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More Responses to Mica Transpo Bill: Lots of People Think It’s a Rotten Idea

1:45 PM EDT on July 8, 2011

In the 24 hours since Rep. John Mica has unveiled his proposal for the next six years of transportation policy and funding, my inbox has been flooded with responses from advocates, lawmakers, policy wonks, and everyone in between, giving their perspective on the bill's potential impacts. I posted some yesterday, but they just keep a-comin'.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), chair of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee of the Commerce Committee and a member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works: "Repairing and improving infrastructure is a proven way to create jobs and reinvigorate the economy, yet Republicans want to slash funding, let our roads and bridges fall into a state of further disrepair and take more jobs away from workers. In New Jersey transportation is the lifeblood of our economy and we cannot afford to be stuck in more traffic or let our aging infrastructure degrade any further. I will fight this plan and work in the Senate for a stronger investment so that New Jersey and states across the country can use transportation projects to create jobs, ease commutes, boost the economy and modernize our infrastructure.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (via Twitter): “Rep. Mica plan to cut infrastructure is job-killing, future-suffocating, pessimistic vision of US as ‘can’t do’ nation.”

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO: "It is astonishing and unconscionable that the House Republican leadership would push a surface transportation re-authorization bill that would gut current infrastructure investment by a third and obliterate over half a million jobs in the next year alone... It defies imagination that the Republican leadership and Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would turn their backs on the needs of our country and pretend it is good government."

Janet Kavinoky, executive director of transportation and infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "It is clear the Committee has been constrained by the House-passed budget as the investment levels are unacceptable. Cuts will destroy – rather than support — existing jobs and will not enable creation of the additional jobs needed to put the 16.3% of unemployed workers in the construction industry back to work."

Barbara McCann, executive director of the National Complete Streets Coalition: “Representative Mica’s proposal ignores the millions of Americans who are now using the nation’s highways – by foot, bicycle and bus. By failing to include a complete streets provision, the bill would allow states to continue to build multi-lane roads through communities where pedestrians are left to tramp through the grass, bus riders are forced to run across dangerous intersections, and bicycle riders have nowhere to go. In addition, the proposal would eliminate the very modest dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, claiming these are ‘non-highway’ or ‘non-transportation’ activities. In fact, bicycling and walking make up 12 percent of the nation’s trips. Add in those getting on and off public transportation, and it turns out a good portion of the nation’s so-called ‘highway’ travel is make up of people who are not in private automobiles. Unfortunately, safety statistics bear this out: 67 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the last ten years took place on federal-aid roads.”

Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union: “Slashing federal transportation spending by a third will cause transit systems to shift what little local operations funding they have to rehabilitate aging vehicles and equipment, triggering the elimination of essential bus routes across the country… In addition, the Mica cuts will cause cash-strapped transit systems to further put off new equipment purchases and deferred maintenance, causing significant safety issues. Heavy duty large buses, which can be replaced every 12 years, are already running 14-16 years.  Thirty-five percent of all rail assets of the nation’s seven largest rail transit agencies are already in subpar condition. The Mica bill will push those numbers much higher, to dangerous levels.”

John Robert Smith, president and CEO of Reconnecting America: “As a former elected official myself, I certainly understand the challenges [Mica] faces in moving this legislation forward during tough financial times. But these are exactly the times in which we must invest in our infrastructure - it is the path we will travel to job creation. A 30% cut in the federal investment in public transportation, roads, and bridges is in direct contradiction to the findings of numerous studies that our infrastructure is in dire need of repair and rehabilitation... The Federal Transit Administration estimates that nearly $80 billion is needed to bring [our public transportation] systems into a state of good repair. Yet, under this proposal they will only fall further behind.”

Emil Frankel, director of the National Transportation Policy Center at the Bipartisan Policy Center: “While NTPP has consistently recognized the need for greater investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure, scarce resources are also a reality in the current fiscal environment, and we have to do better with the resources that we have. Thus, whether the new surface transportation bill is to be a full six years in length or shorter, as some have suggested, it should contain significant and necessary reforms, in order to insure that we are making wise investments with constrained resources… To that end, it is important that the new bill articulate a clear set of national goals for surface transportation policy.”

Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the Eno Transportation Foundation: “This proposal does not articulate a clear set of national goals for surface transportation policy. These goals should be clearly articulated in the full bill when it is released, as this is the most essential thing for the next transportation bill to do. The proposal also fails to emphasize preservation in any specific way. With limited resources available at all levels of government, preservation of existing essential transportation assets should be a priority.”

William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association: “With high gas prices and a slow economy, now is not the time to implement cuts of more than 30 percent in public transportation funding. This lack of investment in the nation’s public transportation infrastructure will have a chilling effect on our country’s ability to create jobs and provide access to jobs necessary to move the economy forward. One dollar invested in our public transportation infrastructure generates four dollars in economic return. This proposal would severely underfund critical elements of the federal transit program.  The funding will not permit public transit agencies to address the costs of getting the existing systems to a state of good repair, which the U.S. DOT has estimated as a one-time cost of $78 billion, let alone meet the growing demand for public transportation services in the United States. It will severely curtail the purchase of new buses and trains, reduce critical maintenance and safety programs, and could cut operating funds for transit systems in small communities and rural areas.”

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