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.
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.
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
“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.