Barbara Boxer Key Figure in Transportation Act

Boxer is chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is responsible for writing much of the language in the bill. Progressives are concerned that she won't deliver on their agenda of reform.

"Any chance of reforming the transportation bill, which advocates are clamoring for, will require deft political maneuvering to mollify ranking committee member Senator James Inhofe.

Several sources said that Boxer's cooperation with Inhofe is simple math. The $312 billion baseline for transportation over five years is insufficient to meet state of good repair needs and set the country on a course for innovation. Minnesota Representative James Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation Committee, has suggested $400-500 billion would be needed, while AASHTO and the American Public Transit Association (APTA) argue in their Bottom Line Report that at least $160 billion will be needed annually. In order get from $312 billion to $500 billion or better, Boxer will need to get approval for new revenue streams, which would require a filibuster-proof majority, something she might not get without Inhofe and other reluctant members on the committee.

Several interviewees also pointed to Senator Boxer's alliance with Inhofe on an amendment in the federal stimulus bill for an additional $50 billion in highway money as a bad sign."

Full Story: Fear Growing Senator Boxer Won’t Deliver Progressive Transportation Act



Focus On The Split In TEA, Not On More Money

I am dubious about all the calls for more money. Both AASHTO and APTA feed at this trough, so their estimates are bound to be exaggerated.

When Oberstar says that $500 billion is needed rather than $312 billion, isn't he assuming that we will continue to increase road capacity?

Less money would be needed if we made the only environmentally sound decision: to spend the funding on public transit and on maintaining existing freeways, but not on building new freeway capacity. If we don't make that decision, allocating more money to TEA will mean allocating more money to new freeways.

I suggest that, instead of abandoning the battle to shift money to transit in order to win the battle for more money, Pelosi and environmentalists should take the opposite tack. Accept just $312 billion for the next 5 years, and concentrate on the battle to shift as much of that money as possible to transit.

If we win the battle this time to get away from the usual 80% freeway / 20% transit split, then we can try for more money 5 years from now, at the next TEA reauthorization. After we win the battle to change the split, then future TEAs will tend to follow that new split, and we can concentrate on getting more money for transit.

Charles Siegel

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