Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Group cites “1,800 interests” jockeying on transport bill

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Almost 1,800 special interest groups of all kinds are trying to influence Congress as it moves to enact a new surface transportation bill, according to a report entitled “The Transportation Lobby,” issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity.

The Center said Wednesday that interest groups employed 2,100 lobbyists and spent an estimated $45 million to lobby lawmakers on transportation in the first half of 2009, comparable to “the amount spent lobbying on climate change.”

The report is being released in two stages on the Center’s website, beginning Wednesday, that will feature an interactive map tracking exactly who's hired the lobbyists nationwide, ranging from cities, counties, and planning agencies to universities, real estate firms, and construction companies.

Signed into law in August 2005, the $244.1 billion Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), the current transportation package, expires Sept. 30, but Congress and the Obama Administration have yet to agree on the next step. A House subcommittee has passed a six-year, $500 billion bill to succeed SAFETEA-LU, but the Senate and the White House are backing just an 18-month extension of current law. 

Among the players in the mix, the Center counted more than 475 U.S. cities and 160 counties in 44 states, more than 55 local development authorities nationwide, at least 65 private real estate development companies, and at least 95 transit agencies, 25 metropolitan and regional planning organizations, a dozen individual states, and the national lobbying associations for all three groups.

Also in the mix: more than 75 road and auto organizations, from highway builders and car manufacturers to interstate coalitions andtrucking interests; at least 65 construction and engineering groups, from cement and steel makers to domestic and foreign-owned builders; and more than 45 rail organizations, 50 shipping companies and ports, and 45 additional transportation-centric outfits, from bicycle coalitions to research groups.