Mmmm, This ‘Pork’ Sounds Tasty: Senators Serve Up Transit Aid

One of Washington’s most enduring truisms is that "pork" is in the eye of the beholder. Self-styled anti-earmark crusaders are fond of bashing clean transportation projects as improper uses of taxpayer money, but most of them recognize privately that rail, bus, and bike investments are a good thing.

090108_bond_raju.jpgHe may not like to admit it, but Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) believes in supporting transit. (Photo: Politico)

A perfect example of this principle at work can be found in the Senate’s transportation spending bill for 2010.

The fiscally hawkish Citizens Against Government Waste blasted the bill today for containing 47 percent more "pork" than its counterpart last year — but the group also managed to catch several conservatives showing their pro-transit stripes.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who has sought to remove her state entirely from the national road-funding system, got $150 million for two Houston light rail projects. Utah’s two GOP senators, Orrin Hatch and Robert Bennett, snagged $180 million for two rail projects in their state.

Even staunch highway backers such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) got into the spirit. McConnell won $1 million for bus service at Western Kentucky University, while Shelby secured $2 million for buses for senior citizens across his state.

But the most surprising fan of clean transport "pork" is Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), a staunch ally of the highway lobby who declared earlier this year that investing in carbon-reducing modes of travel is "not stimulative" to the economy. Turns out Bond got money for quite a few "not stimulative" projects …

  • $1.15 million for a new bus transfer center
  • $2 million for new fuel-efficient buses in Kansas City
  • $1.6 million for the Cape Girardeau Riverwalk Trail
  • $2 million for new bus facilities statewide
  • $1 million for new transit vehicles in Columbia, MO

Such numbers pale in comparison with the funds Bond has lavished on new roads over the course of his career. Still, next time the senator seeks to kill transportation reform such as the "complete streets" bill, his constituents can now remind him that he too enjoys some bites of healthy "pork."

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 […]

The Long, Ugly Road to a Federal Transportation Plan

|
You’ve likely been hearing a lot, on this blog and others, about the coming expiration of the federal transportation bill. Come September 30, Congress has to have a plan in hand to fund the nation’s trains, buses, bikes, bridges and roads — or pass an extension of the 2005 federal bill, locking in the same […]

In Iowa, GOP Candidates Ignore Transportation and Urban Issues

|
With all eyes on today’s Iowa caucuses, it’s worth noting that this year’s vocal crop of GOP candidates has been mostly silent on the subject of transportation and urban issues in general. A common theme across most candidates’ platforms is the elimination of federal programs in favor of state ones, and incentives (read: tax cuts) for […]