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Posts from the "Jerrold Nadler" Category

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Mica Drops Amtrak Privatization Plan In Call for Northeast Corridor HSR

Speaking at a press conference today, Mica backed off plans to privatize Amtrak service in the Northeast. He was joined by New York State Sen. Malcolm Smith and Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler. Photo: Noah Kazis.

House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica backed off his controversial plan to privatize passenger rail on the Northeast Corridor today, announcing at a press conference that reforming Amtrak would suffice.

Mica stood with New York Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler at a conference held by the US High Speed Rail Association to announce further support for true high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor. Mica has previously singled out the Boston-to-Washington corridor as the only proper location for high-speed rail (in contrast to the Obama Administration’s nationwide approach). Today, he urged that if any more high-speed rail funds are returned to the federal government, they be disbursed to the northeast. “Any further money for high-speed rail needs to go solely to the Northeast Corridor,” he said.

Mica said his goal was to see travel times as fast as in Amtrak’s ambitious proposal, but within a decade, instead of the 30-year timeline Amtrak set out.

Given Mica’s previous support for privatizing the Northeast Corridor, today’s announcement raises questions about how a revitalized push for high-speed rail along the route would be structured. Amtrak will be involved, Mica promised. “If there wasn’t an Amtrak, we’d have to create an Amtrak,” Mica said twice today. “It just needs reform.” He stated that he is no longer asking for the route to be taken away from Amtrak and that he is willing to compromise with other members of Congress and Amtrak leadership.

Even so, Mica still referred to Amtrak as a “Soviet-style train system.” It’s clear that ideological divisions linger.

Nadler, an opponent of privatization, added that there is now widespread agreement that private capital needs to be included in plans for the Northeast — Amtrak itself is seeking private investment — and also agreement that Amtrak will continue to serve the corridor. “If we all agree that Amtrak has to be the main vehicle,” said Nadler, “we have a lot of room to talk and to compromise.” Read more…

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Lawmakers Reject House Starvation Levels For Transportation

A small but bipartisan group of lawmakers today sent a letter to the leaders of the House Transportation Committee, urging them to act quickly to pass a bill with adequate funding to meet the country’s needs — “higher than or at least equal to the current funding level.”

Bike-commuting Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) calls transpo funding levels in Paul Ryan's budget proposal "disastrously stingy." Photo: SF Gate

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steven LaTourette (R-OH), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Mike Simpson (R-ID) signed on to the letter [PDF]. Twenty-five senators sent a similar letter two weeks ago.

“Congress’ inability to pass a new authorization in the last 20 months has created great uncertainty in the transportation community, resulting in a slowdown of transportation activities across the nation,” the House members wrote in today’s letter.

They added that transportation infrastructure is one of the most cost-efficient and effective ways to reduce unemployment and stimulate the economy.

In a statement, Blumenauer called the funding levels proposed in Paul Ryan’s budget “disastrously stingy.” He said they “do not meet the minimum levels required to keep America’s transportation network safe and our economy competitive.”

LaTourette played it safer in his comment, focusing not on funding levels but timing. “We can’t keep putting this bill on the back burner and leave states in limbo,” he said. “We need a robust bill if we’re truly serious about rebuilding America, and creating jobs.”

Republican Simpson followed LaTourette’s lead, adding, “If we intend to remain competitive on the world stage, we must maintain a system that transports goods and people safely and efficiently.”

Their focus on jobs is timely, as the Senate EPW Committee today released new numbers quantifying state-by-state job losses if transportation is underfunded.

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Mica and Nadler Duke It Out on the Pages of Politico Over Transpo Funding

Rep. Jerry Nadler says more investment, not less, is necessary to preserve critical transportation infrastructure. Photo: AP

In an op-ed in Politico this morning, House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) calls for getting rid of waste and inefficiencies in the transportation system, shifting more power to the states, and “doing more with less.”

The emphasis, of course, being on the word “less.” Mica is still gunning for a bill at existing revenue levels that would “dramatically enhance” the value of those funds. “We are exploring every responsible means of doing this,” he asserts.

Meanwhile, New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, also on the committee, wrote in his own Politico op-ed, “The single greatest challenge is to fund the investments that we so desperately need in the face of a Republican-sponsored hysteria for budget cutting that pays no regard to the consequences.”

Mica attempts to make up for an estimated $2 trillion infrastructure need by rooting out waste and inefficiencies in the system. No one can argue with his desire to maximize efficiency, but that is no replacement for adequate funding. He wants to improve the successful TIFIA loan program and work to make other programs like Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing more successful. He writes:

The committee hopes to consolidate more than 100 federal surface transportation programs. Over the past 50 years, dozens of new programs have been created to address issues beyond the original programmatic goals. We are examining every program to determine its viability. By consolidating duplicative programs and eliminating ones not in the national interest, we can reduce the Transportation Department’s bureaucracy and better utilize our existing resources.

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More on the T&I Stakeholders Meetings: The Advocates Edition

Editor’s note: These are the highlights from this week’s hearings on the upcoming transportation bill, where people made the case to Congress for sustainable transportation options. I’ll follow up with the Bad and the Ugly, like those who want to kick transit out of the Highway Trust Fund.

The stakeholder hearings in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week started with impassioned pleas to preserve transit funding, as well as some recommendations for how to make it work better.

Larry Hanley of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Photo: ATU

Bill Millar of APTA struck a moderate note, appealing to some of Republicans’ favorite themes: high gas prices, streamlining to reduce waste and speed up projects, and Ronald Reagan.

Millar gave Reagan credit for his foresight in creating the mass transit account within the Highway Trust Fund – a move some conservatives criticize today – which has provided steady and predictable funding (and underfunding) since 1983. He reminded lawmakers that high gas prices drive people out of their cars and onto transit, meaning that budget cuts and service reductions now have especially disastrous effects.

Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, went right after Millar but took a more combative tone. Recent transit cuts – the deepest since World War Two – are “unconscionable” and further cuts would be “a criminal act against the people of our cities,” he said, threatening people’s ability to get to work in the midst of an economic crisis. Janitors sometimes have to stay in the buildings they clean for hours after their shifts end to wait for the next bus, he said.

The irony, though, is that “service has been cut and fares have been increased at a time when the federal government has spent more money in the last year on transit than any year in history,” he said. Hanley asked for more flexibility in the way transit dollars are spent, pointing out that New York was experiencing painful service cuts while at the same time continuing to build new projects that won’t be operational for years to come. If capital funds were available to help cover gaps in operational spending, he said, that wouldn’t happen.

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Mica Touts Public-Private Northeast Corridor HSR In Grand Central Hearing

The House transportation committee meeting on the balcony of Grand Central Terminal. Photo: __

The House transportation committee meeting on the balcony of Grand Central Terminal. Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

Sitting beneath the famous zodiac mural of Grand Central’s main concourse, with the rumble of commuters and trains in the background, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held its first field hearing of the new session this morning. The topic was the future of high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor.

Chairman John Mica led the committee’s Republicans towards what appears to be their emerging message on high-speed rail: they’re for it, so long as it’s built through public-private partnerships and largely limited to the dense Boston-Washington corridor.

High-speed rail advocates and some Democrats seem to think the re-prioritization of the Northeast Corridor could be a good thing, though other Democrats remain committed to the Obama administration vision of a nationwide network. Disagreements over the proper roles of the public and private sectors, however, were somewhat more partisan and contentious.

The call to prioritize the Northeast Corridor — and therefore to stop spreading high speed rail dollars across the nation — earned support from across the political spectrum in the hearing, perhaps not surprising given the heavy representation of northeastern representatives.

Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster, who chairs the Railroads Subcommittee, called himself a strong rail supporter but attacked the Obama administration’s strategy so far. “There’s no better way to move large numbers of people than passenger rail and high-speed rail,” he said, telling the story of how improved service on Pennsylvania’s Keystone corridor had convinced him to ride the rails instead of driving. But, he continued, Obama “took that stimulus money and spread it too thinly across the nation.” He said that the President’s State of the Union promise to bring high-speed rail to 80 percent of Americans by 2036 was simply unrealistic and that starting on the Northeast Corridor would be smarter.

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