TCS: Disputed Transport Provision in Jobs Bill Rewarded Political Clout

A provision in the Senate jobs bill that would distribute $932 million in 2010 transportation funding based on existing earmarks is in line for a quick fix, thanks to a deal
struck on Friday between House transportation committee chairman Jim
Oberstar (D-MN) and Democratic leaders in the upper chamber.

6a00d8341c4df253ef00e54f5a86a38833_800wi.jpgFormer
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), at right, came under fire for
profiting from a land deal along the proposed Prairie Parkway. (Image: ABC)

But
it’s worth delving more deeply into the earmarking that dominated the
two disputed grant programs, the Projects of Regional and National
Significance (PRNS) and the National Corridor
Infrastructure Improvement Program (NCIIP).

The
watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS), which first coined the
term "Bridge to Nowhere" for Alaska’s infamous infrastructure earmark,
released a helpful spreadsheet
yesterday that shows which state projects claimed the lion’s share of
the PRNS and NCIIP money in the 2005 federal transport law. TCS also calculated
each state’s share of the grant programs, levels that would continue
this year if the Senate jobs bill passed without future corrections.

TCS’
research sheds further light on the objections of Oberstar and other
lawmakers who complained that the Senate jobs bill would send more than
half the $932 million to four states — California, Louisiana,
Illinois, and Washington. But it also answers the question of why those four states.

From the TCS report:

As one looks at the states that benefited most from these earmarks in
the 2005 bill, it’s easy to see the political influence that was at
play. These earmarks were distributed based less on the importance of
the projects proposed and more on the political influence of the
members who were fighting for the earmarks. It is interesting to note
that two of the projects … are not even active, and their funding
has been or may be “reprogrammed” for other uses; and that three of the
members involved are no longer serving in Congress.

Among the biggest recipients of PRNS and NCIIP earmarks were the
so-called Prairie Parkway, a favored project of former House Speaker
Dennis Hastert (R-IL) that was abandoned after an investigation found that he profited personally from land deals along the proposed highway; Louisiana’s I-49, a priority Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) that still lacks
sufficient funding for completion; and the sprawling Bakersfield
Beltway road proposal, championed by now-retired Rep. Bill Thomas
(R-CA).

The House-Senate deal to open PRNS and NCIIP grants
to all states does not mean that projects will be able to compete for
the 2010 money, as was originally envisioned in the House jobs bill.
Instead, states are set to receive a share of the two grant programs
that is in line with existing road funding formulas.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

STREETSBLOG USA

Senate’s Draft Transpo Bill Ends Earmarks But Weakens Bike-Ped Programs

|
Last Friday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released its draft transportation reauthorization bill. With the GOP-controlled House contemplating a national transportation policy designed for maximum fossil fuel consumption, the best opportunities for reform reside in the Senate. While the 600-page draft that came out of Senator Barbara Boxer’s committee includes some key reforms and increases […]

Congress Reluctant to Shine Light on Transportation Earmarks

|
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is about to unveil a massive bill that will re-authorize federal transportation programs for the next six years. The bill will also include funding for a large number of "earmarks," the congressional pet projects that can include everything from bike trails to Bridges to Nowhere. Earmarks grew largely in […]