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Three changes could dramatically improve the Senate’s draft transportation bill

Ahead of the looming July 31 deadline to pass a new bill (or extend the current law), the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in late June introduced and marked up a full six-year transportation bill. While we think it’s a good starting point, there are some promising amendments that could improve the bill dramatically as it goes forward in the Senate.

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.

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, and several Senators have prepared several amendments to help change that.

Several of these were discussed or offered and withdrawn during the markup, and will hopefully be debated on the floor of the Senate.

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.

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.

Can you urge your Senators to support these 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.

Though the bill has cleared committee, it will still have to be considered in the full Senate, so we need all Senators to hear your support for these amendments. Don’t delay — send a message to your Senators and urge them to support these key amendments to improve this bill.

Logged-in members can read our full summary of the EPW bill below.

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  1. Alan Feinberg

    9 years ago

    Just do it!

  2. Steve Ewart

    9 years ago

    Please do what is right for America by funding necessary transportation infrastructure. There are several ways to afford this, including:

    1. Trim the excessive waste in military procurement. Much of what Congress funds in military spending is “pure pork” to gain funding for a Members state. Provide the same economic benefit to the states by spending it on transportation infrastructure rather than on those military procurements that the Pentagon neither asks for nor wants.

    2. Increase the taxes on those of us (yes, me included) who make in excess of $250K a year so that transportation infrastructure can be constructed that will benefit all including those like me. Many of us in the top 10% of the nation in income are being extremely selfish, as well as “pound foolish.” It does not make a lot of sense for those of us who are fortunate in our wealth to hold onto it as the nation’s infrastructure crumbles.

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  5. evelyn

    9 years ago

    Transportation is for all the people and it needs fixing badly. Stand with the people and agree to the infrastructure being corrected, fixed and increased for all.

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