Bipartisan group asks Republicans to reconsider "terrible" transportation bill

Amazingly, Democrats and Republicans are joining forces this week to oppose a terrible Republican transportation funding bills that seriously imperils federal money for CTA expansion and repair projects.

U.S. Reps. Dan Lipinski, a conservative Chicago Democrat, and Bob Dold, a North Shore Republican,got together today to urge the GOP to return to the 30-year-old funding formula for splitting revenue from the gas tax – 80% for road projects and 20% for transit. Bully for them.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted earlier this month to end that automatic funding for transit agencies.

Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times editorial titled “A Terrible Transportation Bill.:

The list of outrages coming out of the House is long, but the way the Republicans are trying to hijack the $260 billion transportation bill defies belief. This billis so uniquely terrible that it might not command a majority when it comes to a floor vote, possibly next week, despite Speaker John Boehner’s imprimatur. But betting on rationality with this crew is always a long shot.

Here is a brief and by no means exhaustive list of the bill’s many defects:

¶It would make financing for mass transit much less certain, and more vulnerable, by ending a 30-year agreement that guaranteed mass transit a one-fifth share of the fuel taxes and other user fees in the highway trust fund. Instead it would compete annually with other programs.

¶It would open nearly all of America’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling, including environmentally fragile areas that have long been off limits. The ostensible purpose is to raise revenue to help make up what has become an annual shortfall for transportation financing. But it is really just one more attempt to promote the Republicans’ drill-now-drill-everywhere agenda and the interests of their industry patrons.

¶It would demolish significant environmental protections by imposing arbitrary deadlines on legally mandated environmental reviews of proposed road and highway projects, and by ceding to state highway agencies the authority to decide whether such reviews should occur.

Of course, this bill is going nowhere in the U.S. Senate. But let’s hope GOP House members kill it before it gets there and goes back to the current funding formula.


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  • As usual, about half the story is told. Not told here, but on the news tonight was that Roskam said that the Republican view was to find another source for transit funding such as an excise on offshore drilling. Now, President Obama said that he was in favor of American oil production. The rest of the Democrats don't seem to be, though.

    In the meantime, Dold cooperating with Lipinski is brought up, but not that the scum in the state legislature tried to redistrict Dold out of his seat.

    The transit lobby can't have it both ways.

  • Not told here is that there's much doubt about funding from a tax on offshore drilling.

    And besides, the Times editorial makes reference to it.

    And you're really reaching with your last comment. Not sure what that has to do with transit funding.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Very simple--local Democrats can't cry for money, and claim bipartisan cooperation, while they try to redistrict all of the Republicans out of their seats--especially one they cite as being in favor of bipartisan cooperation on this issue. Well, they can, but they are hypocrites.

    And as far as Wolf Warrior, that is true, on both sides of the aisle.

    But, of course, that is more of a topic for some of Chicago Now under the "Politics" tab.

  • In reply to jack:

    You act like Democrats are the only ones doing the redistricting. Take a look at Texas.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    They are the only ones doing it for Illinois.

    Unless you are advocating that transit money go to Dallas or Houston (and, any way, the Supreme Court is looking into that redistricting), we have to deal with those who are begging on behalf of the agencies in Illinois. Last I heard, Dold doesn't represent Texas, and the Illinois General Assembly tried to make sure that he doesn't represent most of his current constituents, either.

    Which brings me to a more relevant point--How much has that hero of Rogers Park and Evanston, and putative heir to most of Dold's constituents, Schakowsky, done about transit funding? A lot of the RPM is in her district. Please post links. I'll bet that if it is anything, it is only meaningless verbiage.

  • In reply to jack:

    If you can convince Schakowsky that lots of illegal aliens ride need the Red & Purple Lines, she'll fight hell & high water to get the funding. But if she thinks only American citizens ride them, she'll ignore it.

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    Hyper partisanship kills production and progress, end of story.

  • I really don't understand all of the people who comment (elsewhere, so far) about how transit riders will finally have to pay their "full fare" just as if drivers are paying every single bit of money we spend on roads.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Proving again that you are uninformed.

    The whole basis of this logjam in Congress is that the gas tax is not sufficient to meet current needs. Among other things, it was proposed to cut back the highway program by 1/3 to take care of your complaint.

    Yet, transit riders think that they get their capital for free and operating at at least 1/3 off.

    But, I forgot, you don't read me or listen to reason, but I answered your question, anyway for the benefit of other readers.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Of course not -- you've been living in a nanny state too long. Eventually, all you become capable of saying is "fairness!" and "gimme my guvmint money!"

    If you want it, pay for it. If not, well, have fun walking.

  • In reply to darkwing:

    Darkwing said: "If you want it, pay for it. If not, well, have fun walking."

    The fact is that if the GOP doesn't fund transit enough to complete projects like the Red Purple Modernization, people will be driving, not walking.

    So, have fun with those doubled driving times.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    I guess you didn't read my prior comment, either.

    To make it clear, I said it was proposed to cut back the highway program by 1/3 to take care of your complaint.

    So, (1) the streets probably won't be drivable, and (2) the buses will tear them up to the extent that they can't use them.

    So either (a) you will be walking, or (b) you will be paying CTA $6 a ride. Which probably will be slow, especially if Schakowsky is her usual effective self in getting it funded.

    So, yes, surprisingly enough, I agree with darkwing on this. At some point, Illinois voters are going to have to realize that the get what they vote for--including the unintended consequences.

    Go write your congressperson Janice or Quigley about that. Don't put all the blame on the GOP, Illinois Dem. voter.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    I'd be walking in those conditions, and probably getting places faster than most people due to ridiculous congestion on the roads. Even with crappy sidewalks.

    My opinion is that the GOP, at least the Tea Party, is too full of people who want cities to die. The close quarters of urban areas promotes a much more free exchange of ideas than in rural and suburban areas, which is antithetical to getting people to vote Republican.

  • In reply to darkwing:

    Darkwing, call me bacl when the gas tax actually funds all road projects. Or try to explain to us when it ever did. If you can't, then you have to admit you live in as much of a nanny state as transit users.

    No mode/form of transportation can make a profit, unless that mode has a monopoly of non-walking travel. And unless we shrink cars down to a one-seater size, the single-occupant automobile will continue to be too large, inefficient, and too much of a pollutant to be that monopoly.

  • In reply to bms2535:

    The difference is, when my subsidies go down, I open my wallet and pay more. I don't bitch and moan because I think other people's money is somehow my birthright.

    It's simple, really. But if you'd rather turn everything into hyper-partisan rhetoric, then be my guest. The Tea Party's really got their crosshairs on you, huh?

  • In reply to darkwing:

    Do you live in one of those states that receive more money from the feds than it sends in taxes. Because those states are full of people like you, pretending they live on their own dime.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Yes, because Chicago transit is a big topic of conversation in Alaska?

  • Also, today we have this story about someone being arrested by the Feds for being a fraudulent woman's business front for a CTA contractor, as well as on some city bridge and street projects.

    So, yes, let's keep this gravy train going, Kevin, using our federal gas tax money.

  • In reply to jack:

    Highways are the real gravy train, sucking up far more of our tax money than transit:

    The article quotes the State Smart Transportation Initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
    "Between 2004 and 2008, roads in the state cost an average of $4.24 billion annually. Of this, $1.74 billion came from revenue sources unrelated to road use—primarily property and sales taxes—while another $600 million was borrowed… The fact is, roads constitute one of the biggest tax burdens we face."

    You're right, though, that cutting highway spending by 1/3 would make a lot of things worse (although I don't know where that proposal came from). We already have a lot of crumbling infrastructure. However, cutting transit hurts even more, because that puts more wear on the very expensive highway system. The solution is to raise the gasoline tax to improve both. But we need more emphasis on transit in the long run.

  • In reply to DanKorn:

    I wasn't in favor of ARRA basically just propping up the asphalt contractors with something with a 2 year service life either.

    However, it also appears (especially from Kevin's repeated references to RPM funding) that FTA funds only consultants, not construction, since CTA's consistent line has been "we have not located a funding source."

    Anyway, this isn't Texas, and it isn't Wisconsin,* it is Illinois, where, besides everything else, I noted yesterday at this time, we also pay a corruption tax to those who construct our transit, roads and bridges. Got any relevant numbers for Illinois, Dan??? Where has all our pop and liquor tax gone?????

    *As best as I can tell, the only area in Wis. that has a major bus system is Milwaukee (Racine, Madison, and Kenosha might be equivalent to Elgin here), and Scott Walker said they could not afford the KRM project and cashed it in to keep the bus systems afloat. So, I think this is just comparing grapes and raisins.

  • In reply to jack:

    Well, we spent almost a billion dollars rebuilding a six-mile stretch of the Dan Ryan recently. That's just one highway. Where has all our money gone, indeed?

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