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Federal Transportation Bill

Transpo Bill Rumor: DeFazio Says Conference Committee “Gutted” Bike/Ped

Here's the latest transpo bill news that has filtered through the tight little seams in the armor around the conference committee.

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First of all, the House voted last night on the two motions to instruct we mentioned last week: Rep. Diane Black’s criminally bad idea to cancel out important incentives for states to enact distracted driver laws, and Rep. Steny Hoyer’s pretty reasonable request that the House just vote on the Senate bill already.

Knowing what you know of the way Congress is working these days, I bet you know which one passed and which one failed.

That’s right, Hoyer’s motion failed 172 to 225, and Rep. Black’s plan to let more people die so that teens can text passed 201-194. O democracy, you are a cruel master. The good thing is that none of this is binding, as is evidenced by the fact that the House gave its thunderous approval to a motion to wrap up work by last Friday and it’s now Wednesday and, uh, there is no wrap on this work.

Which brings us to the next two MTIs the House will consider. One is from Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA) exhorting the conference to finish work by tomorrow, since they crashed their previous deadline. That motion will be voted on… tomorrow.

And Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) has a motion to preserve the language in the Senate bill creating a national freight program, complete with a strategic plan and policy, including goals to reduce environmental impacts, improve state of good repair, and improve the economic efficiency of the freight network. If there's a way to kill such a sensible motion, I'm sure the House will find it. The freight program, we hear, has been one of many points of contention in the conference.

Hahn is also sponsoring a "Dear Colleague" letter urging her fellow lawmakers to support the Cardin-Cochran language in the Senate bill, allowing for some local control of federal dollars for transportation projects that make streets safer for walking and biking. The letter is co-authored by fellow California Democrat Lois Capps.

Meanwhile, Rep. Peter DeFazio, a stalwart champion of biking and walking, says he’s seenvery specific language there that they’ve gutted enhancements.” Whether it’s called Transportation Enhancements, Additional Activities, or Transportation Alternatives, he's referring to the pot of money that funds bike/ped projects. DeFazio told Politico there’s bad news for environmental and community protections, too:

One example is that there would need to be “no comment, no review” of any construction on all rights of way, according to the things DeFazio has been hearing, which he said could conceivably be used to jack up a two-lane road to a 10-lane highway with no review. “These are very persistent rumors from more knowledgeable people than us who are lobbyists. Lobbyists are getting leaks which are not given to members of Congress,” DeFazio steamed.

They’re not given to reporters either, so that’s about all I can tell you about that. But DeFazio isn’t the only House Democrat who’s angry about how shut out of the process they’ve been. Senate Democrats have been negotiating with House Republicans, but the minority party has been forgotten. At least Senate Republicans got to have their say on a bipartisan bill that made it through an open and inclusive process in the upper chamber. House Dems have been complaining about the information blackout since the day John Mica took over the gavel.

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