Surface Transportation Authorization Act 2009
Posted by Beata Bujalska
Since the release of the latest transportation bill by the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the spotlight has focused on the discussion over whether the proposed bill – dubbed “A Blueprint for Investment and Reform” – should take priority in Congress, or, rather, if it would be appropriate to extend the current bill, SAFETEA-LU, for the next eighteen months. More will be said on this tension – and the corresponding players on each side of the debate – below, but some attention should be shed on the actual content of the the newest bill.
Transportation For America, a coalition partner of RenewLV, has provided their analysis of the national bill, specifying the positive features, as well as pointing to some areas that would benefit from improvement. The particularly praise-worthy aspects of the bill, as it stands now, include significant streamlining and increased local control. The coordination of several federal programs into core areas will cut down on redundancies and facilitate the project planning and approval process. Moreover, metropolitan areas would receive funding directly for transportation projects, allowing for greater local authority.
While these features exemplify an improvement on the last bill, there are some aspects that are missing. While the individual federal programs have their own goals, the overall bill does not specify any national objectives, thereby lacking a big picture mission for the nation’s transportation system. Furthermore, insufficient attention is given to improved land use, and such focus is needed, given the intricate link between transportation, traffic congestion, and municipal planning.
As for the debate over whether to extend the current SAFETEA-LU bill for another 18-months, thus putting the proposed bill and transportation reforms on hold, some national legislators have voiced their opinions on the issue. Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), is adamant about passing the committee’s proposed bill, arguing that the nation’s infrastructure is in dire straits, warranting the need for a long-term plan that will give states and cities the ability to plan capital projects. On the other side of the debate, the White House, via Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, is arguing that, while transportation is a crucial part of the long-term plan for the nation, the timing for passing a new bill is not optimal, given the economic crisis and the need to focus on some more urgent pieces of legislation. Senator Barbara Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, echoed this last point recently by stating that, given the pressing issues of health care reform and the climate bill taking center-stage, an 18-month extension of the current bill seems like the best option at this time.
To keep up to date on any transportation issues, both local and national, sign up for RenewLV updates on our “Join Us” page, by giving your e-mail address and clicking the button next to “Transportation.” RenewLV also wants to hear your concerns about the national transportation bill and how it might affect the Lehigh Valley, so leave comments or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.