Transportation Bill Rolls Back Progress
For Immediate Release
Contact: Hilary Reeves, Transit for Livable Communities, 651-789-1415, cell: 612-554-1795; email@example.com
Saint Paul, MN (June 28, 2012)-- In response to the announcement of a conference committee deal to authorize the federal transportation program through September, 2014, Transit for Livable Communities executive director Barb Thoman issued this statement:
“The proposed new law from the House and Senate conference committee is a return to a 1950s highway-heavy emphasis with greatly reduced accountability and transparency.Thankfully, funding for transit was preserved, but the conference committee stripped some very good policy from the Senate bill. If this becomes law, people will have less say over how their money is spent.
The proposed new law gives much greater power to state departments of transportation (DOT), leaving counties and cities with less authority over funding. Metropolitan areas, the engine of the economy, also will have less involvement in how transportation dollars are spent. The innovative and sought after TIGER funding (now under a new name), will be available only to state DOTs (not local or regional government) and then only for projects over $500 million. Two recent TIGER-funded projects—the Minneapolis Interchange multimodal hub and restoration of Saint Paul’s Union Depot—would not be eligible under the new law.
The bridge repair provisions championed by Senator Franken were stripped along with an emphasis on road repair, so we’ll see more potholes and failing bridges. The deal also eliminates a critical passenger rail program and eliminates the Senate’s efforts to establish new national freight policies.
The small share of federal funding for bicycling and walking was reduced and made optional and dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School was eliminated. Complete streets provisions, already on the books in Minnesota, were stripped. We have seen a surge in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the Twin Cities, thanks to federal funding for nonmotorized transportation. But now, as rates of bicycling and walking rise dramatically, funding for these modes is going down not up.
The Senate passed a bipartisan bill (MAP-21) in March. The House wasn’t able to even pass a transportation bill in its own chamber due to the extreme provisions it included in its own five year bill (HR7). Several strong provisions in the Senate bill were lost in fighting off the House-proposed Canadian oil pipeline (Keystone XL) and a coal ash regulation provision. In the name of “streamlining,” the final deal greatly weakens environmental review.
We had a chance to enact the Senate bill, which recognized the challenges we face today as a nation and called for using all modes of transportation to serve economic growth and preserve our nation’s natural resources and health. If industry is hoping that Congress will return next year to raise the federal gasoline tax to shore up transportation funding, this conference report and the new transportation policy framework it lays out isn’t going to help make the case.
The good news is that it’s essentially a two-year bill and not the typical six year bill. And, we know that more people are voting with their wallets and feet for transit, bicycling, and walking and less driving. We will keep working with and for leaders with a vision not from the 1950s but for 21st century needs and realities. ”
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About Transit for Livable Communities
Transit for Livable Communities is a nonprofit organization working to transform Minnesota's transportation system to strengthen community, improve health and opportunity for all people, foster a sound economy, and protect our natural resources. Through advocacy, organizing, and research, we promote a transportation system that encourages transit, walking, bicycling, and thoughtful development.