GHG Measure back on, for now

The Federal Highways Administration announced on Thursday that it will lift the suspension on the rule requiring state departments of transportation to measure on-road greenhouse gas emissions. With the lifting of the suspension, that requirement has gone into effect immediately.  Furthermore, in its notice, FHWA specifically mentions that it has “initiated additional rulemaking procedures proposing to repeal the GHG measure and anticipates publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2017 with a goal of issuing a Final Rule in Spring 2018.”

New life for GHG tracking rule?

In the waning days of the Obama administration, FHWA finalized the last set of performance measures for states and MPOs. That seemed to end a 4.5-year rulemaking effort that had kicked off in mid-2012 with the signing of the MAP-21 transportation bill. However, the incoming Trump administration delayed the rule’s February starting date, then allowed the rule to go into effect in May—except for a provision that would have required states and MPOs to track greenhouse-gas emissions related to the National Highway System. That provision was indefinitely delayed. Now the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups are suing to have the GHG measure reinstated.

Breathe easy: Sleep apnea and transportation safety

In a step towards establishing rules specific to obstructive sleep apnea—a condition that can cause daytime drowsiness and reduced reaction time—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Rail Administration have issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address the challenge of finding a balance between government’s interest in protecting public safety on highways and the industry’s workforce concerns about the ability of truckers to earn a living.

FRA safety standards could lead to sleeker trains on U.S. passenger railroads

Final implementation of the Rail Safety and Improvement Act of 2008 could pave the way for sleeker trains on American passenger railroads by 2015. With increased safety technology on railroads, FRA is easing outdated standards that require some trains to be built to withstand 1 million pounds of force without deformation. This opens up the market for European and Asian manufacturers who have been slimming down their trains to create energy efficiency, improve braking and acceleration, and reduce wear and tear on trains and associated infrastructure.

Senators call for action on freight rail rates and monopolies

Early this month, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Al Franken (D-MN), called on the chairman of the Surface Transportation Board to assure that Berkshire Hathaway’s 2010 purchase of BNSF doesn’t result in unfair rate hikes for farms and businesses in Minnesota and nationally. He also recently called on President Obama to address a lack of freight rail competition that he claims is forcing businesses to pay unfair rates to ship their goods.

"Dig once" advances via executive order

A Government Accountability Office report issued June 27 outlines the advantages and disadvantages of requiring fiber optic conduit to be installed during construction of certain federally funded highway projects. The report release was preceded on June 13 by an executive order requiring federal agencies to ensure that broadband infrastructure projects, such as those laying fiber-optic cables, coincide with ongoing highway construction whenever possible to reduce private companies’ costs of expanding their high-speed internet networks. The order is similar to legislation introduced in both the House and Senate but never passed.