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Senate Transpo Budget Gets Serious About Repairing Rail Bridges

They're waist deep in the transportation appropriations process in Washington right now, and what's on the table is a study in contrasts. The House budget would zero out the popular TIGER program and slash funding for Amtrak, even as it shatters ridership records. President Obama has promised to veto it should it wind up on his desk.

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Meanwhile, sustainable transportation advocates are more enthusiastic about the Senate's version, which would actually provide a boost in funding for Amtrak and transit. The exception was a noxious amendement introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) which proposed stripping all funding for bike and walking and transfer it to bridge repair.

The advocates at Transportation for America are urging supporters to call their senators and tell them to support the Senate version -- without the Paul amendment. Other than that blemish, Stephen Lee Davis at T4A says the Senate bill is getting better with a few new additions:

Senator Schumer (along with Sens. Gillibrand, Menendez, and Cardin) proposed an amendment (No. 1763) that would allow rail and transit bridges to also be eligible for the $500 million in the Bridges in Critical Corridors program. Our most critical corridors aren’t always just highways, and this allows states and local communities to apply for flexible funding that can meet their greatest local need, whether that a bridge carries trains or cars.

We should do a better job of repairing our aging bridges. As noted before, the Senate bill contains a new $500 million grant program to do exactly that. But which bridges? Senator Rob Portman from Ohio succeeded in having an amendment included that would ensure that the money can only go to repair bridges that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. That’s a done deal.

Lastly on bridges, Senator Cardin and Senator Gillibrand also proposed an amendment (No. 1760) requiring FHWA to report on highway and bridge conditions in each state as well as the amount of funding states are spending on highway and bridge repair — something that states once had to do before MAP-21 eliminated the dedicated bridge repair program. This would restore a requirement for states to closely track the conditions of their bridges and most importantly, how much they spend to repair these bridges compared to spending on new construction, helping taxpayers and citizens hold state leaders accountable for making progress.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Reconnecting America reviews a recent study that indicates there may be a connection between social mobility and transit access to jobs. Urban Review STL celebrates the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And the Bicycle Alliance of Washington says Amtrak is beefing up bike service on the Cascade route.

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