Mica Transportation Bill Prompts Strong Reactions

I suspect the White House may be regretting that they didn’t put through a Transportation re-authorization bill two years ago when Jim Oberstar, the Democratic chair of the House Transportation Committee, pushed for it.

Today John Mica, the Republican chair of the same committee released a draft of the reauthorization bill that cuts spending by 35%, eliminates many specific programs (like Transportation Enhancements) that are friendly to non-auto modes and primarily directs the funds remaining to state DOTs (many of us would prefer a bias toward sending money directly to Metropolitan Planning Organizations).

Reaction was swift from Transportation for America:

We are particularly concerned at the proposal to eliminate dedicated funding that helps provide more safe options for walking and biking.

While Chairman Mica indicated an intent to preserve the historic share of 20 percent for transit, the overall effect is a devastating cut that leaves us well short of the amount required to meet rising demand for transit service, especially in this time of severe fiscal constraints.

and from House Democrats, including Oregon’s Peter DeFazio:

We need a transportation plan that puts Americans back to work, improves our crumbling infrastructure, and helps get our economy back on track. Today, the Republicans are offering a plan that slashes the budget for critical transportation and infrastructure spending in this county. Their proposal jeopardizes the safety of our traveling public, will cost us nearly 500,000 jobs, and puts us at an economic disadvantage with our competitor nations …. We need robust investment and this proposal does not measure up.

BikePortland notes that over the life of the bill, this would represent a reduction to Oregon of about $1 Billion.

Local observers of the Columbia River Crossing project took note that there is no dedicated category for projects of national significance. Project critic Joe Cortright notes:

It doesn’t look like there’s any chance of “new money” as part of reauthortization. That means, if Congress does earmark particular projects, it has the effect of cutting money that would otherwise flow to the states for transportation. This really puts the lie to the claim that CRC is going to get $400 million in earmarks without affecting any other revenue that would otherwise come to the state.

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