More Responses to Mica Transpo Bill: Lots of People Think It’s a Rotten Idea

In the 24 hours since Rep. John Mica has unveiled his proposal for the next six years of transportation policy and funding, my inbox has been flooded with responses from advocates, lawmakers, policy wonks, and everyone in between, giving their perspective on the bill’s potential impacts. I posted some yesterday, but they just keep a-comin’.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), chair of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee of the Commerce Committee and a member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works: “Repairing and improving infrastructure is a proven way to create jobs and reinvigorate the economy, yet Republicans want to slash funding, let our roads and bridges fall into a state of further disrepair and take more jobs away from workers. In New Jersey transportation is the lifeblood of our economy and we cannot afford to be stuck in more traffic or let our aging infrastructure degrade any further. I will fight this plan and work in the Senate for a stronger investment so that New Jersey and states across the country can use transportation projects to create jobs, ease commutes, boost the economy and modernize our infrastructure.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (via Twitter): “Rep. Mica plan to cut infrastructure is job-killing, future-suffocating, pessimistic vision of US as ‘can’t do’ nation.”

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO: “It is astonishing and unconscionable that the House Republican leadership would push a surface transportation re-authorization bill that would gut current infrastructure investment by a third and obliterate over half a million jobs in the next year alone… It defies imagination that the Republican leadership and Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would turn their backs on the needs of our country and pretend it is good government.”

Janet Kavinoky, executive director of transportation and infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “It is clear the Committee has been constrained by the House-passed budget as the investment levels are unacceptable. Cuts will destroy – rather than support — existing jobs and will not enable creation of the additional jobs needed to put the 16.3% of unemployed workers in the construction industry back to work.”

Barbara McCann, executive director of the National Complete Streets Coalition: “Representative Mica’s proposal ignores the millions of Americans who are now using the nation’s highways – by foot, bicycle and bus. By failing to include a complete streets provision, the bill would allow states to continue to build multi-lane roads through communities where pedestrians are left to tramp through the grass, bus riders are forced to run across dangerous intersections, and bicycle riders have nowhere to go. In addition, the proposal would eliminate the very modest dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, claiming these are ‘non-highway’ or ‘non-transportation’ activities. In fact, bicycling and walking make up 12 percent of the nation’s trips. Add in those getting on and off public transportation, and it turns out a good portion of the nation’s so-called ‘highway’ travel is make up of people who are not in private automobiles. Unfortunately, safety statistics bear this out: 67 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the last ten years took place on federal-aid roads.”

Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union: “Slashing federal transportation spending by a third will cause transit systems to shift what little local operations funding they have to rehabilitate aging vehicles and equipment, triggering the elimination of essential bus routes across the country… In addition, the Mica cuts will cause cash-strapped transit systems to further put off new equipment purchases and deferred maintenance, causing significant safety issues. Heavy duty large buses, which can be replaced every 12 years, are already running 14-16 years.  Thirty-five percent of all rail assets of the nation’s seven largest rail transit agencies are already in subpar condition. The Mica bill will push those numbers much higher, to dangerous levels.”

John Robert Smith, president and CEO of Reconnecting America: “As a former elected official myself, I certainly understand the challenges [Mica] faces in moving this legislation forward during tough financial times. But these are exactly the times in which we must invest in our infrastructure – it is the path we will travel to job creation. A 30% cut in the federal investment in public transportation, roads, and bridges is in direct contradiction to the findings of numerous studies that our infrastructure is in dire need of repair and rehabilitation… The Federal Transit Administration estimates that nearly $80 billion is needed to bring [our public transportation] systems into a state of good repair. Yet, under this proposal they will only fall further behind.”

Emil Frankel, director of the National Transportation Policy Center at the Bipartisan Policy Center: “While NTPP has consistently recognized the need for greater investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure, scarce resources are also a reality in the current fiscal environment, and we have to do better with the resources that we have. Thus, whether the new surface transportation bill is to be a full six years in length or shorter, as some have suggested, it should contain significant and necessary reforms, in order to insure that we are making wise investments with constrained resources… To that end, it is important that the new bill articulate a clear set of national goals for surface transportation policy.”

Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the Eno Transportation Foundation: “This proposal does not articulate a clear set of national goals for surface transportation policy. These goals should be clearly articulated in the full bill when it is released, as this is the most essential thing for the next transportation bill to do. The proposal also fails to emphasize preservation in any specific way. With limited resources available at all levels of government, preservation of existing essential transportation assets should be a priority.”

William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association: “With high gas prices and a slow economy, now is not the time to implement cuts of more than 30 percent in public transportation funding. This lack of investment in the nation’s public transportation infrastructure will have a chilling effect on our country’s ability to create jobs and provide access to jobs necessary to move the economy forward. One dollar invested in our public transportation infrastructure generates four dollars in economic return. This proposal would severely underfund critical elements of the federal transit program.  The funding will not permit public transit agencies to address the costs of getting the existing systems to a state of good repair, which the U.S. DOT has estimated as a one-time cost of $78 billion, let alone meet the growing demand for public transportation services in the United States. It will severely curtail the purchase of new buses and trains, reduce critical maintenance and safety programs, and could cut operating funds for transit systems in small communities and rural areas.”

  • Bmirson

    We have a unique opportunity to package the transportation funding package into the debt reduction deal.  We need to identity sufficient revenues in the national budget to allow for  significant increases in all modes of transportation investment.  Whether the debt reduction package is 2 billion or 4 billion isn’t the issue  The issue is, will the deal include a commitment to reinvest in America’s infrastructure that will at the same time generate design and construction jobs to offset many jobs that have been lost due to the housing bubble and will continue to be lost as governments at all levels spend less. I prey it will. 

  • What is so troubling is that we, as a county, don’t seem at all to understand the fundamental nature of our problems and so do nothing to address those problems.  American for some time now has been living beyond its energetic and economic means. The longer we pretend this is not so, the longer we refuse to accommodate reality, the more we squander the resources and money we do have and the harder our ultimate adjustment to reality will be.

    How can transportation issues truly be considered separately from our overall economic and energetic situation?  For example:

    1) America can no longer afford its military empire which predominantly goes towards trying to control the world’s oil supply.  Solution?  End current wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and shadow wars in Pakistan and Libya.  Put half of this money instead into transitioning American infrastructure off oil, mostly through freight rail, high speed passenger rail, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and local public transit.  Use other half to reduce budget deficit.

    2) Americans have a runaway obesity epidemic that is sending our health care costs skyrocketing. Solution? Tax high fructose corn syrup and unhealthy (high calorie, high sodium, highly processed) fast food. Discourage car driving for short trips by increasing cost of street parking. Charge businesses that provide free parking a congestion fee per free spot. Put this money towards the creation of  livable communities that encourage walking and bicycling as everyday modes of transportation. Impose fines on communities that do not provide pedestrian and bicycle routes safe enough for children to take to school. Reward communities where 50% of children walk or bike to school.

    At the very least we should make our federal highways self-funding by a pay-as-you-inflict-damage fee system. Trucks should entirely pay for the maintenance and repair they necessitate. If their cost structures really reflected the cost of damage they inflict on the roads, much freight would speedily return to rail.  As a society I believe we will soon discover it is far cheaper to build and maintain rail both for freight and passenger movement than to support our costly and extensive road network that we subsidize in so many ways.   

  • Wow, that Car & Driver article is impressive. The people writing features for an audience of automotive fetishists seem to have a better grip on the nation’s transportation problems than most members of Congress:

    This country has not had a comprehensive transportation strategy in
    decades, but now is an excellent time to consider one. And that means we
    need to take a hard look at what role highways should play and how they
    fit into the broader transportation network. Sprawling car-centric
    cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Dallas are rushing
    to build new mass-transit systems—they have to; the roads they have
    cannot satisfy demand. So they must harmonize with other modes of
    transportation to reduce the stress on existing roadways as much as
    possible.

  • Joe R.

    I used to read Car & Driver quite regularly.  Even though their primary focus is on cars, they do in fact write very intelligent, well-balanced articles on transportation from time to time.

    And as usual, great post KLA.  I agree with everything 100%.  We do indeed need to start viewing transportation as the lifeblood which makes all our other activities possible, not as something designed to generate a profit on its own (i.e. the oft used argument against rail transportation).

  • Mcmitch

    People also need to take a look at the enviornmental regulations that are reduced or eliminated in this bill.  Not to mention that it allows govenrment to exact eminent domain on private property owners with its right of way clause.  This bill hurts the private property owner, futher allows government and DOTS to abuse the environmental laws in order to build pet political projects that have nothing to do with traffic.  Promoting transit is the wave of the future.  Take a look and it costs more to build and maintain highways then transit.  With more and more jobs being peformed out of people’s homes, the need to drive to work will deminish.  Our elected leaders are not thinking about the future and repairing what is in existence.  Red tape is not the issue it is a refusal to listen to citizens and reduce our dependance on oil.

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