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Senate’s new transportation bill is a good start, but more should be done for local communities

At long last, there’s finally some progress to report on a new long-term federal transportation bill. Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released their draft six-year transportation bill. While we think it’s a good starting point, there are some promising proposals to improve it dramatically during a planned markup tomorrow.

Updated 6/24 3:00 p.m.: The EPW committee marked up and approved this bill unanimously on June 24th without considering amendments (other than a package of amendments in a manager’s mark.) The amendments mentioned below were discussed or offered and withdrawn, and will hopefully be debated on the floor of the Senate. So keep any letters of support coming — the action below is still ongoing! (-Ed.)

Mayors and other local elected leaders are the ones who face the music from citizens when bridges need repair, when mounting congestion makes commutes unpredictable, and when families can’t safely walk their kids to school — yet those same leaders are too often left out of the discussions over what gets built and where.

That needs to change, and several Senators have readied several amendments to do exactly that.

First, Senators Wicker (R-MS) and Booker (D-NJ) are offering their Innovation in Surface Transportation Act as an amendment, to create a competitive grant program in each state to give local communities more access to federal funds — but only for the smartest, most innovative projects judged on their merits. A second amendment from Senators Booker and Wicker would increase the amount of flexible transportation dollars directly provided to local communities by ten percent of the program’s share.

Giving local communities of all sizes the resources they need to realize their ambitious plans to stay economically competitive should be a primary goal of this bill.

Can you urge your Senators to support amendments that will help give local communities like yours more access to and control over transportation dollars?

With a new competitive grant program for local projects in each state, more communities could find success like Normal, IL, found with its Uptown Station. Normal used a grant from the competitive national TIGER program to complete the funding picture for a multimodal station and central plaza that brought new life and economic activity to its town’s core. But the TIGER program is one of the only ways local communities can directly access federal funds, and it’s wildly oversubscribed.

Lastly, an amendment from Senator Cardin (D-MD) would increase funding for the program that cities, towns and regions use to invest in projects to make biking and walking safer — restoring the Transportation Alternatives Program to its previous funding level before being slashed in the last reauthorization in 2012.

The EPW Committee is marking up their bill on Wednesday, so don’t delay — send a message to your Senators and urge them to support these key amendments to improve this bill.

Members can read our full summary of the EPW bill below.

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  1. Timothy J Mack

    9 years ago

    As the 1st Vice President of FCRP/NARP we congradulate the Senate for this new initiatative for Transportation. We agree as our standing in the world community errodes that much more needs to be done on a bipartisan basis for the citizens of the US. We’ll be watching closely the progress of this and other measures to come to grips with our country’s crumbling infrastructure. This is one among the major historical predictors for major downward collapse and disintegration of any major world power throughout history.

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  3. Dave

    9 years ago

    I think, and maybe because I didn’t go through everything (yet), but where would the amendments for transit benefit parity play?

    • Dave, I think any changes like that either have to come from Banking (transit title) or possibly even Finance since it’s a tax provision. Definitely won’t be in the EPW portion of the transportation bill, though.

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