Urgent Action: Oppose Highway Robbery in Senate Stim Bill

Stimulus debate continues today in the Senate, where the stale ideas keep on coming. In addition to the $50 billion highway slush fund floated by Senators Boxer and Inhofe
(no vote on that one yet), Missouri’s Kit Bond plans to offer two
amendments that would rob from transit, rail, and green transportation
to pay for highways.

These are the two amendments from Bond:

  • One strips all $2 billion set aside for high speed rail and redirects it to highway funds.
  • The other takes $5.5 billion from "competitive grants" for transportation and gives it to highways.

How
quickly the days of $4/gallon gas are forgotten. It goes without saying
that de-funding high-speed rail and shoveling extra billions to
unaccountable state DOTs, most of which have a penchant for expanding
highway capacity, is exactly what we don’t need right now. (Bond should be trying to locate billions for transit operations instead: His
constituents in St. Louis are bracing for the nation’s most severe transit cuts.)

What’s
more, the $5.5 billion for competitive grants could serve as an early
litmus test for Ray LaHood’s Department of Transportation. The funds
are not set aside for a specific mode — they could be spent on
transit, roads, aviation, or ports. But if the criteria for winning the
grants include traffic mitigation or emissions reduction, this pot of
money could spur innovative transportation reforms, much like the Urban
Partnership program under Mary Peters. Because the bill leaves it
open-ended, we don’t know yet how LaHood will use the money, and if
Bond’s amendment passes, we’ll never find out.

To oppose
backwards transportation policy that deepens oil dependence, worsens
quality of life, and flies in the face of sustainability goals, call
the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urge your Senator to vote
no on Bond’s amendments and the Inhofe/Boxer amendment. You can also
use action alerts from Transportation for America and Environmental Defense to get the message out. Keep us posted about those phone calls in the comments — we’ll have more updates throughout the day.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Bond should be trying to locate billions for transit operations instead: His constituents in St. Louis are bracing for the nation’s most severe transit cuts.)

    That isn’t what, and who matters. St. Louis is a big auto manufacturing area. The Transportation Equipment manufacturing industry is down from 33,400 jobs in September 2003 to 23,300 in September 2008 — with more plant closings announced.

    The same rules are being applied to the private sector as to public services — the organized producers matter, the consumers don’t. In each case, what counts as “stimulus” is bailouts for pensions and executive pay.

  • I gotta be honest: this is depressing the hell out of me.

  • If the bill goes through with amendments like these I’m going to invest in the oil futures market. When my investment quintuples it will become my “escape to western europe” fund, as the U.S. quickly devolves into an energy-exhausted husk with no efficient infrastructure. On the outside chance that we ever get a clue and tax gasoline (and coal, all carbon producing suicide fuels) soon enough to build sufficient transit, then I won’t make money on oil futures but I won’t have to flee rioting hordes of starving automobile dependents, either.

    Don’t be sad, create your own livable streets hedge fund!

  • bb

    I sent my letter.

    I am so glad all the proposals for more and better highways have made us better in zero ways. Yet we can’t even fund transit in fact we steal and rob from her to pay for our addiction in tar and gas. We beat down all who oppose road building. We live in a dictatorship created by your house and senate. Thank You I feel so rewarded living in a place where I am crap for helping solve every ones problems by not driving a motor.

  • Try this for a voicemail:

    Hi Senator ____, my name is ____ and I’m calling as a student and a commuter from New York City. I would not only like to ask, but to implore you to vote NO on Senators Boxer/Inhofe’s amendment that would direct $50 Billion towards the construction of highways, rather than for mass transit. I recognize the fact that it would be more highly visible that we are stimulating the economy by having large-scale road construction, however, the time of car travel has passed. Meanwhile, industrialized countries in Europe and in Asia already have world-class high-speed trains that connect major cities in roughly the same time it would take for a passenger traveling by air. Shanghai, mainland China’s business hub, is set to double their subway network capacity in a decade, becoming nearly as large as New York City’s. As a fellow Democrat who just voted for the first time on the party line, as a mass transit commuter who faces delays and an antiquated transit system, and as a member of the next generation who would like to see a better, cleaner, and more responsible Earth, I URGE you to reconsider your amendment and to place more money into mass transit projects not just in NYC, but throughout the nation, by voting NO to the Boxer/Inhofe amendment and instead voting for Senator Schumer‘s amendment which would boost transit funding to $15 billion while still leaving $40 billion for highways. Thank you for your time Senator and I hope you will make the right decision regarding America’s future. I can be reached at ___.

  • Megan Carr

    I’d hate to know how many of our representatives have been bought by lobbyists. But if there was ever a time we could break past this dynamic – it’s now.
    We experienced the impact of 21st century grassroots democracy with the success of the Obama campaign. Now it’s up to the American people again to continue to support Obama by keeping our voices heard. With the power of the internet, grassroots can succeed again.
    Thanks for the timely update on your blog. I called my senator, posted your link on Facebook, signed the online T4America petition and donated to MoveOn.org to pay for an ad.
    Yes we can!

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