Senate’s $50 Billion Highway Giveaway Nearly Dead

The Inhofe/Boxer stimulus bill amendment for $50 billion in additional infrastructure funds appears to be dead, with official word expected soon from Senator Harry Reid's office. Sources close to the negotiations say that at least five Democratic Senators were not going to support the amendment if transit and water provisions weren't improved, while Senate Republicans vowed to obstruct such improvements.  

Specifically, the Dems wouldn't support the amendment unless at least two significant criteria were met:

  • Allocating a minimum of 30 percent of the total to clean water and public transportation/passenger rail. Of the total funds allocated to highways and bridges, 10 percent would have to be set aside for Transportation Enhancements, i.e. bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
  • Giving the Secretary of Transportation discretion to redirect funds from states that were not adhering to certain criteria to states that were adhering to them. The criteria Dems and enviros wanted to see, for example, would not have allowed states to receive funds by showing that a project improves vehicular Level of Service.

In other stimulus news, Senator Kit Bond's amendments, which would have funneled billions to highway spending at the expense of rail and other modes, are not expected to reach the floor either.

With a compromise amendment brokered by moderates Susan Collins and Ben Nelson apparently gaining bi-partisan support, the full Senate may vote on the bill as soon as tomorrow. One likely casualty: the $5.5 billion fund set aside for U.S. DOT to distribute at its discretion, which we're told will either be eliminated or substantially cut under the Collins/Nelson amendment.