McDonnell pushes through landmark transpo bill – Sequester rhetoric ratchets up – W.H. warns states of cuts – Will you change your travel plans?

McDONNELL’S LEGISLATIVE LEGACY: To Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Saturday was a big deal. After nearly three decades of population growth, increasing gridlock and waning transportation revenues, the potential 2016 contender got done a comprehensive transportation revenue that evokes many of politics’ great compromises: No one loves it, but a majority didn’t vote against it, either. “It’s a broad, bipartisan compromise to [address] an intractable problem, that will serve Virginians well for a generation,” McDonnell said in an interview Sunday, just a few hours after his landmark bill passed. It wasn’t easy, even for him, to come around to the package that passed. But it had to be done, he explained, describing Virginia as having a “math problem” rather than a political one. “I really struggled with this early on, about the fact that as part of the final agreement, there were going to have to be some new revenues,” McDonnell said. “Reagan said, ‘Look, we have not raised the gas tax in 20 years and our infrastructure is crumbling.’ … He said the same thing I said: ‘I don’t like it, this is not my first choice, but we don’t have another solution.’ So he signed the bill.” Alex Burns and Burgess take it away:

What D.C. can learn: If McDonnell’s successful push to rejigger his state’s tax system to deliver more transportation money is any guide, the federal government needs to get out of the per-gallon gas tax game to get conservatives onboard. His state will spread new transportation revenue across the board: a reduced at-the-pump tax, new wholesale fuel fees, a larger share of sales tax revenue for transportation and a $100 annual fee on hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles. And though it doesn’t kill the state gas tax like he originally envisioned, he got a lot of what he wanted — and avoided receiving a bill he would feel compelled to veto. “I said at the beginning, we’ve got to reduce our reliance on the gas tax. Gas tax is on a long-term death spiral,” he told MT. So does this bill send a message that Virginia doesn’t expect any more revenue help from the feds? “At least in the short term, yes. They’ve got the same problem,” he said. “As long as the state or federal gas tax … is a flat cents [fee], you are going to have the same problem.” Burgess has more:

Want more? It’s a fairly complicated scheme, and WTOP has the conference report in legislative form: And Coalition for Smarter Growth has a good, simple summary:

LaHOOD: SEQUESTER SPOKESMAN: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been the administration’s loudest voice against the sequester, going on a media blitz in recent days to warn of long lines and fewer flights if the automatic spending cuts go through. On Sunday, LaHood went on CNN’s “State of the Union” (, where he talked about furloughs and his job as an ambassador to his former House GOP colleagues. Right after that, the secretary hopped over to NBC’s “Meet the Press” (, where he said that, even with less than a week to go, “there is still time to reach a compromise.”

For shame, good sir: A few big-name Republicans weren’t too happy with LaHood’s remarks on the Sunday talk shows. “Shame on Ray LaHood,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said on CNN after the secretary spoke ( And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, after LaHood spoke on “Meet the Press”, told the president to “stop sending out your Cabinet secretaries to scare the American people.”

Fact-check one two, one two: The White House released a series of White House fact sheets Sunday evening on the sequester’s impact on all 50 states, each offering the latest version of its warnings that cuts to the FAA and TSA would have a national effect on aviation. They caution that the FAA “would be forced to undergo a funding cut of more than $600 million,” prompting the agency “to undergo an immediate retrenchment of core functions by reducing operating costs and eliminating or reducing services to various segments of the flying community.” Team Transportation takes it away:

Prognosis negative: The Senate Democrats will try to pass a package of cuts and tax increases to avert the automatic cuts, but the outlook isn’t too positive right now. Rogers report:

Friday surprise: Before hitting the talk show circuit, LaHood swung by Friday’s White House press briefing. The secretary said the cuts could mean “calamity” for travelers and will have “a very serious impact on the transportation services that are critical to the traveling public.” At the same time, FAA put out comprehensive lists of air traffic control towers where overnight shifts could be ended ( and a separate list of control facilities that could be closed ( But top aviation Republicans weren’t sold. “Before jumping to the conclusion that furloughs must be implemented, the administration and the agency need to sharpen their pencils and consider all the options,” Commerce ranking member John Thune, House T&I Chairman Bill Shuster and T&I’s Aviation Chairman Frank LoBiondo said in a joint statement. Burgess and Kathryn break it down:

Want more? Those wanting the full exchange between LaHood and White House reporters can check out everything in the transcript:

MONDAY FUNDAY. Thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and early-morning TV hits. If it moves, it’s news. Do stay in touch: and Twitter: @AdamKSnider and @BurgessEv. More news: @POLITICOPro and @Morning_Transpo.

“So don’t jump in front of my train …”

SEQUESTER, STATE-BY-STATE: Three states — Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont — avoid any of the sequester’s aviation closures or cutbacks. California, on the other hand, has 23 facilities slated for outright closure. And Texas would be hardest hit during midnight shifts, with six facilities in cities from Austin to El Paso and Fort Worth identified for overnight shutdowns. Burgess take a state-based look for Pros:

Get the facts from a Republican: According to some background info distributed by a GOP source, FAA could weather the storm better than the administration is suggesting. The info notes that flights are down 27 percent since 2000 and that FAA’s operations account is up nearly $3 billion from 2002 and stands at $9.7 billion right now. “Before implementing furloughs, the FAA should review their $2.7 billion in non-personnel costs, such as $500 million for consultants, and $200 million for supplies and travel,” the two-pager concludes.

Metro morsel: The subway system expects to see fewer riders and would lose some of its federal funding as part of the cuts, according to Post Metro maven Dana Hedgpeth.

Scrumquester: We’d like to direct you to the POLITICO podcast “The Scrum,” on everything sequester with Maggie Haberman, Alex Burns, Jonathan Allen and Kate Nocera, hosted by Alexander Trowbridge.

WANT MORE SEQUESTER WATCH? — The specter of sequestration looms, and Jonathan Allen’s Sequester Watch delivers Pro readers a daily roundup of all of the twists and turns. To continue getting emails on all things sequester, sign up here:, go to “Customize Your Topics” and select “Sequester Watch.”

WHAT THE FAA IS SAYING: LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, in a letter to the major aviation groups, rounded up some of what we already knew about sequester but added a few more details that the secretary talked about at the White House. “We are aware that these service reductions will adversely affect commercial, corporate and general aviation operations,” they wrote. Read the letter:

LOTS OF REACTIONS: Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller called the sequester cuts “reckless” and said that “everyone who travels for business or pleasure will be adversely affected.” NATCA President Paul Rinaldi cautioned that the cuts “may not be reversed,” adding that “closing air traffic control towers means the system will be even more compromised than anticipated.” Regional Airline Association President Roger Cohen said the “government is playing an irresponsible game of chicken — with no winners — and the traveling and shipping public will be the losers.” ACI-NA President Greg Principato thinks “decisions on cutting air traffic control services should be made based on most efficiently serving the needs and safety of the traveling public and in consultation with airports, airlines as well as affected communities.” A4A’s Jean Medina said that “no one wants to see the sequester happen,” and AOPA President and CEO Craig Fuller said he’s “deeply concerned” that the cuts “will compromise aviation safety and severely damage the efficiency of general aviation flight operations nationally.”

Busy week for controllers: NATCA also has a busy week talking about our other favorite “s” word (the first one isn’t fit to print). On Wednesday morning, the group puts out a report detailing the sequester’s effects on the aviation network, including a “detailed analysis” of more than a dozen airports. Later that day, Rinaldi speaks at the AeroClub luncheon and will chat with reporters afterwards. NATCA is also making some of its representatives available for media talks at major airport towers.

COLLISION COURSE: Truckers and safety advocates have run headlong into each other in a public spat over who to blame in crashes between cars and trucks. Both trucking groups and safety advocates are trying to bring science to bear in their arguments, with each side citing studies full of obscure terms and charts that would easily be at home in a scientific journal. Beyond the science, the problem has real-life implications: Thousands of people die every year from crashes involving big rigs, and truck-car crashes are twice as likely to cause fatalities as two cars colliding. The heated debate bubbled up again with a recent ATA study finding that car drivers are usually at fault for crashes with trucks. The Truck Safety Coalition was “appalled” at that report and shot out a strongly-worded letter. ATA replied by pointing to a FMCSA-commissioned study to back up their claims. Like every good drama, there’s a twist — the deputy FMCSA administrator who stood by the study in 2010 used to be a Truck Safety Coalition spokesman. Adam runs it down for Pros:

DREAM DREAM DREAMLINER: The tête-à-tête between Boeing and the FAA on Friday afternoon on a potential fix for the company’s 787 Dreamliner fleet was “productive,” according to a statement from Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel, who said the airplane manufacturer is “encouraged by progress made toward resolving the issue.” But even in the best-case scenario, the 787 fleet may still be in chocks for weeks or longer while the FAA analyzes Boeing’s proposals. If the FAA signs off on the plan, it will still have to conduct some sort of recertification process, which is usually a monthslong process, if not longer. Birtel gave no details on the meeting except that Ray Conner, the president and CEO of Boeing’s commercial wing, and Huerta attended.

MT POLL RESULTS — Most-missed senator: It was a close one, but with 51 percent of the vote, MT readers dubbed Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller the most-missed transportation senator of the five who have so far announced their retirements. Frank Lautenberg was a close second, with 46 percent. With those two transportation titans, Sens. Tom Harkin, Saxby Chambliss and Mike Johanns didn’t stand a chance. Of note: Two readers think another big transportation name will call it quits before the year is up.

NEW MT POLL — Sequestration vacation: You’ve read all the stories about sequestration, air traffic controllers and long TSA lines. But if the cuts kick in, will you rethink your travel plans? Will you just get to the airport much earlier or look for alternate methods? Maybe you’ll just keep doing the same thing and hope you don’t regret it. Let us know what you’re doing to deal with air travel, just do it before Sunday at noon:

REPORT-BAG — Insert tolling pun here: HNTB has a new white paper on “maximizing toll collection on multistate facilities.” The summary has a good description of the issue: “Aging bridges and four-lane interstates can’t keep up with the ballooning populations of multistate regions. Neither can departments of transportation, when budgets rely on funding sources as antiquated as the infrastructure.” The paper explores the background, the climate shaping policy and much more. Read a summary and download the report here:


– Is it taking too long for NHTSA to do its work? NYT:

– France clams it will be offering the cheapest HSR tickets in the world. Transport Politic:

– California High-Speed Rail Authority settles a second CEQA lawsuit.

– California Senate puts forward CEQA reform effort. CAHSR Blog:

– Majority of Californians support licenses for undocumented immigrants. The Field Poll:

– A fascinating look at contrails and climate change, featuring some great satellite images. Atlantic Cities:

– The Century Foundation has added Michael Likosky as senior fellow; he will focus on infrastructure issues.

TRIVIA NIGHT: POLITICO Pro Trivia is back tomorrow at 6 p.m., featuring POLITICO Pro’s Tony Romm and Juana Summers teeing up questions on all things policy, politics and D.C. RSVP with teams of four to

THE COUNTDOWN: The new sequestration deadline is in four days. It’s been 27 days since Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced his departure, and DOT funding runs out in 31 days. Passenger rail policy runs out in 218 days, surface transportation policy in 586 days and FAA policy in 948 days. The mid-term elections are in 617 days.

CABOOSE — Awesome bus stop: Qualcomm got creative with its advertising at a bus stop, putting up posters asking, “In a hurry?” or “Seen it all?” with a web page. Brave bus-waiters who visited the site were then surprised with rides from an attractive woman driving a Lamborghini, an on-the-road dog sled — and even a bus full of circus performers. The two-minute video, via Gawker, is definitely worth a watch:

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