Senate’s $50 Billion Highway Giveaway Nearly Dead

The Inhofe/Boxer stimulus bill amendment for $50 billion in
additional infrastructure funds appears to be dead, with official word
expected soon from Senator Harry Reid’s office. Sources close to the
negotiations say that at least five Democratic Senators were not going
to support the amendment if transit and water provisions weren’t
improved, while Senate Republicans vowed to obstruct such improvements.
 

Specifically, the Dems wouldn’t support the amendment unless at least two significant criteria were met:

  • Allocating a minimum of 30 percent of the total to clean water and
    public transportation/passenger rail.  Of the total funds allocated to
    highways and bridges, 10 percent would have to be set aside for
    Transportation Enhancements, i.e. bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
  • Giving
    the Secretary of Transportation discretion to redirect funds from
    states that were not adhering to certain criteria to states that were
    adhering to them. The criteria Dems and enviros wanted to see, for
    example, would not have allowed states to receive funds by showing that
    a project improves vehicular Level of Service.

In other stimulus news, Senator Kit Bond’s amendments,
which would have funneled billions to highway spending at the expense
of rail and other modes, are not expected to reach the floor either.

With a compromise amendment brokered by moderates Susan Collins and Ben Nelson apparently gaining bi-partisan support,
the full Senate may vote on the bill as soon as tomorrow. One likely
casualty: the $5.5 billion fund set aside for U.S. DOT to distribute at
its discretion, which we’re told will either be eliminated or
substantially cut under the Collins/Nelson amendment.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

New Legislation Seeks to Lower Voter Threshold for Transit Tax Approval

|
A series of amendments proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) to SB 791 would lower the threshold of voter approval for new taxes to fund transportation improvements from 67% to 50%. “SB 791 empowers local communities to meet their local transportation needs, improve regional mobility, and invest in high-priority, job-creating infrastructure improvements,” said Sen. […]

Is California Ready to Raise Its Vehicle License Fee?

|
Every state has its “third rail” that politicians are afraid to touch. When I began my advocacy career in New Jersey in 2004, politicians were deathly afraid of raising any tax after Democratic Governor Jim Florio was ousted in the solidly blue state because of tax increases he pushed through. Florio had been defeated over […]