The U.S. Senate passed a Federal transportation bill but the House of Representatives remains divided on its own version of the legislation. The bill calls for the reauthorization of funding for state projects.
The Senate’s two-year reauthorization bill for $109 billion, known as H.R. 7, was passed on March 14th. The House of Representatives is now debating a five-year $260 billion bill but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is reportedly considering opting for the Senate’s version instead.
One of the sticking points was a House Republican proposal to eliminate the requirement for 20% of funds to be dedicated for mass transit. In February, House Republican Committees had approved a provision to eliminate the dedicated mass transit share, allowing states to spend up to 100% on roads and highways. But advocacy groups mobilized to block this measure.
“We must maintain 30 years of dedicated federal commitment to supporting mass transit, creating jobs and protecting civil rights and environmental justice,” said Francisca Porchas, coordinator of Transit Riders for Public Transportation at the Labor/Community Strategy Center.
“Our worst fears have been realized. The Federal Surface Transportation Act, which governs policy and funding for transportation projects across the country, has been hijacked in partisan politics. If the House Ways and Means Committee gets its way, the bill which since President Reagan has maintained 80% of funding for highways and 20% for public transportation, is now going to become 100% for highways and 0% for transit. This is both for fixed-route transportation AND paratransit!” the Center for Disability Rights, Inc. wrote in an online alert, calling on transit riders to contact their representatives in protest.
But that provision has reportedly been taken off the table now.
“I am encouraged by reports that House Republicans are backing off their plans to dismantle transit funding. If these reports are true, I am pleased that our efforts to stop devastating transit cuts were successful. However, there are many Republicans in Congress who are clearly against transit and they may try this again. We must remain vigilant and keep the pressure on to protect transit funding,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the senior Northeastern Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who introduced a bill restoring the dedicated mass transit funding.
The current act expired in 2009 and has been extended multiple times to maintain construction projects. If no decision is reached by April, funds for construction projects may be frozen and 1.8 million jobs could be lost, according to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the transportation committee chair.
This article was published in the April 2012 issue of Able News.