FMCSA’s Robin Hutcheson Set to Appear Before House Panel
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Before Congress wraps up its workload for the year, the committee on transportation affairs in the U.S. House scheduled a hearing with senior officials from the Department of Transportation.
The panel’s Republican leadership on Dec. 13 will seek an update on the implementation of 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act from subagency leaders. Or as the committee put it, “examine how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is being implemented by the modal administrations of the United States Department of Transportation that are within the subcommittee’s jurisdiction.”
These officials include Robin Hutcheson at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Shailen Bhatt from the Federal Highway Administration.
The budgets at FMCSA and FHWA saw increases thanks to the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law. Specific to trucking, the IIJA requires FMCSA to boost safety programs and enhance recruitment and retention efforts in the trucking industry. The law paved the way for the creation of task forces meant to amplify the role of underrepresented groups in the freight sector.
FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson (left) and FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt.
Earlier this year, the House committee hosted a similar IIJA-centric hearing with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) promoted the oversight of the administration’s management of the law. Republicans have raised concerns with the pace and directives associated with IIJA’s implementation.
“DOT has issued a number of grant requests and awards. As we’ve raised before, these grant programs should follow the intent of the law and focus on projects that actually improve our infrastructure network and mobility, and not use guidance that undercuts congressional direction just to accelerate projects that fit the administration’s own agenda,” Graves told Buttigieg during a hearing in September. “So it’s clear, we have work to do in managing current transportation policy and funding.”
The secretary is among Biden administration leaders helping to guide the president’s infrastructure agenda. He is regularly announcing new tranches of funds for various modes made possible by the infrastructure law. On Dec. 8, for instance, the Federal Railroad Administration announced $8.2 billion for 10 passenger rail projects.
“With this funding,” Buttigieg said, “we’ll deliver America’s first high-speed rail on a route between Southern California and Las Vegas, complete major upgrades for riders in Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maine, Montana and Alaska, and bannounce a comprehensive plan that makes it easier to expand passenger rail lines in 44 states.”
This availability of billions of dollars to improve transportation connectivity is en vogue. However, just a few years ago, several states scrambled for dollars to improve mobility corridors.
To mark the infrastructure law’s second anniversary in November, President Joe Biden observed: “How can you be the leading country in the world and have a second-rate infrastructure — second-rate infrastructure? It’s not possible.”
The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)
Dec. 12, 9:45 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meets to consider legislation under its jurisdiction.
Dec. 13, 10 a.m.: House Highways and Transit Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Oversight of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Modal Perspectives.” Witnesses include Shailen Bhatt, administrator at the Federal Highway Administration; Nuria Fernandez, administrator at the Federal Transit Administration and Robin Hutcheson, administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Watch the hearing here.
Dec. 13, 2 p.m.: House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2024: Stakeholder Priorities.” Witnesses include Shane Kinne, executive director of the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River; Teresa Batts, mayor of Surf City, N.C.; Jim Weakley, president of Lake Carriers’ Association; Paul Anderson, CEO of Port Tampa Bay; and Dave Mitamura, executive director of the National Water Supply Alliance.
Legislation designed to boost safety and efficiency along pipeline systems to improve supply chain connectivity was approved Dec. 6 by a House committee. The Promoting Innovation in Pipeline Efficiency and Safety (PIPES) Act would authorize slightly more than $800 million over four years for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The legislation would require PHMSA to submit certain funding information to Congress as well as establish an Office of Public Engagement meant to educate local governments, public safety organizations, pipeline operators and the public.
The bill also would require the Department of Transportation to complete a study within two years on composite pipeline material for the transportation of hydrogen and hydrogen blended with natural gas. And it would require the secretary of transportation to complete a rulemaking to establish safety standards associated with carbon dioxide in a gaseous state.
“The United States is blessed with abundant energy resources, and new technologies and processes make it possible to safely and affordably produce and transport vast quantities of American energy, reversing the production declines of the past,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said after the bill’s approval.
Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) expressed support for DOT’s new supply chain division. On Nov. 27, the Biden administration announced the launch of the Office of Multimodal Freight Infrastructure and Policy. The office is tasked with overseeing the maintenance of freight networks and supply chains.
According to background from the committee, the chairwoman “authored the provision in the bipartisan infrastructure law (BIL) that directed the DOT to form the new office in an effort to strengthen America’s supply chain. The new office will help coordinate activities among the different methods of freight — shipping, rail, trucking, air, etc. — to keep the overall U.S. supply chain running smoothly, move products onto shelves faster and help ease costs for consumers.”
Meanwhile, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue …
The Big Complete Streets Apple.
Cars move just 24% of Manhattan's people but generate 100% of its traffic congestion. NYC has a generational opportunity to invest in better transit service and reimagined streets for the 75% of people who rely on bus, train, bike and walking. The time is now. https://t.co/h6y2mvJWtB — Janette Sadik-Khan (@JSadikKhan) December 6, 2023
The Last Word
Every year, too many Americans are injured or killed in crashes involving cars and wildlife, especially in rural areas.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Dec. 5Image
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