Stimulus Fight Heats Up in Senate and House

On Friday, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its version of an economic recovery package [PDF]. The major line items for transportation don’t differ much from the draft now circulating in the House:

  • $27 billion for formula highway investments.
  • $8.4 billion for formula investments in public transportation.
  • $5.5 billion for competitive grants to state and local governments for surface transportation investments.
  • $1.3 billion for investments in our air transportation system.
  • $1.1 billion for investments in rail transportation.

The transit portion is down from $9 billion in the House version. And the lack of funding for transit operations again sticks out like a sore thumb.

What’s most intriguing here is the $5.5 billion for "competitive grants." Would that money go to expand the Urban Partnership program, which is helping San Francisco to modernize on-street parking and nearly brought congestion pricing to New York City? We’re asking around to pin down an answer.

Meanwhile, in the House, the campaign to bolster the share for transit is intensifying. In addition to efforts by Peter DeFazio to win back $2 billion for transit operations, New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler has introduced an amendment to bump up transit capital investments by $3 billion. It is absolutely critical to call legislators as soon as you can to voice support for both of these amendments. Louise Slaughter, chair of the House Rules Committee — which is set to vote on the amendments tomorrow afternoon — is target number one. House Appropriations Chair David Obey also wields considerable power over the adoption of these measures, and calling your own representative always helps.

The next few days will be crunch time for green transportation advocates, as details get hammered out in both chambers. Let’s not forget, New York and other urbanized states have an uphill climb in the Senate, which gives disproportionate power to rural states. Transit supporters will have to speak loud and clear to get legislation that doesn’t leave green transportation behind.

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