House GOP Won’t Let Transit-Oriented Development Get Federal TIFIA Loans

House Republicans introduced a six-year transportation bill this week, and while it’s not the utter disaster that past GOP proposals have been, advocates for smarter federal transportation policy are playing defense. Today, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee marked up the new bill. About 150 amendments were introduced, according to Transportation for America. All but a few were withdrawn before a vote.

Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland. Photo: Wikipedia
Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland sponsored a bill to extend subsidized loans to TOD projects, but the House GOP won’t have it. Photo: Wikipedia

One of the amendments that didn’t make it would have allowed cities and states to received financing for transit-oriented development projects from the federal TIFIA loan program. It was introduced by Representative Donna Edwards of Maryland. (Transportation for America has more about the amendment.)

Keep in mind that transit-oriented development saves public money by making the most of transit investments and cutting down on total infrastructure costs.

Edwards’ amendment was quickly withdrawn during today’s hearing when Committee Chair Bill Shuster issued an objection, saying transit-oriented development isn’t a “federal concern.” TIFIA loans will remain mostly the domain of highway projects.

Among the very expensive and highly dubious road projects currently receiving TIFIA financing is Ohio’s $1.2 billion Portsmouth Bypass, a 16-mile highway segment skirting a town of 20,000. Is that a federal concern?

Transit-oriented development yields more efficient use of infrastructure resources, cleaner air, and better access to opportunity. If cutting a few minutes off some truck trips can be classified as a federal concern, why not these benefits too? Freezing these projects out of a federal financing program is bad policy — and will probably end up costing America in the long run.

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