Did Team Obama Gut Transit Funds From the Stimulus Package?

Reporting on last week’s stimulus letdown — when a proposal by US Rep. James Oberstar’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for $17 billion in mass transit spending was slashed by the Appropriations Committee, while $30 billion in proposed allocations for roads and bridges remained the same — Grist got word that the then-incoming Obama administration may have had a hand in paring down the transportation package.  

Oberstar’s office says the cuts were the product of the House speaker’s
office, the Senate majority leader, and the Obama transition team. "How
those decisions were made, I don’t know," Jim Berard, communications
director for the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told
Grist. "It’s disappointing that our recommendation was not accepted on
the whole, but at the same time we got a good deal for transportation
infrastructure and we want to keep the momentum going for this bill."

Opinion varies on what constitutes "a good deal for transportation infrastructure" at this moment in our nation’s history. (Grist notes that there is some $50 billion in "shovel-ready" transit projects currently in the queue.) But why would a self-professed pro-urban, pro-transit, anti-oil dependence admin pull the plug on the progressive portion of this transportation spending proposal? Why would a speaker who represents downtown San Francisco go along with it?

There is speculation that Obama economic adviser Larry Summers opposed the Oberstar plan, while others think the new admin wants to reevaluate spending formulas in this year’s TEA authorization, allowing an increase in transit funding that could be invested in a more deliberate, effective way — and over a sustained period of time.

Of course, the same care could also be taken before throwing $30 billion at nebulous highway projects

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Oberstar’s Call to “Rebuild America,” and Other Stimulus Notes

|
Today on the Streetsblog Network, we’re featuring a post from The Transport Politic that analyzes Rep. James Oberstar’s recent speech on transportation in the stimulus bill to the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. Oberstar spoke on his own "Rebuild America" proposal: Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN Importantly, unlike Mr. Obama thus far, Mr. Oberstar is […]

Action Alert: Help Rep. Oberstar Support Mass Transit

|
Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn. A lot of Streetsblog Network members are already starting to wind down for the holidays, and we’re all for that. But in Washington, where lawmakers are working on an economic stimulus bill, things are happening that could have major ramifications for many years to come. The Wall Street Journal is reporting […]

House Jobs Bill Mimics the Stimulus: $27.5B for Roads, $8.4B for Transit

|
The House is slated to vote as soon as tomorrow on a job-creation package that includes $27.5 billion for highways and $8.4 billion for transit, according to a transportation committee document obtained by Streetsblog Capitol Hill. House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) (Photo: Bike Portland via Flickr) That funding divide mirrors the spending levels […]

Oberstar Stays Optimistic About New Transport Bill in 2010

|
House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) today renewed his call for action on a new federal infrastructure bill before year’s end, using a hearing on the Obama administration’s stimulus law to urge passage of long-term legislation as well as a second round of short-term investment in roads, bridges, and rail. House transport committee chairman […]

Spending Transportation Stimulus Money Fast vs. Spending it Well

|
How fast is the economic stimulus law’s $48 billion in transportation aid being spent — and is it being spent on the right projects? The relative importance of those two questions made for lively debate in the House transportation committee yesterday. Though $29.4 billion of the transportation stimulus pot has been promised to specific projects, […]