McCain’s Transit Hit List: Get the Details

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a self-styled foe of what he labels wasteful government spending, has launched a broadside against transit projects in the U.S. DOT’s 2010 spending bill, which is slated for a vote this week in the upper chamber of Congress.

john_mccain_speech.jpgSen. John McCain (R-AZ) (Photo: Scrape TV)

McCain had proposed more than 20 amendments to the legislation as of Friday — all but one of them to prohibit fellow lawmakers from earmarking Federal Transit Administration aid for local transit systems.

The GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee frequently targets earmarks that span a broad variety of issues, although his efforts rarely succeed in peeling off more than a handful of Democrats. Still, his target list for the 2010 spending bill that funds the DOT and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is notable for its focus on stifling transit.

McCain included one federal highway project on his hit list, one that appeared deliberately chosen from his home state: a $4.25 million earmark for the Hoover Dam bypass bridge, requested by his fellow Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R).

Even if McCain’s amendments fall short, as is likely, the U.S. DOT still could be blocked from spending money on clean transportation. Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) seven proposed amendment to the 2010 bill include one that would "prohibit the use of funds for
roadkill reduction programs, transportation museums, scenic
beautification projects, or bike and pedestrian paths"
until the nation’s highway trust fund is on a firmer financial footing, according to a report in Friday’s CQ.

After the jump, check out a full list of the transit projects that McCain aims to strike this week.

  • the ARC transit tunnel connecting New York City and New Jersey 
  • Utah’s Mid-Jordan light rail, Draper light rail, and Weber-to-Salt Lake City commuter rail projects
  • the Sound Transit light rail extension in the Seattle area
  • the West, East, and Gold rail transit corridors in the Denver area
  • Northwest/Southwest light rail and the Houston light rail extension in Texas
  • the Dulles Corridor extension of D.C.’s Metro into Virginia
  • the Sacramento light rail extension
  • Honolulu’s proposed rail transit line
  • the Miami area’s Metrorail Orange Line extension
  • Wilshire Boulevard bus-only lanes and the Metro Gold Line extension in L.A.
  • the Blue Line extension in Charlotte, N.C.
  • the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line rehabilitation project
  • bus rapid transit from Bellevue to Redmond in Washington state
  • the Tennessee statewide bus program
  • Commuter rail improvements on the Wilmington to Newark route in Delaware
  • regional rail from Ann Arbor to Detroit
  • Stamford urban transitway in Connecticut
  • Interesting, I think, that the transit money to Phoenix and Grand Canyon doesn’t seem to be in any doubt.

  • Arizona

    Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-AZ) seven proposed amendment
    We already have McCain and Kyl, don’t give us Coburn too.

  • Right you are, Arizona – typo has been fixed.

  • joejoejoee

    The Red Line in Chicago serves 214,000 people A DAY and most of it was built prior to 1950. If you are against updating that, you are against public transit full stop.

    And walking and bicycling are actual forms of transporation and should not be included in add-ons like beautification and museums. I walked to elementary school. Is Sen. Coburn suggesting that I should have driven instead?

  • The people-mover improvements at Dulles Airport were delayed for *years* because McCain demanded (over the objections of local residents) more long-distance flight slots at National for contributor AmericaWest. He’s a dick and a hypocrite.

  • Gee, perfect timing given that oil prices are rising and will probably reach new record heights soon. I’m really glad he isn’t Prez.

  • Nick

    Can you imagine if he had won? What would his solution have been to Depression 2.0? Complete lockdown of the government? Like his campaign during the wall street bailout when he shut everything down to be a sound board to Bush?

    Pathetic. McCain/Palin would have been the end of America.

  • Julian

    You know, one can be fully in favor of public transit without thinking that it falls to the federal government to fund local systems. Many of these are entirely within, and of primary benefit to, a single state.

  • Railfan

    Reason No. 75,490 to thank God this man didn’t become president, and typical of the GOP’s “I’ve got mine, F–k you!” attitude.

    Please contact your U.S. senators and representatives, and tell them to tell McCain, Kyl, Coburn, et.al. to go pound sand.

  • Rimaye

    Julian, you may be right that many transit projects are within a single state, but you are wrong in stating that the primary benefits of transit don’t cross state lines. Really, the entire country doesn’t benefit from reducing consumption of gasoline? From cleaner air? From less CO2 emissions? From the increased economic activity that less congestion makes possible (the estimated cost of traffic congestion in 2003 was $63 billion in lost productivity)? We need to broaden our thinking about transit, and recognize that it offers benefits for everyone – even those who do not use it.

  • Julian:

    And the billions of dollars spent on road projects in all these states benefits whom exactly? I’m in Richmond, VA – the interstate spending in California is benefiting me? Oh, wait, it’s not. It’s used primarily by Californians to reach destinations in California.

    And let me preempt any comment you might make about interstate trucking. Interstate rail freight moves a significant percentage of goods across this country and the rails are exclusively supported/constructed by the freight companies. Interstate highway systems predominantly support private automobile traffic in their respective states, so perhaps the federal government shouldn’t be supporting them either?

  • It’s a bit of a dodge to say “I favor transit but I’m against the only realistic way of getting it built.” (Not that anyone said that so directly!)

    I understand being philosophically opposed to federal funding of local things, (though usually people who are against federal funding of one thing or another really like federal funding of some programs.) I don’t agree, but I understand.

    The problem is that without federal funding, transit projects are not going to be built. That’s the way it is. So, in the real world, being against federal funding is effectively being against transit.

  • Jim

    This is astonishing. Light rail in his state’s largest city, Phoenix has been successful and is a source of pride for the city. McCain just doesn’t get it. I think he’s lost in space. Anybody remember who he selected to be his VP running mate? What if he they would have been elected? Hard to fathom.

  • Chris G

    Proof that being a pow doesnt make you a good leader. I can’t believe the crap that comes out of the GOP these days. I have a million and 1 problems with the dems, but this is pure BS.

    And they call this guy a hero. Why? because he did his job?

  • dot

    what, did someone take away mccains trains as a child?

  • Evan

    Julian, it’s a totally fair point. However, what you’ve got to keep in mind (as others point out), is that you could apply that same logic to freeway construction.

    The federal government supports transportation projects not because they have a completely tangible benefit to the entire nation (only projects that cross states lines would qualify for that), but because the projects — wrapped together — improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure as a whole.

    If I live in Dallas, I might not support expanding Interstate 80 or light rail in Phoenix, but it’s likely I do support better transportation infrastructure for America. And that will directly benefit me.

  • Sean

    I would suspect that Republicans would vote against McCain’s amendments as well- I doubt that Utah’s Senators (both Repubs) would vote to bar earmark’s for Salt Lake City’s light rail system for example.

  • I was actually very impressed with the bill that passed the house. I hope most of it makes through the wringer, because the bill is designed to be well in line with the climate change bill and the stimulus packages, and those systems listed all sound like boons to alternative transport and therefore are good for the health of the people and those city envirnments. Within the the cities, car smog is over 50% of the air pollution. Also alternative transit systems make our cities more livible and also more attactive to tourists.

    I’d also certainly like to see some of the systems designed to help reduce roadkill. What exactly are we talking about there? Critter bridges and/or tunnels? I can easly be contacted on http://unpollute.ning.com

    -emett, Portland, OR

  • Deacon

    Oh dear “drill baby” has a grudge. I hope these measures get defeated wholly. If he had become president we would have been in a right pickle round about now. Ignorance of this scale astounds me.

    A good transportation bill goes hand in hand with our national security, there’s not even need to bring up the green argument (although that adds significant clout to said argument). Everyday life in the USA for the most part is affected by the price of oil. It goes up we feel the pinch form gas pump to gallon of milk. We have very few alternatives, although that seems to be changing, other than to drive everywhere. Living in North Dallas this is very much the case.

    For him and the GOP to even think in these terms and propose these amendments shows how much they don’t give a damn about the people and their livelihoods. If anything spending tax payer money in this fashion far outstrips the bail outs we’ve been spectator to. Retire already, pick one of your 7 houses and watch the sunset. Let people that give a damn about the country and its people have a go.

  • Walter

    Well, we should at least give McCain props for trying to cut programs in both red and blue states…

    Figures the money for the Stamford Transitway (a somewhat new concept in a wealthy, dense, and growing, but relatively small, city in a northeastern state) is on his chopping block.

  • Drew

    Push in there a lowering of funding for commuter airplane service and I’ll be fine with this. McCain won’t, but I will.

    If he’s going to be striking down transportation projects left and right, transportation projects that make sense and that are desperately needed, then don’t take it out on just rail. Extend that to road and air transportation…and see how many people go for this ridiculous bill.

    John McCain is such a hypocrite when it comes to transportation. He strikes down public transportation BUT NOT road or air, because Arizona is dependant on those. Hold him accountable for his words – no pork projects whatsoever, not even that Hoover Dam bridge.