CA Rep. Hunter: Roads Constitutionally Mandated, Transit Must Pay For Itself

Streetsblog Capitol Hill caught up with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) yesterday after the T&I Committee meeting wrapped up. He’s the only new Republican on the committee who’s not also a new member of Congress. He followed his father, also named Duncan Hunter, into the seat in 2008. Hunter is on the Republican Study Committee that recently pushed for cutting $100 billion from the federal budget. New to transportation and infrastructure issues, Hunter has mainly focused on military matters and immigration.

Photo from ##http://hunter.house.gov/##Duncan Hunter's Congressional website##
Photo from ##http://hunter.house.gov/##Duncan Hunter's Congressional website##

Streetsblog: You’ve recently joined the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. What are your priorities for the committee in this session?

Hunter: Southern California is pretty easy. In the past there was only one Republican Californian on Transportation – Gary Miller – and he’s Orange County. There’s now three: Jeff Denham from north California and myself in south California. We all have different needs; water’s one of them. I asked to be on the Water Subcommittee and I am. We have a lot of military bases too, we have desalinization issues we’re working with, all of us having water shortages.

And I kind of like the fact, frankly – it sounds kind of corny – but the constitution talks about having a military and being able to pay for your postal roads. It’s one thing Congress does and it’s nice to be able to do something constitutional here. It’s actually backed up and actually it’s in the constitution. I like that.

SB: Are you interested in looking for ways of getting people out of their cars and into other modes of transportation?

DH: Sure – where it’s feasible. In San Diego, it’s not feasible. San Diego’s one of those places where a lot of people live who work in the more expensive places in Southern California and they can’t afford to live there. They have to drive in – and in my district, everybody works everywhere. So no, it’s not one of my priorities at all to get people out of their cars. I like my car.

SB: There was recently a proposal by some groups in San Diego trying to model after what LA’s doing with their 30/10 program; it’s a 50-10 program, trying to accelerate 50 years of transit —

DH: I don’t even know what that is. Today was the first organizational meeting. I’ve got a lot to learn. But they’re accelerating getting out of their cars?

SB: Well, they’re accelerating building transit.

DH: We just built the whole trolley system that goes from El Cajon to San Diego State; it’s one of our main transit systems now that goes by our main stadium for football and goes all the way downtown to where the Padres play. So if transit makes sense and it can be done on its own and pay for itself, then absolutely.

SB: I was just in an EPW Committee hearing and there was some talk about the fact that some small amount of money in the reauthorization historically gets used for things like bike trails. Some people think that’s waste; some people think biking is a mode of transportation. What do you think?

DH: I don’t think biking should fall under the federal purview of what the Transportation Committee is there for. If a state wants to do it, or local municipality, they can do whatever they want to. But no, because then you have us mandating bike paths, which you don’t want either.

SB: But you’re OK with mandating highways?

DH: Absolutely, yeah. Because that’s in the constitution. I don’t see riding a bike the same as driving a car or flying an airplane.

SB: How is it different?

DH: I think it’s more of a recreational thing. That’s my opinion.

  • @J:Lai – I don’t know if you’re still here reading, but the scenario you pose about Pennsylvania undermaintaining road links is implausible. I-80 might go, but the Pennsylvania Turnpike predates the Interstate system, so it will likely stay. Stuff got around before the Interstates, and gets around in countries like Canada, where there’s no federal involvement in road building.

  • ianam

    “Everyone on this list think’s they’re so smart…

    but if you were really that much smarter, you’d figure out a way to get through to him.”

    That’s like saying that really smart people can make turnips understand physics.

    Here’s a clue for you when trying to figure out what smart people can do: google “Dunning-Kruger”

  • urbabanreason

    thanks for ruining my day.

  • Hunter’s interpretation of the Constitution reminds of this article in the Onion: http://www.theonion.com/articles/area-man-passionate-defender-of-what-he-imagines-c,2849/ — “Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be”

  • Evan

    This guy’s interpretation of the Constitution is no different than a fundamentalist Muslim (or you could substitute Christian or any other religion for that matter) finding something they don’t like and twisting their document until something that suits them drips out. Of the people, by the people and for the people? Pish-posh.

  • Devin

    Can someone provide the information where “mandating highways” is located in the Constitution?

  • Look on the bright side.

    If bikes are not technically considered “transportation” then we can finally evade all the lame-brained arguments insisting that bicyclists get licensed and carry insurance.

    Since no one seems terribly interested in advocating for better enforcement to protect bicyclists anyway — and don’t even get me started on how weak the League of American Bicyclists is as an advocacy group! — then we may as well go full tilt outlaw and stop obeying the few laws that anyone is actually willing to apply to us.

    Bicyclists have so few protections that we may as well ride as though we have none. Screw the car culture, I’m not buying in.

  • Hart Noecker

    “DH: I don’t even know what that is.”

    Yep, he’s a Republican alright.

  • Mike Healey

    Look on the bright side: in going back to the original constitution, he wants slavery and Mrs Palin barred from voting, let alone being elected to office

  • Didn’t he attempt to run for the R nomination for president? Yikes. Not exactly a constitutional scholar, is he?

  • prinzrob

    I still don’t get it, why don’t Republicans and tea partiers like bikes? No licensing or registration means no big brother keeping tabs on you, and almost zero administrative costs. Bike paths are relatively cheap to construct and maintain compared to auto roads, and I have never heard of private land being seized to build one. Most bikes these days are built in asia but manufacturing could easily be established in the US again, and no reliance on foreign old means they don’t increase the trade deficit.

    Bicycling is the perfect issue to bring the right and left together. Why can’t we get this to work?

  • maaaty

    Good question, prinzrob. I’d add to your list that every gas station you pass by on your bike means one less sale for Hugo Chavez and the Middle East. Why has oil independence never really become a rallying cry on the right? Why so quick to resort to the “American way of life” mantra? I know lots of politically conservative cyclists but in a sense they must feel like Log Cabin Rs. Even Bush II, with his passion for mountain biking, somehow separated that hobby from his politics.

  • maaaty

    p.s. On Hunter’s website there’s a PDF of an ’09 letter he wrote to Oberstar. It’s a list of the top 4 transportation projects in his district. All involve adding more vehicle lanes, but the fourth project does at least call for adding sidewalks and bike lanes to improve safety for both motorized and non-motorized transport.

    http://hunter.house.gov/images/stories/trans001.pdf

  • Thomas Bowden

    Perhaps the Honorable Rep. should acquaint himself with the Commerce Clause

  • SanDiegoGrrl

    How many of you actually live in San Diego and understand where the Congressman is coming from? Federal dollars should not be used to build bike roads nor should the federal government mandate that local governments build them. Local governments understand their communities better than the feds, let them decide what and where they will build. Federal government should be responsible for big FEDERAL projects, not small LOCAL ones.

  • Jym Dyer

    @SanDiegoGrrl – Yet it’s perfectly fine to have Federally-funded and -maintained highways basically holding the city together, even though they cost a whole lot more than anyt alternative?

  • Ray Welch

    There are more people who feel this way than not. We live in a “car culture”. Many people think it is “what made America great”. We can
    see the fight ahead.

  • He sounds like a dumb ass… so tell me Duncan, were there cars when the Constitution was written? Since these supposedly ‘constitutional’ postal roads date back to our founding fathers, I guess they just became equestrian trials. Yes, he has a lot to learn.. an awful lot to learn. 

  • T. Party

    How would you like your house destroyed by a damned bike path?!?! Use of eminent domain for bike paths is ridiculous !!!! NOT A ONE OF YOU WOULD GIVE YOUR HOUSE FOR ONE!!!

  • T. Party

    Not a one of you would want eminent domain to take YOUR home for a bike path!

    Yea, I thought so.

  • “San Diego’s one of those places where a lot of people live who work in the more expensive places in Southern California and they can’t afford to live there.”

    And Mr. Hunter is absolutely right. Let the NIMBYs masquerading as transit advocates build much more higher density housing, closer to work sites.

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