A $5.5 billion discretionary fund for transit projects is in danger of being handed over to the highway lobby by Senators James Inhofe, Kit Bond, and Max Baucus. Inhofe you will recall is the former Chair of the Senate Environmental and Public Works (EPW) Committee who boasted in 2005, "I called the threat of catastrophic global warming
the ‘greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,’ a
statement that, to put it mildly, was not viewed kindly by
environmental extremists and their elitist organizations."
Inhofe sent a letter to current Committee Chair Barbara Boxer last week expressing outrage that highways were only getting $27 billion in the Senate version of the Economic Recovery Act, and said "given the large number of ready to go highway projects and the economic benefits of highway investment, we believe the level of highway investment should be at least 10 percent of the total stimulus package," or more than $80 billion.
Of course, a good California Dem would laugh him out the building, right? Apparently one EPW member’s staffers are alarmed that Senator Boxer appears willing to part with the $5.5 billion, which was proposed by Senate leadership as a discretionary fund that could circumvent the typical state transportation channels. Though an amendment isn’t yet public, the word from the Capitol is not comforting.
"I think it is a danger that no criteria has been attached to these funds, that this could move us below the 80/20 transportation split," said Shelley Poticha of Reconnecting America, referring to the traditional federal funding ratio for roads versus transit. "We are already incredibly concerned about the limited funding for transit in the Economic Recovery bill."
Poticha fears that this type of maneuvering in committee could be a harbinger for the difficulties to come for the re-authorization of the Federal Transportation Equity Act this October. "We saw the stimulus package as an opportunity to see if Congress could walk the walk on transit investment. We’re only seeing the tiniest movement."
Transportation for America has issued an Action Alert and we hope you’ll help us flood Boxer’s phone lines first thing tomorrow:
Senator Boxer is considering an amendment to increase highway
funding in the economic recovery legislation. Let her know we don’t
want another blank check for highways. We need to ensure that the
amendment language would achieve important safety, system repair, and
climate goals.Ask Senator Boxer to support an amendment that would:
1. Give preference to projects that reduce vehicle miles
traveled, like transit, bike or pedestrian projects.2. Fast
Track Highway Safety projects that improve efficiency and reduce
congestion, like bridge maintenance and improved signalization.
we don’t prioritize our spending we cannot achieve our environmental,
energy, and safety goals, and we run the risk of harming our state and
the nation. Thank you for speaking out against another blank check for
Please call Senator Boxer’s office today at (202) 224-3553
Flickr photo: Friends of Jim Inhofe