Did Team Obama Gut Transit Funds From the Stimulus Package?

Reporting on last week’s stimulus letdown
— when a proposal by US Rep. James Oberstar’s Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee for $17 billion in mass transit spending was
slashed by the Appropriations Committee, while $30 billion in proposed
allocations for roads and bridges remained the same — Grist got word that the then-incoming Obama administration may have had a hand in paring down the transportation package.  

Oberstar’s office says the cuts were the product of the House speaker’s
office, the Senate majority leader, and the Obama transition team. "How
those decisions were made, I don’t know," Jim Berard, communications
director for the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told
Grist. "It’s disappointing that our recommendation was not accepted on
the whole, but at the same time we got a good deal for transportation
infrastructure and we want to keep the momentum going for this bill."

Opinion
varies on what constitutes "a good deal for transportation
infrastructure" at this moment in our nation’s history. (Grist notes
that there is some $50 billion in "shovel-ready" transit projects
currently in the queue.) But why would a self-professed pro-urban,
pro-transit, anti-oil dependence admin pull the plug on the progressive
portion of this transportation spending proposal? Why would a speaker
who represents downtown San Francisco go along with it?

There
is speculation that Obama economic adviser Larry Summers opposed the
Oberstar plan, while others think the new admin wants to reevaluate
spending formulas in this year’s TEA authorization, allowing an
increase in transit funding that could be invested in a more
deliberate, effective way — and over a sustained period of time.

Of course, the same care could also be taken before throwing $30 billion at nebulous highway projects.

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