There is nothing but highways

More bad policy coming from the Republicans in Congress.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday the House GOP’s highway spending plan is “the worst transportation bill” he’s seen in decades.

“This is the most partisan transportation bill that I have ever seen,” LaHood said in an exclusive interview with POLITICO.

“And it also is the most anti-safety bill I have ever seen. It hollows out our No. 1 priority, which is safety, and frankly, it hollows out the guts of the transportation efforts that we’ve been about for the last three years,” LaHood added. “It’s the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.”

The $260 billion, five-year House bill would cut Amtrak subsidies and increases truck weight limits, leading safety and environment advocates to assail the legislation.

LaHood was a seven-term Republican Congressman before being tapped to be Transportation Secretary, in case you were wondering. What else is rotten with this bill? It screws bicyclists, for one thing.

When the bill goes to the U.S. House floor this week, legislators will consider getting rid of a provision that requires states to dedicate a percentage of highway funds for to build trails for bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as other enhancements.

Under current law, states have to set aside 3 percent of their total highway funds for enhancements, such as hike-and-bike trails, Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Karen Amacker said. Under the new bill, states would decide if, and how much, to spend on such projects.

I’m sure we can all guess what would happen in Texas if that set aside is removed. And if that’s not enough, the bill also screws public transportation.

The U.S. Congress is moving forward with a bill that would strip transit funding out of the Highway Trust Fund, a move that upends an Ronald Reagan-era structure that has meant billions in guaranteed funding for mass transit.


Here’s why this is a big deal: Money collected from gas taxes, and a handful of other sources, flow directly into a special account in Washington, known as the Highway Trust Fund. Spending out of that account does not require annual appropriations as do expenditures from the general fund.

Instead, the Congress authorizes transportation funding every five years or so and the highway fund spends the money during that time without involvement from the Congress.

By kicking transit out of that system, it leaves any transit spending decisions subject to the same budget and deficit fights that most spending has to contend with, and — transit advocates fear — is really just a way to cut spending for transit.

And again, if that’s what is allowed to happen it’s almost certainly what will happen because it’s the sort of thing that’s easier to do than the alternatives, not to mention the fact that those who depend on public transportation tend to have fewer highly paid lobbyists. The good news is that the Senate is unlikely to go along with this, but it seems unlikely to me that anything will pass that doesn’t have some bad effects. The number of ways in which the 2010 elections were a disaster just keep piling up.

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2 Responses to There is nothing but highways

  1. Rich says:

    It also gets rid of Safe Routes to Schools, and other very valuable programs. Jerks.

  2. jon boyd says:

    Great post!

    Transportation for America has made it easy to send a message to your Congressman:

    Thursday will be a National Call-in Day: 202.224.3121.

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