Senate Transpo Budget Gets Serious About Repairing Rail Bridges

They’re waist deep in the transportation appropriations process in Washington right now, and what’s on the table is a study in contrasts. The House budget would zero out the popular TIGER program and slash funding for Amtrak, even as it shatters ridership records. President Obama has promised to veto it should it wind up on his desk.

Funding to repair rail bridges may get a boost next year. Image: ##http://www.partnershipborderstudy.com/bol_old/Section%201/section1.asp##Partnership Border Study##

Meanwhile, sustainable transportation advocates are more enthusiastic about the Senate‘s version, which would actually provide a boost in funding for Amtrak and transit. The exception was a noxious amendement introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) which proposed stripping all funding for bike and walking and transfer it to bridge repair.

The advocates at Transportation for America are urging supporters to call their Senators and tell them to support the Senate version — without the Paul amendment. Other than that blemish, Steven Lee Davis at T4A says the Senate bill is getting better with a few new additions:

Senator Schumer (along with Sens. Gillibrand, Menendez, and Cardin) proposed an amendment (No. 1763) that would allow rail and transit bridges to also be eligible for the $500 million in the Bridges in Critical Corridors program. Our most critical corridors aren’t always just highways, and this allows states and local communities to apply for flexible funding that can meet their greatest local need, whether that a bridge carries trains or cars.

We should do a better job of repairing our aging bridges. As noted before, the Senate bill contains a new $500 million grant program to do exactly that. But which bridges? Senator Rob Portman from Ohio succeeded in having an amendment included that would ensure that the money can only go to repair bridges that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. That’s a done deal.

Lastly on bridges, Senator Cardin and Senator Gillibrand also proposed an amendment (No. 1760) requiring FHWA to report on highway and bridge conditions in each state as well as the amount of funding states are spending on highway and bridge repair — something that states once had to do before MAP-21 eliminated the dedicated bridge repair program. This would restore a requirement for states to closely track the conditions of their bridges and most importantly, how much they spend to repair these bridges compared to spending on new construction, helping taxpayers and citizens hold state leaders accountable for making progress.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Reconnecting America reviews a recent study that indicates there may be a connection between social mobility and transit access to jobs. Urban Review STL celebrates the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And the Bicycle Alliance of Washington says Amtrak is beefing up bike service on the Cascade route.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

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 […]

Cutting Train Budgets Could De-Rail Transamerican Routes

|
The idyllic cross-country train trips that many Americans still take could get derailed by today’s “slash and burn” federal budget policies. Meanwhile, fears for the safety of rail passengers in the post-bin Laden era are drumming up political support for costly security measures and raising, once again, questions about why the federal government funds rail […]

Senate Offers a More Multi-Modal 2014 Transportation Budget Than the House

|
Last week, a House panel envisioned some big cuts to next year’s transportation budget. TIGER and high-speed rail would get nothing, Amtrak would get slashed, and ixnay on all that green “livability” crap. (And that’s practically a quote.) The Senate Appropriations Committee voted this morning on the budget its own transportation subcommittee put together, and the end […]

Obama’s 2014 Transpo Budget Calls for Higher Spending, HSR

|
The Obama Administration has put forward an opening bid in what are sure to be contentious 2014 budget negotiations, issuing a solidly progressive transportation budget that calls for increased overall spending and continued investment in passenger rail. The $76 billion transportation budget would represent a 5.5 percent, or $4 billion, spending increase over 2012 levels. […]

T4A Calls for Action Against Dreadful House Transpo Budget

|
Transportation for America is gearing up for a fight over transit, rail, and TIGER funding, and they’re asking supporters of smart transportation investments to make their voices heard. The new budget put forth by the House of Representatives would zero out funds for TIGER, strip $400 million from Amtrak and raid $500 million from a fund […]

GOP Appropriations Bill Would Turn TIGER Into a Roads Program

|
As the president’s transportation proposal fades from the news cycle and we eagerly await the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s six-year reauthorization bill, here comes the House Republicans’ proposed budget for transportation and housing for next year. Note: What the House GOP released yesterday wasn’t an authorization bill but an appropriations bill for 2015. […]