Capitol Comments

Thursday, October 19 marked the deadline for cities to apply to become the home of Amazon’s second corporate headquarters, a $5 billion project that is expected to eventually employ 50,000 people with average salaries of more than $100,000. The competition, which the company announced last month, sparked a bidding war that demonstrated the growing importance of ecommerce and logistics to the nation’s economy and that allowed many parts of the country to tout their infrastructure assets and, in some cases, to recognize the infrastructure challenges they may need to face in the future.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on October 6 announced the latest recipients of federal grants to enable testing of alternative methods of transportation funding. The $95 million Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives program was established under 2015’s FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act.  

President Trump this week appeared to back away from what was expected to be a cornerstone of his plan to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. Meanwhile, federal autonomous vehicle policy gets an update from the U.S. Department of Transportation and in new legislation expected to go before a U.S. Senate committee next week.

The U.S. House of Representatives this week approved bipartisan legislation known as the SELF DRIVE Act (HR 3388), which would give federal law priority over state laws when it comes to regulating the safety and design of autonomous vehicles. Action now moves to the Senate, where another bill is expected to emerge this Fall and where a hearing will take place next week. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao next week is expected to travel to Michigan to release an update to the autonomous vehicle policy guidance document issued a year ago by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These activities could lead to not only an increase in the number of vehicles being tested around the country in the years ahead but also provide clarity for state policymakers on the role state governments can play in regulating these vehicles going forward.

It seems that each day brings a barrage of new articles on what’s going on with autonomous and connected vehicle policy around the country. Just in the two months since we convened the CSG Autonomous and Connected Vehicle Policy Academy for a group of state policymakers in Detroit (check out the meeting archive with extensive summaries of each policy academy session), there have been plenty of developments. Here’s a collection of some of the recent news, state updates and reports on this multifaceted, rapidly evolving transportation topic.

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