Washington Update: Shuster, DeFazio Lead T&I; Rosekind Named to Lead NHTSA

AASHTO Journal, 21 November 2014

The U.S. Capitol.
Photo by the Architect of the Capitol.

As expected, House Republicans picked Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., to return as chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the next Congress, while Democrats chose Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., as their new ranking member.

It is the second term in the chair for Shuster, who ushered a major water projects bill to congressional passage in his first term and introduced an Amtrak rail reauthorization measure.

DeFazio was elected to lead committee Democrats after the previous ranking member, Nick Rahall, lost his re-election bid in West Virginia.

Meanwhile, President Obama nominated Mark Rosekind, a four-year member of the National Transportation Safety Board, to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that has come under pressure to toughen its handling of some auto recall investigations.

Rosekind would replace David Strickland, who resigned as NHTSA administrator last December. Since then the agency has been headed by Deputy Administrator David Friedman.

As Shuster and DeFazio plan their T&I legislative agenda, a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds heavy support in public opinion for increased spending on transportation. NBC said the poll results show “75 percent support increasing spending on infrastructure, roads and highways,” which is second among policy choices only to lowering the cost of student loans.

The public ranked that infrastructure agenda higher than such other economic measures as approving the Keystone XL pipeline or raising the minimum wage, and higher than other domestic and foreign policy choices.

DeFazio told news agencies he thinks the T&I Committee in 2015 will first work on a reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration, whose current authorization runs out in September. “I think the FAA, at this point, discussions are further along than they are with surface,” he told Politico. “So in all probability, that would be the first one done.”

He said the committee would then quickly turn to a highway and transit measure, since the current Highway Trust Fund authority and funding only extends through May.

DeFazio also told Transport Topics: “I think it will be very detrimental for the economy, not to mention our infrastructure, if we don’t have a long-term bill in place before that deadline.”

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