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Mica’s Transpo Bill Would Spell Disaster for Transit

11:09 AM EDT on July 8, 2011

There has been speculation for months now that the House Republicans' transportation bill proposal would be terrible for transit, biking, and walking. And sure enough, John Mica didn't disappoint.

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The chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee yesterday released a six-year reauthorization proposal that would slash overall transportation funding 33 percent and eliminate dedicated funds for biking and walking.

No surprise there, says Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic. Without new funding sources, investment in America's infrastructure is bound to decline. And the effect of the GOP proposal on the nation's transit systems would be severe, he writes:

The revealing of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica’s (R-FL) plan for a six-year, $230 billion reauthorization bill is the latest evidence that support in Congress for expanded investment in the U.S. transport network is weak. Though the bill is by no means final — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA)’s own two-year plan, slightly larger (and with $12 billion in missing revenues), was partially revealed yesterday — the writing is on the wall: At least for now, expecting any improvement in federal funding for transit or even highway programs is unrealistic.

The specific distribution of funds to transit or highways has not been enumerated, but the current shares (about 20% for transit and 80% for highways) will be maintained. This would mean a cut from about $11 billion for transit today to about $7 billion. What does this mean? Fewer dollars in the urban formula program means fewer new buses and rail cars for transit agencies across the country. Less money for state of good repair means a decline in the number of renovations of aging railway tunnels and viaducts or bus depots. A loss for the New Starts program means the end of several major capital expansion projects nationwide.

Bemoaning the lack of funding for transit and transportation in general is a worthwhile endeavor, but the real challenge continues to be whether any significant group of politicians of any stripe can be convinced of the need for revenue generators. In other words, without new taxes to fund the transportation program, the argument that the nation’s infrastructure is inadequate will never really matter.

Freemark's full post is worth a read for anyone who's been following the reauthorization process about cares about making cities more transit-oriented, walkable and bikeable -- and the future of the United States, for that matter.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Alon Levy at Pedestrian Observations takes a look at some real budget busters: billion-dollar road boondoggles. Portland Transport examines what the House transportation proposal might mean for the Columbia River Crossing highway megaproject. And Transport Michigan has more details on the standoff between private funders and the city of Detroit over light rail plans -- specifically the Kresge Foundation's grudging support for the center-running rail alignment on Woodward Avenue.

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