Conference Committee Deal a Step Backward From Current Transportation PolicyJune 28, 2012
By Transportation for America
Rollback of citizen input and environmental protection, weakened repair standards, reduced local control among flaws in long-delayed bill
In response to the announcement of a conference committee deal to authorize the federal transportation program through September, 2014, Transportation for America Director James Corless issued this statement:
“We are encouraged that Congress will avoid a shutdown of the program. Unfortunately, this last-minute, closed-door deal does little more than that. The bill ultimately looks and feels like what it is: A stopgap that is the last gasp of a spent 20th century program. It doesn’t begin to address the needs of a changing America in the 21st century.
The Senate had done the hard work of carefully crafting a forward-looking, bipartisan bill that passed with an overwhelming majority. Unfortunately, the negotiated conference bill moved closer to the House’s HR7, which never garnered enough votes to pass, even among GOP members. What has been billed as a “compromise” on transportation instead represents a substantial capitulation in the face of provisions threatened by the House that had no relevance to the transportation debate.
In many respects, the bill falls far short of progress. It reduces dedicated funding and standards for repair of our aging system. There appears to be no vision as to what we ought to build nor accountability for performance, just a desire to spend money faster. This approach not only threatens our nation’s economic competitiveness, it also spells disaster for the many Americans who envision a fair transportation system that benefits all.
Despite record demand for public transportation service, the conference deal cut out emergency provisions to preserve existing service, does little to expand that service and actually cut the small provision equalizing the tax benefit for transit and parking. As a result, millions of struggling families will face barriers to getting to work, home and school and to the doctor.
While we are gratified that the outpouring of pleas from ordinary Americans across the country prevented House negotiators from eliminating the small pot of money for safe walking and biking that allows more local control over those funds, it is nevertheless alarming that the funding itself was significantly slashed as part of the final agreement.
The resulting transportation bill takes a major step backwards on accountability in how transportation funding is spent, essentially handing states a blank check without proper assurances that roads will get safer, traffic congestion will improve, people can get to work or bridges will get fixed. Americans will never agree to pay more at the pump or elsewhere until we restore public confidence and trust, and this conference report will hardly do that.”