House Jobs Bill Mimics the Stimulus: $27.5B for Roads, $8.4B for Transit

The
House is slated to vote as soon as tomorrow on a job-creation package
that includes $27.5 billion for highways and $8.4 billion for transit,
according to a transportation committee document obtained by
Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

422093580_050ae3f4c9.jpgHouse transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) (Photo: Bike Portland via Flickr)

That
funding divide mirrors the spending levels in this winter’s economic
stimulus law, which disappointed transit advocates as well as transport
panel chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), who charged the Obama administration with diverting funding to make room for tax cuts.

Oberstar
"strongly supports" the new House legislation, however, according to a
committee e-mail sent this afternoon which notes that infrastructure
makes up half of the House’s $75 billion jobs bill.

The bill’s $37.3 billion in spending breaks down along the following lines:

Highways:       
$27.5 billion

Transit:           
$8.4 billion

Amtrak:          
$800 million

Airports:         
$500 million

Ship
Const.:     $100 million

Other:            
$11 billion

Total              
$37.3 billion

The $8.4 billion number for transit is less than the $9.7 billion in "ready-to-go" projects identified
by state DOTs, and slightly more than half the size of the $15 billion
in shovel-ready transit spending tallied by the American Public
Transportation Association.

Can transit advocates
successfully boost the bill’s spending levels? The legislation is
moving at lightning speed through the House, where a two-month
extension of the 2005 federal transportation bill is also expected to pass before the chamber adjourns for the holidays.

But
the process may slow in the Senate, where Democrats are still working
to finish a health care deal before January. Only after the health bill
passes are senators scheduled to turn to jobs legislation of their own.

Late Update:
Oberstar spokesman Jim Berard said in an interview that the new jobs
bill’s funding allocation is set "to be very similar to the stimulus
passed earlier this year. Highways and transit money will be handled
through formula grants like we always do, like we did in the Recovery
Act."

That likely means that mayors’ hopes
of getting more local urban input into transportation spending will be
put off until another day, with state DOTs disbursing the lion’s share
of job-creation money. Additionally, talk of more merit-based
infrastructure investment through an expansion of the stimulus law’s
competitive TIGER grant program appears to have fallen by the wayside
as Congress hustles towards adjournment.

Oberstar commented on the new transportation spending during a Capitol press conference this afternoon:

Without this investment,
the Highway Trust Fund will decline, states will not be able to provide their
20 percent match, and we’ll have a regression.  The House acting on this
now assures that states programs will be fully funded, Highway Trust Fund
revenues will be invested, the sustainability of job creation will go
forward, and we will be gaining jobs rather than losing jobs because of what
the House will do in this recovery program.

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