REGIONAL PLAN ASSOCIATION/ AMERICA 2050
For those who support high-speed rail, targeted infrastructure investment, and transit-oriented policies, the clouds are not as dark as they seem.
That’s the immediate implication of the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives that resulted from yesterday’s midterm elections across the nation.
Certainly on the face of it, news is not good for trains or transit. One of the Democratic incumbents losing his seat is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, James Oberstar. A year and a half ago, Chairman Oberstar outlined a $500 billion transportation bill, which included $50 billion for an ambitious national high-speed rail program. But without a viable source of revenue for that bill, aside from the obvious but politically abhorrent option of hiking the gas tax, it languished. Prospects for a bill of that size in a Republican House are slim indeed.
But hopes for passing a transportation bill, even one that includes a high-speed rail program, are not dashed. The Republicans may very well succeed in pushing through the “highway bill” after the Democrat’s Congress and the Obama Administration failed to make it a domestic priority in the last Congress.
Infrastructure and transportation is traditionally a bipartisan issue – characterized by equal opportunity “pork.” Under intensely partisan congresses, transportation bills passed in 2005 during the George W. Bush Administration, in 1998 during the Clinton Administration, and in 1991 during the George H.W. Bush Administration. The Surface Transportation Assistance Act even passed in 1982 during Ronald Reagan’s administration and with the president’s support, despite the Gipper’s heavily anti-federal-government stances. The bill included a five-cent increase on the gas tax, part of which was a dedicated penny for public transit. As New York Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch likes to say, “It passed Congress like a knife through butter.”
About Regional Plan Association
“Regional Plan Association (RPA) is an independent, not-for-profit regional planning organization that improves the quality of life and the economic competitiveness of the 31-county New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region through research, planning, and advocacy.For more than 80 years, RPA has been shaping transportation systems, protecting open spaces, and promoting better community design for the region’s continued growth.”
About America 2050
“America 2050 is a national initiative [in collaboration with Regional Plan Association] to meet the infrastructure, economic development and environmental challenges of the nation as we prepare to add about 130 million additional Americans by the year 2050. America 2050 is guided by the National Committee for America 2050, a coalition of regional planners, scholars, and policy-makers to develop a framework for the nation’s future growth.”