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House transportation bill uses tomorrow’s revenues to pay for yesterday’s policies

Following final consideration of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act (STRR) Act by the full House of Representatives, Transportation for America chairman John Robert Smith offered this statement:

“In a country that’s drastically changing, the House has doubled down on the status quo and declared that our country’s current model for investing in transportation is the best approach for another six years to come. Congress has once again failed to have a meaningful conversation about raising new revenue from users of the transportation system, choosing instead to tap as much as $85 billion in general taxpayer funds to close the yawning gap in our country’s transportation trust fund — leaving the hard decisions for those willing to lead some other day. We’re as disappointed with Congress as we are with many in the transportation community who are willing to accept a flat-funded multi-year bill that’s paid for by any means necessary.

“On policy, this bill falls far short of the transformational, reform-minded policy that we need to keep our cities and towns prospering as the country changes dramatically. It largely fails to award more money competitively to the best projects on the merits, to increase accountability or transparency for taxpayer dollars, to increase innovative low-cost financing that can leverage local dollars, or to provide greater flexibility for states and metro areas to invest in whatever transportation solutions can bring the greatest benefits.

“In addition, the House bill also fails to give cities, towns and local communities of all sizes greater access to and control over federal transportation dollars. Instead, this bill sends yet more control and funding to unelected bureaucrats at the state level, doubling down on a broken process that local voters overwhelmingly believe chooses projects based on politics, not need.

“There were numerous opportunities to improve the bill, but they were largely ignored or blocked from consideration. A bipartisan proposal from Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Dina Titus (D-NV) that would have given more funding and control to local communities had at least eight other cosponsors and support from local elected leaders in cities small and large. Yet House leaders in key committees refused to let this amendment with broad support even come up for a vote. They refused to let their fellow representatives stand up and speak about the ambitious plans in the local communities they represent. They refused to publicly hear an argument in favor of giving more funding and authority to the local leaders who best know their communities’ needs.

“While Chairmen Shuster and Graves and Ranking Members DeFazio and Holmes Norton are to be commended for moving beyond short-term extensions and toward the multi-year funding certainty needed by states and cities to see their ambitious plans come to life, we need to pair that funding with the right policies, and this bill falls short. We’re hopeful that improvements can continue to be made in conference, including choosing to include the higher funding amount for local communities and incorporating the passenger rail authorization contained in the Senate bill.”

Steve Davis, Director of Communications
steve.davis@t4america.org // 202-955-5543 x242