Janet Babin, Host, WNYC News
Janet Babin is a host and reporter at WNYC.
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 say they are revamping the $260-billion dollar bill 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,” said Healy. He worried that the new 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 New York's mass transit budget. Several GOP Congressman, including Bob Turner (NY-09) split with party leadership over the bill, and 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,” said Turner.
Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-08) has been an outspoken opponent of the Transportation bill. He said he’s encouraged by reports that House Republicans have backed off their initial version of the legislation. But he's still not satisfied that the revamped bill will protect mass transit. “Even with the proposed fix to transit, I remain concerned about many other aspects of this bill,” said Nadler.
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 a week-long recess.