced S. 1308, which includes a section that would fill a gap in the still new Short Sea Transportation program (see the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Public Law 110-140).  The Maritime Administration is reviewing comments filed in response to the interim final regulations for the program through which the DOT Secretary will designate marine highway corridors and select projects.  The gap is a funding provision to provide tangible financial support for marine highway projects that eventually are selected as worthy of Federal endorsement.  See section twelve in the bill, which was introduced a few days ago.  Lautenberg chairs the subcommittee of jurisdiction. – Pbea

Proposed: Short Sea Transportation Grants


In Uncategorized on June 21, 2009 at 4:01 am

…Oberstar told BNA that the White House’s plan is “terribly detrimental” and “irresponsible.” Oberstar said… [he] did not expect [House] leadership to try to oppose his ambitious agenda. (Source: BNA)

This is strong rhetoric aimed at the White House.  The respective stances of the Administration and the House transporation chairman are not surprising, but these words do have a sharpness that if anything reminds us that the prerogatives of institutions and the priority agendas of leaders don’t take a back seat to party allegiance.  For quite some time Oberstar has aimed to put his stamp on a major restructuring of the failing surface transportation policy.  Indeed he and the White House likely agree to a great extent on major elements of a new policy.  But the White House calculus in calling for an 18 month delay on the issue–thus postponing a politically taxing tax debate–appears to have little to do with the imperative to solve significant policy and program problems (although one can see the benefit of allowing certain policy discussions to ripen a bit more).  The proposed postponement has everything to do with everything else that is on the White House agenda.  ~   Let’s acknowledge that transportation just doesn’t rise anywhere near the top of the tall stack of do-now issues in the Oval Office.  Furthermore I’m not sure the trillions in the economic recovery package are an indicator of a president’s strong interest in transportation.  It was a means to pump money into the economy and create jobs.  As it happened, it also gave him an opportunity to put a personal imprint on transportation through his initiative on hi-speed rail.    ~    It’s terrific that he is pressing to upgrade and increase passenger rail service in the US.  But if that and “livable communities”–also a very important objective–end up being the highlights of the president’s term as it regards transportation initiatives then the search may continue for a successor to Eisenhower.  But let’s not abandon hope just yet. –  Pbea

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2009 at 4:32 pm

First out of the gate: A detailed description of the planned House surface transportation bill to “transform Federal surface transportation from an amalgamation of prescriptive programs to a performance-based framework”.  The bill text and committee action will come in the next week(s).

To Reform, Perchance to Tax (Aye, There’s the Rub)

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2009 at 2:03 pm

The unveiling of T&I Chairman Jim Oberstar’s [TEA] bill had competition for ink.  Former House colleague and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday proposed that instead of tackling the full $450B authorization bill Congress should:

Extend SAFETEA-LU for 18 months | Adopt some reforms  |  Hold off raising the gas tax.

There is political wisdom in the Administration’s position.  The failing Highway Trust Fund notwithstanding it’s not a propitious time to raise taxes.  Besides Congress already faces a daunting agenda, pressed by the White House to tackle healthcare, finance sector reform, economic recovery, and climate change first.  LaHood’s stance was endorsed yesterday by Senate EPW Chair Barbara Boxer, whose committee wasn’t going to produce its version any time soon anyway.  But Oberstar is consistent and persistent.  He has been building toward this time and is raring to go.  As far as he is concerned Congress should get it done in time for SAFETEA-LU’s expiration (Sept30) and he will get his bill out this summer.  And, not coincidentally, he will plant the first stake as to new policy in this era that some hope will become the Transportation Reformation.  (It will take at least ninety-five theses to get us back to ISTEA.) – Pbea

To Reform, Perchance to Tax (Aye, There’s the Rub)

Are We Intermodal Enough Yet?

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2009 at 6:16 pm

“The preamble to ISTEA [1991] said that our goal should be "to develop a National Intermodal Transportation System that is environmentally sound, provides the foundation for the Nation to compete in the global economy and will move people and goods in an energy efficient manner.” Its language is still refreshing 18 years later.  What is striking about it is that it doesn’t mention individual modes but focuses policymakers’ and the public’s attentions on moving people and goods–the reason transportation exists in the first place.“ – Steven Van Beek, Eno Transportation Foundation

"Concern about intermodal issues was a constant theme in our outreach meetings during the [Obama] transition…. The symbolism of dropping the "I” from ISTEA was not lost on many.  While returning it might create an unworkable acronym, the spirit needs to be there.  Perhaps the next bill should update the ISTEA preamble and policy statement–and maybe we should even do what Senator Moynihan always wanted done, and post that policy statement in every DOT office.  Short of that, the Department’s leadership should refocus on the principle of One DOT and the primacy of looking at the needs of passengers and freight, not the shape of programs and funding.“  – Mort Downey

"A simple example of how we have fallen short – a debate exists today over whether highway and road signing should universally reflect multimodal choices that travelers can take.” – Rich Sarles, NJ Transit

“But the bigger question is – intermodal enough for what? What are we hoping intermodalism will help us achieve? And how will we know when we’ve gotten there?” – Susan Zielinski, SMART, UMich

The National Journal asked “Are We Intermodal Enough Yet?"  The replies are predictibly in the negative and also instructive. The National Journal transportation "experts” blog is worth an occasional visit. – Pbea

Are We Intermodal Enough Yet?

Desirable: DOT Coordination Without…And Within

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2009 at 5:52 pm

“These principles mean that we will all be working off the same playbook to formulate and implement policies and programs. For the first time, the Federal government will speak with one voice on housing, environmental and transportation policy,” said the HUD Secretary about the Obama Administration’s “sustainable communities"  agreement between USDOT, HUD and EPA.

That’s good…now how about within the transportation family?  The new and laudable interagency agreement makes us wonder again if someday the USDOT member agencies–particularly the modal administrations–will adopt and practice intermodal principles and a mechanism for coordination.  "A framework to guide decisions,” to borrow from the EPA Administrator’s quote.  House Transportation chair Jim Oberstar (D-MN) is intent on forcing modal coordination in the next TEA bill.  Maybe Secretary LaHood will come up with his own approach.  But it would have to be one that can overcome a fair measure of skepticism in and outside the department about the feasibility of a one-DOT approach.  (Is there such a thing as an intra-agency memorandum of agreement?)  – Pbea

Desirable: DOT Coordination Without…And Within

It Makes No Sense

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2008 at 12:48 pm

“Recession or no recession, our nation desperately needs to update infrastructure that lags behind that of even some developing countries. But it is also true that a recession is the perfect time to put money into long-term investments like massive public-works projects because it creates jobs while pumping up our economy. It’s like hitting two homeruns with one swing. FDR knew that when he created the New Deal."  Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Building Back”,  Newsweek, December 17, 2008

It Makes No Sense

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2008 at 9:52 pm

TELL THEM ABOUT TRANSPORTATION…“them” being President-elect Obama and the next Congress who will make major policy and funding decisions.  The campaign invites text and video comments from transportation users to tell Washington decision makers “what they need to know to take action to improve transportation next year”.  Sounds right.  Tell them.  Pbea

Stimulating the Economy with a Vision

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2008 at 1:54 pm

“But alas, there’s no evidence so far that the Obama infrastructure plan is attached to any larger social vision. In fact, there is a real danger that the plan will retard innovation and entrench the past.”

David Brooks of the NYT is right to look for the Obama Administration to put a social context–enhancing community, for instance–to the billions in infrastructure investments that Congress will approve in the first months of the new administration.  That is detail–a policy framework–we hope will come from the president-elect.  It can start in general terms with the stimulus package and then be given finer detail in the surface transportation proposal.  Pbea

Stimulating the Economy with a Vision

18 Agencies with 1 National Strategy for the MTS

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2008 at 12:49 pm

“Through the National Strategy, the CMTS will communicate information about challenges that need to be addressed to improve the MTS and ensure that policies and actions of its Agencies are synchronized, coordinated with other policy facilitation structures such as the Committee on Ocean Policy, focused on the future, and targeted to the most critical issues.”

A positive action taken by the Bush Administration in the area of the port/maritime sector was the creation of the cabinet level Committee for the Marine Transportation System.  The newly released “national strategy” framework by the CMTS considers the MTS condition and recommends action in eight areas ranging from promotion of the Marine Highway to environmental sustainability.   Pbea

18 Agencies with 1 National Strategy for the MTS