Oberstar Says Goodbye, Mica Promises Rail and a Long-Term Bill

Rep. Jim Oberstar said goodbye today after 36 years in the House, during which he helped pioneer federal support for biking and walking. “I go in peace of mind and heart, but with sadness,” he said in his concession speech.

Oberstar says goodbye. Photo: ##http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/11/03/oberstar-political-career/##MPR##
Oberstar gives his farewell speech. Photo: ##http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/11/03/oberstar-political-career/##MPR##

He said he wouldn’t change or take back any of his votes for transportation, especially improvements in his own district. He refused to apologize for the stimulus, saying the infrastructure it paid for will be there for a hundred years.

Meanwhile, John Mica, the top Republican on the Transportation Committee – and its presumptive next chair – said in a statement:

If selected by my peers to chair the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the next Congress, my primary focus will be improving employment and expanding economic opportunities, doing more with less, cutting red tape and removing impediments to creating jobs, speeding up the process by which infrastructure projects are approved, and freeing up any infrastructure funding that’s been sitting idle.

Among my top legislative priorities will be passing a long-term federal highways and transit reauthorization… I will also focus on major initiatives to find ways within the Committee’s jurisdiction to save taxpayer dollars. That includes better management and utilization of federal assets, including real property, and more efficient, cost effective passenger rail transportation, including a better directed high-speed rail program.

Some reformers saw visions of high speed rail go down the toilet with the flip in Congressional power. Mica seems to indicate otherwise. Certainly, he’ll be under pressure from his party – which reads yesterday’s victory as a mandate for smaller government – to cut spending. But Mica supported Oberstar’s $500 billion transportation bill, and he recognizes the benefits of transit. He’ll need solid backup from advocates — speaking with a fiscal-conservative message — to convince his colleagues that infrastructure investment makes economic sense.

It looks like he’s prepared to try.

  • High-speed rail might be safe but bike/ped advocates are wondering if we are no entering a new dark age.

    See what Andy Clark had to say at the League of American Bicyclists.
    http://www.bikeleague.org/blog/2010/11/leaving-politics-aside-for-a-moment…/

  • maaaty

    Thanks for the link, Andy. A great and sad read.

    Does anyone have any insight on Mica and bike infrastructure?

  • Brandi

    We’ll miss you Oberstar! You were a great advocate! Why can’t he push for the transportation reauthorization in the lame duck? Seems like something Republicans might allow?

  • Kevin

    Although Oberstar will be missed, politicians will come and go, but the number of bicyclists are growing as is the concern about transportation, in part due to networking and to sites like Streetsblog. So thanks Oberstar and thanks Streetsblog. As long as cyclists are proactive, they will prevail.

  • James Fujita

    Mica’s no saint.

    He clearly wants to take the money that was already granted for high-speed rail and give it to the Northeast Corridor.

    The NEC has already eaten too much of Amtrak’s meager funds, why should it get HSR funding as well?

  • John Bailo

    Bike-ped is best left to town and local government.

    He’s right on HSR. The whole program lacks common sense…an 80 mph track improvement is called “high speed”? The Chinese are running 250mph+ trains right now!

  • John Thacker

    “He clearly wants to take the money that was already granted for high-speed rail and give it to the Northeast Corridor. ”

    And what’s the problem with this? The NEC *is* the most viable region for rail; it has the density and city centers to support it– and the terrible driving traffic that comes from density– and Acela is painfully slow for a “high speed” service.

    Spending tons of money in aggregate doling it out around the country for tiny speed increases on rural lines that will never break even is madness. We’re wasting billions on upgrading medium sized lines by only a few minutes, and they’ll still be slower than driving. The only sort of sense it makes is political sense, trying to satisfy all the members of Congress by giving them some.

  • SurlyRider

    The construction projects in NY will go on for 100 years, I hope they last a 10 years after they are finished in 100 years.

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