Transportation: We all need it, and Congress funded it. In this episode, we take a detailed look into the FAST Act, which funds our national transportation network for the next five years.
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Division A – Surface Transportation
Title I – Federal-Aid Highways
- Highways will get an average of 41 billion per year.
- Private Freight Grants: $500 million can go to private rail freight companies to upgrade rail infrastructure; the Federal share of these projects is capped at 60%.
Acceleration of Projects
- Creates a pilot program that will allow States to conduct environmental reviews, using their own State laws, instead of using the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
- The Department of Transportation will identify national corridors for installation of electric car charging stations and hydrogen, propane, and natural gas refueling stations by the end of 2016.
- The goal is to have the charging and refueling stations deployed by September 30, 2020.
- Allows the Department of Transportation to move swallows from under bridges that need fixing until the Interior Department issues final rules.
- The Secretary of the Interior can suspend the authorization to move the swallows.
Title III – Public Transportation
- The Mass Transit Account will provide and caps expenditures at an average of $9.7 billion per year.
- $199 million for positive train control installation, which can be used to pay for up to 80% of the cost.
- Requires American steel, iron, or manufactured goods to be purchased, when possible.
Title IV – Highway Traffic Safety
- Provides grants to States in return for their establishment of laws that prohibit texting and driving.
- Prohibits Federal grant money from funding for State & local programs for checking for motorcycle helmet usage or checkpoints for motorcycle monitoring.
- Provides grants to States for implementation of drunk driving laws.
- Orders a study and report to Congress on marijuana-impaired driving by the end of 2016.
Title V – Motor Carrier Safety
Drug Test Expansion
- Allows companies to conduct preemployment and random tests of commercial drivers for alcohol and controlled substances using hair testing as an alternative to urine testing.
- Allows for religious exemptions
Title VI – Innovation
Highway User Fees
- Grants will be provided to States that create user-fee programs for funding the Highway Trust Fund.
Public Access to Research
- A database of all Department of Transportation research projects will be available on a public website and updated once per year.
Title VII – Hazardous Materials Transportation
- Speeds up the decision time for special permits for transporting hazardous material by 60 days
- The decisions will be available to the public
- Requires the Secretary of Transportation to kill a proposed rule that would have prohibited the transportation of flammable liquids in the pipes underneath tankers
Transportation of flammable liquids by rail
- Within a year, the Secretary of Transportation has to create regulations to require railroads to report accurate, real-time information about hazardous liquids being transported to the local fusion centers, who will share the information with State and local first responders.
- Tank cars that do not meet Federal standards can still be used to transport oil and ethanol until 2018 or May 2025, depending on the type of tank car.
- The Secretary of Transportation can extend the deadlines for up to 2 years
- The Secretary of Transportation will have 180 days to create regulations to make sure that tank cars modified to meet Federal standards be equipped with insulating blankets that have been approved by the Secretary.
Title XI – Rail
- Amtrak, which owns the tracks and passenger cars operating in the Northeast, will get an average of $519 million per year.
- For Amtrak operations in the rest of the country, where private freight companies own our tracks, Amtrak will receive an average of $1 billion per year.
Food and Beverage Reform
- Amtrak will have 90 days to develop a plan to eliminate the operating loss associated with offering food and beverages on Amtrak trains in a way that doesn’t eliminate any Amtrak employee positions
- Amtrak will be cut off from Federal funds to cover food and beverage related operating losses in December 2021.
Pets on Trains
- Amtrak will have one year to launch a pilot program allowing dogs and cats on trains
Gulf Coast Rail
- A working group will be created and have nine months to develop a recommendation for the best option for restoring intercity rail passenger transportation between New Orleans, LA and Orlando, FL.
Privatizing long distance routes
- The Secretary of Transportation will have to create a pilot program by mid-2017 that will allow non-Amtrak companies to operate up to 3 long distance passenger rail routes.
- The non-Amtrak operator will have control of the route for four years and it can be renewed once for an additional four year period.
- The operator will be given an operating subsidy for up to 90% of what the government is giving Amtrak.
- The non-Amtrak operator can be the private company that owns the tracks, another private company that has an agreement with the track owners or the States.
- The non-Amtrak operator will be given access to Amtrak’s reservation system, stations, and operations facilities and will be required to give hiring preferences to the Amtrak employees laid off because of the transfer.
Cameras on Trains
- By the end of 2017, the Secretary of Transportation must create regulations requiring inward and outward facing cameras in the control cabs on all passenger trains
- Amtrak can not be held liable for more than $295 million for the fatal accident that occurred on May 12, 2015.
Title XXIV – Motor Vehicle Safety
- The Secretary of Transportation will have until the end of 2017 to create a public website for easily accessible information on vehicle safety recalls.
- Information about recalls will have to be sent to consumers electronically in addition to first class mail.
- There will be a two year pilot program testing the idea of States informing customers of recalls when they register their vehicles.
- Doubles the amount of time consumers get to have their recalled tires replaced from 60 days to 180 days.
Rental Car Safety
- Rental car companies with more than 35 cars can sell, lease, or rent out cars only after they have fixed whatever was recalled.
- They can continue to rent out the cars until the solution is available, if it is not immediately available at the time they are notified.
Motor Safety Violation Penalties
- Increases the penalties from $5,000 per violation to $21,000 per violation, capped at $105 million.
- Information from a car’s event data recorder can only be accessed by someone other than the owner or lessee if it’s authorized by a court, is provided willingly by the owner/lessee, is needed for emergency response purposes, or is for traffic safety research and the personally identifiable information is hidden.
- The Secretary of Transportation will create regulations for tire fuel efficiency minimum performance standards, taking steps to ensure that wet traction functionality is not effected.
- Creates a publicly searchable electronic database for tire recall information
- If a whistleblower gives credible and unique information about a safety problem to the Secretary of Transportation that results in sanctions, the whistleblower can get between 10 and 30 percent of the award.
Title XXXII – Offsets
Passport Denials for Tax Delinquencies
- If a person has a seriously delinquent tax debt over $50,000, the Secretary of State must deny new passports and can revoke, or limit existing passports.
Privatize Tax Collection
- Forces the Treasury Secretary to issue at least one contract for tax collection services by April 2016.
Federal Reserve Funds
- Limits the amount of money that can be held by the Federal Reserve banks to $10 billion and transfers the remainder to the general fund of the Treasury.
- Adjusts dividends for Federal Reserve stockholders to the lower of the rate of the 10 year Treasury notes or 6 percent
Strategic Petroleum Reserve
- Requires the Secretary of Energy to sell at least 66 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and deposit the money into the general fund of the Treasury.
- The amount sold may be increased at the discretion of the Energy Secretary until the revenue totals $6.2 billion.
Crop Insurance Profits
- Repeals a part of the Bipartisan Budget Act that caps the returns for crop insurance providers at 8.9%
Oil & Gas Royalties
- Eliminates interest payments that oil and gas companies could accrue on overpayments.
- The effects of this law on the budget will not be counted
- Reauthorizes the Export-Import bank until September 30, 2019 and reduces the amount of loans, guarantees, and insurance the Export-Import bank can have outstanding to $135 billion (from $140 billion).
- Requires the Export-Import bank to hold 5% of it’s funds in reserve to protect against losses.
- Requires independent audits of the Export-Import bank’s portfolio
- Creates a pilot program that allows the Export-Import Bank to enter into contracts to “share risks”.
- The amount of liability allowed to be transferred is capped at a total of $10 billion.
Title LV – Other Matters
Environmental Law Waivers
- In an emergency during which there is a sudden increase in energy demand – which includes during a war that the United States is involved in – “any party” that follows an order to generate electricity can not be sued for violating “any Federal, State, or local environmental law or regulation”.
- The order that allows immunity for breaking environmental laws will expire in 90 days, but the order can be renewed as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “determines necessary to meet the emergency and serve the public interest.”
- If the emergency order is set aside by a court, the immunity remains.
Strategic Transformer Reserve
- The Secretary of Energy will have one year to create a plan to store spare large power transformers and substations that are critical infrastructure or support military installations.
- Makes it easier and faster for a company that makes under $1 billion per year to offer stock to the public.
Title LXXII – Disclosure Modernization and Simplification
- Reduces paperwork for companies that make under $1 billion per year and want to offer stock to the public.
- Removes the requirement that collectable coins be 10% copper
Title LXXIV – SBIC Advisors Relief
- Investment advisors who solely advise small business investment companies will be able to be excluded from registration requirements even if they are managing assets over $150 million (current limit for exemption from registration requirements).
Title LXXV – Eliminate Privacy Notice Confusion
- Banks will not have to mail privacy notices to their customers if they haven’t changed their policies since the last disclosure was sent.
Title LXXVI – Reforming Access for Investments in Startup Enterprises
- Allows privately held shares to be sold to “accredited investors” without registering the securities with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Title LXXXII – Capital Access for Small Community Financial Institutions
- Allows privately insured credit unions to become members of Federal Home Loan Banks if they are FDIC eligible or are certified by the State
- If the State doesn’t get to it in under 6 months, the application is deemed approved.
Title LXXXIII – Small Bank Exam Cycle Reform
- Doubles the size of a bank that counts as a “small bank” from banks that have less than $500 million to banks that have less than $1 billion for the purpose of allowing those banks to have on-site examinations by regulators every 18 months instead of every year.
Sound Clip Sources
- Hearing: House Rules Committee Meeting on Highway Bill Amendments-Part 1, November 3, 2015.
- Hearing: House Rules Committee Meeting on Highway Bill Amendments, Part 2, November 3, 2015.
- Hearing: Federal Railroad Administration Confirmation Hearing, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, September 17, 2015
- Hearing: Positive Train Control, House Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, June 24, 2015.
- Hearing: Amtrak Derailment, House Transportation and Infrastructer Committee, June 2, 2015.
Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes
- Congressional Dish Episode 99: April Takes a Turn By Jennifer Briney, June 27, 2015
- Congressional Dish Episode 73: Amtrak, By Jennifer Briney, June 24, 2014
- Congressional Dish Episode 62: The Farm Bill By Jennifer Briney, February 8, 2014.
- Federal Public Transportation Program: In Brief By William J. Mallett, December 28, 2015.
- Congressional Budget Office: H.R. 22, the FAST Act, December 2, 2015.
- Article: Rental companies now have to repair recalled cars By Chris Isidore, CNN Money, June 1, 2016.
- Article: NTSB: Philly Amtrak crash engineer’s fault By Bill Cummings, CtPost, May 17, 2016.
- Article: With RAISE Act, Congress Paves Way For Private Secondary Markets By Shriram Bhashyam, TechCrunch, December 20, 2015.
- Article: Highway Bill Restores Crop Insurance Funding Cut in Budget Deal, Insurance Journal, December 4, 2015.
- Article: Fewer Taxpayer Giveaways Would Cut The Fat, Not ‘Cripple’ Crop Insurance By Shannon Van Hoesen, Environmental Working Group, December 3, 2015.
- Article: FAST Act (H.R. 22): Surface Transportation
Conference Report Released By Robert S. Kirk, December 2, 2015.
- Article: $305B highway bill taps Fed, oil reserves By Keith Lang, The Hill, December 1, 2015.
- Article: Congress votes to delay rail safety mandate by 3 to 5 years, fund transportation programs By Joan Lowy, U.S. News and World Report, October 28, 2015.
- Article: Ag Committee Leaders Stand United Against Reopening Farm Bill to New Crop Insurance Cuts By Meghan Cline, United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, October 27, 2015.
- Article: ‘Devastating’ crop insurance cut sends lawmakers scrambling By Philip Brasher, Agri-Pulse, October 27, 2015.
- Article: Rail-safety deadline extension hitched to must-pass bill on transit funding By Ashley Halsey III and Michael Laris, The Washington Post, October 27, 2015.
- Article: Deadline for train safety technology undercut by industry lobbying By Ashley Halsey III and Michael Laris, The Washington Post, October 25, 2015.
- Article: Stop pretending you know what the Export-Import Bank is By Simone Pathe, PBS, September 15, 2014.
- Article: REUTERS SUMMIT-U.S. Ex-Im bank would back Airbus sales -Hochberg By Alwyn Scott and Tim Hepher, Reuters, September 10, 2014.
- Article: CARGO TANK TRUCKS:
Improved Incident Data and Regulatory Analysis Would Better Inform Decisions about Safety Risks By Susan A. Fleming, U.S. Government Accountability Office, September 11, 2013.
- Article: How the cult of shareholder value wrecked American business By Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post, September 9, 2013.
- Article: NTTC Asks LaHood to Halt Rulemaking On Wetlines Procedures, Tanker Design By Timothy Cama, Transport Topics, October 10, 2011.
- Article: Hazardous Materials: Safety Requirements for External Product Piping on Cargo Tanks Transporting Flammable Liquids By Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, January 27, 2011.
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security Budget-in-Brief Fiscal Year 2016
- U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration Budget Estimates, Fiscal Year 2016
- Metra Website: Positive Train Control
- Joint Explanatory Statement explaining the FAST Act
- OpenSecrets: Profile of National Tank Truck Carriers Inc
- OpenSecrets: Top Contributors to Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Bill Shuster
- OpenSecrets: Top Contributing Industries for Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Bill Shuster
- OpenSecrets: Career Profile for Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio’s 15th district
- Website: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
- Website: Export-Import Bank of the United States
- Website: Risk Management Agency/U.S. Department of Agriculture: Crop Insurance Providers List for 2016
- Website: Department of Transportation Fact Sheet
- Website: United States Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics: Transportation Fatalities by Mode
- YouTube: 9/11 hijackers at Dulles Airport, October 3, 2008.
Music Presented in This Episode
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