Nancy Pelosi’s Infrastructure Choices

480962177_c6fd7c8917.jpgPelosi helps cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Muni’s T-line.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco claims she is committed to public transit and reducing motor vehicle congestion. In a speech to the Regional Plan Association (RPA) last April she said her flagship issues as speaker are energy independence and reducing global warming.

"Our infrastructure choices will help determine whether people can choose alternatives to driving their cars," Pelosi told the RPA convention. "In Congress, we
are leading by example with a ‘Green the Capitol’ initiative that will
make our complex a model of green infrastructure and environmental

If that’s the case, why didn’t Pelosi fight for public transit in the stimulus bill passed in the House today, instead of a meager $9 billion that only rose to the original $12 billion because of an amendment by Rep. Jerry Nadler? Why is transportation spending so highway heavy at $30 billion? 

"This is not all we’re going to do," said Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill. "We know we can’t do everything in one bill and there’s restraints on what we can spend. She said we have to do something to quickly turn around the economic situation. The number one priority here is turning the economy around."

Hammill actually said the $12 billion is "a huge step forward for public transit."  In California, under the stimulus bill, about $950 million will be allocated as transit capital, compared to $2.7 billion for highways and bridges.

"This is a bill about the future," Pelosi said today at a news conference with fellow Democrats. "It is a bill that will guarantee that
we will create jobs, that there will be good paying green jobs that will transform
our infrastructure, transform our energy and how we use it and our dependence
on foreign oil."

Let’s hope Pelosi really means what she says about her commitment to fighting global warming and getting people out of their cars when Congress takes up the re-authorization of the Transportation Equity Act.

Flickr photo: kitetoa

  • I’m never one to be a “pelosi hater” but she really needs to start doing more and talking less. Every politician knows how to say buzzwords like “green” and “global warming” because those are fashionable terms used in marketing high end products right now.

    it’s a lot harder to do something. At this point if we can start to find ways to declare our fiscal independence from DC and Sacramento, at least for operational funding, that would be a good thing. I posted on this earlier today…..

  • I’m not a big Pelosi fan but we need go easy on her in this case. Let’s wait and see what happens during the next large transportation appropriation. If it does not contain enough for transit, we can be unhappy. Given the size and scope of the stimulus package as well as the required speed of passage, it is not too bad.

    What is interesting is that the appeasement to Republicans in terms of tax cuts and other measures had no effect. Not a single House Republican voted for the stimulus package.

  • bikerider

    “jdbub” is being far too kind. Pelosi already has a well-established track for personsally earmarking — as House Speaker — billions for inutile transit projects that fail to meet any kind of cost-effectiveness metrics.

    The T-line (shown above), BART-San Jose, VTA light rail, Dulles airport extension, Muni Central Stubway, Beaverton Commuter rail, etc, etc. all failed to meet FTA minimum cost-effectiveness rating, but were given special exemption written into the last Transportation Bill.

    The ultimate result, of course, is that actual worthwhile transit projects (i.e. which do generate _net_ increase in transit ridership with reasonable cost) do not make the cut for Federal funding.

  • patrick

    I disagree with bikerider about the value of projects like T line and the central subway. I see both of those as projects that although they may not make a whole lot of sense today, will prove to be very successful in 10-20 years.

    The T line make a defined transit corridor that developers / future residents can expect to be there unchanged permanently and once 3rd street is built up it will see much greater ridership, and it’s the kind of project that future business owners would complain about the construction (think geary BRT objections) and would be much harder to get done after the development happens.

    Central Subway will make the first serious cross market transit route in the city and opens up the possibility of extending light rail into North Beach and farther.

    you can definitely argue about the cost effectiveness, but I think those projects will turn out to be very successful in the long run.

  • I think our approach to Pelosi should be: we understand that you can’t do everything in the stimulus bill, as you say, but we want your commitment to making this year’s TEA reauthorization do more for transit, rather than giving 80% of the funding to freeways as TEA did in the past.

    TEA is much more important to transportation than the stimulus package. It will have at least $250 billion for transportation, compared with $42 billion in the stimulus package, and it will set the direction of future federal transportation policy.


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