The transportation authorization proposal introduced by House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica would provide $230 billion over six years – about a 30% cut from current authorized funding levels. The plan keeps the current 80/20 split between highways and transit funding, consolidates some programs and eliminates others. It also eliminates mandated spending on some programs, while preserving state’s rights to fund those programs if they wish.
Reaction from interest groups ranged from mixed to negative:
U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “We commend Chairman Mica on his new direction for surface transportation and the outline of changes that can deliver a more effective and efficient federal transportation program. We agree with the Chairman that ‘the American people want the federal government to ensure their hard-earned tax dollars are wisely and effectively invested in improvements for the nation’s infrastructure. . . .Unfortunately, while his legislation tracks the Chamber’s recommendations for reauthorization, it does not in terms of funding. It is clear the Committee has been constrained by the House-passed budget as the investment levels are unacceptable. Cuts will destroy – rather than support — existing jobs and will not enable creation of the additional jobs needed to put the 16.3% of unemployed workers in the construction industry back to work.”
AASHTO [State DOTs]: “Chairman Mica’s bill is the first step in the process to pass a new long-term surface transportation bill that is desperately needed to maintain our national transportation system. This proposed legislation features many reforms that state departments of transportation support including: consolidation of federal transportation programs resulting in greater focus on our core mission; strategies that will accelerate project delivery so states can deliver critical transportation projects faster; tools to leverage transportation funds so states can generate more value from public infrastructure investments; and distribution of nearly all federal highway funding by formula to state DOTs. States will work with Congress to assure that each state receives an equitable share of funding.”
APTA [transit agencies] “commends the leadership of Chairman John Mica and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for moving forward with developing a six-year, multi-modal surface transportation authorization bill. The Chairman’s efforts to expand project financing, streamline project delivery, and simplify federal grant programs are important components of the proposal. However, the bill’s investment levels, which are severely limited under the House-passed budget resolution and its rules, are woefully short of what is required to address the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure investment needs. . . .With high gas prices and a slow economy, now is not the time to implement cuts of more than 30 percent in public transportation funding. This lack of investment in the nation’s public transportation infrastructure will have a chilling effect on our country’s ability to create jobs and provide access to jobs necessary to move the economy forward. One dollar invested in our public transportation infrastructure generates four dollars in economic return. . . .“This proposal would severely underfund critical elements of the federal transit program.
Associated General Contractors of America (AGC): “Chairman Mica is to be commended for what he proposes in the multi-year transportation reauthorization proposal called A New Direction. His bill would consolidate duplicative programs, streamline projects and provide states with needed flexibility to address their transportation priorities. . . .These reforms will go a long way in helping restore Americans’ confidence in the federal transportation program and their willingness to pay for using what remains the world’s most efficient transportation network. . . .It is, however, disappointing that the Committee does not address the revenue shortfall that threatens to undermine the long-term viability of our transportation system. Economic growth will be hampered and our infrastructure deficit will continue to grow should the significant maintenance and repair cuts outlined in this bill be enacted. Neglecting our infrastructure – instead of addressing out of control entitlement spending – will only force taxpayers to pay more later since it is more expensive to fix broken infrastructure than it is to properly maintain it.”
The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC): “We very much like the programmatic reforms in the bill but we need to find more funding to address the nation’s critical transportation needs.”
Building America’s Future: “We appreciate many of the proposed policy reforms that were announced today but we are disappointed by the funding level. We applaud the fact that Chairman Mica recognizes states and cities want certainty when it comes to long-term transportation funding but this proposal shows a significant cut from current funding levels.”
BPC’s National Transportation Policy Center (NTPP) “welcomes the proposal released by Chairman Mica today. It marks an important and essential first step in advancing the discussion about the key elements of a new surface transportation authorization bill. The principles of the bill that he proposed today capture the importance of undertaking reforms to our current programmatic framework, even in the context of constrained resources. While NTPP has consistently recognized the need for greater investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure, scarce resources are also a reality in the current fiscal environment, and we have to do better with the resources that we have. Thus, whether the new surface transportation bill is to be a full six years in length or shorter, as some have suggested, it should contain significant and necessary reforms, in order to insure that we are making wise investments with constrained resources.”
The League of American Bicyclists: “Whether the next transportation bill is $200 billion or $400 billion is frankly less important than what is done with that kind of investment,” said Clarke. “Mica’s ‘New Direction’ proposal in fact turns the clock back on decades of hard-fought progress towards a truly multi-modal transportation system that offers American’s real choices. Even with a ‘small’ bill, returning to a 1950’s highways-only mentality flies in the face of fiscal responsibility by guaranteeing more single occupant vehicle travel on ever more congested and dangerous highways that we can’t even afford to maintain, let alone build.”
The National Complete Streets Coalition: “Representative Mica’s proposal ignores the millions of Americans who are now using the nation’s highways – by foot, bicycle and bus. By failing to include a complete streets provision, the bill would allow states to continue to build multi-lane roads through communities where pedestrians are left to tramp through the grass, bus riders are forced to run across dangerous intersections, and bicycle riders have nowhere to go. In addition, the proposal would eliminate the very modest dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, claiming these are ‘non-highway’ or ‘non-transportation’ activities. In fact, bicycling and walking make up 12 percent of the nation’s trips. Add in those getting on and off public transportation, and it turns out a good portion of the nation’s so-called ‘highway’ travel is make up of people who are not in private automobiles. Unfortunately, safety statistics bear this out: 67 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the last ten years took place on federal-aid roads.”
Reconnecting America President and CEO John Robert Smith: “I certainly understand the challenges [Rep. Mica] faces in moving this legislation forward during tough financial times. But these are exactly the times in which we must invest in our infrastructure – it is the path we will travel to job creation. . . .A 30% cut in the federal investment in public transportation, roads, and bridges is in direct contradiction to the findings of numerous studies that our infrastructure is in dire need of repair and rehabilitation. Providing safe and reliable transportation infrastructure is an investment in our children’s future – and we cannot afford to wait any longer. . . .Quality, reliable public transportation systems are the anchors that help many communities thrive, whether they are in rural, suburban, or urban areas. The Federal Transit Administration estimates that nearly $80 billion is needed to bring these systems into a state of good repair. Yet, under this proposal they will only fall further behind.