October 10, 2015

Congressman Smith worries FAA regs will cripple air travel (AUDIO)

Congressman Adrian Smith speaks with a constituent

Congressman Adrian Smith speaks with a constituent

Congressman Adrian Smith says new pilot regulations are crippling air travel in rural America and could spread to cities all over the world.

Smith has been pushing to ease 2014 FAA regulations greatly increasing the hours pilots must train and the rest between flights they must take.

Smith contends the regulations have created a pilot shortage which has disrupted air travel throughout the Third District and beyond.

“This is not just about Kearney, North Platte, Scottsbluff, Alliance, Chadron, and Grand Island. This is a nation-wide and like I said I think, ultimately, even an international issue,” according to Smith. “We don’t want to hamstring U.S. airlines the taxpayers have had to bail out in the past.”

Smith says the growing number of cancellations not only disrupts travel plans, it prevents many small airports from clocking the flights needed to qualify for federal infrastructure funding.

Smith would like the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to include the Small Airport Regulation Relief Act he sponsors in the next Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization.

The new FAA regulations went into effect at the beginning of last year. The FAA increased the hours co-pilots need to train from 250 to 1,500. Pilots must now take 30 hours of rest each week, a 25% increase.

Smith says the new regulations have disrupted air travel not just in Nebraska, but throughout the country.

H.R. 853, the Small Airport Regulation Relief Act, would direct the FAA to use enplanement numbers from 2012 when calculating appropriate annual funds for airports under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) for the next two years. The federal money can be used for runways, taxiways, aprons, noise control, land purchases, navigational aids, as well as safety and security.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]


Parking changes in downtown Omaha

Nebraskans heading to the Old Market or other downtown areas of Omaha take note – it is going to cost more to plug the parking meters. Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert says drivers will have to pay to park from 9 am until 9 pm Monday through Saturday and the cost is going up from 25-cents to 50-cents. She says this is to free up short term space in front of businesses.

Mayor Stothert says, “Now, somebody at 5:01 will get a meter and park there all night long. That is really hard on the businesses down there. There are people down there that want to run down there and get something to eat or a haircut or whatever, all those meters down there are full and stay full.”

The city’s goal is encourage those parking longer downtown to utilize a parking garage. Long term parking there was lowered from $5 to $1.   Mayor Stothert says this is what you see in growing cities and it is a more modern way to utilize parking.

Signs and flags will be going up to notify the public of the new parking options. There will also be a parking app to assist drivers find an empty space.

Study: The odds of hitting a deer with your car in Nebraska are rising

Deer Xing SignFall arrives next week, a dangerous time of year as it’s much more likely Nebraska motorists may collide with deer. A new study shows the odds Nebraska drivers will hit a deer are rising. Ann Avery is spokeswoman for State Farm Insurance, which compiled the numbers.

“Nebraska is ranked 25th this year,” Avery says. “It was 23rd last year, but in fact, you have a slightly greater chance of hitting a deer this year in Nebraska, according to the State Farm statistics.”

Nebraska drivers are 3.5% more likely to collide with a deer than they were last year, according to the study. It says the odds drivers will hit a deer in Nebraska are 1-in-143, compared to the national odds of 1-in-169.

If you should emerge from hitting a deer unhurt, your car won’t likely be as lucky and neither will your savings account.

“The national cost per claim average for a deer-vehicle collision is more than $4,100 and that’s up 6% from last year when the average was about $3,800,” Avery says. “So, it is expensive and we do want to help people not have that happen to them.”

Mostly due to mating and hunting seasons, the months a driver is most likely to collide with a deer in Nebraska, are — in order — November, October and June. In 2013, there were 191 deaths reported nationwide as the result of collisions with animals, with deer being the animal most often struck, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Some tips to avoid deer include: use your high beams when possible at night, don’t rely on devices like deer whistles and should a deer jump into your path, don’t veer, as you could end up in the ditch or oncoming traffic.

“Keep in mind, deer generally travel in herds,” Avery says. “If you see one, others may be nearby. Be aware of posted ‘Deer Crossing’ signs. We see them often but they’re there for a reason. They’re placed there because those are active areas. Remember that deer are most active between dusk and dawn and the fall months are very active months for deer, which is when you can most reasonably expect this will happen.”

For the ninth year in a row, West Virginia tops the list of states where a collision is most likely with 1-in-44 odds. The rest of the top five are: Montana, Iowa, Pennsylvania and South Dakota. Hawaii is last, also for the ninth year in a row, with 1-in-8,765 odds.

Federal grant will help Nebraska better promote & pump ethanol

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says Nebraska is among 21 states receiving grants to help increase the availability of biofuels.

The USDA will issue $100-million to the states to add the infrastructure needed to roughly double the number of gas pumps delivering higher blends of corn-based ethanol.

“This $100 million that’s being provided by USDA will be matched dollar-for-dollar by partners in the 21 states being awarded these resources,” Vilsack says.

The USDA estimates the funding to the state of Nebraska will result in 80 more gas pumps offering higher ethanol blends, such as E15 and E85. Nebraska is the nation’s #2 ethanol producer, behind only Iowa.

Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, believes the effort will give consumers more choices and provide a much needed boost to the rural economy. He cites a study showing the biofuels industry has $184-billion impact on the U.S. economy.

“It supports over 850,000 jobs, promotes and pays $46 billion in wages and generates over $14 billion in tax revenue for federal, state and local governments,” Vilsack says.

The USDA estimates the grants will support nearly 5,000 pumps at over 1,400 gas stations in the 21 states.


UP issues warning about potential rail standstill over safety codes

RR crossingNebraska-based Union Pacific is among the rail carriers warning Congress a looming deadline for new railroad safety standards could mean rail networks could come to a standstill.

The 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act requires all railroad companies to implement a safety feature called Positive Train Control on high-volume lines by January 1st. 

Nebraska Republican Senator Deb Fischer is among the Congress members getting the letter. 

Rail industry leaders are asking for an extension to 2018. 

The carriers say federal regulations and complex technology caused the delay.