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‘A New Direction’? U.S. House releases transportation bill proposal

Posted by on July 7th, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Cover of the proposal.

Stay tuned for lots of scrutiny and action alerts from transportation advocacy groups — the U.S. House of Representatives has just released their long awaited proposal for the reauthorization of our nation’s transportation bill.

And, despite 12% of our nation’s trips being made by bicycling or walking, the proposal cuts dedicated funding to programs like Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and others on the grounds that they are “do not serve a national interest.”

The proposal (download it below) was developed in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, which is controlled by Republicans and Chaired by Rep. John Mica (R-FL).

U.S. House T & I hearing-28

Rep. John Mica, Chairman
of the House T & I Committee.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Mica’s bill touts an “end to bureaucracy, red tape and wasteful programs.” To stabilize the Highway Trust Fund the proposal would authorize $230 billion over the next six years — an amount that’s 30% less over six years than the current transportation.

The proposal calls an increase in the gas tax “not fiscally responsible or realistic.”

The chapter on “Program Reform & Reducing the Size of Government” says that 70 (out of 100) existing programs that “do not serve a national interest” would be eliminated. In addition to the programs mentioned above, the proposal would also eliminate the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program. The NTPP was a cornerstone of the previous transportation bill and it provided $25 million to four communities to develop bicycling and walking facilities.

An image (and theme)
from the proposal.

The proposal also removes the requirement for states to spend highway funding on “non-highway activities” — which one can assume mean off-highway bicycling facilities. Instead, the bill gives states more flexibility to make spending choices themselves. This could turn out well for a pro-biking state like Oregon, but not so well in places where bicycling doesn’t have a respected seat at the table.

States would get more than 90% of Federal Highway Program funding to spend at their own discretion; however, the proposal makes it clear that the flexibility comes with a new set of “performance measures and transparency requirements.”

In summary, the proposal states that “nearly all” Federal Highway Program funding will go to states through programs designed to “preserve existing highways, build new highway capacity, and address congestion, freight mobility, and highway safety.”

On rail transportation, the House proposal would cut 25% from Amtrak’s federal operating subsidy and it eliminates a $100 million a year Intercity Passenger Rail grants program.

The proposal opens the chapter on transit programs with the ominous line, “The federal transit programs must do more with less.” It would also remove existing barriers in order to allow more private corporations to offer public transit services.

There wasn’t one mention of bicycling or non-motorized transportation (other than the part about eliminating that pilot project).

Not surprisingly, strong reactions to Mica’s proposal are already coming in from national bike advocacy groups. The League of American Bicyclists has already issued an action alert to members, saying,

“Mica’s ‘New Direction’ proposal in fact turns the clock back on decades of hard-fought progress towards a truly multi-modal transportation system that offers American’s real choices. Even with a ‘small’ bill, returning to a 1950’s highways-only mentality flies in the face of fiscal responsibility by guaranteeing more single occupant vehicle travel on ever more congested and dangerous highways that we can’t even afford to maintain, let alone build….

“The League calls on Chairman Mica to reinstate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking in his bill. We also ask that the Senate resist the efforts of Senator Inhofe eliminate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking.”

This is just the first step in what will surely be a long reauthorization process. Stay tuned for more coverage.

— Download the 22 page proposal here (PDF)

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Oliver
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Oliver

“A New Direction” This is going to be the highway version of the “Clear Skies Act”

Andycigarettes
Guest
Andycigarettes

Oh great. Yeah, cut Amtrak, too. They operate splendidly as is. A new direction being…driving cars like we always have?

BURR
Guest
BURR

forward into the past

captainkarma
Guest
captainkarma

When are people going to start getting mad. No really. Corporate insider bankers get billions (yes billions) to avoid self-inflicted collapse. Don’t even get me started on war spending. We are allowing ourselves to be eaten from the inside out. This is what happens when citizens become comfortably numb.

BURR
Guest
BURR

Just skimmed the document. holy crap that is one stinking piece of tea party propaganda.

beth h
Guest

the proposal cuts dedicated funding to programs like Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and others on the grounds that they are “do not serve a national interest.”

**********

Propping up the dinosaur that is the automobile industry IS the national interest. Sorry, guys. More jobs still rely upon the auto and petroleum industries than upon any other industry; and I sure didn’t need the Big Three Bailout or any of the other ham-handed ideas of the last three years to remind me of that reality.

Dinosaurs take a very long time to die.

captainkarma
Guest
captainkarma

It’s interesting that there are zero cars on the freeways depicted on the cover of the proposal.

Biking Viking
Guest
Biking Viking

How does this work? Will this legislation get watered down by the Senate into something more palatable?

Robert Ping
Guest

Jon, thanks for posting on this major development! The Safe Routes to School Partnership is also taking action on this today, as are many other bicycle and pedestrian groups around the US.

The House isn’t the only place we have to worry, either, since Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma said last week one of his top 3 priorities is eliminating funding for biking and walking. They are pushing hard to keep it bipartisan in the Senate so we are concerned that he has sway.

The numbers are even worse in the Mica/House bill summary, since Mica’s bill would be significantly less than SAFETEA-LU – about a 30% decrease to $230 billion over 6 years, and greater portions of the federal highway program funding will be dedicated to the national highway system (50%) leaving less money for states to spend on their own surface transportation priorities.

So even Oregon will have to make choices about what to spend on – don’t count on ODOT to maintain all of its current bike/ped and Safe Routes to School spending levels without at least cuts…

Case
Guest
Case

“The proposal calls an increase in the gas tax “not fiscally responsible or realistic.”

-More like not electorally responsible from the guy representing Florida where there’s no Ride to Work Day but instead a Drive Your Bike to Work Day.

Tony Jordan
Guest
Tony Jordan

More and more I think the Tea Party has it right, for the wrong reasons. Let’s get rid of all federal taxes for transportation and get rid of all transportation funding from the federal government. Then we can raise our taxes locally and on a state by state basis and pay for our own infrastructure.

Stop paying for freeways in Arkansas and build a west coast high speed rail line.

Evan
Guest
Evan

How is it in the “national interest” to force complete and total reliance on foreign oil for a functional transportation SYSTEM? Yes, we do produce some oil but not enough to mandate a system that depends on it for virtually all travel.

eljefe
Guest
eljefe

The cover image pairs nicely with the retro thinking–it look like it was made with 1950’s photographic technology

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

This report seems authored by a middle school student. It’s a bunch of slogans. It lacks data. The cover was stolen off the internet from websites that no regard for copyright.

http://www.deskbeauty.net/r-vista-wallpaper-21-longhorn-stay-the-course-bliss-2516.htm

http://vistawallpapers.wordpress.com/2007/03/09/vista-wallpapers-various-4/vista-wallpaper-stay-the-course/

use a google image search: stay the course

Mark Kaepplein
Guest

Bicyclists need user fees to participate in funding, much like transit riders pay user fees (fares). Increasing transportation costs, via gas tax or oil price hikes have a strong recessionary impact on the economy, hence opposed, not to benefit fat cats or sheiks. Inadequate transportation infrastructure to meet demand already cripples our economy and raises the price of food, clothing, staples, everything.

“The foundation of the nation’s system for funding highway and transit projects is the Highway Trust Fund. User fees — gas taxes — are deposited into the Trust Fund and distributed to states and transit agencies by formula.” (p. 5 of the pdf)

9watts
Guest
9watts

From The Telegraph, 11 Dec 2009:

“But the age of the automobile is coming to an end and it looks like the Danes have got it right.

The Danish Cycling Federation says the world can look “backwards” to countries like America that have dumped the bicycle and are struggling with rising obesity and CO2 levels as a consequence or “forwards” to countries like Denmark where the bike is taking over.”

taken from here: http://tinyurl.com/yew2gq7

John Lascurettes
Guest

So where does LaHood fall in influencing this? Bleumenhauer? Would it do any good to contact them?

Mark Kaepplein
Guest

What many don’t acknowledge as putting us in our current road congestion crunch is that while the boom of Interstate highway building was ending in the 1970’s, a surge in women joining the workforce and buying cars was happening. Cars/household was much lower when women stayed at home. More road building was needed to satisfy increasing demand, but wasn’t. Or, we can use a Danish model and have women stay home.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

I love the cover of the report – a very factual ‘vision’ of its authors.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

It seems that most images were just lifted off the internet.

http://curiosociety.wordpress.com/2008/02/22/things-for-sale-that-i-will-mail-you/

Look at the dollar bills photo. The pixels are the same, just cropped. The 375 pixel image seems to be used hundreds of times on the internet.

I seriously think a congressperson had their 7th grader create the report. As a teacher I looked at this report and it wreaked of plagiarism and weak slogans. There is very little data or citations. Someone needs to give congress the grade of F for pLagIARism. LIAR is part of plagiarism.

jim
Guest
jim

Why not put an import tax on goods from china to pay for our roads and bikepaths

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

The red tape picture is most likely downloaded without purchase from the author.
http://us.fotolia.com/id/370340

The lack of work in this report is very obvious. I’ve had over 9 years with education writing standards from Oregon and California. This report fails on so many levels. It’s an Epic Fail. It’s full of general statements with no detail. It reads like it was plagiarized out of Time magazine the Tea Party version.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Mark Kaepplein
I get it. I should jump the subway turnstile because I add virtually no cost to the train traveling anyway. Cyclists display teen attitudes in both funding and riding. States and some cities collect gas taxes (user fees).

And you display infantile levels of cognition. Every time we disprove one of your rants, you simply change the topic to something completely unrelated (subways? Are you serious?) And are you claiming that vehicles that “don’t move goods” should not be funded? I don’t understand your last comment. Cars would fall firmly into that category, and they do wear down roads.

David Parsons
Guest

Mark Kaepplein
BTW, far more people carpool even, than bicycle to/from work! Yet, we see disproportionately more bike racks than carpool parking spots…

You would be hard-pressed to find a business that has more bike racks than carpool parking spots. I’m sure there are some (bicycles do take up much less room than automobiles, and a small business could more easily shoehorn in a 5×8 slot to park 4-6 bicycles than it could find a 8×15 slot for a single automobile) but as a general rule if the business has the capacity for bicycle parking they’ll carve that out of a slot or two in their dedicated parking lot, which will still be 95% dedicated to automobile (and motorcycle, if you’re lucky) parking.

Atbman
Guest

I agree with Mark about matching supply and funding sources with demand. For example, only parents should pay for school and other education facilities and only sick people should pay for medical ones.

The use of health insurance as a means of funding hospitals, etc., is a terrible burden upon those people who look after their health with proper diet and exercise and who therefore subsidise those people who take little exercise, e.g. who drive everywhere, including taking their children to school (see childhood obesity crisis up more than 300% in last 30 years http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/)

People with more than one child should not have any tax allowance, aka subsidy, for them, but should be penalised an amount which meets the additional cost of providing schooling for them.

Similarly, if the cost of goods rises because employers will have to provide more carparking spaces as a result of this farseeing proposal, then employees should pay for their daily parking provision, rather than customers. Why should Joe Bloggs subsidise an employee’s decision to drive, rather than cycle to work?

And my dear, the cost of sidewalks! Provided by the taxpayer! Anyone who does his banking/fastfood purchases by drivethru and who buys his daily necessities via the internet must, surely, get a tax rebate from the city, for not using them.

Then again, all freeways should become toll roads so that those who do not use them, whether they be drivers, cyclists or others do not bear the cost.

And, of course, the existing subsidising of the car driver (I’m sure one of BikePortland’s readers can point us in the direction of the published evidence for that) should cease forthwith.

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

Mark Kaepplein
Bicyclists and pedestrians are the only ones getting charged just once via tax subsidies.

I’m not sure what “charged via tax subsidies” means (makes no sense to me) but people who use motor vehicles less subsidize those who use them more. That’s how highway funding has been structured for a long time. Are you against collecting fees proportional to the costs?

Motorists pay user fees in the form of gas tax and tolls

But they don’t pay as much in those fees as the costs incurred by their usage, i.e. they are subsidized to drive by those who do not drive.

JPDX
Guest
JPDX

Things would be so much better if OR, WA, and CA were our own country! The issue is not democrat, or republican. Both parties are morons for different reasons. People are either too far left and blind to the reality of finance and business (most of Portland), or too far right to see past their stupid ideals and morals to make real change (idiots in the Senate).

k.
Guest
k.

Too hell in a hand basket we go. Thanks tea party.