TIGER grant program has $500 million available
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced the availability of $500 million for transportation projects under the seventh round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.
The TIGER 2015 grant program will focus on capital projects that generate economic development and improve access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation for communities, both urban and rural, Foxx said. Since 2009, the TIGER program has provided $4.1 billion to 342 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. During the previous six rounds, the Department of Transportation received more than 6,000 applications requesting more than $124 billion for transportation projects across the country.
Foxx noted that the new $478-billion highway reauthorization bill announced March 30 includes $7.5 billion over six years for the TIGER grant program.
Pre-applications for seventh-round funds were due by May 4. Final applications are due by June 5. Final applications will not be considered if pre-applications were not submitted. For more information, visit www.dot.gov/TIGER or dial (800) 518-4726.
Bill attacks administration’s ‘U.S. waters’ rule
The House voted 261-155 on May 12 in favor of legislation to require the withdrawal of the Obama administration’s proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which would significantly broaden the federal government’s power to regulate waters and adjacent lands.
The bill (H.R. 1732), which was approved in April by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, requires the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to start over and develop a new rule in consultation with state and local governments and other stakeholders who will be affected by the rule.
Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, called the administration’s proposal “a blatant power grab,” while Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the full transportation committee, said the administration’s process was “flawed from the beginning.” Shuster said it was “no surprise the result is a proposed rule that broadly expands federal power.”
“This onerous rule will impact the nation’s economy, threaten jobs, lead to costly litigation and restrict the rights of landowners, states and local governments to make decisions about their lands,” Shuster said. “State and local governments and the regulated community all have voiced significant concerns about the EPA’s failure to properly consult with them or consider the impacts in the development of this proposal.”
The bill, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, “simply stops this rulemaking and requires the EPA to go back and do it right — consult with state and local governments and other stakeholders in developing a new regulation,” Shuster said.
House panel approves Corps’ FY 2016 spending bill
The House Appropriations Committee on April 22 approved a fiscal year 2016 spending bill that includes $5.8 billion for the civil works program of the Army Corps of Engineers.
The total approved for the Corps more than restores cuts to the civil works program as recommended by the administration, adding $864.7 million to the administration’s request and increasing the FY 2015 appropriated amount for the Corps by $142.2 million.
A review by the Waterways Council Inc. states that the total includes $1.6 billion for construction, with $340 million made available for Inland Waterways Trust Fund priority navigation projects; $3 billion for operations and maintenance, and $1.2 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
Michael J. Toohey, president of WCI, said that passage of “such a strong funding bill” is “a huge win toward modernization of our nation’s inland navigation system.”
While the Appropriations Committee was approving the Corps’ FY 2016 budget, the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee opened a hearing at which Chairman Bob Gibbs said the administration’s budget proposal “continues an unfortunate trend of under-investing in our nation’s water resources.”
Referring to the nearly 10-month-old Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA), Gibbs said his committee was “disappointed at the pace and the prioritization at which the Corps is carrying out the drafting of the implementation guidance.”
Gibbs said he “hoped and expected the Corps would put more of a priority in writing the implementation guidance. After all, WRRDA is the law of the land — it is not a suggestion for the administration to casually disregard.”
Among the witnesses testifying at the Gibbs hearing on the Corps’ proposed budget for FY 2016 was Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works), who said the Corps is working to develop a capital investment program for the inland waterways.
“The process will include development of objective nationwide criteria to provide a framework for deciding which capital investments should have priority for funding from a national perspective,” she said.
Foxx designates three new Marine Highway projects
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has designated three new Marine Highway projects.
Foxx said that the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, previously designated as the M-55 and M-35, connecting Chicago and Minneapolis to New Orleans, would serve as the primary routes for a new container-on-barge service being developed by communities along the rivers.
The M-495 Potomac River commuter ferry project will connect work and residential centers located along the Potomac, Occoquan and Anacostia rivers, providing a waterborne alternative for moving passengers and freight within the region, Foxx said.
The third project is a route that would provide access to points of origin and destinations east of the Hudson River for freight arriving and departing the Port Newark Container Terminal.
“A Marine Highway project is a planned service, or expansion of an existing service, on a designated Marine Highway route, that provides new modal choices to shippers of cargo, reduces transportation costs and provides public benefits including reduced air emissions, reduced road maintenance costs, and improved safety and resiliency impacts,” Foxx said.
Coast Guard authorization bill introduced in House
Leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee have introduced the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1987).
The legislation would authorize Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission funding levels for two years. Sponsors said the bill includes provisions to improve Coast Guard mission effectiveness, help modernize the service’s aging vessels and other assets, and reform U.S. maritime transportation laws.
Specifically, the measure authorizes the Coast Guard for fiscal years 2016 and 2017; recapitalizes aging Coast Guard assets; aligns the leadership structure of the Coast Guard with structures of the other armed services; reduces regulatory burdens; and promotes “common sense” regulations.
Canadian port director elected AAPA chairman
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has elected Jim Quinn as chairman of the association’s board for the 2015-16 activity year.
Quinn, president and CEO of Port Saint John in New Brunswick since September 2010, will be installed as chairman for a one-year term on the final day of the association’s 104th Annual Convention (Nov. 2-4 in Miami, Fla.).
AAPA unveils its ‘State of Freight’ survey
The American Association of Port Authorities devoted part of its 2015 Spring Conference in Washington to the presentation of its new surface transportation infrastructure survey, “The State of Freight.”
The survey found that congestion is on the rise at landside seaport connectors, congestion is hurting port productivity and sizable investment is needed to improve intermodal connections.
Among featured speakers at the April 21 conference were Peter Rogoff, undersecretary for policy at the Department of Transportation, and Adm. Paul Zunkunft, Coast Guard commandant.
Rogoff focused on freight provisions in the administration’s proposed Grow America Act to reauthorize surface transportation programs. Rogoff also spoke about the role that TIGER grants have played in improving port infrastructure.
Zunkunft discussed cybersecurity and the role the Coast Guard is playing in protecting U.S. ports. The commandant also noted a pending rulemaking regarding shore access for mariners.
First LNG-powered containership launched
Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen on April 20 announced the launching of Isla Bella, the world’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered containership. Jaenichen said the 764-foot Marlin-class vessel is one of two new containerships designed to run on natural gas that were ordered by TOTE Shipholdings Inc., a Seattle-based maritime company.
The vessel is equipped with two dual-fuel engines that will operate primarily on LNG but are capable of burning diesel when needed. TOTE will operate the vessels between the Port of Jacksonville and Puerto Rico, transporting containers, automobiles and other cargoes.
Construction of Isla Bella and its sister ship is being financed with a $324.6 million Title XI loan guarantee from the Maritime Administration.
More comments invited on cruise ship security rules
The Coast Guard has reopened for 60 days the comment period on a proposed rulemaking dealing with cruise ship security regulations.
The comment period was reopened to June 1 because the notice in the Federal Register did not include the regulatory analysis. The notice was published on Dec. 10.
The proposed regulations would provide detailed, flexible requirements for the screening of all baggage, personal items and people — including passengers, crew and visitors — intended for carriage on a cruise ship. The regulations also would standardize security of cruise ship terminals and eliminate redundancies in the regulations that govern the security of the terminals.
The proposed amendments do not address the screening of vessel stores, bunkers or cargo, the Coast Guard said. Requirements for the delivery of vessel stores, bunkers and cargoes may be found elsewhere in the Coast Guard’s regulations.
For more information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Kevin McDonald at (202) 372-1168.