House Transportation Bill Too Extreme for Some Republicans

The House GOP’s transportation bill is legislation only Big Oil can love. By eviscerating dedicated transit funds, killing programs that support safe streets, and linking transportation funding to oil drilling in the Arctic, the bill has managed to alienate everyone from environmental advocates to the ultra-conservative Club for Growth.

Steven LaTourette, an Ohio Republican, said he opposes the House transportation bill as it is currently written. Photo: ##http://blog.cleveland.com/openers/2008/10/large_steve-latourette.jpg##Cleveland.com##

So there’s a chance that House leadership will fail to round up the 218 votes needed to pass this bill. Based on Streetsblog’s initial conversations with House GOP members, the bill could be too anti-transit and too hostile to street safety to pass, even in this extremely partisan political climate.

Streetsblog began reaching out to House GOP members this morning to see where they stand, and already we’re finding representatives who think the current bill is too extreme. One Republican with misgivings is Ohio Rep. Steven LaTourette, who represents rural and suburban areas in the northeast part of the state, east of Cleveland.

LaTourette has been a supporter of common-sense transportation reforms in the House, co-sponsoring national complete streets legislation as well as a bipartisan measure that would have increased flexibility with federal funds for struggling transit agencies.

Through his chief of staff, Dino DiSanto, LaTourette’s office had this to say about the bill:

In its current formation there are lots of things we don’t like about it. If it’s not changed drastically, we’re not going to support it.

What they’re doing to highway funding — removing [Transportation] Enhancements, not allowing more flexibility for transit agencies? There’s no reason [transit agencies] should be able to buy buses but not operate them.

Infrastructure used to be something that was widely popular among both parties, and for some reason over the last few Congresses, they’ve become highly polarized.

Meanwhile, Bob Turner (R-NY), whose district encompasses parts of Queens and Brooklyn, has reservations as well. In a statement, Rep. Turner indicated his disapproval, specifically for the portion of the bill that would eliminate dedicated funding for transit:

Now that the House bill is taking shape, I have concerns about how the funds will eventually be allocated. We cannot underestimate the importance of providing efficient, safe, mass transit, roads, bridges and tunnels to the people who live and commute in New York City. As this bill evolves, I will continue to work with my colleagues both in Congress and New York to find the best approach in meeting our infrastructure needs. However, I will not support any bill that does not allow New York City to sufficiently meet those needs.

Another GOP representative from New York, Peter King, told Crain’s via his spokesperson that he “has serious concerns about this legislation and the impact it will have on mass transit both on Long Island and New York City.”

The House and Senate transportation bill proposals are both expected to go up for votes next week. Streetsblog will be tracking the positions of key House Republicans throughout the week.

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