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April 5, 2017 12:01 AM, EDT
Capitol Agenda for the Week of April 4: Lighting a Fire Under Infrastructure Urgency
Eno's Jeff Davis, TT's Eugene Mulero

The week ahead for trucking on Capitol Hill

The bridge collapse on Interstate 85 in Atlanta due to a fire is the latest in a series of infrastructure calamities. In recent years, bridges in California, Washington and Minnesota have collapsed for different reasons. Other bridges, most famously the Memorial Bridge at Arlington National Cemetery, have been issued traffic restrictions.

Human error looks to be the culprit for the I-85 disaster. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) will have an opportunity to explain further the cause of the collapse and the economic impact to the city. Reed is testifying before a House transportation panel on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on April 5.

Before the I-85 bridge collapsed, Atlanta already was home to the country’s most congested freight corridor. But while the closed-off stretch of I-85 is unlikely to become a logistics nightmare for trucks, according to trucking industry executives, that won’t be true for hundreds of thousands of motorists who will endure extra hours on the road if they are unable to shift to transit. Additional federal funds would help to repair the country’s transportation network, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

While the Trump administration was quick to provide the state with $10 million in emergency funds, the White House has not owned the moment. President Donald Trump has preoccupied himself with non-infrastructure-related issues on social media, while the transportation community eagerly awaits his plan for rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors in January urged Trump to follow through on his promise to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure projects. Then, Vice President-elect Mike Pence reassured the mayors, “We’re going to do an infrastructure bill, and it’s going to be big. … It’ll have the funding to help communities and states all across America meet the needs that face too many communities and often times stifle growth.”

The “told-you-so” moments for proponents of infrastructure funding occur when big things collapse.

THE WEEK AHEAD (all times EDT):

April 4, 12:30 p.m.: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addresses the National Press Club about Trump’s first 100 days in office.

April 4, 2:30 p.m.: Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee holds a hearing on freight mobility. Witnesses include Derek Leathers, CEO of Werner Enterprises; Lance Fritz, chairman and CEO of Union Pacific; and Michael Ducker, CEO of FedEx Freight.

April 5, 7:45 a.m.: The Ripon Society holds a discussion on the Tuesday Group's agenda in Congress and "the importance of finding common-sense solutions to the problems we face." Speakers include Reps. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, John Katko of New York and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

April 5, 10 a.m.: House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit holds a hearing on "FAST Act Implementation: State and Local Perspectives." Witnesses include Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D).

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

SECURITY CARDS: A bill designed to facilitate the background check process through transportation security cards will be taken up by the Senate Commerce Committee on April 5. A provision in the Surface and Maritime Transportation Security Act would expand the transportation security card program to allow persons subject to credentialing or background checks to apply for the card.

PHMSA: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on March 30 issued a final rule that amends U.S. hazardous materials regulations to harmonize them with international regulations and standards.

BILL NELSON: The mood on Capitol Hill is suitable to advancing a long-term infrastructure funding package, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee said he told Vice President Mike Pence last week. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the panel’s ranking member, was among the senators invited to the White House on March 28 to socialize with President Trump.

WHAT WE’RE READING:

Baruch Feigenbaum in Reason said enough already with the hysterics about Trump’s transportation budget proposal. “The president’s budget is just a suggestion. Congress will adopt whatever it wants,” he wrote. 

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“I think we’re very fortunate in this country that some of our freight infrastructure is really privately held and we see investment and we have to try to facilitate it.”

— Jeffrey Rosen, nominee to be deputy secretary of transportation, before the Senate Commerce Committee on March 29, 2017.

FAVORITE VIDEO:

The infrastructure funding conundrum, according to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.

FAVORITE TWEET:

A trucker experienced the Care Bear Stare.

Thanks for reading Capitol Agenda. We publish Tuesdays when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.