25 Senators Demand Robust Transit Funding

In a letter to Finance Committee leaders [PDF], 25 senators today urged adequate funding for mass transit in the next transportation authorization bill.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led 24 other senators in urging "strengthened" funding for transit. Photo: ##http://www.examiner.com/casino-in-national/the-senator-menendez-bill-is-moving-the-u-s-senate##Examiner##

The letter notes that public transportation systems find themselves in a budgetary crisis just as more and more people, driven by $4/gallon gas, are seeking out transportation options.

During the worst economic downturn in recent memory, we must identify new approaches for funding infrastructure projects. A truly long-term and prudent vision for a future transportation network will strengthen the role of public transportation in growing our communities and ensure that new funding strategies do not favor highway spending to the detriment of public transportation spending.

Americans want and deserve transportation options that reflect community priorities and values. At a time when deficit reduction is attracting the full focus of the Congress, we implore the Committee to strengthen the Mass Transit Account’s fair share of funding in the next surface transportation authorization to guarantee that our economic recovery continues and that we can be more self-reliant in meeting our transportation needs.

The letter doesn’t specifically ask for a larger share of surface transportation dollars than the 20 percent mass transit historically is allotted, but they do ask for transit’s share to be strengthened. Apparently, given the challenges implicit in getting 25 senators to agree on anything, that vague language was as specific as they could get.

In a statement on the letter, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chair of the Senate Banking subcommittee with jurisdiction over public transportation, pointed out the need for new transportation revenues — and the fact that the House is going in the opposite direction.

Congress is currently working on reauthorizing the surface transportation bill, which expires on September 30.  If spending continues at current levels, the highway account could run out of money next year and the transit account shortly thereafter.  The Senate Finance Committee is responsible for funding these accounts.  The House of Representatives is currently developing a transportation bill that follows the Ryan Budget’s direction to cut surface transportation funding by 31 percent.

A list of senators signing on to the letter is after the jump.

  • Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • Charles Schumer (D-NY)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
  • Tom Carper (D-DE)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
  • Ron Wyden (D-OR)
  • Ben Cardin (D-MD)
  • Robert Casey (D-PA)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Michael Bennet (D-CO)
  • Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
  • Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
  • Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Joe Lieberman (I-CT)
  • Tom Udall (D-NM)
  • John Kerry (D-MA)
  • Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
  • Chris Coons (D-DE)
  • Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
  • Jim Webb (D-VA)
  • Mark Warner (D-VA)
  • Jeff

    I’m still baffled as to how this is a partisan issue.  What is inherently “Republican” about private autos, and what is inherently “Democratic” about transit?  They’re both government-controlled, government-subsidized transportation systems.  If Republicans were equally against subsidized private autos and insisted we all ride bicycles on naturally-occurring dirt paths, then okay, maybe.

  • rlb

    One way that it’s a partisan issue:
    People in cities tend to vote more towards the left. People Outside of cities vote tends towards the right. Money for mass transit is more likely to go to city populations.
     

  • Rambo Wildcat

    I never knew Republicans love staying in congestion, prefer sprawl, and staying fat so much as I do now, seeing that one-sided list.  WOW.

  • Silke

    Dirt paths don’t occur naturally

  • have any republicans even commented on this?

  • Boris

    I’m for both improving transit AND cutting federal spending on transportation (or at least not raising it). Canada has no federal highway program, and it’s doing just fine. The states just need to realize that they need to pick up the tab for transporting their citizens, and not always rely on handouts from the feds.

    Leave the gas tax as is, and fund just what we can afford with it. It’s one of the best ways to reduce sprawl. Eventually, the highway fund and its wasteful formula-based spending will end and be replaced, hopefully, with a performance-based infrastructure bank.

  • Anonymous

    I agree the problem is the high federal subsidy of auto infrastructure, not the lack of federal funding for intrastate public transit.  Intrastate travel should be the responsibility of the states, not the federal government.

  • Susan

    Why isn’t Boxer on the list?

  • Mlewyn

    The fact that only 25 senators signed on to this, and that not a single Republican did, is really alarming.

  • One source of funding would be a congestion tax. The more congestion, accidents and time delay on a certain stretch of interstate would mean a higher toll or tax for using that section of road. That money could be used to help transit systems that are in a competitive bidding process to provide more efficient services to the public. Perhaps the money could be given on a people moved per mile at least labor cost standard.

  • Stevemhrg

    Got to admit I was surprised not to see Mark Udall (Dem. from Colo.) on the list.We as Americans can’t allow this topic to be partison. We all need this. We all need to use less imported oil. Reguardless of your voting, as Americans we should be in support. That is why this one-sided signing is so disturbing.

  • Neroden

    Autos are less efficient, so more expensive, and so harder for the poor to use.  The Republicans hate the poor.  Next question?

  • I think in this case the saying is “26 senators short.”

  • AC

    Not many senators from more rural populations here…also, most senators are from NE area, where snow and ice maintenance costs on infrastructure are HUGE. I think the only way to get rural senators on board is by offering them similar benefits tailored to their populations and needs……obviously they don’t want to stand behind this because they don’t need it, much too easy for them to not care……not a very ‘united’ states, its worrisome

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Compare the Senate and House Transpo Bills, Side-By-Side

|
Now that the Senate has passed a transportation bill and everyone’s waiting to see what the House will do next, Transportation for America has done us all a great service and compared the Senate’s bill to the House’s — well, to the last thing the House showed us before things fell apart for John Boehner’s […]

Transit Stimulus Bill Needs Co-Sponsors in Senate

|
Two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton introduced a bill in the Senate to provide emergency funds for local transit agencies. Since then, the rest of the delegation from New York and New Jersey appears to have lined up behind the legislation. "We believe that Senators Schumer, Lautenberg, and Menendez support it," says Larry Hanley of the […]

Mica’s Transportation Proposal: Responses Flood In

|
The GOP transportation proposal is now online. Here are some early reactions. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chair of the Senate Banking subcommittee with jurisdiction over public transportation: “It used to be that Republicans understood that transportation investment was necessary to spur economic growth and create jobs. Now, I guess they think if we give the […]

How Will the House Answer the Senate’s Transportation Funding Bill?

|
The full Senate passed a major appropriations bill yesterday, including funding levels for transportation and housing. The Senate put the kibosh on Sen. Rand Paul’s attempt to strip bike/ped funding from the federal transportation program, as we reported yesterday. Here’s the lowdown on the bill as a whole. The upper chamber maintained funding for several key livability […]