|June 5, 2009
||Volume 1, Issue 21
Transportation Bill to be Unveiled
Chairman Oberstar (D-MN) revealed this week both his plan to release an outline in the coming weeks for the national transportation authorization bill, and a commitment not to sponsor or support an extension of the transportation bill if Congress fails to come to an agreement on a new bill by the September 30th deadline this year. Both signify a dramatic escalation in attention being paid to the transportation bill.
The draft is to be unveiled in the next few weeks, with the goal for the subcommittee to complete its work on it by the end of June. With a hefty anticipated price tag of about $450 billion and an authorization that occurs only every six years, this is a critical piece of legislation. And the opportunity cannot be ignored - with public transit ridership at an all time high and people driving less, Americans are demanding a better transportation system, a system that begins with real reform. Americans want safe bike trails, fast light rail, buses that serve every neighborhood, and roads that are in top-notch shape.
T4 America will be releasing a Scorecard to determine how well the bill answers Americans' calls for reform. Our hope is that Chairman Oberstar's draft legislation lays the groundwork for building a smart, safe and clean transportation system that provides real options for all Americans. For more information about T4 America's vision and plan for transportation reform please click here.
T4 America Testifies Before Congress
Mariia Zimmerman, Policy Director for Reconnecting America, testified for T4 America Wednesday before the Senate Banking, Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee highlighting the importance of land use and economic development measures within the New Starts process.
In her testimony, Zimmerman noted that since 1995, public transportation ridership has increased 38 percent; nearly triple the rate of population growth. She cited market research showing that by 2030, roughly a quarter of all renters and buyers will be looking for homes in walkable neighborhoods in close proximity to transit stops, more than double proportion who live in such neighborhoods today.
Briefing: Demographic Changes & Impacts for U.S. Transportation Policy
T4 America, AARP, the Population Resource Center, and a few other groups are hosting a briefing next week to explore the implications of demographic change on our transportation needs and how Congress can address them in the upcoming transportation authorization.
When: Monday, June 8, 2009 from 12:00pm-1:15 pm (lunch will be provided)
Where: 2203 Rayburn House Office Building
Please RSVP to Alistair Hall.
National Transportation Objectives Receive Overwhelming Organizational Support
As we highlighted in a previous Transportation Watch, Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation that lays out clear objectives for the upcoming national transportation bill, designed to meet the economic, energy, environmental, and social-demographic challenges of the future. T4 America, U.S. PIRG and Environment America joined together last week to rally a diverse coalition of over 100 major national, state and local organizations behind the important legislation. This week, Representatives' Rush Holt (D-NJ), Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO) introduced companion legislation in the House.
T4 America applauds the hard work of these legislators to fix America's transportation system. Now is the time for lawmakers to listen to Americans and to develop a smart national vision for our highways, transit and rail networks.
For more information about T4 America's vision and plan for transportation reform please click here.
In the News
Chairman Insists There Will Be No Highway Law Extensions
June 3, 2009
In a bid to force lawmakers to make tough decisions in the next few months, the chairman of the House committee responsible for writing a new highway bill says he will not agree to extend the current law.
Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., said in an interview that he will not sponsor or support an extension of surface transportation programs if a new long-term authorization bill cannot be completed by the Sept. 30 deadline.
Instead, Oberstar said late Tuesday, he would allow the programs to expire, and lawmakers would have to answer to states that lose their federal transportation support. "It all dies," Oberstar said.
That threat may be hard to sustain, particularly given the importance of infrastructure spending to create jobs during the current economic recession. Democratic leaders in both chambers would have the final say on the matter. Read more...
Editorial- High-speed rail? Not so fast
June 3, 2009
Most anyone who attended last week's high-speed-rail workshop in Orlando came away excited. Giddy, even. If Florida were to host one of the systems the federal government is looking to invest in, they were told, the state would reap some monstrous dividends: at least 25,000 new jobs, relief for its congested highways and airports, and benefits galore for the environment.
But Florida's really not a strong candidate for high-speed rail. Not now, anyway, according to several federal transportation officials. Much as we would love to hop aboard dreamy 110-mph trains connecting Orlando to Miami and Tampa, that's just not going to happen until Florida takes more practical steps to fill in some glaring gaps in the transportation services it currently offers the public.
For one, it needs to make SunRail - the commuter-train service designed for Central Florida - a reality. And it's got to ensure the viability of Tri-Rail, currently serving commuters from Miami to Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach. It's essential because without local commuter-rail systems also running residents to their jobs and homes in those areas, high-speed rail really has no business moving people from one metropolitan area to the next. Read more...
Administration: Highway fund to go broke in August
June 2, 2009
The Obama administration is warning lawmakers that the trust fund that pays for highway construction will go broke in August unless Congress approves an infusion of as much as $7 billion.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said at a hearing Tuesday that the administration has told senators the Federal Highway Trust Fund will need an estimated $5 billion to $7 billion to keep current construction projects going.
The California Democrat said another $8 billion to $10 billion will be needed to keep the fund solvent through the year ending Sept. 30, 2010.
Transportation Department spokeswoman Jill Zuckman confirmed those figures.
"The administration is working closely with Congress to solve this difficult problem and ensure that states have the resources they need to maintain our roads and highways," Zuckman said. Read more...
The End of the Affair
Wall Street Journal
May 30, 2009
The phrase "bankrupt General Motors," which we expect to hear uttered on Monday, leaves Americans my age in economic shock. The words are as melodramatic as "Mom's nude photos." And, indeed, if we want to understand what doomed the American automobile, we should give up on economics and turn to melodrama.
Politicians, journalists, financial analysts and other purveyors of banality have been looking at cars as if a convertible were a business. Fire the MBAs and hire a poet. The fate of Detroit isn't a matter of financial crisis, foreign competition, corporate greed, union intransigence, energy costs or measuring the shoe size of the footprints in the carbon. It's a tragic romance-unleashed passions, titanic clashes, lost love and wild horses.
Foremost are the horses. Cars can't be comprehended without them. A hundred and some years ago Rudyard Kipling wrote "The Ballad of the King's Jest," in which an Afghan tribesman avers: Four things greater than all things are,-Women and Horses and Power and War. Read more...
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© 2009 Transportation for America Coalition, T4america.org