Capitol Agenda for the Week of May 10: Pay Me Now or Pay Me More Later


The country’s infrastructure troubles have prompted comparisons with Third World countries. Before the passage of the five-year FAST Act highway law in December, members of Congress said as much during floor debate. Most famously, Vice President Joe Biden equated LaGuardia Airport to the airports from countries with lesser means. Infrastructure proponents cite the economic costs of a crumbling infrastructure, in hopes of getting funds for projects. The American Transportation Research Institute found that in 2014 the country’s collective congestion accounted for close to $50 billion in operational costs for the trucking industry. A new report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, to be released May 10, also will look at how the economy is affected when freight industries are stuck in traffic. On my drive to New Jersey last weekend, I got a glimpse of the problem. Dozens of construction projects on the Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 95 added about two hours to my drive from Washington, D.C. Had it been April 19, I would’ve been among the thousands of people sitting in traffic at the southbound side of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Three of four lanes were closed for emergency repairs. In the pages of Transport Topics this week, experts argued underfunding infrastructure maintenance projects will lead to more emergency repairs and longer wait times in traffic. As Michael Chajes, chairman of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware, put it, “If you wait too long, the cost becomes really large to fix major problems.”

THE WEEK AHEAD (all times EDT):

May 10: The American Society of Civil Engineers will unveil a study highlighting the impact deteriorating infrastructure has on the economy.

May 11, 2:30 p.m.: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will be part of a virtual town hall, titled “Every Place Counts Design Challenge.”

May 12, 10 a.m.: The Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee will hold a hearing that will look at ways to lower the costs of federal responses to disasters.

A THUD: The fiscal 2017 transportation funding that would set a limit to the weekly hours of service for truckers likely will be linked with a Military Construction-VA fiscal 2017 funding bill when it reaches the Senate floor sometime this month, Republican leaders indicated. American Trucking Associations backs the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development legislation, or THUD. Opposition is coming from a consortium of truck companies calling itself the Trucking Alliance, which wants funding leaders to abandon the provision.

SO UBER: Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is on the public policy advisory board at Uber, the ride-sharing program that’s impacting the taxi cab business.

TRANSITION AT TRANSIT: Michael Melaniphy, CEO at the American Public Transportation Association, stepped down recently amid troubles with the group’s membership.

ALL THAT CARGO: Soon after ruling it would delay the implementation of a mandate to scan every piece of incoming cargo at ports, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) raised grave concerns about the Department of Homeland Security’s decision. She said she is “kept up at night by the thought of a terrorist attack at the Port of Los Angeles or the Port of Long Beach. … To date, we are physically scanning just 3% of all incoming cargo.”


LET’S GET CRITICAL: Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chairwoman of the subcommittee on trucking issues in the Senate, criticized the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on May 2 for its safety performance scoring program and the manner in which the agency crafts its regulations.

PENSION: The U.S. Treasury Department, through Special Master Kenneth Feinberg, has rejected Central States Pension Fund’s proposal to cut benefits for 270,000 Teamsters retirees, often by half, saying the plan presented to the government failed to meet the requirements of a 2014 law.

IS THIS HEAVEN? After threatening to slash $9.7 million from the Iowa Department of Transportation’s operating budget, the state’s Legislature voted April 29 to slice that figure in half to $4.85 million before adjourning for the year.


Two intriguing pieces about the country’s infrastructure woes will help shape the conversation during Infrastructure Week (May 16-20). Eno Center for Transportation’s new chief, Robert Puentes, made the argument that funding infrastructure projects requires attention from policymakers at every level, not just Congress. Puentes’ item ran in Eno’s Transportation Weekly on May 2. Then, New York magazine last week broke down Donald Trump’s argument that his passion for putting his name on stuff is a qualifier for advancing an infrastructure agenda if elected to the White House.


“[The FAST Act] provides further encouragement to us here in Nebraska of Congress’ commitment to improving our nation’s infrastructure, and we at NDR are taking the necessary steps to try and benefit from these advancements.”

— Nebraska Department of Roads Director Kyle Schneweis talking to Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) at a field hearing she hosted in Nebraska on May 2.


The subway system in the nation’s capital continues to remind a global audience of the effect that underfunding has on critical infrastructure projects.


The American Society of Civil Engineers put Montana politics on blast.

Thanks for reading Capitol Agenda! We publish Tuesdays when Congress is in session. Follow us @transporttopics, @eugenemulero, @SethClevenger, @ericdmiller46, @neilabt, and @davidelfin. Also, contact us at:


Follow Us


Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to Transport Topics

Hot Topics