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July 08, 2011

House Transportation Plan Leaves Us Addicted to Oil

Traffic2 Imagine a country where 50% of the roads are in "less than good" condition and one in eight of our bridges is structurally deficient. Only half of citizens have access to public transportation at a time when spiking gas prices are squeezing wallets. Sounds like something from the last century, right? Shockingly, that is the state of America's transportation system right now.

Yet transportation legislation proposed yesterday by House Republicans seems determined to keep our transportation system mired in the last century and leave us addicted to oil.

Unlike previous transportation bills, the six-year transportation authorization from House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Mica (R-FL) is a partisan, tea party-driven proposal that would dramatically reduce spending on our crumbling roads and bridges, rollback critical environmental reviews and under-invest in transportation choices that can reduce our dependence on oil, such as transit, biking and walking.  According to the Federal Highway Administration, such a proposal could cause nearly 500,000 jobs to be lost.

A quick read through the Republican proposal, available here, reveals many elements to be concerned about, including the following provisions:

  • Cutting overall investment in our transportation system by 34%.
  • Rolling back critical elements of the environmental review process.
  • Eliminating dedicated funding for biking and walking infrastructure.
  • Reducing funding for public transit and eliminating critical transit programs.
  • Cutting Amtrak's operating budget by 25% and significantly reducing investment in intercity rail.
  • Focuses road spending on a dramatically smaller set of roadways, jeopardizing a critical tool for cities and metropolitan areas to meet their transportation needs.

The Senate, led by Chairman Boxer of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has an opportunity to propose a transportation bill that will invest in America's infrastructure, put people to work and help reduce our dependence on oil. In May, Chairman Boxer and Senator Inhofe released a set of bipartisan principles for a transportation bill which hold promise.

For the sake of our economy, national security and our environment, it is critical that Congress act on transportation legislation that repairs and maintains the infrastructure we have, prepares us to lead in the 21st century and helps end our dependence on oil. House Republicans haven't gotten the memo. Let's hope the Senate has.

-- Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign

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