Friday, June 29, 2012

Pro-passenger rail voices lament transport bill

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Pro-passenger rail and environmental groups Friday lamented the House-Senate compromise on federal transportation funding, citing various examples of punishment or disincentives levied against the mode.

The House on Friday passed the measure 373 to 52, according to the Wall Street Journal. A Senate vote on the $109 billion, two-year package was expected before day’s end.

The Greater Greater Washington website called the resolution "pretty terrible: The transportation bill 'compromise' has many awful provisions, including letting states spend their tiny bit of bike-ped[estrian] money on things like left-turn lanes if they only sit on it long enough, keeps transit funding low, and commuter benefits unequal, and deletes a bipartisan Complete Streets provision."

The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) said train passengers would carry "a resounding sense of disappointment. The compromise bill eliminates the Senate's rail title entirely. The only real provision directed at rail is the extension of a Railroad Grade Crossing set aside, which targets funds at improving and upgrading crossings to eliminate collisions between automobiles and trains. While the Railroad Grade Crossing is a fine program, it's hardly enough for a 27-month extension that will dictate how federal tax dollars are spent through September 2014."

NARP added, 'In general, the Senate gave up environmentally-friendly provisions while the House gave up its Keystone XL pipeline and coal ash provisions as well as some [anti-] Amtrak-related provisions that NARP opposed." Echoing the disappointment on commuter benefits voiced by Greater Greater Washington, NARP noted, "Gone is the Senate provision that would have restored parity between employer-provided parking fees and transit fares."