House Republicans Threaten Critical Transit Expansions Across the Nation

HR 1, which would eliminate the FTA's New Starts program, threatens transit projects in these locations across the country. Photo: Reconnecting America

Since the 1940s, civic leaders have dreamed of extending Bay Area Rapid Transit between San Francisco and San Jose. Ten years ago, Santa Clara County residents even voted to tax themselves an extra half-cent for 30 years to pay for the connection. But despite its merits and popular support, the project has never managed to clear a hurdle that just about all transit expansion projects face: the large upfront infrastructure investment. Until this week.

The Obama administration recently announced that the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program would commit funds to the San Francisco-San Jose BART connection, overcoming those longstanding obstacles.

Now, however, the New Starts program is under legislative assault by the House GOP, and around the country meritorious projects like the BART line extension are threatened, says Colin Peppard at the NRDC’s Switchboard blog:

It was a big deal in San Jose this week when the Obama Administration announced as part of its transportation budget that at long last the BART extension to San Jose would receive the federal help it needs to get moving. But this progress could all come to a screeching halt if House Republicans get their way and eliminate New Starts, the federal program that would fund the extension.

This program has funded nearly all major new transit projects and expansions in the U.S. since it was created in 1976. Dozens of critical projects in states across country have relied on this program to get off the ground. These projects have improved our cities and suburbs, cut pollution, eased traffic, and spurred local economic growth. But we won’t see many new transit projects in America if the House Republicans get their way.

That’s what’s at stake with H.R. 1, the funding bill that is currently being debated in Congress. And San Jose isn’t alone.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Cyclelicious points out that the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is accepting transportation policy feedback on its Facebook page and that the organization could benefit from the influence of transportation reformers. PubliCola is rallying against the gutting of a Washington state bill that would have required insurance companies to offer a pay-as-you-drive option. And Gateway Streets remarks on the fact that despite the debacles in other states, the high-speed rail connection between Chicago and St. Louis is right on track.