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First outline of new federal transportation bill expected Thursday

Posted by on June 16th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Cycle Oregon Day 4-Ride-16.JPG
Let’s hope Rep. Oberstar’s love
of biking seeps into his thinking on
federal transportation policy.
(Photos © J. Maus)

On Thursday (6/18), U.S. Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) is expected to release a white paper outlining his plans for the forthcoming re-write of the federal surface transportation bill (Oberstar is Chair of the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee).

The current bill, passed in 2006 and known as SAFETEA-LU, will expire on September 30th. Many bicycle and sustainable transportation advocates are eager for a glimpse at what’s on Oberstar’s mind. They hope he makes good on the positive signals being sent from U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, that this bill will chart a new course for America’s ailing transportation system.

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LaHood has been talking up “livability” and “sustainable communities” for months now. In a blog post today, he outlined six “livability principles” that will guide how the Obama administration approaches transportation.

National Bike Summit - Day two-5
At the National Bike Summit
in March, Ray LaHood
told bike advocates they’d
have “a full partner” at
the US DOT.

The #1 principle on that list? “Providing more transportation choices.” (See the list here.)

LaHood also wrote that he recently told several Senate committees that:

“We have a window of opportunity to think differently about transportation and propose bold, new approaches to improve the livability of our nation’s communities.”

Sounds exciting. But make no mistake about it, a major change to the status quo (highways) will likely take a big political fight.

National non-profit Transportation For America — who wants the bill to “establish clear goals, empower our communities, and make smart investments in public transportation, highways, rail, and biking and walking facilities,” — is ready and waiting for details on the new bill. They’ve published a scorecard they’ll use to see if it “makes the grade.”

For excellent coverage as the T-bill action heats up, bookmark the new DC edition of Streetsblog. I’ve learned a lot in recent weeks from Elana Schor’s reporting and she covers all the important livable streets-oriented details you won’t get anywhere else.

You can watch the news conference unfold live. Check http://transportation.house.gov for the live webcast on Thursday at 8:00 AM PST.

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  • John Schadl June 16, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Some last minute changes have delayed our news conference on the transportation white paper by one day. It will be June 18th at 11:00 AM EDT. You can watch it live at http://transportation.house.gov

    Thanks John. I’ve edited the story to include this information. — Jonathan

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  • Just a Thought June 16, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    J. Maus-

    Your close coverage of this issue is appreciated, regardless of how many comments (or eyeballs) it generates. This is a rare paradigm-shift opportunity in federal decision-making that has significant direct and indirect implications for the relative bike-friendliness of Portland’s streets. Please give this issue everything you’ve got. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

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  • joe adamski June 16, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I look forward to see if the rhetoric matches the realities. If there is a sea change during this administration, it must be acted on swiftly, both for economic reasons ( jobs and to build momentum) as well as to get far enough into the process that it couldn’t be stopped should Obama not run for term #2,or the House or Senate change leadership hands.

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