Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stimulus Update

From Streetsblog, here's an update on the infrastructure portion of the proposed federal stimulus package:

The Inhofe/Boxer stimulus bill amendment for $50 billion in additional infrastructure funds appears to be dead, with official word expected soon from Senator Harry Reid's office. Sources close to the negotiations say that at least five Democratic Senators were not going to support the amendment if transit and water provisions weren't improved, while Senate Republicans vowed to obstruct such improvements.

Specifically, the Dems wouldn't support the amendment unless at least two significant criteria were met:

  • Allocating a minimum of 30 percent of the total to clean water and public transportation/passenger rail. Of the total funds allocated to highways and bridges, 10 percent would have to be set aside for Transportation Enhancements, i.e. bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
  • Giving the Secretary of Transportation discretion to redirect funds from states that were not adhering to certain criteria to states that were adhering to them. The criteria Dems and enviros wanted to see, for example, would not have allowed states to receive funds by showing that a project improves vehicular Level of Service.

In other stimulus news, Senator Kit Bond's amendments, which would have funneled billions to highway spending at the expense of rail and other modes, are not expected to reach the floor either.

This is good news. While we here at WalkBikeCT have nothing against highways, we don't believe in spending massive amounts of taxpayer money expanding them when so many other parts of our infrastructure are crumbling or otherwise underfunded and consequently under-performing.

A good transportation system is a balanced one. Expanding highways when bridges are collasping and so many towns can't afford to properly build and maintain their sidewalk networks is ludicrous. It's good to see that the dems in congress seem to be waking up to the fact that highway construction is not a panacea for all our our transportation and economic problems.

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