House Plans to Revamp the Transportation Bill

A federal transportation bill that threatened to cut billions from mass transit budgets around the country has been scrapped.  But as lawmakers return from a congressional recess, new fears are emerging about what will replace that bill.

Republican leaders reportedly backed down after an outcry from colleagues. The bill included a provision that would have funded public transit with a one time grant, instead of through the federal gasoline tax. 

Robert Healy, with the American Public Transportation Association, spoke with staff members on Capital Hill about the bill on Friday.  He said the Transportation Committee is retooling the bill. “They are considering continuing the current structure of the Highway Trust Fund as it refers to mass transit, and that’s great, but they’re also considering a shorter term bill,” Healy said. He’s worried that the new version of the bill would reduce mass transit funding on an annual basis.  Healy said that could upend many mass transit systems around the nation struggling to maintain service and keep up with repairs.

In New York, the initial legislation would have cut $1 billion dollars from the state’s mass transit budget.  Republican Congressman Bob Turner (NY-09) split with the party leadership over the bill, saying he would not support it.  “There is still a lot of uncertainty about the future of the transportation bill. However, I will not support any bill that does not sufficiently address the unique transportation needs of New York,” Turner said.

Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-08) has been an outspoken opponent of the revamped transportation bill.  He said he’s encouraged by reports that House Republicans have backed off.  “Even with the proposed fix to transit, I remain concerned about many other aspects of this bill,” Nadler said.

The bill had also called for widely deregulating domestic oil drilling, and cut funds for biking and pedestrian infrastructure. 

House leaders are expected to formally unveil their new plan after the House returns from recess.