Friday, February 17, 2012

House stalls action on surface transport bill

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Possibly due to any outcry of protest from numerous transport groups—and certainly due in part to defections within Republican House ranks—the House of Representatives has moved to delay consideration of any surface transportation authorization bill until Feb. 27 at the earliest.

The American Public Transportation Association said Thursday, “In delaying consideration of these parts of the bill, the leadership also cancelled the Rules Committee meeting previously scheduled for [Wednesday], where the Rules Committee planned to decide which amendments—including those on dedicated funding for transit and other transit issues—would be considered on the House floor. The House is currently debating the parts of the bill that would raise revenues through expanded oil exploration, and it could also debate parts of the bill related to changing federal pensions to offset transportation spending authorized in the bill.”

Still unresolved is how any bill would fund highway repair and/or expansion alone, even if public transport issues were waved away, per the intent of House bill H.R. 7. Proposals for expanded use of toll roads on portions of the Interstate highway system have caused, at minimum, consternation among self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives.

But the outcry over H.R. 7 and its potential negating of transit funding spans numerous transport groups, including APTA, the National Association of Railroad Passengers, Smart Growth America, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups nationwide.

APTA on Thursday urged its members to “continue to urge their representatives to support a rule that allows consideration of the Nadler-LaTourette-Blumenauer-Gibson-Crowley-Turner-Rangle-Grimm-Lewis-Fitzpatrick-Norton-Hayworth-Lipinski-Dold Amendment on the House Floor and to support the amendment to restore dedicated transit funding when it is offered.”