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May 15, 2017 7:00 PM, EDT
Capitol Agenda for the Week of May 15: Infrastructure Week Is Here
Marcia Hale, Eugene Mulero

The week ahead for trucking on Capitol Hill.

The president’s preoccupation with the FBI, “fake news” and the careers of West Wing staffers does little to help infrastructure proponents who are sounding the alarm about potholes, crumbling bridges and massive traffic jams. Over the weekend, senior lawmakers, such as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), acknowledged the White House’s crisis du jour is hindering the Republican leadership’s efforts to accomplish its agenda, as well as the president’s to-do list. Earlier this year, speaking at North America’s Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference, Trump reaffirmed his pedigree as a developer, saying: “It was about time we had a builder in the White House.” Yet, aside from flirting with the notion of supporting an increase in federal fuel taxes, Trump has lacked urgency in tackling the Highway Trust Fund’s looming shortfall.

More than 100 members of Congress are urging their tax policy colleagues to ensure the fund’s long-term solvency.

Throughout Infrastructure Week, which kicks off May 15 in Washington, D.C.,  federal lawmakers will be joined by state and local officials, thousands of investors, experts, industry executives and advocates in calling on Trump to follow through on his promise to invest $1 trillion over a decade on infrastructure projects.

Atop the freight industry’s list of priorities is to minimize congestion along major highways. Congestion costs the industry billions of dollars annually.

Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics

At the beginning of the month, Transport Topics reviewed traffic conditions along Interstate 81 in Maryland and Virginia. The primary freight corridor of Appalachia is mostly two lanes in both directions and becoming increasingly unable to cope with traffic volumes. Jim Ward, CEO of D.M. Bowman Inc., a trucking and warehousing firm based in Williamsport, Md., shared his concern with us.

“I don’t see the traffic patterns reducing. I see the volume increasing again, as population continues to grow, as the economy continues to pick up and as goods, especially from a manufacturing standpoint, continue to flow and move in a just-in-time, timely manner,” Ward said. “Delays on that corridor certainly add to increased cost, as we all know, to those goods, and to those manufacturers, if those goods aren’t where they need to be in a timely manner.”

During the campaign, Trump told small business owners from Appalachia and elsewhere he would look after their economic interests. His recent declarations on social media are not advancing the ambitious goal for fixing and modernizing the country’s freight corridors.

THE WEEK AHEAD (all times EDT):

May 15, 9 a.m.: Infrastructure Week kicks off at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with speeches from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D), American Society of Civil Engineers President Norma Jean Mattei, and the Chamber’s CEO, Thomas Donohue.

Chao by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg News

May 16, 8 a.m.: The Atlantic hosts "Mapping the Future of Mobility" to examine the future of transportation and how it will be shaped by government, tech and automotive leaders. Participants include Darnell Girsby, director of policy development and research at the American Public Transportation Association; Gabe Klein, co-founder of CityFi; Carrie Morton, deputy director of Mcity; and Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large at The Atlantic.

May 16, 8:30 a.m.: The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors hosts panels with Jeff Davis, senior fellow at the Eno Center for Transportation; and Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.).

May 16, 3:15 p.m.: The Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee meets on "Leveraging Federal Funding: Innovative Solutions for Infrastructure."

May 17, 8:30 a.m.: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce holds its fifth annual Global Supply Chain Summit featuring Huban Gowadia, acting administrator of the Transportation Security Administration; House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas); and Geronimo Gutierrez Fernandez, Mexican Ambassador to the United States.

May 17, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing titled: "Improving America's Transportation Infrastructure: The Road Forward."

May 17, 5:30 p.m.: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, headlines a Politico panel on congressional efforts on tax reform.

Jacob Fischler, Kathryn Wolfe, Melanie Zanona

May 17, 6 p.m.: Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) headlines the Atlantic Council’s discussion on "A New Era for U.S. Infrastructure?" focusing on the current and potential investment opportunities.

May 18, 10 a.m.: House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee meets for a hearing on "Emerging Transportation Technologies."

May 18, 10 a.m.: The Bipartisan Policy Center holds a discussion on "1 Trillion Dollars for Infrastructure? Balancing Public and Private Sources."

May 19, 2 p.m.: Transport Topics hosts a LiveOnWeb Reporter Roundtable, featuring Kathy Wolfe of Politico, Melanie Zanona of The Hill, and Jacob Fischler of CQ Roll Call.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

NATSO: Members of Congress should extend the biodiesel blenders’ tax credit when they take up legislation that would overhaul the country’s tax code, the association representing truck stops and travel plazas indicated recently.

UNDERRIDE: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said May 10 it supports creating a new safety mandate requiring side underride guards on semitrailers to help reduce a leading cause of truck-involved accident fatalities. The move follows a March visit to Capitol Hill from citizen advocates who presented lawmakers with draft language of a bill requiring more underride protection on various trucks.

NIKOLA: Nikola Motor Co. is considering several changes related to its planned hydrogen-electric Class 8 trucks, the company told those who have made reservations and placed refundable deposits. Those changes include chassis design and leasing options.

BUZZ:

Be on the lookout this week for a major report that will outline the impact highway congestion is having on the trucking industry.

WHAT WE’RE READING:

Marketplace’s analysis of governors identifying infrastructure projects for the Trump administration’s consideration included this insight: “Norman Anderson, CG/LA’s chief executive officer, met privately with White House officials in April to discuss their plans. He said he’s pushing them to first consider private investment.”

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“You are a principal economic policymaker in an administration that has made big promises to the American people and little to show for it.”

— Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on May 11.

FAVORITE VIDEO:

Don’t mess with Texas.

FAVORITE TWEET:

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) takes his infrastructure message locally.

Thanks for reading Capitol Agenda. We publish Tuesdays when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.