U.S. Transportation bill update

More than 1,000 days after the last transportation bill expired, Congress finally voted to approve a new transportation bill late last week. Unfortunately for those hoping for a bold step into the future, this bill represents a definite step backwards.

We’re writing to you today to let you know what’s in this bill and to thank you for your tireless support. Together we’ve sent thousands of emails to Congress, made hundreds of phone calls, and recruited numerous friends to the cause.

Make no mistake, you made a tremendous difference in the national debate on transportation priorities. You helped turn the Senate’s version of the transportation bill into something we could be proud of and defeated the House’s disastrous proposal to end all dedicated funding for public transit. At the last possible moment, election-year politics and backroom maneuvering intervened to thwart progress. But the movement for transportation investments that support strong local communities and vibrant places has only just begun.

So what’s in the bill?

This final negotiated bill has been called a “compromise” between the House of Representatives’ version and the Senate’s. In reality, it’s a substantial capitulation in the face of threats by the House to include provisions with no relevance to transportation.

As a result of this “compromise,” the bill cuts funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure, dedicates zero dollars for road and bridge repair, shifts much control of transportation projects away from local leaders, eliminates “complete street” provisions, and cuts funds to existing transit services.

There are a few positives, though:

Together we saved the Cardin-Cochran provision to provide grants to local communities to make their streets safer for walking or biking. A new grant program will fund community-led planning for neighborhood revitalization around transit lines. And a major increase in federally backed loans could help regions that raise their own transportation funds stretch them farther and build out ambitious transit plans faster.

The debate will now move to the states where many decisions will be made about how to spend this funding. And your voice will be needed more than ever to make sure that money reflects the priorities of local residents — seniors trying to get to the doctor, families struggling to make ends meet and trying to get to their job, kids simply trying to cross the street to get to school.

And because this bill is only 27 months long – less time than it took to draft and pass it – the battle for the next one begins in no time at all.

Thank you again for all your support. Continue following along at Transportation for America’s blog, where we’ll be explaining more about the details of the bill in the coming few days and weeks.

Thank you again,

Alex Dodds
Online Communications Manager
Smart Growth America