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.

  • Do we know which five? We should praise them publicly.

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