Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
The reviews are in on the House transportation bill:
"It's like funding a quit-smoking program by lowering the smoking age to generate more revenue from cigarette taxes." (USPIRG statement)
"It would reverse all the progress we have made in the past 20 years...horrible." (League of American Bicyclists)
"This bill is less about creating jobs and more about giving the green light to the oil industry and road-builders." (Southern Environmental Law Center)
“Additional research is required to demonstrate exactly how bigger and heavier trucks would impact traffic safety. Absent this research, we cannot take the chance – there is simply too much at stake.” (AAA statement)
To be sure, the bill has its supporters.
"Chairman Mica has done tremendous work," the Associated General Contractors of America said. "The legislation will significantly accelerate transportation improvements." (Associated General Contractors of America)
But the tone of criticism by advocates for smart growth, biking, walking, and transit was considerably sharper than its been in the past-- an indication of how far apart the two sides are on a bill that used to be negotiated far more amicably.
Even AASHTO -- the group that represents state transportation officials, also known as a big proponent of highway spending -- wasn't exactly effusive.
"We are pleased that the House and Senate are moving ahead on a long-term surface transportation authorization. A long-term bill that sustains the surface transportation program at current funding levels is critical to the nation's economy and creating American jobs." (AASHTO statement).
Democratic politicians didn't pull any punches. Here's New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler: "I am generally troubled by the treatment of programs critical to our nation's economy, and to the New York region, namely: transit, environmentally friendly alternative transportation programs, rail, (and) freight...As language in the bill currently stands, these dedicated funding soruces are either fundamentally reformed, or eliminated completely."
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has given the bill little chance of passage (a Senate bill is only for two years of funding, among the many differences), but that won't prevent a spring with a lot of heat over this one. Stay tuned.