Transportation Spending is Target of Waste Watchdogs

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(Washington, DC - Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation)  The enemies of pork barrel spending are taking aim at the latest transportation funding bill. That’s despite the fact that earmarks in the bill are lower than ever.

Spending watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste says the Fiscal 2011 appropriations bill for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development is carrying 459 pet projects as it makes its way to the House floor later this summer.

Those earmarks, including $500,000 for a solar-powered Berkeley, Calif., ferry service championed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,

total close to $330 million in the bill, according to CAGW.

The fattest pork project on CAGW’s list is a $6.8 million line item for a dozen “streetscape” projects across the country. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, is requesting $1 million from that pot.

CAGW also takes shots at other projects, including $750,000 for the construction of a solar power array at a Las Vegas food bank; $150,000 for an opera house in Michigan; and a $1.75 million for a Ft. Lauderdale, Fl., streetcar project called “The Wave”, pushed by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings, both Democrats.

“Wave goodbye to those taxdollars,” a CAGW release quips.

Despite the group’s frustration over lawmakers’ pet spending, the time-honored tradition of earmarking in Congress is way down. The number of earmarks in the 2011 Transportation-HUD bill has dropped by more than half from last year’s bill. That is largely due to pledges from House Republicans to forgo earmarking altogether in this year’s appropriations bills. Democrats, meanwhile, have scaled back their earmark requests, but not abandoned them.

These complaints are routine in the Capitol and, even in an election year, they're unlikely to lead to a rush to re-do the appropriations.  We're working on reaction from the members named as the "pig-y," pork-y" bunch.