Patty Murray as Senate Budget Chief: What It Means for Transportation

In transportation circles, all eyes are on Rep. Bill Shuster, who was just tapped to head the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House. And you may have heard about how GOP leadership appointed a climate change denier to head the House Committee on Science. But on the Senate side, there’s some good news for advocates of sustainable transportation coming out of the appointment process this week.

How will Washington Senator Patty Murray use her new post as chair of the Senate Budget Committee to shape national transportation policy? Photo: Katu.com

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) is set to take over the top role on the powerful Senate Budget Committee.

“Senator Murray is a strong supporter of transportation investments (including ports and rail infrastructure), livability programs, enhancements, and the TIGER program in particular,” said David Burwell, director of the Energy and Climate Program at the Carnegie Endowment. He added that the budget chair position “will put her in a very powerful position to craft the entire federal budget.”

Ben Schiendelman of Seattle Transit Blog said the 20-year Senate veteran is known for winning appropriations for local transportation projects. The blog has endorsed her in the past.

“She seems to be a strong transit supporter,” said Schiendelman. “She’s landed us $1.8 billion in transit funding that I can think of in the last decade.”

Bike advocates in her home state also seem to have had a receptive audience in Murray. ”She’s generally supportive and coming from a state with strong state and local advocacy, in the form of Cascade Bicycle Club and the Bicycle Alliance of Washington,” said Darren Flusche, of the League of American Bicyclists.

Her record isn’t without its blemishes, however. Murray has been a big supporter of Portland’s $3.2 billion Columbia River Crossing project, a highway bridge boondoggle, which is designed to speed commutes for residents of the Portland suburb of Vancouver, Washington, according to the Oregonian. One of the major hurdles to that project is funding, both federal, state, and local. Murray as budget chair could play a large role in deciding the project’s future.