Urgent Action: Oppose Highway Robbery in Senate Stim Bill

Stimulus debate continues today in the Senate, where the stale ideas keep on coming. In addition to the $50 billion highway slush fund floated by Senators Boxer and Inhofe
(no vote on that one yet), Missouri’s Kit Bond plans to offer two
amendments that would rob from transit, rail, and green transportation
to pay for highways.

These are the two amendments from Bond:

  • One strips all $2 billion set aside for high speed rail and redirects it to highway funds.
  • The other takes $5.5 billion from "competitive grants" for transportation and gives it to highways.

How
quickly the days of $4/gallon gas are forgotten. It goes without saying
that de-funding high-speed rail and shoveling extra billions to
unaccountable state DOTs, most of which have a penchant for expanding
highway capacity, is exactly what we don’t need right now. (Bond should be trying to locate billions for transit operations instead: His
constituents in St. Louis are bracing for the nation’s most severe transit cuts.)

What’s
more, the $5.5 billion for competitive grants could serve as an early
litmus test for Ray LaHood’s Department of Transportation. The funds
are not set aside for a specific mode — they could be spent on
transit, roads, aviation, or ports. But if the criteria for winning the
grants include traffic mitigation or emissions reduction, this pot of
money could spur innovative transportation reforms, much like the Urban
Partnership program under Mary Peters. Because the bill leaves it
open-ended, we don’t know yet how LaHood will use the money, and if
Bond’s amendment passes, we’ll never find out.

To oppose
backwards transportation policy that deepens oil dependence, worsens
quality of life, and flies in the face of sustainability goals, call
the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urge your Senator to vote
no on Bond’s amendments and the Inhofe/Boxer amendment. You can also
use action alerts from Transportation for America and Environmental Defense to get the message out. Keep us posted about those phone calls in the comments — we’ll have more updates throughout the day.

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