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Transportation stimulus cuts rail, transit

House Democrats unveiled an $825 billion stimulus plan Thursday, and environmental and transporation advocates weren’t happy with the transportation portion, which cut funding for rail and transit from the House Transportation Committee’s proposal.  And as TPM reports, committee members are angry too.  

Friends of the Earth:

“The stimulus as it currently stands doesn’t do enough to create green jobs through clean transportation investments, and it doesn’t prevent spending from going to unnecessary new roads that increase pollution and oil consumption.

“It is particularly disappointing to see that, unlike highway funds, public transportation and passenger rail funds have been cut below the levels suggested by the House Transportation Committee, limiting job creation in these areas. Public transportation investments create 19 percent more jobs per dollar spent than investments in new highways.”

 

The Environmental Defense Funds echoed Illinois PIRG’s call here last week for Illinois and other states to disclose the infrastructure proposols they’ve submitted to Congress.

“States generally have flexibility to use highway funds to ‘fix-it-first’ — repair existing bridges and roads — or to rush through new highway expansion that might otherwise fail to meet basic environmental needs.  It’s time to shine a light on those priorities.”

 

Transportation For America said the House proposal “fails to move America forward in reducing our oil dependency, creating opportunity for all Americans, and making us competitive for the 21st Century economy.

“First, the proposal only pays lip service to ensuring that the recovery bill puts Americans back to work by maintaining and repairing our crumbling roads and bridges. Without explicit language prioritizing a fix-it-first approach to infrastructure investment written into the legislation, federal funds could be wasted adding new highways to a system the House bill describes as ‘crumbling,’ This would have the effect of digging ourselves a deeper hole of oil dependence, even as we invest stimulus money elsewhere in the hope of finding a way out.

“Second, the House Appropriations proposal does nothing to provide immediate help for America’s transit systems, which employ thousands of hard working Americans and transport millions more to their jobs every day. Even as ridership has surged over the last year, transit providers have been hit by falling local revenues and volatile fuel prices.  Without federal funds to keep our existing public transportation operating, transit agencies in towns and cities across the country will be forced to institute massive layoffs, service cuts and fare increases for the American workers who are already struggling the most to make ends meet.”

T4America points out that the transit system in Transportation Secretary designee Ray LaHood’s hometown of Peoria announced a $3 million budget shortfall last week — with deep service cuts and higher fares now under consideration.

Compared the the Transportation Committee’s proposal, the House legislation eliminated $2 billion in emergency assistance to prevent transit layoffs and fare hikes and cut appropriations for Amtrak and intercity rail from $5 billion to $1.1 billion.

The ratio of spending on highways and bridges versus transit and rail went up from 3-to-1 to 4-to-1, according to T4America.

 

TPM points to reports (including the Wall Street Journal’s) of anger inside the House Transportation Committee and the possibility of some pushback from Democrats and Republicans on the committee — which, with 75 members, is the largest in the House..

Locally, Illinois PIRG and the Transit Riders Alliance are among those pushing for a better allocation of funds. 

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Category: economy, environment, transition, transportation

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