Saturday, April 23, 2016

Transportation News Round-Up: April 23, 2016

This week in transportation, Congress moved closer to reauthorizing the FAA, a Senate subcommittee passed a transportation appropriations bill, and California's high-speed rail adjustment got additional scrutiny. Here are the most important and interesting transportation stories of the week:

Politico: Senate passes FAA bill, and momentum moves back to the House
The U.S. Senate passed FAA reauthorization legislation on April 20, following House passage of a different reauthorization bill earlier in the year. One of the critical differences between the two chambers' bills is that the Senate version doesn't privatize our air traffic control system; it also doesn't include certain renewable energy tax provisions. Congress now has until the end of July to conference on the bill or pass a short-term extension before FAA's authorization expires.

The Hill: Appropriations subcommittee backs transportation spending bill
The Senate Appropriations subcommittee on transportation and housing unanimously reported its appropriations bill to the full committee this week. The bill would provide $56.5 billion to the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other related agencies for fiscal year 2017. This includes $16.9 billion for DOT, about a 9 percent cut over the current funding level. The summary of the bill emphasizes the bill's focus on making transportation systems safer, more efficient, and reliable.

The Globe and Mail: Illinois drivers may soon have to pay per mile
To fill a $43 billion funding shortfall over the next decade, Illinois lawmakers are considering replacing the gas tax - which has become less adequate as cars become more fuel efficient - with a pay-per-mile tax scheme. Illinois drivers would have the option of installing a geo-location device to track their in-state mileage, pay based on their car odometer reading (which would include out-of-state mileage), or pay an annual flat fee of $450 (the equivalent of driving 30,000 miles). As I've written before, there will be a number of challenges associated with switching to a per-mile tax system, but it seems Illinois has already started grappling with some of these questions.

Sacramento Bee: California high-speed rail officials tinker with $64B plan
Sensing that more community engagement and transparency towards lawmakers is needed, the California High-Speed Rail Authority decided this week not to pass its latest business plan, which shifts the initial construction segment north to avoid the expensive mountainous stretch in Southern California, just yet. The Authority has to update its business plan every two years, but lawmakers and the public alike feel they weren't included in the process that led to this drastic change of plans, and worry that in two years the plan will simply change again.

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

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