Federal Transportation Bill Includes America Fast Forward Provisions

Congressman John Mica and Senator Barbara Boxer at the February 2011 "local hearing" on the federal transportation bill held in Los Angeles. The two are surrounded by Congressional leaders and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Photo: Darrell Clarke

Amidst all of the negative news about the federal transportation bill recently agreed to by members of the House of Representatives and Senate agreed to, there is a silver lining.  The “America Fast Forward” provisions, a group of changes and funding increases that will help cities expand their rail transit systems, survived the conference committee.  Thus, instead of angry headlines such as those that have crowded the pages of Streetsblog Capitol Hill, the Los Angeles Times proclaims, “Congress Set to O.K. Bill That Would Help Fund L.A. Transit Projects.”

Antonio Villaraigosa, in his roles as Mayor of Los Angeles, Chair of the Conference of Mayors and Chair of the Metro Board of Directors, pushed and pushed for America Fast Forward, expending much of his political capitol but making a national name for himself as a leader on transportation.  The movement began as an effort to speed up local transit projects funded by the 2008 Measure R transit tax before Villaraigosa took it national.

Specifically, America Fast Forward would increase the amount of money in a federal loan program designed to help fund new transit projects that have a high amount of local funding, enable the USDOT to make loans to related projects at the same time, and authorize USDOT to make long-term funding commitments to help transit agencies make long-term plans that better reflect reality.

“With America Fast Forward in place, cities across America will be able to speed up the construction of locally funded road and rail projects and get our economy moving again,” explains Villaraigosa in a statement.  ”Here in Los Angeles, this agreement on the Surface Transportation reauthorization and America Fast Forward will mean more jobs for Angelenos and will make it possible for us to accelerate our vision of a 21st century transportation network.”

So here’s a simple question to Streetsblog readers: are the America Fast Forward gains enough for you to support the federal transportation bill?  As Los Angeles continues to build out its rail transit system, it can use all the help it can get.  Outside of the Bus Riders Union, it’s hard to find anyone opposed to America Fast Forward locally.  However, it’s easy to find people shocked by cuts to bicycle and pedestrian funding in the federal transportation bill.

Complete Streets Provision Elminated from Transpo Bill,”Rails to Trails Group: Federal Transpo. Bill Bad for America,” and today’s “Advocates: Transpo. Bill Ignores Challenges of 21st Century“…these are just a fraction of the recent headlines on Streetsblog Capitol Hill this week.  Despite assurances from Senator Barbara Boxer, who led the negotiations from the Senate side of the aisle that bicycle and pedestrian funding is secured, advocates for safe walking, biking and “people powered transportation” are organizing against the bill.

Nationally, transit advocates are cool on the bill.  On one hand, transit funding doesn’t receive any major cuts.  On the other hand, it doesn’t receive any additional funding at a time when more and more people are choosing transit and car culture is losing its cool with America’s youth.

So do the gains of America Fast Forward balance out all the bad news?  Where do you stand on the transportation bill?  Leave you thoughts in the comments section.