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June 25, 2019 2:00 PM, EDT

Business, Freight Stakeholders Urge Trump, Congress to Advance Infrastructure Policy

Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is open to crafting infrastructure legislation but that Trump must be willing to negotiate with Democrats. (MSNBC via YouTube)

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Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi recently told reporters who met with her for breakfast in Washington that she remains committed to advancing an infrastructure policy measure that would boost jobs.

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

She explained a massive deal on infrastructure could be accomplished if President Donald Trump would only negotiate with her party.

Trump, the self-proclaimed Builder-in-Chief, has insisted he’d proceed with such legislation in the Pelosi-led House when investigations into his 2016 campaign no longer show up on his radar.

This Beltway-style policy clash of the titans is likely to go on through the 2020 elections. Infrastructure has disappeared from the headlines.

Trump’s messaging is mostly about immigration and foreign policy, while Democrats continue to investigate everything Trump has touched in the past decade.

Then there are the Senate Republican leaders who have not proposed comprehensive infrastructure legislation since Trump took office.

Along the sidelines is a significant slice of the country’s business community and freight executives who refuse to give up on a national infrastructure vision designed to ensure robust funding for the commercial and passenger corridors deemed vital to the economy.

According to analysts, an account that relies on dwindling revenue from federal fuel taxes is headed toward insolvency in a couple of years, complicating long-term planning for state transportation officials. The federal fuel tax has remained the same since 1993.

RELATED: Trucking policy in the spotlight on Capitol Hill

In a letter to Trump and the leadership on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a leader of the Infrastructure Week national campaign, and other groups, urged the political elites to “immediately resume discussions on America’s failing infrastructure and take legislative action this year.”

“Business and labor groups have come together and proposed a funding solution: raising the federal gas tax. Democrats and Republicans in blue, red, and purple states across the country have already taken this action, increasing their state gas taxes to finance their share of much-needed infrastructure improvement,” they wrote June 14. “Every day, the cost of federal inaction grows.”

Groups joining the Chamber included AFL-CIO, American Public Transportation Association, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and American Trucking Associations.

The lawmakers have yet to respond publicly.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Shailen Bhatt

Bhatt

Spotlight Hearing

June 25, 2:30 p.m.: Senators on the Commerce Committee continue to review advancements across the freight industry with a hearing titled, “Examining Technological Innovations in Transportation.” The Transportation and Safety Subcommittee will welcome Steve Ingracia, deputy director of technology and strategic planning in the Nebraska Department of Transportation; Shailen Bhatt, president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America; Patrick Duffy, president of Blockchain in Transport Alliance; Brent Hutto, chief relationship officer for Truckstop.com; and Ann Schlenker, director of Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Transportation Research.

June 24, 12:40 p.m.: The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. hosts a discussion with Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft.

June 26, 9:30 a.m.: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hosts a hearing titled, “Unprecedented Migration at the U.S. Southern Border: The Exploitation of Migrants through Smuggling, Trafficking, and Involuntary Servitude.”

June 26, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee hosts a hearing on Amtrak. Witnesses include Jennifer Homendy, member of the National Transportation Safety Board; Richard Anderson, CEO of Amtrak; Ian Jefferies, president of the Association of American Railroads; and James Souby, commissioner of the Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Commission and president of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association (ColoRail).

June 26, 2:30 p.m.: The Senate Budget Committee hosts a hearing with U.S. Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro.

June 26, 6:30 p.m.: The National Press Club hosts a discussion with Neil Irwin, senior economic correspondent at The New York Times.

June 27, 10 a.m.: The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hosts a hearing on the Export-Import Bank.

Mood Swings

The legislative horizon for comprehensive infrastructure policy remains bleak. Washington’s topic du jour is migrants-at-the-border/Iran.

 

Who’s New (Amazonification edition)

Ann Gutkin

Gutkin

Travel to Crystal City in Arlington, Va, or North Old Town, in nearby Alexandria, and you’ll be greeted by construction crews at the sites of future residential buildings. The area’s skyline is transforming in real time.

Aspects of this metamorphosis pre-date the announcement of Amazon’s arrival to the area. For a realtor’s perspective, Transport Topics caught up with Ann Gutkin, vice president of communications at the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. The group has hosted forums with stakeholders to explore the potential economic benefits to the region.

“We believe the presence of Amazon has provided a renewed focus by local governments on the region’s housing needs, which cross many income levels. Already the area governments have begun conversations to work together and to bring in more business participation in these efforts,” she said.

“We understand that Amazon is committed to providing considerable resources towards housing affordability, as is the Virginia Housing Development Authority. We support the renewed focus on funding, zoning that allows various housing types and other ideas that are being studied as possible solutions.”

 

Buzz

Former FedEx Ground executive Scott Mugno has withdrawn his nomination to lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, per published reports.

Favorite Video

The Bee puts Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on blast.

Favorite Tweet

That time when the EPW chairman gave a birthday shout out to POTUS.

The Last Word

My father was a truck driver, and he’d be real excited now because truck drivers get paid a lot more than what he got paid when I was growing up.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) at a Commerce Committee hearing June 19

Rick Scott

We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.