House Transportation Bill Officially Drops, Lands With a Thud

John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, officially unveiled his committee’s transportation bill, the “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act,” at a press conference outside the House wing of the Capitol this afternoon. (All 846 pages of bill text are here: [PDF])

There's something for everyone to dislike in John Boehner and John Mica's transportation bill. Photo: Zimbio

Streetsblog wrote about some of the bill’s low points last week: no more dedicated bike/ped funding; no more TIGER or other discretionary transit programs; more money for highways, less accountability for state DOTs. To top it off, Speaker John Boehner has made it a priority to attach the Keystone XL pipeline to the transportation bill somehow.

The truth is that there are a lot of things that a lot of sensible people find objectionable about this bill, and they’re having their say while they can — the bill will be marked up on Thursday.

Regarding the changes to bike/ped policy, Darren Flusche, policy analyst at the League of American Bicyclists, told Streetsblog:

You can bet that the performance measures that states would be required to meet will not be geared towards the myriad transportation benefits of bicycling and walking projects, making the “eligibility” for bicycling and walking projects an illusion.  In this way, the bill would actually take away flexibility from the states instead of provide it, as claimed.

Provisions that would raise weight and length limits on trucks drew ire from the Association of American Railroads:

“Americans don’t want 97,000 pound trucks or huge multi-trailers up to 120 feet long on our nation’s highways,” said AAR President and CEO Ed Hamberger. “Nor is it fair that even more of the public’s tax dollars will be used to pay for the road and bridge damage inflicted by massive trucks.”

John Cross, federal transportation advocate with Environment America, had this to say about the bill’s environmental implications:

The bill introduced by Representative Mica today in the House of Representatives drives us down to the dead end of too many oil spills, too much air pollution, and destroying the places we love. It reads like a wish list for Big Oil.

The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Rob Perks called out the Speaker of the House for unnecessarily complicating matters:

I’ve heard of “my way or the highway” but this is ridiculous. In an unprecedented move, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is hell-bent on crashing the transportation bill by loading it up with controversial issues that will guarantee more political gridlock.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) objected to the partisan politics behind its drafting:

I am disturbed by the un-democratic and non-transparent fashion with which the majority has drafted and introduced its bill. Democrats have been left entirely out of the process and, now, after more than a year of waiting for this legislation, we have 48 hours to assimilate 800 pages before it is marked up.

As Rep. Nadler pointed out, the bill is quite long. Streetsblog will report more details from the bill as we learn them. We will also address efforts underway to amend the bill into a less objectionable state. Even Chairman Mica indicated that there could be some serious tinkering done to this bill, telling reporters to “get some hemorrhoid cream ointment and hang on” during long negotiations.