House Transpo Bill Turns Communities Into Collateral Damage

There’s been a lot of analysis and explanation of how bad the House transportation bill is from a policy standpoint. This proposal takes sound transportation policy, covers it with oil, sets it on fire, and then dances on the ashes.

Seattle transit riders would feel the pain of the House transportation bill, with Sound Transit standing to lose $900 million over 15 years if the bill passes. Photo: Metro Magazine

It’s also important to remember this transportation bill would make life worse for millions of people. Around the country, communities have been trying to unravel the implications for their residents.

Portland leaders were grappling with how to respond to the House bill late last week, according to Bike Portland. Meanwhile, Charleston bike advocates were contemplating the impact on their efforts to make streets safer. Yesterday, 79 New York City area CEOs came out against the bill as well, saying it would “significantly damage the economies of many of our nation’s most important commercial centers.”

Transit leaders in Seattle were sounding the alarm about the bill yesterday, as well. Erica C. Barnett at Network blog PubliCola reports from a press event held by leaders of the five regional transit providers:

Regionally, the bill would put about $324 million in annual federal transit funding at risk, the agency leaders said. That includes about $70 million a year for King County Metro, $7.6 million for Pierce Transit, and $4 million for Kitsap Transit. Additionally, Community Transit gets about 9 percent of its funding from federal grants.

Sound Transit, which has already seen a 25 percent drop in revenues during the recession, received $230 million in federal funding last year. The 2008 Sound Transit 2 package assumes $900 million in federal funding over a 15-year period. Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl said the house proposal “calls into question some key assumptions built into our capital plan in both the short and long term. Our ability to deliver on key projects, whether it’s extensions to the University of Washington, Bellevue and Redmond, Lynnwood, Federal Way, or Tacoma Link, will be in question if our federal partner becomes less reliable. “It is crucial that our congressional delegation work to defeat this bill,” Earl concluded.

Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick says the legislation would result in “a lot less certainty” around transit funding in the future, and could prompt the Federal Transportation Authority to withhold transit funds from agencies. “It’s just a smaller pie, and an annual crisis to fight for it,” Patrick says.

For more on how the bill would impact local communities, check out this post from Network blog The Dirt.