Thursday, July 7, 2011

Federal Transportation Bill Update - Principles Released by House Chair Mica

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica’s unveiled his principles for a federal transportation reauthorization bill, this morning. Read his prop here.

James Corless, director of Transportation for America, had this to say in response to the Chairman’s proposal on state flexibility, transit funding and streamlining project delivery:

“We commend Chairman Mica and his fellow drafters on the push to get this long-stalled bill moving, and we appreciate the effort to consolidate programs, leverage non-federal resources and deliver projects more quickly. However, we are skeptical that investments at this level can meet the country’s infrastructure needs.

A bill this small would need to be constrained to three key goals:

Maintaining our national highway and bridge system, which is quickly approaching its mid-life crisis;
Providing more options such as public transportation, vanpools and safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians;
Promoting accountability through meaningful performance measures and a more strategic approach to transportation planning.

“Chairman Mica’s proposal to give states broader latitude needs strong provisions for accountability on national goals, such as economic prosperity, energy independence, equal access to opportunity and environmental stewardship. However, this emphasis on the state level cannot come at the expense of the places that are feeling the brunt of our inadequate investments to this point: local communities in both urban and rural locales. We are particularly concerned at the proposal to eliminate dedicated funding that helps provide more safe options for walking and biking.

“While Chairman Mica indicated an intent to preserve the historic share of 20 percent for transit, the overall effect is a devastating cut that leaves us well short of the amount required to meet rising demand for transit service, especially in this time of severe fiscal constraints.

“The focus on removing bureaucratic impediments to progress is encouraging, but the details on how this is accomplished are critical. We look forward to seeing more of those and other details of the bill, and we hope the Chairman will follow through on his pledge to consider other ideas in a bipartisan fashion as his committee crafts a bill that preserves our infrastructure, expands our options and hold agencies accountable for performance.”

Transportation for America was not alone in their skepticism and disappointment. Janet Kavinoky of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that the spending reductions would destroy existing jobs while preventing the creation of news jobs needed to lower the 16.3 percent of unemployed construction workers.

In a Natural Resources Defense Council blog post, they called Mica’s proposal “a mindless approach to cutting spending” that “represents myopia at its worst.” He said he wanted to see strong fix-it first language, an oil-savings objectives and performance measures with teeth.


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