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06/22/2009 12:57 PM     print story email story  

House Transportation Bill Could Redefine U.S. Policy News

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced a blueprint for the federal transportation authorization bill Friday. 

The bill has the potential to shift U.S. transportation policy away from car dependency and takes strong steps in that direction by committing $100 billion toward transit, authorizing $50 billion for high-speed rail, and making it easier for metropolitan areas to direct funds to cleaner transportation projects.

In addition to funding public transportation and rail improvements, the bill makes it easier for cities to fund transit and projects for bicyclists and pedestrians by shifting more authority to Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). The bill also sets aside $50 billion for cities to reduce congestion by expanding and improving transit.

“Letting cities determine how they spend their transportation money is a good thing,” Rob McCulloch, Transportation Advocate for Environment America said. “Most mayors and MPOs understand that transit and cleaner transportation options are better at keeping people moving and take cars off the road. Plus, transit and rail produce only a third of the global warming pollution of comparable car travel.”

While the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) strives to lessen environmental impacts and ties transportation improvements to reducing global warming pollution, the bill does not set specific pollution or oil-consumption reduction targets. The transportation sector accounts for a third of U.S. global warming pollution and 70% of domestic oil consumption. 

Legislation introduced recently in the House and Senate sets national transportation objectives to include reducing transportation-generated carbon dioxide 40% by 2030, eliminating exposure to harmful levels of transportation-related air pollution, reducing car vehicle miles traveled by 16% in 20 years, as well as tripling walking, biking, and public transit use in 20 years.

Environment America and a coalition of more than 140 national and regional environmental, public interest, health and business groups are calling for these objectives to be incorporated in the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

“We laud Chairman Oberstar in his efforts to overhaul transportation policy in this blueprint,” McCulloch said. “However, in order to reduce transportation pollution to levels that will help solve global warming, we need a system that prioritizes clean transportation such as transit and rail ahead of new highways.  Environment America is calling on the committee to include transportation objectives that set specific pollution reduction targets and to make cleaner transportation the main way to reach them in order to build a cleaner, safer, stronger America.”

The T&I Committee plans in coming weeks to introduce the full Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), which will determine federal transportation investments for the next six years.

Reader Comments (1)

Hasan A.

Date Posted:
06/24/09 04:10 PM

Its good to see that there may be more funding for public transportation. Even though I have a car, I take the bus frequently to work so I can limit my fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. I currently intern at a company called TransLoc ( which creates interactive live bus maps. TransLoc helps me and many others take the bus since we can now see exactly where the bus is. I also don't have to pay for gas anymore.

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