Economic Recovery Bill: Sign On Letter to Congress

November 12, 2008 at 10:54 pm | Posted in Bike News, Get Involved | 1 Comment
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LACBC has signed on, along with hundreds of coalition partners, a national letter to Congress to prioritize green transportation infrastructure, including bike/pedestrian projects, in its economic stimulus package. This is a important follow-up to our last actions regarding this issue.

 

Below is the text of this letter:

 

 

Dear Member of Congress:

The Transportation For America Coalition (www.t4america.org) represents a broad range of national and local organizations focused on the importance of  modernizing and maintaining our national transportation infrastructure.  We believe that investments in transportation are critical to the health of the national economy and essential for reducing our oil dependence.

Infrastructure financing at all levels of government is in a crisis mode. State and local governments face funding challenges not previously witnessed as capital markets have seized, while debt on bonding and loan agreements continues to escalate.  Meanwhile, the collapse of financial arrangements with firms such as AIG leave transportation agencies exposed to huge losses.

Federal revenues for transportation, already lagging behing inflation, have been further reduced by rising gasoline costs and a corresponding drop in consumption. Today we urgently need to build the infrastructure for a clean-energy economy with a much reduced dependency on oil. Soaring gas prices made our vulnerability clear: Americans flocked to public transportation or took to their bicycles only to find the transit systems underfinanced and the roads dangerous and inhospitable. Half of our citizens in metro areas found they had no transit options at all.

Congress must act now to chart a new, more economically sustainable path for infrastructure investments.  America is running on empty and Americans are ready for a new direction.

Given the context of these challenges to our economy and the infrastructure that supports it, the Transportation for America Coalition believes Congress should viewtransportation investment as a core strategy for economic recovery. This could put millions of Americans to work in the near term, while building the cutting-edge transportation networks needed for the 21st century economy. However, to succeed, we must follow five core principles for transportation investment in the modern era:

  • BUILD TO COMPETE. We must catch and pass competitors in China and Europe, who are far ahead in building comprehensive, resilient and sustainable transportation systems, by modernizing and expanding our rail and transit networks to reduce oil dependence, connect metro regions that are the engines of the modern
    economy and improve freight connections.
  • INVEST FOR A CLEAN, GREEN RECOVERY. Our nation’s clean-energy future will require cleaner vehicles and new fuels, but it also must include support for the cleanest forms of transportation – modern public transit, walking and biking – and for energy-efficient, sustainable development.
  • FIX IT FIRST. Before building new roads, that will themselves have to be maintained, we should restore our crumbling highways, bridges and transit systems and protect the investments we have made in existing communities.
  • STOP WASTEFUL SPENDING. Although there are many transportation projects in the “pipeline”, we must reevaluate them to eliminate wasteful spending on projects with little economic return, especially any that could deepen, rather than lessen, Americans’ dependence on oil and gasoline.
  • SAVE AMERICANS MONEY. We must provide more travel options that are cheap and efficient, while helping people to avoid high gas costs and traffic congestion, so that Americans can spend their money and time in economically productive ways. We also can save taxpayer dollars by asking the private developers who reap real estate rewards from new rail stations and transit lines to contribute toward these services.

Investing according to these principles will pay enormous dividends for the economy and American households in both the near and long term. For maximum effect as a stimulus, infrastructure spending for transportation should be directed toward high-impact investments:

Fixing What’s Broken: Highway Repair and Maintenance
To keep our economy functioning smoothly, we need to maintain our existing infrastructure in good repair. These projects typically do not require complex and expensive impact analysis or purchase of right-of-way, and so most funds go directly toward putting people to work. An economic recovery bill should send clear direction to states that new money is to be prioritized for repair and preservation needs of the transportation system, and to investments that connect transportation networks, improve safety and provide least cost transportation options like bicycling and walking.

  • $18 billion to fix crumbling bridges and preserve the national highway systems to help erase the enormous backlog of maintenance and build ready-to-go transportation projects.
  • Language requiring state DOTs and Transit Agencies to report back to Congress on how economic stimulus funds were spent.

Preserving Existing Transit Jobs and Service
Agencies nationwide are faced with severe cutbacks as costs rise and local tax revenues fall, forcing cuts in service even as ridership surges.  Preserving service will save transit jobs and will make sure workers who depend on it will be able to get to their jobs. Preserving current transit jobs is as important as investment in new service to create additional economic activity and should be included in an economic recovery bill.

  • $1.6 billion in energy assistance operating grants to transit operators to preserve current jobs in transit and ensure that affordable travel options remain for those currently served by transit.
  • $8 billion to replace aging buses with new clean energy vehicles, acquire new buses and rail cars to meet the surging demand transit service across the nation,  to perform needed maintenance, and to construct or expand transit facilities using new energy efficient technology, saving money in the long term. (funded through Section 5307)

Creating a Clean, Green Infrastructure
Funds for ready-to-go rail projects that can put people to work and begin building the resilient, 21st-century infrastructure we need to reduce our oil dependence and get people where they need to go.

  • $4.5 billion for Section 5309, Title 49 program to fund new ready to go transit capital investment to expand transit options to more communities and get people building these new systems.
  • $500 million for Amtrak and state intercity rail corridor investments authorized in the recently passed Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act.
  • $1.2 billion for ready to go bicycling and pedestrian facilities that connect transportation networks, improve safety, and provide least cost transportation options.

As Congress considers an economic recovery package, we call on the House and Senate to use this opportunity to chart a new direction for our nation’s infrastructure.   Now is not the time to squander money on wasteful projects; we need to invest in projects that help ordinary Americans reduce their expenses and save money, free them from oil dependence and create long-term jobs that are clean and green. Infrastructure investments as part of an economic recovery package will put people to work quickly by creating  a 21st Century transportation system.

Thank you for your consideration,

SIGNERS

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  1. [...] L.A. County Bike Coalition has their ideas on how to spend the money. And while it makes a lot of sense, I have my own [...]


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