Newly approved transportation bill is a clear step backwards — a message from T4 AmericaJune 29, 2012
By Stephen Lee Davis
More than 1,000 days after the last transportation bill expired, Congress finally voted to approve a new transportation bill just moments ago. Unfortunately for those hoping for a bold step into the future, this bill represents a definite step backwards, the last gasp of an outdated 20th century program.
This bill was fast-tracked after the agreement was reached and it cleared the Senate and House this afternoon. If you want to call or write your representatives about the bill, you can use this page to do so. Many of them may still have no idea what’s actually in this bill — you can let them know, and let them know how you feel about it.
We want to especially thank many of you for your tireless support. Collectively, our supporters like you have sent tens of thousands of emails to Congress, made thousands of phone calls, and recruited thousands of friends to the cause.
Make no mistake, you’ve made a tremendous difference in the national debate on transportation priorities. You helped turn the Senate’s version of the transportation bill into something we could be proud of and defeated the House’s disastrous proposal to end all dedicated funding for public transit. At the last possible moment, election-year politics and backroom maneuvering intervened to thwart progress, but the movement for a more visionary, 21st century transportation agenda for all Americans has only just begun.
So what’s in the bill?
As you may remember, the Senate had done the hard work of carefully crafting a forward-looking, bipartisan bill that passed with an overwhelming majority.
Unfortunately, this final bill moves closer to the House’s disastrous HR7, which was too contentious and unpopular to garner enough votes to pass. This final negotiated bill has been called a “compromise,” but it’s really a substantial capitulation in the face of threats by the House to include provisions with no relevance to the transportation bill — the Keystone XL pipeline, regulation of coal ash and others.
As a result of this “compromise,” the bill dedicates zero dollars to repairing our roads and bridges, cuts the amount of money that cities and local governments would have received, makes a drastic cut in the money available to prevent the deaths of people walking or biking, and ensures that you have less input and control over major projects that affect you and the quality of your community.
Despite record demand for public transportation service, this deal cut the emergency provisions to preserve existing transit service, does little to expand that service and actually removed the small provision equalizing the tax benefit for transit and parking.
There are a few positives, though:
Your work saved the Cardin-Cochran provision to provide grants to local communities to make their streets safer for walking or biking from the chopping block. Dedicated funding was retained, though at a lower dollar level. About half the money will be given directly to metro areas, with the remainder used at state discretion.
A new grant program will fund community-led planning for neighborhood revitalization around transit lines. And a major increase in federally backed loans could help regions that raise their own transportation funds stretch them farther and build out ambitious transit plans faster.
While we didn’t end up with the bill that we were all hoping for, it is clear that this bill represents the last gasp of a 20th century transportation program that has run out of steam.
Gas prices are trending ever upward. Demand for public transportation is booming like never before. Demographic shifts show a more diverse America with fewer young people driving and huge increases in demand for more walkable towns and suburbs. More and more people are clamoring for safer streets and healthier communities.
We’ve said this fight has just begun and indeed it has.
The debate will now move to your state where many decisions will be made about how to spend this blank check. And your voice will be needed more than ever to urge your state to make sure that money reflects the priorities of local people — seniors trying to get to the doctor, families struggling to make ends meet and trying to get to their job, kids simply trying to cross the street to get to school.
And because this bill is only 27 months long – less time than it took to draft and pass it – the battle for the next one begins the minute this one is signed!
Thank you again for all your support. Continue following along here at t4america.org/blog where we’ll be explaining more about the details of the bill in the coming few days and weeks. If you want to know what’s in the bill with greater detail, you’ll want to stay tuned.
If you want to call or write your representatives about the bill, you can use this page to do so. Many of them may have no idea what’s actually in this bill — you can let them know, and let them know how you feel about it.