The Trade Corridor Bulletin

Volume 15 – No. 1 | December 2020

President-elect Biden Selects Experts for Department of Transportation Agency Review Team

By: CAGTC Staff

Source: Biden-Harris Presidential Transition

Two weeks after the presidential election, President-elect Biden announced agency review team rosters for several federal departments, including the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). According to the Biden-Harris Transition website, agency review teams are responsible for understanding the operations of each agency, ensuring a smooth transition of power, and allowing the President-elect and Vice President-elect to hit the ground running. The Biden-Harris Transition Team has selected 21 policy and programming experts to serve on the USDOT agency review team. In addition to examining USDOT operations, these professionals will also review the National Transportation Safety Board, Amtrak, and the Federal Maritime Commission.

The following individuals are serving on the USDOT agency review team:

  • Phillip Washington, Team Lead, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Dave Barnett, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters of the US and Canada
  • Austin Brown, University of California, Davis
  • David Cameron, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • Florence Chen, Generate
  • Brendan Danaher, Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO
  • Reginald Greer, Biden for President
  • Paul Kincaid, The Association of Former Members of Congress
  • Gabe Klein, Cityfi
  • Lucinda Lessley, U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Homeland Security
  • Jeff Marootian, District Department of Transportation
  • Therese McMillan, Metropolitan Transportation Commission
  • Brad Mims, Conference of Minority Transportation Officials
  • Robert Molofsky, Amalgamated Transit Union
  • Patty Monahan, California Energy Commission
  • Toks Omishakin, California Department of Transportation
  • Mario Rodriguez, Indianapolis Airport Authority
  • Mike Rodriguez, Texas A&M University System (Retired)
  • Nairi Tashjian Hourdajian, Figma
  • Polly Trottenberg, New York City, Department of Transportation
  • Vinn White, State of New Jersey

View the full team here.

2020 Election Results: Support for Transportation Funding Hits Record High

By: CAGTC Staff

On November 3, 2020, voters across the country cast their ballots to elect representatives at the local, state, and federal level. Many voters were also asked to consider various ballot initiatives proposing changes to state and local laws. This year, a record 94 percent (303 out of 322) of transportation-related ballot measures were approved by voters in 18 states– the highest approval rate in the last 20 years according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). In total, the approved measures raise $12.7 billion in new transportation revenue at the state and local levels.

ARTBA’s analysis found that 96 percent of all proposed transportation-related ballot measures involved highway, road, and bridge improvements with the remainder split between multimodal and rail/transit projects. Most ballot initiatives pertaining to funding proposed sales, income, or property tax increases to generate additional revenue, though others proposed expanded bonding.

Arkansas voters approved Issue 1, providing for the continuation of a 0.5 percent sales tax dedicated to funding state and local highways, roads, and bridges, which would have otherwise expired in 2023. The measure raises an estimated $205 million annually for state highways and $44 million annually for localities. In Florida’s Charlotte County, voters supported a six-year renewal of the one-cent sales tax surcharge estimated to raise more than $120 million for a wide range of capital infrastructure projects.

Texas voters also endorsed local initiatives to enhance transportation investment in their communities. In Fort Bend County, residents approved a $218 million bond to complete 59 mobility projects, including roadway improvements and the installation of an emergency network infrastructure monitoring system.

In California, one of the propositions on voters’ ballots stands to impact the trucking industry’s legal battle against the state’s law on worker classification. The 2019 legislation requires most workers to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. Because the independent contractor business model is widely used throughout various sectors of the transportation industry—including trucking, delivery, and passenger services—the law has been challenged by several stakeholder groups. In November voters in California approved Proposition 22, exempting app-based ridesharing and delivery companies from the state’s requirements to reclassify their drivers as full-time employees. Industry experts speculate this measure could reinforce the argument for further exemptions within the transportation industry.

Despite this year’s high approval rate for state and local transportation initiatives overall, some efforts were unsuccessful. In Georgia, four counties proposed a one-percent special purpose local option sales tax for transportation projects. Voters in just one county approved the measure, though it will be the county’s first sales tax increase dedicated to transportation and is expected to generate up to $45 million over the next five years. In Portland, Oregon, voters rejected a proposed 0.75 percent payroll tax on employers that would have funded $7 billion in safety and transit projects.

DOT’s FY 2021 Top Management Challenges Include Grant and Contract Management

By: CAGTC Staff

Each year, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) develops a report assessing the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) top management challenges. Among the primary challenges identified for fiscal year 2021 is USDOT’s grant oversight, management, and efficiency. The report addresses several concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the economic impact on state and local funding for surface transportation programs. OIG further expects that the influx of emergency funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act may present unique challenges for USDOT.

The CARES Act provided USDOT with an additional $36 billion in 2020 to address the pandemic's impacts on transportation. To ensure these funds are used for their intended purposes, the OIG stresses USDOT must select staff members with the proper training and understanding of the rules associated with emergency funds to oversee the awards process. In previous investigations, the OIG found training deficiencies in USDOT staff authorized to award funds.

The OIG urges USDOT to ensure states and other transportation agencies manage their funds effectively and monitor their progress toward national goals related to safety, system efficiency, and project delivery. It also encourages USDOT to focus on performance-based approaches and prepare to integrate any forthcoming changes included in the next surface transportation reauthorization.

Further, the report indicates USDOT must strengthen its monitoring procedures for grantee spending in order to comply with the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act). After completing an audit into USDOT’s implementation of the DATA Act, the OIG discovered it had submitted inaccurate data for some of the required contract and grant awards. To reduce errors in data reporting, the OIG recommends USDOT conduct a formal quarterly review to identify quality issues earlier on in the process.

In addition, the report recommends USDOT improve programs related to Aviation and Surface Transportation Safety as well as Infrastructure Modernization.

Read the full report here.

Industry News

Sen. Merkley, Rep. Levin Introduce Legislation to End U.S. Sale of Gasoline-Powered Vehicles by 2035

Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) on October 20 introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act of 2020, path-breaking legislation that would create jobs, improve health, and address climate chaos by ending American sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles in 15 years.

The Zero-Emission Vehicles Act would fix what is currently only a patchwork of state-level policies by setting a Federal Zero-Emissions Vehicle standard to boost the market for battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The standard would require that by 2025, 50 percent of sales for new passenger vehicles are ZEVs, and ramp up 5 percent each year to 100 percent by 2035. The ZEV standard would only be applied to the sale of new cars.

Read the full release here.

Industry News

Secretary Chao Announces Over $220 Million in Grants for America's Ports

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao on October 15 announced the award of more than $220 million in discretionary grant funding to improve port facilities in 15 states and territories through the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Port Infrastructure Development Program.

“This $220 million in federal grants will improve America’s ports with nearly half the projects are located in Opportunity Zones, which were established to revitalize economically distressed communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

U.S. maritime ports are critical links in the U.S. domestic and international trade supply chain and this funding will assist in the improvement of port facilities at or near coastal seaports. The Port Infrastructure Development Program aims to support efforts by ports and industry stakeholders to improve facility and freight infrastructure to ensure our nation’s freight transportation needs, present and future, are met. The program provides planning, operational and capital financing, and project management assistance to improve their capacity and efficiency.

*Editor's note: The Port of Los Angeles, the Northwest Seaport Alliance, and the Florida Ports Council's Port of Palm Beach were among the CAGTC members to receive grants in this year's round of funding.

Read the full release here.

Member News

Intermodal Turns a Corner in the Third Quarter

Total intermodal volumes rose 1.2 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2020, according to the Intermodal Association of North America’s Intermodal Quarterly report. Domestic containers and trailers both gained 9.8 percent compared to Q3 2019, while international shipments dropped 6.5 percent.

Source: IANA

The seven highest-density trade corridors, which handled more than 60 percent of total volume, were collectively up 1.9 percent in the third quarter. Three recorded gains: the Midwest-Southwest and the Northeast-Midwest, both at 6.6 percent, and the South Central-Southwest at 4.9 percent. The remaining four corridors showed losses. For the Trans-Canada, this was a slight 0.7 percent. The Intra-Southeast came in at 1.5 percent; the Southeast-Southwest, 5.4 percent; and the Midwest-Northwest at 13.6 percent.

Read the full release here.

Member News

Puget Sound VISION 2050 Adopted


The Puget Sound Regional Council has adopted VISION 2050, the long-range growth management, environmental, economic and transportation strategy for the central Puget Sound region.

“Over the last three years, PSRC has worked together with the region’s cities, counties, tribes, ports, agencies, businesses, and communities to develop VISION 2050. We’ve worked hard to build consensus and develop a plan that prepares us for the future,” said PSRC President Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.  “This year has demonstrated how quickly our world changes and the need to be nimble to changing conditions. We will be assessing how the region responds to COVID-19 and will be ready to make adjustments to keep our region on track.”

VISION 2050 charts the course for the region’s growth over the next 30 years. It is home to the region’s multicounty planning policies and a regional strategy for accommodating growth through 2050.

The plan seeks to enhance communities and equity for the region’s residents, support a strong economy, expand housing choices, clean up Puget Sound, and provide a comprehensive regional transportation system.

Read the full release here.

Member News

Record Month, Quarter Lift Port of Long Beach

The Port of Long Beach accomplished a pair of records in September by achieving its busiest month ever and its most active quarter in its 109-year history.

Trade was up 12.5% in September compared to the same period in 2019. Dockworkers and terminal operators moved 795,580 cargo container units and broke the “best month” record set just two months ago. The previous single-month record of 753,081 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), set in July 2020, was surpassed by nearly 42,500 TEUs.

The Port processed 2,274,271 TEUs between July 1 and Sept. 30, a 14.1% increase from the third quarter of 2019. It was also the Port’s busiest quarter on record, topping the previous record set during the third quarter of 2017 by nearly 160,000 TEUs.

“These numbers reflect a continuation of the secure, speedy and reliable service we provide at the Port of Long Beach during this difficult time in our country,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Frank Colonna. “Delivering top-notch customer service and maintaining the health of our workforce remain our top priority.”

Read the full release here.

Member News

Maricopa Association of Governments “Digital Twin” Recommended as Official Regional Model of Record

After a two-year review process by top-level experts, peer agencies, and academics, a Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) regional computer model has been recommended as the official model of record as matching or exceeding current state-of-the-practice. The new model represents the next generation of regional transportation models. It includes innovative approaches for transportation analysis and forecasting that may be unique in the world.

Regional models of record are used across the country for development of regional transportation plans, planning and design of major infrastructure projects, and scenario testing of transportation policies.

The Activity Based Model also is known as a “digital twin,” meaning it can simulate detailed real world conditions. To see how conditions change under various travel behaviors, the model takes the entire regional population and simulates minute-by-minute activities and travel of individual people and vehicles, including complex interactions between household members, special events, and numerous other socioeconomic and travel phenomena.

“The model can predict outcomes of planning and policy scenarios depending on provided assumptions and data,” said MAG Transportation Technologies and Services Director Vladimir Livshits. “We can use these simulations to learn more about how regional travel changes in different situations, such as the introduction of autonomous vehicles, COVID-19 and teleworking.”

Read the full release here.

Research News

Eno Reports: Final Highway Trust Fund Tax Receipts Were Robust in FY 2020 – Suspiciously So

Eno Center for Transportation

By Jeff Davis

October 2020

The books have closed on federal fiscal year 2020, which ended on September 30, and despite coronavirus and its effects on travel and the economy, the finances of the federal Highway Trust Fund held up well. So well, in fact, that a large correction may be coming that would have to be booked against the fiscal 2021 tax receipts. In addition, spending from the Trust Fund on mass transit dropped 5.5 percent in 2020, attributable to coronavirus and federal relief programs.

Read the full report here.

Research News

Transportation Asset Management in a COVID-19 World

Transportation Research Board

September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted transportation agencies across the U.S. in a variety of ways. On July 15, 2020, TRB's Transportation Asset Management Committee hosted a webinar that featured executives and CEOs from state, regional, and transit agencies.

Transportation Research Circular E-C266: Transportation Asset Management in a COVID-19 World captures the details of the discussion on how the pandemic has impacted their agencies and their planned investments in the transportation systems they manage.

The agency leaders represented manage a collective transportation system that includes roads, bridges, passenger and freight rail, buses, and more. The session was moderated by Neil Pederson, TRB’s Executive Director.

Read the full report here.