The House is on recess this week but Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and other majority leaders are reportedly pressing hard on their Republican colleagues to support the reintroduction of their failed HR-7 transportation bill.
What that bill would look like is very unclear. When HR-7 was introduced the biggest outcry, and the most publicized, was the gutting of dedicate federal transit funding. But there were many more issues with the bill that caused it to collapse under its own weight as it was attacked by the most conservative deficit-cutting republicans to every single democrat:
- Fails to hold states accountable for repairing and maintaining existing roads and bridges. It offloads responsibility for many federal aid bridges onto local taxpayers, while giving state transportation departments broad leeway to build new highways that taxpayers can’t afford to maintain.
- Eliminates the small, cost-effective and extremely important programs that help improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, improve public health, and rejuvenate local business districts and neighborhoods.
- Allows governors to veto local planning decisions (governors could amend MPO transportation improvement programs at will).
- Guts the environmental review process that is key for identifying impacts from proposed transportation projects and ensures that their is local input into the planning process.
- Creates more bureaucracy at transit agencies. Under the bill’s provisions, bus-only transit agencies could receive grants from the Bus and Bus Facilities program, but agencies with both bus and rail could not. As a result large agencies that have both rail and bus systems would have to split into two different entities. The bill also doesn’t provide transit operators with the flexibility to use some federal funds for operations, which the Senate bill does. This flexibility would allow agencies to avoid the service cuts and fare hikes that restrict transit riders access to reliable and affordable transportation options.
- Depends on revenues from drilling that may not be consistent and may not materialize.
So what is the solution? Well, Speaker Boehner also stated last week that if the House is unable to push forward an amended bill then he would consider bringing the Senate bill forward for a vote.
This is is an approach our California Congressional delegation should get behind. The Senate’s MAP-21 bill, crafted under the leadership of Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), is a bipartisan bill that is poised to pass through the Senate as soon as tomorrow, March 13th. The bill preserves funding for transit, prioritizes repair and maintenance of our roads and bridges, sets national goals and objectives for our transportation system, and gives our cities the local control over federal funding they need to invest in infrastructure critical for making our streets safer and our communities healthier. Your Representatives need to hear from you about your support for the House to take up and approve the Senate’s MAP-21 federal transportation reauthorization bill.
(The Senate began hearing amendments on Friday and rejected several including efforts to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.)