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Federal Transportation Spending Bill Has Great Potential

June 24th, 2009 by

  • U.S. Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minnesota) has released a draft of the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009, which will determine where and how billions of federal transportation dollars are spent.
  • The use of these funds has the potential to shape the way the nation develops for decades to come, in much the same way the Interstate Highway System created under President Eisenhower still influences land-use patterns a half-century later.
  • New Jersey Future and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign have been working with the national Transportation for America (T4America) Campaign to ensure the bill will help reduce dependence on foreign oil, create low-cost, convenient travel and living options, provide older and disabled citizens with safe transportation choices, reduce sprawl and revitalize traditional cities and towns.
  • The bill addresses many of these points, but without a clear set of national transportation objectives, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the percentage of Americans with access to public transportation, there is no guarantee the federal spending authorized in the Oberstar bill will be effective. A complementary bill introduced by New Jersey’s Rush Holt (D-12) would accomplish this.

What Does This Mean for New Jersey …and What Can You Do?

With the current federal transportation funding legislation set to expire, Washington is buzzing with debate around what form the new transportation spending authorization should take. The product of this debate will have an enormous impact on New Jersey, not just on the way our residents get around, but also on the shape of growth and development in the state for years to come.

This is why, together with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and a wide range of groups from across the country, New Jersey Future has been working with T4America to promote at the federal level the same set of goals and objectives we have been advocating at the state level for more than 20 years: more transportation choice, infrastructure investment linked to land-use decision making, environmental preservation and the revitalization of our traditional cities and towns.

The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009, introduced today in Washington, represents a positive first step toward much-needed reform of federal transportation spending. In addition to funding traditional road maintenance, repair and expansion, the bill increases spending on public transportation, gives more resources and greater discretion to metropolitan planning organizations (such as the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission), makes it easier for new rail projects (such as the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Line and the PATCO extension) to qualify for federal funds and fulfills the commitment to high-speed rail made by the Obama administration. The bill would also place added emphasis on projects of national significance, which could benefit projects important to New Jersey, including the ARC tunnel.

The bill still has significant deficiencies, however. Most notably, the measure lacks a clear set of national transportation objectives, for example reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the percentage of Americans with access to public transportation, against which federal spending can be judged. These objectives are addressed in HR 2724, the National Transportation Objectives Act, recently introduced by New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt and co-sponsored by Reps. Donald Payne (D-10) and Albio Sires (D-13).

New Jersey Future encourages you to take a moment to contact your representative to urge the inclusion of clear national transportation objectives in the federal transportation funding process by becoming a co-sponsor of HR 2724.



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