FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, DC — Following the Senate’s successful vote to approve the DRIVE Act, a six-year transportation reauthorization bill with three years of funding, the Honorable John Robert Smith, former mayor of Meridian, MS, and the Chairman of Transportation for America, issued the following statement:
“While the Senate is to be commended for taking the lead in moving beyond the repeated short-term extensions to the nation’s transportation program, this bill represents a major missed opportunity to give cities, towns and local communities of all sizes more control over and access to federal transportation dollars. We were extremely disappointed to see a bipartisan amendment from Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to direct more funding to towns and cities of all sizes fail to receive a fair hearing on the floor.
Instead of increasing funding for local communities, as the Wicker-Booker proposal would have done, the DRIVE Act bypasses America’s cities and towns, reducing the overall amount of funding they control to invest in their locally-driven projects by nearly $200 million in the first year of this bill alone compared to the 2012 authorization (MAP-21). By failing to bring more dollars, control and accountability closer to the local level, the bill fails to restore the trust of the American people in how our transportation decisions are being made.
The Senate also failed to tackle the hard choices required to raise new, sustainable revenues — as at least 21 states and governors have done over the past three years — in order to truly put the nation’s transportation trust fund on stable footing. The Senate cobbled together $46 billion in non-transportation-related funds, fees and accounting maneuvers to keep the nation’s transportation trust fund solvent for the next three years — in some cases by relying on funding from sources ten years in the future to pay back the next three years of spending. Is it fiscally responsible to place the cost of paying for three years of transportation investments on the backs of our children and grandchildren?
The Senate bill does take a few positive steps forward. We’re encouraged to see the nation’s passenger rail policy finally included in the surface transportation program for the first time ever, laying the groundwork for continuing to improve and expand the nation’s passenger rail service in the years to come. Congress recognized the economic importance of moving goods efficiently throughout the country by including a new freight program — though the bill shortsightedly chooses not to take a more comprehensive approach, restricting 90 percent of the freight dollars to highway projects and ignoring ports, rail and other multimodal solutions that are urgently needed to unclog America’s freight bottlenecks. The bill also preserves funding for the popular Transportation Alternatives Program and public transportation in general, and includes an important Safe Streets Act provision that ensures a more comprehensive approach to road design and safety for everyone.
While we’re thankful that the Senate has finally moved beyond short-term extensions and toward the multi-year funding certainty needed by states and cities to see their ambitious plans come to life, the final product needs to do much more. We look forward to working to improve it as the House drafts their bill and Congress seeks consensus on a multi-year transportation authorization bill before the recently-extended MAP-21 expires on October 29.”*
* The Senate is expected to approve a three-month extension to MAP-21 this afternoon.