Former Auto Dealer Named Transportation Committee Chair

Yesterday, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) was named the new head of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, replacing former chair John Mica. With MAP-21 expiring in less than two years, what can rail and bike/ped advocates expect?

November 29, 2012, 10:00 AM PST

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj

In two posts, Streetsblog's Tanya Snyder looks at Shuster's record on rail and bike/ped issues in anticipation of the crafting of a new surface transportation bill and a new rail authorization during his time as chair. Although automobile sales are his family's business, Shuster's thinking on rail has evolved over the past twenty years, and according to Snyder, he brings "a passion for rail transportation and a genuine desire to see it thrive." Although some of his ideas about rail, such as privatizing Amtrak's Northeast Corridor service and shifting all high-speed rail funding to that corridor, may be controversial, "[a]dvocates are also hopeful that Shuster’s abiding interest in rail and “outside-the-box” thinking could lead to a positive session. “He seems like a thoughtful person who has genuine interest and expertise in the issues,” said David Goldberg of Transportation for America.  

Snyder also envisions a more collegial working environment than under his predecessor. Shuster was the point person in the House for explaining to the extreme right wing of his party "that transportation and infrastructure are, indeed, a 'core function' of government." And, says Snyder, "Democrats are 'cautiously optimistic' that a Shuster-led committee could be less polarized than it was under Mica."

On issues related to bicycle and pedestrian programs and funding, the news for advocates is not as good. "Indeed," says Snyder, "perhaps the most alarming aspect of a Bill Shuster chairmanship is what it would mean for progress on street safety. Shuster is no friend of the movement to make American cities and towns more bikeable and walkable."

"He fell in line with the Republican army against Transportation Enhancements, a program that mostly funded bike/ped projects under the previous transportation law...[and] voted against an amendment to restore not just TE but also Safe Routes to School in the never-passed Republican transportation proposal, H.R. 7."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 in DC.Streetsblog

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