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GOP Appropriations Bill Would Slash Transit Funding and Key Safety Policies

Here's what's on the chopping block — and why advocates are staying optimistic.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger. Photo: Gage Skidmore, CC

Advocates are calling on the Senate to reject GOP attempts to strip critical safety policies and sustainable transportation dollars from an infrastructure bill their own party helped pass just two years ago.

As part of a recently-passed appropriations bill that would fund the US government through fiscal year 2024, House Republicans on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee proposed a nearly two-thirds cut to Amtrak’s budget, while slashing 82 percent of funding for the Capital Investment Grants program, which was provides funding for major transit projects — potentially jeopardizing the long-overdue overhaul of the Gateway tunnel system, which was awarded the largest grant in federal transportation grant in history just last week.

The bill would also provide “no funds for the failed California High Speed Rail project,” as the committee’s list of bill highlights bluntly noted. The RAISE grant program, which has been applauded for awarding billions to active and shared transportation projects in disadvantaged communities across America, would also bleed about $800 million.

Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson defended the moves as necessary to tame inflation and trim the national debt, arguing that policymakers “have to do our jobs to rein in unnecessary federal spending.” Meanwhile, House Transportation and Infrastructure committee ranking member Rick Larsen (D-Wa.) said America couldn’t afford not to spend on green modes, calling the Republican’s legislation an “extreme bill [that] would tie the Department of Transportation’s hands in addressing the climate crisis.”

“This must not become law,” he added.

Fiscal austerity alone also can’t justify the veritable pharmacy’s worth of poison pills that were inserted into the bill in the week before its passage, the “sheer volume” of which Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen called “an overreach and an emergency.”

The104 eleventh-hour amendments include a provision that would explicitly prohibit compliance with the DOT’s new Equity Action Plan, and another that would stop the agency from requiring large commercial trucks to be equipped with speed limiters and inward-facing cameras to monitor driver distraction and drowsiness.

Perhaps most outrageously, federal transportation officials under the GOP proposals would be barred from requiring lower transportation agencies to “establish carbon dioxide reduction targets and a method for measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation,” a policy which Beth Osborne of Transportation for America once called “our top ask for administrative action.” And while some of those riders may have been negotiated out at the last minute, even the attempt to shove them down Americans’ throats sets a disturbing tone, advocates said.

“We cannot allow policy that harms regular people, threatens our rights, hurts the environment, and does any number of other terrible things to ride-along with the appropriations package,” Gilbert added. “We must put out this five-alarm fire by rejecting the inclusion of poison pills.”

With the bill headed to the Democrat-controlled Senate, many advocates are optimistic that the bill is doomed to fail, but some are still urging Americans to tell Senate Appropriations Committee chair Brain Schatz (D-Hawaii) that safe and sustainable transportation can’t become a bargaining chip.

“At this crucial juncture for building essential public transit infrastructure, providing jobs, and fighting the climate crisis, we cannot let the Republicans take back billions of dollars that Congress previously approved overwhelmingly for this task,” said LeeAnn Hall, director of the National Campaign for Justice.

The post GOP Appropriations Bill Would Slash Transit Funding and Key Safety Policies appeared first on Streetsblog USA.

The post GOP Appropriations Bill Would Slash Transit Funding and Key Safety Policies appeared first on Streetsblog New York City.

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