The stimulus bill draft by the House has been floating around for us to see, and unfortunately showed a stronger support for highways than public transit and finding ways to create jobs without expanding unnecessary pieces of our infrastructure. Past projects to add roads to ease congestion have - in almost every circumstance - resulted in the same congestion problems. That's why it is so unfortunate to see the House asking for $30 billion to go towards highways while only $10 billion going towards public transit. The argument that comes up is that roads and bridges are sub-par and in desperate need of funding to be fixed. In reality, stimulus money that is headed for roadways can easily be advertised as fix-up projects, but then be spent on adding a new lane in attempts to ease congestion. This is exactly why we should be looking to alternatives to expanding highways, such as trains, buses, and livable streets - places where we can walk and bike and be part of traffic instead of a nuisance to traffic.
Recently the Senate posted a press release online outlining their plans for the stimulus bill. The transportation part is as follows:
- $27 billion for formula highway investments.
- $8.4 billion for formula investments in public transportation.
- $5.5 billion for competitive grants to state and local governments for surface transportation investments.
- $1.3 billion for investments in our air transportation system.
- $1.1 billion for investments in rail transportation.
So highway funding has dropped $3 billion, but transit has also reduced a significant percentage from $9 billion to $8.4 billion. Consider Oberstar's original call for $20 billion needed for transit related projects, and $8.4 billion (although still a heck of a lot of money) is pennies compared to what it should be.
Keep an eye out for details on the new $5.5 billion for competitive grants for surface transportation. The Senate Appropriations website has no further details at this time than the press release, which does not go in depth on this portion of the bill. There is a good chance that this could go towards projects to make 2-wheeled transportation get more notice, but it is all chances at this point. Check out the PDF of the press release from the Senate Appropriations website.