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Transportation bill imminent: Here’s where things stand

Posted by on June 27th, 2012 at 8:31 am

National Bike Summit 2010 - Lobby Day-22
It doesn’t look good.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Members of the House and Senate have been working since April to hammer out an agreement on the transportation bill. When I checked in on the bill’s progress last month, advocates were fighting to lobby members of the conference committee (put together to hash out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill) to keep key provisions and leave out others in.

Advocates hope to stave off a shift in how states access Transportation Enhancements money. The fear is that House Republicans will succeed in keeping provisions that make it very easy for states to opt-out of spending money on TE projects that would boost bicycling and walking and instead shift those to maintaining and building new roads and bridges. Other concerns are that key programs like Safe Routes to School and Recreation Trails (which funds natural surface trail and off-road bicycling projects) would be scrapped altogether.

With massive pressure to pass the bill by this weekend, legislators are rumored to be making all sorts of compromises. One provision pushed hard by House Republicans is to include an endorsement of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project in the bill. In order to keep that out of the bill, Senate leaders might have give up promises they’ve made to protect bicycling and walking funding.

On the whole, the outcome is not expected to be good for active transportation.

A few minutes ago, Politico transportation reporter Burgess Everett tweeted that Congressman and Conference Committee member Earl Blumenauer is already making his feelings known. Blumenauer told reporters he’d be “extremely disappointed” if the bill moved away from dedicated funding for bicycling and walking programs.

Also this morning, Politico reports that Republican House speaker John Boehner recently commented that the bill would include “significant reforms,” and would “streamline the regulatory process and allow us to focus our highway dollars on fixing America’s highways, not planting more flowers around the country.”

If you’re as cynical about Boehner’s perspective as I am, you might as well equate “flowers” with “bicycle paths.”

Expectations are that an agreement will be announced sometime this week. Or, if the conference committee can’t get everything figured out and voted on, they could, once again, give the bill a short-term extension or even extend the bill another six months and deal with it after the November elections.

For more details on what exactly has been going on, the most detailed breakdown I’ve read is from T4 America. They posted a thorough update this morning. Also check out the latest from Streetsblog DC and stay tuned for more coverage.

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Comments
  • Rol June 27, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Hey Boner, people LIKE flowers, you big Macho Man you. I bet your property is loaded with flowers. Or maybe it looks like a concentration camp. Regardless, enjoy those auto industry dollaz!

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    • Rol June 27, 2012 at 9:33 am

      Buy yourself sumthin purdy. Like public office.

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    • El Biciclero June 27, 2012 at 9:46 am

      It’s “BAY-ner”…but yeah, as Jonathan alludes to, I’d like to know what “flowers” is a code word for…

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      • Matt M June 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm

        No. Rol is right. It’s Boner. ;)

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  • Dave June 27, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Fact is, that’s the majority view of “active transportation” across the country. Cutesy projects planting flowers and making paths for kids on banana seats to use until they get their drivers license. I don’t agree, but that’s the reality outside the bubble we all live in. And the other reality is that compromise is exceedingly hard to come by in Washington these days. Keystone XL would be an unmitigated disaster for the environment, and given the choice between a coal tar pipeline with bike lanes or nothing, I’ll take nothing. A new congress can always reinstate funding someday, but Keystone would be forever.

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    • Dave June 27, 2012 at 10:52 am

      Of course, the other risk is that if Dems make too many concessions, the GOP may start to see Keystone as a great bully tactic to get their legislation passed (or kill the opposition’s). Just wave it around until the Dems cave, then trot it out again when the next controversial bill comes along. Personally, I think the best thing would be to kill the whole thing and do another extension – nothing useful or positive is going to happen in Washington during this election cycle.

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  • GlowBoy June 27, 2012 at 10:45 am

    By “flowers” he obviously means anything “superfluous” that doesn’t move more cars and trucks, so yes he is talking about bicycles.

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  • PorterStout June 27, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Concrete and steel is the world Boehner lives in. Pity the fool.

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  • Matt M June 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    ‘…you might as well equate “flowers” with “bicycle paths.”‘ That’s the understatement of the year.

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  • Tom M June 28, 2012 at 2:53 am

    http://www.nrdc.org/energy/keystone-pipeline/
    Check it out. Higher gas prices and fewer jobs while creating more greenhouse gasses. Who wins? Roger Ailes, Fox News the disinformation Network, and the 1% who own stock in those tar sands.

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