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for those hoping for a bold step into the future, this bill represents a definite step backwards, the last gasp of an outdated 20th century program.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.June 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.”
As Some in Congress Push to Eliminate Funds for Safe Walking and Biking, Fatality Data Shows Deaths in All Congressional DistrictsJune 21, 2012
By Transportation for America
Programs to help communities make streets safer threatened as negotiators debate whether to eliminate provisions from transportation bill
Members of Congress have spent the last six weeks negotiating a transportation bill in conference committee, trying to beat the clock on the current extension set to expire June 30. As part of those negotiations, some members are attempting to strip the bill of key policies that would create safer streets for pedestrians. With more than 50,000 pedestrians killed between 2001 and 2010, Transportation for America is today releasing new data presenting a breakdown of fatalities by Congressional district.
“We implore House members of the conference committee to remember their constituents who have died as a result of dangerous conditions on their roadways that could be fixed with the very modest investment proposed in the Senate bill,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. Corless urged Congress to preserve the small program in the Senate’s MAP-21 bill known as “Additional Activities” which is targeted to safety and revitalization projects and allows local communities a stronger say in what gets built. The program consolidates and revamps a number of existing programs like Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School and provides more local access to the funds.
Among conference committee members with high pedestrian deaths between 2001 and 2010 are Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) with 289, Corrine Brown (FL-03) with 274, Jerrold Nadler (NY-08) with 195, Steve Southerland (FL-02) with 164, Ralph Hall (TX-04) with 127, Rob Bishop (UT-01) with 109, James Lankford (OK-05) with 118, and Fred Upton (MI-06) with 83.
(Sample data at right, click here to view the full set.)
“Our analysis has found that many of the most dangerous roads in the country were built either with federal dollars or under federal guidelines,” said Corless. “Having saddled communities with unsafe streets, it would be the height of cruelty for Congress now to take away resources and latitude from local communities trying to improve those conditions and save lives.”
The majority of deaths occur on roadways that encourage speeding but do not provide the sidewalks, crosswalks, signals and other protections for pedestrians, particularly seniors and children. Americans 65 and older are 65 percent more likely to be killed as pedestrians than the population as a whole, national statistics show.
“As this data makes clear, all across the country Americans are aging in places where a walk to a bus stop or the store is fraught with danger, because there are few safe places to cross busy roads and little protection from fast-moving traffic,” said Joyce Rogers, Senior Vice President of AARP Government Affairs. “With a rapidly aging population, AARP is urging Congress not to ignore the dramatic consequences inaction on pedestrian safety could have on Americans of all ages and ability.”
“At the very moment that Congress began debating whether or not to preserve programs like Safe Routes to School and others designed to make walking and biking safer, the CDC reported that almost 32 percent of 2- to 19-year-olds and nearly 69 percent of adults in America are overweight or obese,” said Susan Polan of the American Public Health Association. “Considering the incredible levels of obesity in America, why wouldn’t we prioritize the very strategies that can reduce the obesity rate and increase opportunities to incorporate physical activity safely into our daily lives — whether that’s trails for runners, bike lanes for commuters or sidewalks for a stroll to the store?”
“Biking and walking reduce health care costs by preventing weight gain and keeping hearts healthy” said Robert M. Pestronk, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. “Local health departments keep people in their communities healthy and safe. Encouraging communities to assure safer routes for biking and walking prevents pedestrian deaths, which occur every 2 hours, and pedestrian injuries, which happen every 8 minutes.”
The Transportation for America coalition is urging the conference committee to pass a transportation bill that incorporates pedestrian safety provisions passed in the Senate’s bipartisan MAP-21 bill. While House negotiators are pushing to eliminate the small programs that fund projects like Safe Routes to School to help prevent deaths and injuries on our roadways, the Senate bill includes funding to fix dangerous road conditions. This funding is included in the Additional Activities program, which arose from a bipartisan agreement to reform the Transportation Enhancements program to narrow the eligibility, provide greater local control and let states redirect the money when there are no eligible local projects.
After extension vote, Transportation for America urges House leaders to get to work on a bipartisan billMarch 29, 2012
By Stephen Lee Davis
Transportation for America Director James Corless today issued the following statement in response to the House passage of a 90-day extension of the current federal transportation program and motor fuels tax:
“While we are disappointed that Congress was unable to pass a transportation bill before the end of the current extension, the action taken today in the U.S. House will at least prevent a disruption of the federal transportation program and ensure millions of Americans continue to work by building and repairing our roads, bridges, and transit systems.
We now urge House leaders to reach across the aisle to create a bipartisan measure that can find the broad support typical of past transportation bills, as well as the Senate’s current bill.”
Transportation for America congratulates Senate adoption of transportation bill, urges House to follow bipartisan roadmapMarch 14, 2012
By Stephen Lee Davis
Transportation for America Director James Corless today issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s adoption of MAP-21, the authorization of the federal transportation program, by a strong bipartisan vote of 74-22:
“The Senate today has done the nation a great service in overcoming partisan gridlock to help Americans avoid literal gridlock. On behalf of Transportation for America, I want to express our gratitude to the many senators on both sides of the aisle who listened to each other and to the American public in crafting a bill that makes important policy strides even as it maintains funding levels necessary to preserve and expand our transportation infrastructure.
MAP-21 makes several key reforms:
- For the first time, establishes national policy goals and performance measures for the federal surface transportation program, such as addressing congestion, improving access to multiple travel options, supporting domestic manufacturing and reducing impacts on the environment and adjacent communities;
- Consolidates programs and streamlines project delivery, while maintaining existing funding levels;
- Holds states accountable for the safe upkeep of our roads and bridges;
- Maintains local control over a share of funds and ensures access to funding for safer walking and bicycling;
- Includes emergency provisions to allow transit agencies to avoid service cuts and fare hikes;
- Extends the commuter benefit for transit users, commensurate with parking benefits for drivers;
- Helps communities make plans to meet the growing demand for walkable neighborhoods with access to jobs, services and public transportation;
- Ensures that federal funds support streets that are safe and complete for everyone who uses them, whether motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users or transit riders.
While there are still additional reforms that could improve the overall program, we have to commend the Senate for doing its part and creating a road map for transportation policy that can win bipartisan support. Now the House must act in similar fashion to ensure that this critical federal program does not lapse, even as the spring construction season begins. By following the Senate’s lead, House leaders can craft a bill that serves all Americans and put the federal program on a solid footing once again.”
Transportation for America applauds changes to Senate surface transportation bill, urges support for Tuesday voteMarch 5, 2012
By Stephen Lee Davis
Transportation for America Director James Corless today issued the following statement in response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s unveiling of the latest draft of the Senate’s surface transportation authorization, MAP-21, and the majority leader’s call for a cloture vote on Tuesday, March 6:
“With the revisions Majority Leader Reid has negotiated with the committee chairs and ranking members, the Senate has taken significant steps to strengthen their transportation authorization bill and has earned the support of our coalition.
We urge all Senators to advance this legislation and support Tuesday’s cloture vote, so that it can move forward to final passage. While our coalition will continue to work to seek further improvements to the bill in several important areas, the Senators who developed this bipartisan legislation deserve enormous credit for incorporating changes that will help to ensure that the federal program improves mobility and travel options for Americans rich and poor, urban and rural, while preserving our existing infrastructure. It is encouraging to see that the Senate is able to continue to do the people’s business and move forward on a bill that is so critical to our economic health and future well-being.”February 6, 2012
By Stephen Lee Davis
Transportation for America Director, James Corless, offered this statement in response to last week’s committee passage of the House American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, along with a companion measure eliminating dedicated funding for public transportation:
“For more than three years, our coalition has worked hard for an updated federal transportation program that meets our needs in the 21st century; that creates jobs and lays the foundation for a rejuvenated economy; that balances the need to keep our highway system strong while augmenting it with other options. We still remain urgently committed to that goal.
“It is with deep disappointment, therefore, that we in the Transportation for America coalition find ourselves compelled to oppose the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act as advanced by House leadership. While we commend Chairman Mica (R-FL) for doing what he can to move a long-term transportation bill forward, the full legislation that is now heading to the floor of the House has significant fatal flaws. The bill:
- Unfairly punishes current and would-be users of public transportation by ending all dedicated funding for public transportation, threatening to degrade further the service and state of repair of our transit systems;
- Leaves Americans with fewer transportation options rather than more, and deeper dependence on oil rather than less;
- Undermines safety and public health and takes resources away from non-motorized forms of transportation;
- Does not go far enough to ensure the state of good repair of our bridges, highways, railways and other systems;
- And undercuts citizens’ ability to raise environmental, health and other concerns about the impact of transportation projects.
“It is our hope that House leaders will hear our concerns, as well as those of the many others across the political spectrum who are as disappointed as we are, and bring forth a dramatically different and improved bill that can create jobs and spur the economy. The time is now for passage of a transportation bill we can all agree on.”
House Ways and Means proposal to end guaranteed funding for public transportation undoes bipartisan agreement since ReaganFebruary 2, 2012
By Stephen Lee Davis
After service cuts and fare hikes, House leadership plan gives transit riders more to worry about
Reversing policy begun under President Ronald Reagan, House Ways and Means Committee – at the direction of House leadership — could move Friday to end guaranteed funding for public transportation, and leave even today’s inadequate funding levels in doubt.
The proposal to bar public transit from receiving funds from the federal motor fuels tax is part of a bill coming before the House Ways and Means Committee Friday morning. That bill sets the revenue levels for the five-year surface transportation bill making its way through the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee today.
“We are deeply concerned that if this measure passes, Americans who use public transportation, or who would like that option in the future, will be thrown under the bus,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “This couldn’t come at a worse time for people who need an affordable, reliable way to get to work, or for employers who need workers.” Corless noted the demand for transit has been rising as the economy slowly recovers and people are using public transportation to get to jobs and to avoid volatile gas prices. Over the course of the five-year transportation program, America’s population will continue to age rapidly, and a growing number of seniors will be looking to transit services maintain their independence.
Since Ronald Reagan was president, Congress has supported dedicated funding for both highways and transit. For the last 30 years, transit riders and the services they use have been able to depend on guaranteed funding from a mass transit trust fund replenished by a share of federal gasoline taxes. As congestion rose in urban areas, and rural areas saw their share of car-less, low-income families rise, bipartisan support grew for providing transit as a dependable relief valve. Removing the guaranteed funding would mean that transit would have to compete each year for general fund revenues that are in line for deep cuts in coming years.
“American workers and their employers already are dealing with deep uncertainties in these times of fiscal crisis,” said John Robert Smith, co-chair of Transportation for America and President of Reconnecting America. “As local tax revenues have dropped, transit service is being cut, fares raised, and maintenance is being deferred. Seniors in rural areas are waiting hours for a ride to the doctor, veterans have very few transportation options to get them to VA centers, and workers in cities don’t know when the next bus is coming. Putting these services in jeopardy would be a cruel blow to these Americans.”
###December 16, 2011
By Stephen Lee Davis
WASHINGTON, DC — This week, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Local Flexibility for Transit Assistance Act, which would give local transit agencies flexibility in how they choose to allocate federal funding, especially during times of economic crisis. It provides transit systems with the option to use a portion of their federal transit funds for operating assistance to keep buses and trains running and avoid potential fare increases. This bill is the Senate companion to H.R. 3200, introduced by Representatives Carnahan and LaTourette.
Sarah Kline, Policy Director at Reconnecting America, released the following statement on Transportation for America’s behalf:
“This bill from Senator Brown is badly needed in many cities across the country. We are in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with gas prices wildly fluctuating, and hard-working Americans need more affordable transportation options. Despite booming ridership, transit agencies across the country are having to cut service or raise fares, leaving people stranded without a way to get to work, to school, or to the doctor. This bill by Senator Brown will help to ensure that people in cities of all sizes can continue relying on public transportation to get them where they need to go.”
Transportation for America responds to Senate Commerce Committee actions on transportation authorizationDecember 14, 2011
By Transportation for America
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate Commerce Committee today adopted two key policy measures for the upcoming authorization of the federal transportation program. The “Surface Transportation and Freight Policy Act of 2011” establishes policy goals for the federal surface transportation program, such as addressing congestion, improving access to multiple travel options, supporting domestic manufacturing and reducing impacts on the environment and public health. It also directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a national surface transportation and freight strategic plan and establishes a multimodal grant program for alleviating bottlenecks in the freight system.
An amendment offered by Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and modified by Senator Thune (R-SD), directs the DOT Secretary to “establish standards to ensure that the design of Federal surface transportation projects provides for the safe and adequate accommodation … of all users of the transportation network, including motorized and non-motorized users.”
Transportation for America’s director, James Corless, offered this statement in response:
“The Commerce Committee’s measures offer critical policy direction at a time when our key national infrastructure program is in urgent need of renewed focus and reinvigoration. Establishing national goals and performance-based objectives for our investment in transportation would be a vast improvement over our current system, improving accountability and transparency of federal transportation spending. The Surface Transportation and Freight Policy Act would go a long way toward ensuring that we get the most bang for the buck from our increasingly constrained transportation dollars.
At a time when pedestrian fatalities and injuries are rising as other traffic fatalities fall, the Begich amendment would help to improve safety for everyone on our roads and save money. With support from the full Senate and incorporation into the House’s companion bill, these measures would establish safety, fairness and efficiency as the hallmarks of the next authorization.”