Saturday, January 14, 2017

This Week in Transportation: January 14, 2017


This week in transportation, Takata agreed to a fine for exploding airbags, Elaine Chao had her Senate confirmation hearing, and a new report predicted cost overruns and delays for California's high-speed rail line. Here are the most important and interesting transportation stories from the past week:

Three Takata executives indicted over exploding airbags
CNN reports, "Three former executives of Japanese airbag maker Takata were indicted over the company's exploding airbags Friday. In addition, the company pleaded guilty to corporate criminal charges and agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, the Justice Department said... But most of the money that the company agreed to pay as part of the settlement will go to the automakers who bought the airbags from the company and have had to pay to repair them. The company will have to set up a fund with $125 million to compensate victims and their families as part of its guilty plea. But that's a fraction of the $850 million that will go to the automakers."

What we learned at Chao's confirmation hearing
Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, whom President-Elect Donald Trump selected to head the Department of Transportation, had her Senate confirmation hearing this week. Check out my write-up on what we learned about where Chao stands on a variety of transportation issues, including safety, regulation, and the balance of private investment and federal spending.

Obama admin sets climate metric for federal projects
E&E News reports, "A final draft of a rule the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published on its website would require state and regional highway planners to measure and report the greenhouse gas emissions of projects receiving federal funding. Environmentalists have framed the measure as a long-term strategy to lower vehicle emissions by encouraging public transportation and dense housing. Some planners, including those in California and Massachusetts, already take greenhouse gas emissions into account. Critics, however, argue that Congress did not give the highway agency the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions."

California's bullet train is hurtling toward a multibillion-dollar overrun, a confidential federal report warns
The LA Times reports, "California's bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that’s just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by The Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion... The California High-Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won’t happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule."

Local state legislators vow to fight proposed high speed rail
KBTX reports, "Brazos Valley lawmakers in Austin are against a high speed rail system proposed to be built between Houston and Dallas. Many of them cite a statistic that says not one private high speed system has ever been profitable. 'When you look across, not just our country but the world, and you can't find an example of a private high speed rail project that's not funded partly by government subsidies, ie, the taxpayers, I really think that should give us pause,' said State Representative Trent Ashby... The other point lawmakers like State Representative Leighton Schubert make is that the infrastructure would physically divide parts of the state."

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

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