Virginia Expands Online Permitting Efficiencies

Virginia Department of Highways

Virginia’s permit-tracking website has expanded from including permits from three state government departments to six. 

Virginia residents and businesses can now follow online in real time the permits they’ve submitted to the Virginia Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and Department of Conservation and Recreation, as well as permits from the state Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Marine Resources Commission and Department of Energy.

Read the full story

Department of Transportation Estimates Cost of $1.7 Billion to Rebuild Baltimore Bridge

Francis Scott Key Bridge

Following the long-awaited reopening of the federal channel in the Port of Baltimore after the infamous shipping accident in March, the Biden Administration’s Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that it will cost between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion to rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

As ABC News reports, the work to remove debris from the collapsed bridge and the damaged vessel culminated in the reopening of the McHenry Federal Channel to a passage of about 700 feet wide and 500 feet deep, allowing traffic to flow through the harbor once again. Workers will continue removing debris within an established safety zone, and deep draft vessels are required to have a single-escort tug until the cleanup work is completed.

Read the full story

Biden’s Ambitious EV Charging ‘Fantasy’ May Be on a Collision Course with Reality

President Biden observing EV charing station demonstration

President Joe Biden has pledged to install 500,000 public electric vehicle (EV) chargers around the U.S. by 2030, but logistical hurdles may be too much to overcome.

The Biden administration landed $7.5 billion to build out a network of public EV charging stations around the country in the bipartisan infrastructure package of 2021, but those funds have only led to a handful of operational charging stations to date. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg reaffirmed the administration’s goal to build 500,000 chargers with the money by 2030 during a May television appearance on CBS News, but challenges like adding transmission lines, navigating the permitting process and coordinating with utility companies figure to make the goal improbable.

Read the full story

Biden Admin Threw Billions at EV Charging Stations, But Only a Handful Have Been Built

Electric Vehicle charging station

The Biden administration’s well-funded push to build out a national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers has so far resulted in only a handful of installations, according to The Washington Post.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill of 2021 allotted $7.5 billion to subsidize thousands of EV chargers to help the administration’s goal of having EVs constitute 50 percent of all new cars sold in 2030, but only seven stations in total have been built in four states to date, according to the Post. The slow rollout of the EV charger funding is unfolding as the Biden administration has recently issued stringent emissions standards for light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that will result in significant increases of EV sales for all three classes of vehicle.

Read the full story

‘Almost Orwellian’: Feds Black Out Nearly All Emails About Trucker Surveillance Proposal

Semi Truck at checkpoint

A Department of Transportation component slammed the brakes following semi-furious opposition to its proposal for “on demand” law enforcement surveillance of commercial vehicles a year and a half ago.

It took another six months to turn over the records after a FOIA lawsuit to compel their release, a day before they were due in court Thursday, with no indication yet from FMCSA when it would release a final rule.

Read the full story

Mask Mandate Ban Signed into Law

When President Joe Biden signed a package of bills over the weekend to avoid a government shutdown, he also made law Sen. J.D. Vance’s legislation to stop federal mask mandates from the Department of Transportation.

The law stops the Transportation Department from using federal funds to enforce mask mandates on passenger airlines, commuter rail, rapid transit buses and any other transportation program funded through fiscal year 2024.

Read the full story

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego Appointed by Sec. Pete Buttigieg to Advise Department of Transportation

Kate Gallego

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D) was selected by Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg to participate in a new advisory committee on December 29.

Gallego was among the 27 members of the agency’s new Transforming Transportation Advisory Committee (TTAC) for a two-year term named by Buttigieg last week. Explaining the need for the committee, Buttigieg noted the United States faces both “unprecedented opportunity and unprecedented challenges in transportation.”

Read the full story

Biden Admin Preparing to Finalize Barrage of Methane Regulations

The Biden administration is gearing up to finalize a host of emissions rules and regulations in the coming months, E&E News reported Wednesday.

The rules and regulations are all focused on methane, a greenhouse gas that is more potent, but dissipates more quickly, than carbon dioxide, and align with the administration’s commitment to attacking climate change with a “whole-of-government” response. The Biden administration is aiming to finalize the slew of methane regulations in the coming months ahead of the 2024 election, which would make the rules more difficult for a potential Republican administration to scrap should President Joe Biden lose, according to E&E News.

Read the full story

Transportation Department Rejects Ernst’s Request to Review Telework Policies

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) inspector general declined a request by Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa to look into telework abuses in government agencies, according to a Thursday letter provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Ernst sent a letter to 24 agencies on Aug. 28 requesting that they review their telework policies to determine how taxpayer money was being spent, which Transportation Department Inspector General Eric J. Soskin declined to do, according to the letter. Ernst introduced the Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems (SHOW UP) Act on Sept. 13 to address issues with telecommuting as part of a package of legislation to rein in the “administrative state.”

Read the full story

U.S. Congressman Juan Ciscomani Secures Pinal County Safety Provision in Bipartisan Aviation Package

U.S. Congressman Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ-06) successfully secured a provision in Congress’ aviation re-authorization package to provide the Pinal County Airpark with an air traffic control tower to improve growth and safety in the state.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) re-authorization package refers to a periodic process through which Congress develops legislation to renew authorizing statutes as well as revise and update relevant laws governing civil aviation programs and functions primarily carried out by the FAA. In addition to funding and operations of the FAA, the context of FAA re-authorization also considers some aviation programs administered by other components of the Department of Transportation (DOT). The package is reconsidered every five years.

Read the full story

Pennsylvania GOP State Lawmaker Proposes Freight-Train Length Limit

A Republican Pennsylvania lawmaker is urging colleagues to cosponsor state-level legislation to limit a freight train’s length to no greater than 8,500 feet.

State Representative Louis Schmitt, Jr. (R-Altoona) reasoned in a memorandum describing his proposal that the February 3 derailment in East Palestine, less than half a mile from Pennsylvania’s western border, shows current rail-safety requirements are inadequate. 

Read the full story

Connecticut Sues Rest Stop Owner over Worker Wages

Connecticut’s top law enforcement officer is taking aim at a rest stop operator with a legal challenge alleging it cheated food service workers out of wages they were owed. 

The lawsuit, filed by Attorney General William Tong, claims plaza operator Food Project LLC owes workers at Dunkin Donuts, Subway and other rest stop businesses collectively more than $2.7 in lost wages for underpaying them under state labor laws. 

Read the full story

Changes to Proposed Ohio Transportation Budget Calls for Increasing Train Regulations

Billions of dollars are being allocated in Ohio’s transportation budget. As the train derailment in East Palestine is still fresh in people’s minds, lawmakers are considering a few amendments to try and prevent what happened there from happening again.

“We’ve got broad support across party lines to get this done,” state Representative Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said.

Read the full story

Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy Blasts DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg for ‘Tokenizing’ People of Ohio

Nearly three weeks after a toxic chemical-spewing train derailment, U.S. Secretary Pete Buttigieg finally toured the devastation left behind in East Palestine, OH. 

Ohio resident and newly announced Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy at a campaign stop in Iowa criticized President Joe Biden’s transportation chief for “leadership from behind.”

Read the full story

Arizona State Rep. David Cook Seeks Financial Aid to Get I-10 Widening Project Underway

Arizona State Rep. David Cook (R-Globe) announced Thursday that he is seeking federal aid in financing a project to widen Interstate 10 (I-10) between Chandler and Casa Grande.

“The state of Arizona has invested a total of $630 million into this project to date. The Mega grant is the missing piece that will finally complete this essential artery and bring relief to thousands of residents throughout Arizona and the country,” Cook wrote.

Read the full story

Election Integrity Storm Brewing in Pennsylvania: Over 250K Ballots Sent to Voters with Unverified I.D.

More than 250,000 ballots have been mailed to Pennsylvania voters without their identities being verified, according to state data collected by election integrity group Verity Vote.

On Tuesday, 15 Pennsylvania state legislators sent a letter to acting Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Leigh Chapman regarding unverified ballots sent to voters. As of Thursday, state data show that more than 250,000 ballots have been mailed to voters without verifying their identification.

Read the full story

Transportation Department Awards Noncompetitive Contracts ‘Counter to Federal Procurement Rules,’ Inspector General Says

Just the News’ Golden Horseshoe is awarded this week to the Department of Transportation for  awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in IT contracts that lacked adequate documentation or proper justification and were extended without oversight, according to a new DOT Inspector General audit.

“Counter to Federal procurement requirements, DOT’s contracting officers (CO) awarded multiple noncompetitive actions to ITSS [IT shared services] contract vehicles without proper justifications, beyond contract term limits, and despite prolonged contractor performance issues,” the audit summary read.

Read the full story

Miyares, National Attorneys General Association Call for Authority to Enforce Consumer Protection Laws Against Airlines

Attorney General Jason Miyares and 36 other attorneys general want Congress to grant them power to enforce consumer protection laws against airlines; on Wednesday the National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter to Congressional leaders saying that the U.S. Department of Transportation has failed to protect airline customers under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Miyares said in a press release, “Flying is essential to millions of Virginians and helps support both our state and national economies, which means that consumer confidence in the air travel experience has significant economic impact. For years, the federal government has failed to spur the U.S. Department of Transportation to effectively and efficiently respond to consumer complaints and state attorneys general have little to no authority to hold airline companies accountable when they break the law and abuse consumers. Congress must discuss possible legislation that provides more consistent and fair enforcement mechanisms for consumer violations to protect Virginians that are heavily reliant on the airline industry for personal and professional travel.”

Read the full story

Commentary: Democrats’ Radical Green Policies Don’t Help, They Hurt

Joe Biden

Last week, Michigan Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow bragged that on her way to Washington, D.C. she drove past “every single gas station” in her brand-new electric vehicle “and it didn’t matter how high [gas] was.” Apparently, Stabenow’s message to Americans struggling to afford their commute to work and school is to buy an expensive electric vehicle. For Americans – and especially Michiganders like me – Stabenow’s comment is as unhelpful as it is condescending. But Stabenow isn’t the only Democrat embracing a “let them eat cake” attitude. Climate activists are hurting Americans with their green agenda.

The Biden administration has made EVs a pillar of its anti-U.S. energy agenda. Last year, Joe Biden set a goal that by 2030, half of the vehicles sold in the country would be EVs. More recently, Biden pledged to use taxpayer dollars to build EV charging stations across America. And just a few weeks ago, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggested that families anxious about rising gas prices should just buy an EV, which have an average price tag of more than $60,000. Meanwhile, in more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia, drivers are paying more than $5 for a gallon of gas. Painfully high fuel prices aren’t an accident. They’re the momentum driving Biden’s energy “transition.”

Read the full story

Tennessee Allocated Over $300 Million over Five Years for Bridge Repairs and Improvements

Tennessee is set to receive over $300 million for bridge improvements and repairs, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Friday. The allocation of taxpayer funding is a part of a $27 billion initiative dubbed the Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Program (Bridge Formula Program) – which, in turn, is part of the $2 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in mid-November 2021.

DOT said Tennessee has 881 bridges and over 270 miles of highway in poor condition. According to the DOT, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Tennessee said “the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Tennessee a C on its infrastructure report card.” In all, the Volunteer State will receive $302,092,740 over the five years.

Read the full story

Majority of Americans Say Pete Buttigieg Is Failing to Deal With Supply Chain Crisis: Poll

A majority of Americans say Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is failing to handle the ongoing supply chain crisis, according to a new poll.

Roughly 55% of likely voters rated Buttigieg’s handling of the supply chain crisis as “poor,” according to the results of a Trafalgar Group/Convention of States Action poll released Monday, while around 30% said Buttigieg’s job performance on the crisis is “good” or “excellent.”

Republican voters particularly disapproved of Buttigieg’s job performance, with over 80% saying Buttigieg was doing a poor job handling the crisis. Democrats were more favorable to the secretary, with roughly one-third rating Buttigieg’s performance as poor.

Read the full story

Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk, Others, Propose Way Pete Buttigieg Could Ease Supply Chain Crisis

Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA-11) and nearly 90 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives this week urged Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to allow certain 18-20-year-olds to operate Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce. This, Loudermilk and other members of Congress said in a letter to Buttigieg, to help alleviate the nation’s growing supply-chain emergency. The representatives said there are too few truckers on the road to meet demands. They asked the Department of Transportation (DOT) to proceed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Under-21 Commercial Driver Pilot Program.

Read the full story

65 Percent of Voters Agree with Sen. Blackburn: Buttigieg Should ‘Get Back to Work or Leave

According to a Rasmussen Reports poll, 65% of voters agree with Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s comment that Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg should either “get back to work or leave” after taking off work for two months of paternity leave.

The Tennessee Republican made the comment to Breitbart after Politico reported that the Transportation Secretary had been on paternity leave since August. “We’re in the middle of a transportation crisis, and Pete Buttigieg is sitting at home,” Blackburn said. “Meanwhile, cargo boats are unable to dock, and shelves are sitting empty. Pete needs to either get back to work or leave the Department of Transportation. It’s time to put American families first.”

Read the full story

Freight Railway Companies Petition for Modernization of Standards for the Industry’s Financial Health

A joint petition has been submitted to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) on behalf of the Canadian National Railway Company (CN), Norfolk Southern Railway Company (NS) and Union Pacific Rail Road Company (UP) freight-hauling railroad companies for the purpose of modernizing annual revenue adequacy determinations of the industry’s overall financial health.

CN, NS and UP are three of the seven railroads remaining in the U.S. from the 41 that operated in 1979 designated as Class I by the STB, based primarily on the annual operating revenue of the railroad company.

Read the full story

Bill to Permanently Establish Daylight Saving Time in Tennessee Heads to the Governor for Signature

A bill that establishes Daylight Saving Time as the standard time for the entire state, having passed the state Senate on Tuesday, will go to Governor Bill Lee for his consideration. By a vote of 29 to 1, the Senate passed the House version of the bill, HB 0247. The House passed the bill on April 22 by a vote of 86 Ayes, 5 Nays and 5 Present and Not Voting. The measure was sponsored by Senator Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) and Representative Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg). Before going into effect, three conditions must be met: U.S. Congress amending or repealing that portion of the Uniform Time Act; Tennessee’s Commissioner of Transportation certifying in writing to the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Representatives the Congressional action; and by joint resolution, the Tennessee General Assembly confirming the Congressional action and authorizing the year-round implementation of the State’s observation of Daylight Saving Time Both sponsors of the Tennessee bill said during its course through the legislative process that the passage is largely a symbolic message to Washington, D.C., joining with numerous other states that have taken similar measure in hopes of prompting a response. The U.S. Department of Transportation oversees the…

Read the full story

The Tennessee Star Report Takes a Call from a Career Trucker with Insights into Recent Bridge Collapse in Chattanooga

On Thursday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Gill and Leahy discussed the recent report from CNN about the Chattanooga bridge collapse. The duo took a call from a career trucker named Art who expressed some interesting views on the situation and the possible reason it could have happened: Gill: This report by CNN that the bridge rail collapse down in the Chattanooga area was because a truck hit it and sliced some of the steel beams that held the barrier, the wall in place. Let’s go to Art. He had a comment about a truck hitting the bridge. Art, good morning. Welcome to the Tennessee Star Report. Art: Thank you. Thank you. Great show, love your show every morning. Gill: Thank you Leahy: Thanks Art. Art: Just a different comment on this truck thing. I haul delivery equipment and have and you name it for about 28 years and part of the problem is not just the trucks. They get a permit to haul this stuff, these oversized loads and normally DOT or TDOT or wherever they originate from, give…

Read the full story

The Department of Transportation Poised to Loan $3.7 Billion for Japan-Mexico High-Speed Rail Project in Florida

by Robert Romano   The Department of Transportation could be on the verge of approving a $3.7 billion Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) low-cost loan to Virgin Trains USA, owned by the $100 billion market cap SoftBank Group based in Tokyo, to build a higher-speed train project on a freight rail line in eastern Florida owned by Grupo Mexico. The project would expand Virgin Trains USA from southeast Florida, currently operating between West Palm Beach and Miami, all the way to Orlando.  Future phases include Orlando to Tampa and up the eastern coast to Jacksonville. The RRIF Loan would be more money than the Trump administration has received from Congress to date to build the southern border wall and that was only $1.6 billion to repair existing fencing. It would also be the largest RRIF loan in Department of Transportation history, beating out Amtrak’s $2.45 billion loan in 2016. Virgin Trains USA has already raised $1.2 billion in private equity from Fortress Investment Group, which Japan-based SoftBank Group bought in 2017. The Virgin Trains USA (formerly Brightline) project has been approved by the Build America Bureau (also run by the Department of Transportation) for $1.75 billion of tax-exempt private activity bonds, $600 million for phase one and…

Read the full story

Trump Donated $100,000 of His Salary to Help Fund Alcoholism Research

by Jason Hopkins   President Donald Trump has donated $100,000 of his salary to the federal agency that manages research on alcohol and alcohol related issues. The sizable donation — which was the president’s third quarter salary of 2018 — was given to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the White House revealed. The NIAA “conducts research on the impact of alcohol use on human health and well-being” and serves as “the largest funder of alcohol research in the world,” according to the organization’s website. The research agency was just the latest recipient of Trump’s presidential salary. As a 2016 candidate, the billionaire real estate mogul pledged not to accept a salary if elected president. Trump, who by law must be compensated, has followed through on this promise by giving away his $400,000 annual government income to various federal departments every quarter. Since occupying the White House, Trump has donated to the National Park Service, Department of Transportation, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Small Business Administration and other agencies. Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy are the only other U.S. presidents to refuse a salary while in office. The most recent donation is a personal issue for the president. Trump’s brother, Fred Trump Jr.,…

Read the full story

TDOT Reduces Backlog From $6 Billion to $4.7 Billion, But Total ‘Project Needs’ Grow to $10.5 Billion

Tennessee Star

  The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) list of projects issued at the end of 2015 totaled $6.1 billion.  The updated project list included with the 2017 IMPROVE Act, on its surface, has a bottom line figure of $10.5 billion with the backlog potion being $4.7 billion. A spreadsheet document dated 11/9/15 was issued on TDOT letterhead titled “Current Backlog,” defined in the secondary heading as “Projects Approved by the TN General Assembly and Currently Under Development.”  The last line of the 13-page document states “Total Estimated Cost of Remaining Phases of Work” with a reported total of $6,095,023,692. The 2015 backlog list included a total of 252 projects in 62 counties with Shelby and Blount counties having the highest number of projects at 25 and 10, respectively. Contrasted to the projects in the IMPROVE Act listed in a report generated by TDOT dated 1/12/17, there are now 962 projects in all 95 counties at a cost of $10.5 billion. TDOT’s slick and interactive SPOT – Statewide Project Overview Tracker – displays the IMPROVE Act projects in map and grid form.   Utilizing the “grid” feature of the “project needs” page, as it is named, facilitates sorting by “yes” or “no”…

Read the full story