Warner Scores a (Small) Win for White House’s Transportation Agenda

While it pushes for an 18-month delay in the next federal infrastructure bill, the Obama administration has proposed a data collection effort that would help states and localities begin tracking ridership and usage of transit, roads, buses, and the like -- a small put pivotal step towards enacting national performance standards for transportation.

markwarner.jpgSen. Mark Warner (Photo: NYDN)
Yet the Senate has insisted on passing a "clean" extension of existing transport law this month, making even bone-dry funding for data collection potentially off-limits. Last night Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) stepped into the debate, winning passage of an amendment to the U.S. DOT's 2010 spending bill that would allow any money set aside for transportation research to also "be used for [work on] data collection procedures and national performance measures."

Warner's amendment would appear to resolve the administration's quandary over getting approval for new data collection without upsetting the transportation detente between Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and her panel's top GOPer, Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK).

But consider that the White House had sought $310 million to help state DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) embark on the arduous but necessary path of empirically tracking transportation performance.

The pot of research money that Warner proposed opening up for the development of national performance measures totals $8.2 million in the Senate's version of the U.S. DOT spending bill. The House version of the bill dedicated $14.7 million to research.

It would seem that there's still a lot more room for funding to be set aside for data collection as part of Congress' unavoidable move to extend the 2005 federal transport law. The question is, will Warner be introducing another version of his amendment when the 18-month delay comes to the Senate floor?