House Transportation Bill

Transportation Nation

Mica Gets Transportation Subcommittee Posts

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

John Mica (photo by Matthew Peddie)

Representative John Mica (R-FL) will retain some influence in helping set transportation policy, even though Pennsylvania Congressman Bill Shuster has taken over as chair of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Mica was appointed to three subcommittees:  Highways and Transit; Railroads Pipelines and Hazardous Materials; and Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management. He was also named chair of the subcommittee on Government Operations under the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Winter Park Republican says he's proud of his legacy as chair of the Transportation Committee.

"My replacement is fortunate in that we passed a highway bill, we passed an FAA bill that was stalled for many years under the Democrats, we passed a Coast Guard reauthorization, we passed pipeline safety legislation, so most of the major bills have been passed," he says. "So [Shuster] has time to reassess and then move forward with a highway bill and find a responsible way to go beyond the next two years. "

But Mica says it will be a challenge to try to fix congested and crumbling highways. "Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to increase gas taxes, and that doesn’t really even solve your problem because people are using even less of the traditional gasoline."

"You have alternative fuels, you have plug in cars, and you have cars going much further on one gallon of gas."

 One source of revenue included in the current transportation bill allows for extra toll lanes to be built on existing interstates like I-4.

Mica says Amtrak -- which he labels a "Soviet style passenger rail system" -- also needs reform, and he favors allowing private operators to run the passenger rail system.

Meanwhile, Mica says he’s excited about the prospect of private passenger rail starting in the state - with All Aboard Florida proposing a Miami to Orlando service beginning in 2015. "It'll be a project that actually will make money and pay taxes with the private sector," he says. "That's the way we need to be going with passenger rail service across the country."

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Transportation Nation

President Obama Signs Transportation Bill (TRANSCRIPT)

Friday, July 06, 2012

U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a bill signing ceremony July 6, 2012 at the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. President Obama signed HR 4348, the transportation and student loans bill, into law during the ceremony. (Getty Images)

After a day of campaigning around the midwest, President Barack Obama returned to the East Room of the White House to sign the much-debated highway funding bill flanked by construction workers, college students and lawmakers.

The two-year, $100 billion Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) combines student loan interest rate caps with road transportation funding. The president's signature is the final stroke that ends over 100 days of political wrangling over transportation funding, something that until recently was a bi-partisan legislative cake walk (albeit pork-filled cake).

Here's a summary of what's in the final bill.

And here's President Obama's statement as he signed it:

Hello, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  I apologize for keeping you waiting a little bit, and I hope everybody is staying hydrated -- (laughter) -- because it is hot.

Welcome to the White House.  We wouldn’t normally keep you this late on a Friday afternoon unless we had a good reason -- and the bill that I’m about to sign is a pretty good reason.

I want to very much thank the members of Congress who are here.  We got a number in the front row, but, in particular, I want to recognize Senator Boxer and Congressman Mica, whose leadership made this bill a reality.  And although Barbara couldn’t make it, we want to make sure that everybody acknowledges the hard work that John did on this on bill.  (Applause.)

Now, we’re doing this late on Friday afternoon because I just got back from spending the past two days talking with folks in Ohio and Pennsylvania about how our challenge as a country isn’t just to reclaim all the jobs that were lost to the recession -- although obviously that's job number one.  It’s also to reclaim the economic security that so many Americans have lost over the past decade.

And I believe with every fiber of my being that a strong economy comes not from the top down but from a strong middle class.  That means having a good job that pays a good wage; a home to call your own; health care, retirement savings that are there when you need them; a good education for your kids so that they can do even better than you did.

And that’s why -- for months -- I’ve been calling on Congress to pass several common-sense ideas that will have an immediate impact on the economic security of American families.  I’m pleased that they’ve finally acted.  And the bill I’m about to sign will accomplish two ideas that are very important for the American people.

First of all, this bill will keep thousands of construction workers on the job rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.  Second, this bill will keep interest rates on federal student loans from doubling this year -- which would have hit nearly 7.5 million students with an average of a thousand dollars more on their loan payments.

These steps will make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans -- some of whom are standing with us here today.  But make no mistake -- we’ve got a lot more to do.  The construction industry, for example, was hit brutally hard when the housing bubble burst.  So it’s not enough just to keep construction workers on the job doing projects that were already underway.  We've got Mayor Villaraigosa and Governor O'Malley here as representatives of organizations of mayors and governors who know how desperate we need to do some of this work.

And for months, I’ve been calling on Congress to take half the money we’re no longer spending on war and use it to do some nation-building here at home.  There’s work to be done building roads and bridges and wireless networks.  There are hundreds of thousands of construction workers that are ready to do it.

The same thing is true for our students.  The bill I’m about to sign is vital for millions of students and their families.  But it’s not enough just to keep interest rates from doubling.

I've asked Congress to reform and expand the financial aid that’s offered to students.  And I’ve been asking them to help us give 2 million Americans the opportunity to learn the skills that businesses in their areas are looking for right now through partnerships between community colleges and employers.

In today’s economy, a higher education is the surest path to finding a good job and earning a good salary, and making it into the middle class.  So it can't be a luxury reserved for just a privileged few.  It’s an economic necessity that every American family should be able to afford.

So this is an outstanding piece of business.  And I'm very appreciative of the hard work that Congress has done on it.  My hope is, is that this bipartisan spirit spills over into the next phase, that we can start putting more construction workers back to work -- not just those that were already on existing projects who were threatened to be laid off, but also getting some new projects done that are vitally important to communities all across the nation and that will improve our economy, as well as making sure that now that we've prevented a doubling of student loan rates, we actually start doing more to reduce the debt burden that our young people are experiencing.

I want to thank all the Americans -- the young or the young at heart -- who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an email or make a phone call or send a tweet, hoping that your voice would be heard on these issues.  I promise you, your voices have been heard.  Any of you who believed your voice could make a difference -- I want to reaffirm your belief.  You made this happen.

So I’m very pleased that Congress got this done.  I’m grateful to members of both parties who came together and put the interests of the American people first.  And my message to Congress is what I've been saying for months now -- let's keep going.  Let's keep moving forward.  Let's keep finding ways to work together to grow the economy and to help put more folks back to work.  There is no excuse for inaction when there are so many Americans still trying to get back on their feet.

With that, let me sign this bill.  And let's make sure that we are keeping folks on the job and we're keeping our students in school.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)


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Transportation Nation

Shuster: President Will Sign Transpo Bill In the Fall

Monday, May 14, 2012

Congress member Bill Shuster (House photo)

Congress member Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, & Hazardous Materials, predicts President Barack Obama will sign a transportation bill -- with a provision to build the Keystone Pipeline included -- in September or October.

"Americans support the Keystone Pipeline, 80:20" Shuster told a gathering organized by the New York University Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.  (A march Gallup poll actually put that support at 57:29, still a big majority.)

The pipeline has been vehemently opposed by environmentalists, who say construction of the pipeline would mean "game over" for the environment.  And President Obama has said in the past that he would oppose any transportation bill that included funding for the pipeline.

But Shuster predicted presidential politics would force the President's hand come the fall -- though he acknowledged that for most Americans, transportation wasn't even in their top five issues.

Shuster also pointed the finger at "Leadership and Ways and Means," who he said pushed the idea of removing transit from the transportation bill, an effort that died after "every Republican in an urban or suburban district screamed bloody murder."

Shuster also said he thought Congess would achieve a so-called "grand bargain" avoiding steep across-the-board cuts in spending, either late this year if President Obama is re-elected, or after January if Mitt Romney wins the presidency.

Shuster also took a big swipe at California's high speed rail program, calling it "extortion," and said the only place America should build "high-er speed rail" was in the Northeast Corridor, where, he said, one in five Americans live.





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Transportation Nation

Obama Hits Congress on Transpo Bill

Monday, April 30, 2012

President Obama speaking at an auto plant earlier this year. (photo:

President Barack Obama is getting pointed on the transportation bill.

Speaking at the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department Conference today, Obama whacked the Republican-led House of Representatives for "refusing to pass a bipartisan bill that could guarantee work for millions of construction workers.  Already passed the Senate.  Ready to go, ready to put folks back to work.  Used to be the most -- the easiest bill to pass in Washington used to be getting roads and bridges built, because it’s not like only Democrats are allowed to use these things.  Everybody is permitted.  (Laughter.)  Everybody needs them.  (Applause.)

"So this makes no sense.  Congress needs to do the right thing.  Pass this bill right away.  It shouldn’t be that hard.  It shouldn’t be that hard.  Not everything should be subject to thinking about the next election instead of thinking about the next generation."

While Obama spent a good deal of time this fall criticizing Congress for failing to pass a jobs bill, these are some of his most pointed remarks to date on the transportation bill, and they drew boos (for the Republicans) from the union crowd.

"As a share of the economy, Europe invests more than twice what we do in infrastructure; China about four times as much," the President said. "Are we going to sit back and let other countries build the newest airports and the fastest railroads and the most modern schools?"

The President left the stage to thunderous applause, so we may be hearing more of this.

Here's the full transcript:

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey!  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.


AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!


THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Everybody, please have a seat.  (Applause.)  Thank you, guys.  Everybody, take a seat.  Well, thank you, Sean, for that outstanding introduction. 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Four more years!  Four more years! 


THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughter.)  I'll take it.  Thank you.  Thank you.


Well, it is good to be back among friends.  The last time I was here we -- was Saturday night.  (Laughter.)  And they tell me I did okay.  But I want to not only thank Sean for his extraordinary leadership; I want to acknowledge all the other presidents who are on stage for what they do each and every day on behalf of not just their members, but on behalf of all working people.  I'm proud of that.  (Applause.) 


I want to thank my good friend, Tim Kaine, who is here and is a friend of labor -- (applause) -- the next United States senator from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. 


And obviously, we come here at a time where -- I just want to repeat my condolences to everybody in the building and construction trades on the passing of Mark Ayers.  Mark was a tremendous leader.  He was a good friend.  His commitment to the labor movement and to working people will leave a mark for years to come.  And my thoughts and prayers are with his family.  But I know that Sean is going to do an outstanding job, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.  So congratulations.  (Applause.)


So it's good to be back in front of all of you.  It's always an honor to be with folks who get up every day and work real jobs -- (laughter) -- and every day fight for America's workers.  You represent the latest in a long, proud line of men and women who built this country from the bottom up.  That's who you are.  (Applause.)  It was workers like you who led us westward.  It was workers like you who pushed us skyward.  It was your predecessors who put down the hard hats and helped us defeat fascism.  And when that was done, you kept on building --highways that we drive on, and the houses we live in, and the schools where our children learn.  And you established the foundation of what it means to be a proud American.


And along the way, unions like yours made sure that everybody had a fair shake, everybody had a fair shot.  You helped build the greatest middle class that we've ever seen.  You believed that prosperity shouldn’t be reserved just for a privileged few; it should extend all the way from the boardroom all the way down to the factory floor.  That's what you believe.  (Applause.)


Time and again, you stood up for the idea that hard work should pay off; responsibility should be rewarded.  When folks do the right thing, they should be able to make it here in America.  And because you did, America became home of the greatest middle class the world has ever known.  You helped make that possible -- not just through your organizing but how you lived; looking after your families, looking out for your communities.  You’re what America is about.


And so sometimes when I listen to the political debates, it seems as if people have forgotten American progress has always been driven by American workers.  And that’s especially important to remember today. 


The last decade has been tough on everybody.  But the men and women of the building and construction trades have suffered more than most.  Since the housing bubble burst, millions of your brothers and sisters have had to look for work.  Even more have had to struggle to keep the work coming in.  And that makes absolutely no sense at a time when there is so much work to be done.


I don’t have to tell you we’ve got bridges and roads all over this country in desperate need of repair.  Our highways are clogged with traffic.  Our railroads are no longer the fastest in the world.  Our skies are congested, our airports are the busiest on the planet.  All of this costs families and businesses billions of dollars a year.  That drags down our entire economy.


And the worst part of it is that we could be doing something about it.  I think about what my grandparents’ generation built:  the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Interstate Highway System.  That's what we do.  We build.  There was a time where we would never accept the notion that some other country has better roads than us, and some other country has better airports than us.  I don't know about you, but I’m chauvinistic.  I want America to have the best stuff.  I want us to be doing the building, not somebody else.  (Applause.)  We should be having -- (applause) -- people should be visiting us from all over the world.  They should be visiting us from all over the world and marveling at what at what we’ve done. 


That kind of unbridled, can-do spirit -- that’s what made America an economic superpower.  And now, it’s up to us to continue that tradition, to give our businesses access to the best roads and airports and high-speed rail and Internet networks.  It’s up to us to make sure our kids are learning in state-of-the-art schools.  It’s our turn to do big things.  It is our turn to do big things.


     But here’s the thing -- as a share of the economy, Europe invests more than twice what we do in infrastructure; China about four times as much.  Are we going to sit back and let other countries build the newest airports and the fastest railroads and the most modern schools, at a time when we’ve got private construction companies all over the world -- or all over the country -- and millions of workers who are ready and willing to do that work right here in the United States of America?


American workers built this country, and now we need American workers to rebuild this country.  That’s what we need.  (Applause.)  It is time we take some of the money that we spend on wars, use half of it to pay down our debt, and then use the rest of it to do some nation-building right here at home.  (Applause.)  There is work to be done.  There are workers ready to do it, and you guys can help lead the way.


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We can do it!


THE PRESIDENT:  We can do it.  We’ve done it before.  And the truth is, the only way we can do it on a scale that’s needed is with some bold action from Congress.  They’re the ones with the purse strings.  That’s why, over the last year, I’ve sent Congress a whole series of jobs bills to put people to work, to put your members back to work.  (Applause.)  Again and again, I’ve said now is the time do this; interest rates are low, construction workers are out of work.  Contractors are begging for work, and the work needs to be done.  Let’s do it.  And time after time, the Republicans have gotten together and they’ve said no. 


AUDIENCE:  Booo --


THE PRESIDENT:  I sent them a jobs bill that would have put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work repairing our roads, our bridges, schools, transit systems, along with saving the jobs of cops and teachers and firefighters, creating a new tax cut for businesses.  They said no. 


AUDIENCE:  Booo --


THE PRESIDENT:  I went to the Speaker’s hometown, stood under a bridge that was crumbling.  Everybody acknowledges it needs to be rebuilt.


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Let him drive on it! (Laughter.)


THE PRESIDENT:  Maybe he doesn’t drive anymore.  (Laughter.)  Maybe he doesn’t notice how messed up it was.  (Laughter.)  They still said no. 


There are bridges between Kentucky and Ohio where some of the key Republican leadership come from, where folks are having to do detours an extra hour, hour and a half drive every day on their commute because these bridges don’t work.  They still said no.  So then I said, well, maybe they couldn’t handle the whole bill in one big piece.  Let’s break it up.  Maybe it’s just too much for them.


So I sent them just the part of the bill that would have created these construction jobs.  They said no.


AUDIENCE:  Booo --


THE PRESIDENT:  We’re seeing it again right now.  As we speak, the House Republicans are refusing to pass a bipartisan bill that could guarantee work for millions of construction workers.  Already passed the Senate.  Ready to go, ready to put folks back to work.  Used to be the most -- the easiest bill to pass in Washington used to be getting roads and bridges built, because it’s not like only Democrats are allowed to use these things.  Everybody is permitted.  (Laughter.)  Everybody needs them.  (Applause.) 


So this makes no sense.  Congress needs to do the right thing.  Pass this bill right away.  It shouldn’t be that hard.  It shouldn’t be that hard.  Not everything should be subject to thinking about the next election instead of thinking about the next generation.  (Applause.)  Not everything should be subject to politics instead of thinking about all those families out there and all your membership that need work -- that don’t just support their own families, but support entire communities.


So we’re still waiting for Congress.  But we can’t afford to just wait for Congress.  You can’t afford to wait.  So where Congress won’t act, I will.  That’s why I’ve taken steps on my own.  (Applause.)  That's why I’ve taken steps on my own and speeded up loans and speeded up competitive grants for projects across the country that will support thousands of jobs.  That’s why we’re cutting through the red tape and launching a lot of existing projects faster and more efficiently.


Because the truth is, government can be smarter.  A whole bunch of projects at the state level sometimes are ready to go, but they get tangled up in all kinds of bureaucracy and red tape.  So what we’ve said is if there’s red tape that's stopping a project and stopping folks from getting to work right now, let’s put that aside.  


Because the point is, infrastructure shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  Investments in better roads and safer bridges -- these have never been made by just one party or another because they benefit all of us.  They lead to a strong, durable economy.  Ronald Reagan once said that rebuilding our infrastructure is “common sense” -- “an investment in tomorrow that we need to make today.”  Ronald Reagan said that, that great socialist -- Ronald Reagan.  (Laughter.)  Couldn’t get through a Republican primary these days. 


The folks up on Capitol Hill right now, they seem to have exactly the opposite view.  They voted to cut spending on transportation infrastructure by almost 30 percent.  That means instead of putting more construction workers back on the job, they want to lay more off.  Instead of breaking ground on new projects, they want to let existing projects grind to a halt.  Instead of making the investments we need to get ahead, they’re willing to let us all fall further behind.


Now, when you ask them, well, why are you doing this -- other than the fact that I’m proposing it?  (Laughter.)  They’ll say it’s because we need to pay down our deficit.  And you know what, the deficit is a real problem.  All of us recognize in our own lives and our own families, we try to live within our means.  So we got to deal with the debt and we got to deal with the deficit.


And their argument might actually fly if they didn’t just vote to spend $4.6 trillion on lower tax rates -– that’s with a T, trillion -– on top of the $1 trillion they’d spend on tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year.  So they're willing to spend over $5 trillion to give tax breaks to folks like me who don't need them and weren’t even asking for them at a time when this country needs to be rebuilt.  That gives you a sense of their priorities.


Think about that.  Republicans in Congress would rather put fewer of you to work rebuilding America than ask millionaires and billionaires to live without massive new tax cuts on top of the ones they’ve already gotten.


Now, what do you think would make the economy stronger?  Giving another tax break to every millionaire and billionaire in the country?  Or rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our broadband networks that will help our businesses sell goods all around the world?  It’s pretty clear.  This choice is not a hard one.  (Applause.)


Of course, we need to bring down our deficits in the long term.  But if we’re smart about it, we also will be making and can afford to make the investments that will help our country and the American people in the short term.  Not only will it put people back to work, but if the economy is growing -- look, every time one of your members is on a job, that means they’ve got more money in their pockets.  That means that they’re going to the restaurant, and that restaurant owner suddenly is doing a little bit better.  They’re going to Home Depot to buy some stuff, and suddenly Home Depot is doing a little bit better. 


This is a no-brainer.  And, by the way, when everybody is doing better and the economy is growing, lo and behold, that actually helps to bring down the deficit, helps us pay off our debt.  Previous generations understood this.  Apparently, right now, Republicans disagree. 


And what makes it worse -- it would be bad enough if they just had these set of bad ideas, but they’ve also set their sights on dismantling unions like yours.  I mean, if you ask them, what’s their big economic plan in addition to tax cuts for rich folks, it’s dismantling your unions.  After all you’ve done to build and protect the middle class, they make the argument you’re responsible for the problems facing the middle class.  Somehow, that makes sense to them.


That’s not what I believe.  I believe our economy is stronger when workers are getting paid good wages and good benefits.  That’s what I believe.  (Applause.)  That’s what I believe.  I believe the economy is stronger when collective bargaining rights are protected.  I believe all of us are better off when we’ve got broad-based prosperity that grows outwards from a strong middle class.  I believe when folks try and take collective bargaining rights away by passing so-called “right to work” laws that might also be called “right to work for less,” laws -- (applause) -- that’s not about economics, that’s about politics.  That’s about politics.


That’s why we’ve reversed harmful decisions designed to undermine those rights.  That’s why we passed the Fair Pay Act to help stop pay discrimination.  That’s why we’ve supported Davis-Bacon.  That’s why we reversed the ban on Project Labor Agreements, because we believe in those things as part of a strategy to rebuild America.  (Applause.)  


And as long as I’m your President, I’m going to keep it up.  (Applause.)  I am going to keep it up -- because the right to organize and negotiate fair pay for hard work, that’s the right of every American, from the CEO in the corner office all the way to the worker who built that office.


And every day, you’re hearing from the other side whether it’s the idea that tax cuts for the wealthy are more important than investing for our future, or the notion we should pursue anti-worker policies in the hopes that somehow unions are going to crumble.  It’s all part of that same old philosophy -- tired, worn-out philosophy that says if you’ve already made it, we’ll protect you; if you haven’t made it yet, well, tough luck, you’re on your own.


That misreads America.  That's not what America is about.  The American story has never been about what we can do on our own.  It’s about what we do together.  In the construction industry, nobody gets very far by themselves.  I'm the first to admit -- I’ve got to be careful here because I just barely can hammer a -- (laughter) -- nail into the wall, and my wife is not impressed with my skills when it comes to fixing up the house.  (Laughter.)  Right now, fortunately, I'm in a rental, so -- (laughter) -- I don't end up having to do a lot of work.  (Laughter and applause.) 


But here is what I know about the trades:  If you’ve got folks who aren't pulling together, doing their own thing, things don’t work.  But if you've got enough people with the same goal, pulling in the same direction, looking at the same game plan, you can build something that will stand long after you're gone.  That's how a Hoover Dam or a Golden Gate Bridge or a Empire State Building gets built -- folks working together.  We can do more together than we can do on our own.


That's why unions were built -- understood workers on their own wouldn't have the same ability to look after themselves and their families as they could together.  And what’s true for you is true for America.  We can’t settle for a country where just a few people do really well and everybody else struggles to get by.  We've got to build an economy where everybody has got a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules.  We can’t just cut our way to prosperity.  We need to fight for an economy that helps everybody -– one built on things like American education, and American energy, and American manufacturing, and a kind of world-class infrastructure that makes it all possible.


Now, these have been some tough years we've been in.  I know a lot of your membership can get discouraged, and they can feel like nobody is looking out for them, and they can get frustrated and they -- sure, it's easy to give up on Washington.  I know that.  But we've been through tougher times before.  Your unions have been through tougher times before.  And we’ve always been able to overcome it, because we don't quit. 


I know we can get there, because here in America we don't give up.  We’ve been through tougher times before, and we’ve made it through because we didn't quit, and we didn't throw in the towel.  We rolled up our sleeves.  We fired up our engines, and we remembered a fundamental truth about our country:  Here in America, we rise or fall together as one nation, as one people.


     It doesn't matter where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is.  It doesn't matter whether your folks came from Poland, or came from Italy or came from Mexico.  One people -- strong, united, firing all cylinders.  That's the America I know.  That's the America I believe in.  That's the America we can rebuild together.  (Applause.)


     So if you’re willing to join us in this project of rebuilding America, I want you to know -- when I was running for this office, I told people I’m not perfect.  I’m not a perfect man.  Michelle can tell you that.  (Laughter.)  I’m not a perfect President.  But I made a promise I’d always tell you where I stood.  I’d always tell you what I thought, what I believed in, and most importantly I would wake up every single day working as hard as I know how to make your lives a little bit better.


     And for all that we’ve gone through over the last three and a half, four years, I have kept that promise.  I have kept that promise.  (Applause.)  And I’m still thinking about you.  I’m still thinking about you, and I still believe in you.  And if you join me, we’ll remind the world just why it is that America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)


Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)


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Transportation Nation

Senate Conferees Named for Transportation Bill

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Senators James Inhofe and Barbara Boxer (photo by EPWChairBoxer viaFlickr)

Now it can be known -- here's who will be hammering out the details of a Transportation Bill with the House -- should any hammering be possible -- with experts from Ray LaHood on down opening doubting there will be a transportation bill this year. The House has yet to name any conferees.

Democrat Conferees:

Barbara Boxer (CA)
Max Baucus (MT)
Jay Rockefeller (WV)
Tim Johnson (IL)
Chuck Schumer (NY)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Bob Menendez (NJ)
Dick Durbin (IL)

Republican conferees:

James Inhofe (OK)
David Vitter (LA)
Richard Shelby (AL)
Orrin Hatch (UT)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX)
John Hoeven (ND)

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: Obama Signs Transpo Bill Extender into Law

Friday, March 30, 2012

This just in from the White House:

Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 4281

 On Friday, March 30, 2012, the President signed into law:

H.R. 4281, the "Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012," which provides funding for programs funded from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for the period April 1, 2012, through June 30, 2012; and extends the authority to make expenditures from the HTF for HTF-financed programs through June 30, 2012.





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Transportation Nation

LaHood's Latest Web Video Has Gentler Words on House Transpo Bill

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ray LaHood is keeping up his usual drumbeat issues in his latest web video in his On The Go series.

LaHood used a question submitted from Facebook about transportation grant funding to comment on transportation funding bills under debate in Congress. Hard to imagine there wasn't a more direct question about the bills, but nonetheless LaHood couldn't keep from a short show of support for the Senate's version of the transportation bill, calling it "very good" and "truly bipartisan."

LaHood is notably diplomatic when referring to the House transportation bill, in fact, downright kind compared to his previously blunt language. He says "we are going to be working with the House to either pass the Senate bill" ... or ... he doesn't say or what. We're left wondering what he'd work with House GOP leaders to craft besides that.

The rest of the video offers a few hints on where the DOT is thinking ahead on safety.

"We're continuing to do research" on whether GPS distracts people from driving, he says. He points out the DOT has already suggested voluntary guidelines for carmakers that install built-in GPS systems. LaHood wants the devices programmed to disable the controls while the car is in motion. "We hope that they [the carmakers] will do that," was all he said on the likelihood of that kind of governor setting coming to be. No regulations are in the works.

Watch the full video here:

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: GOP to Push 3-Month Transpo Bill Extension

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

House Republicans, still adrift on how to reauthorize national highway funding legislation, will now push a 3-month extension to avoid a shutdown of transportation programs after March 31.

The fact the GOP would move a temporary extension next week was confirmed yesterday . A statement from House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) issued today specified it would be a 3-month bill.

“Tomorrow, I will introduce a short-term extension through June 30th to ensure continuity of current programs while I and House Republicans continue to work toward a responsible transportation bill that provides long-term certainty, reduces the size of government, eliminates earmarks, and is fully paid for. We continue to believe that linking energy and infrastructure is the responsible thing to do in order to meet our long-term needs,” the statement read.

Senate Democrats are busy talking tough while leaning on the House to instead take up the 2-year $109 billion bill the Senate passed with 74 votes last week. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined a group of Senate Democrats Wednesday to goad House Republicans to avoid the very thing Mica says they'll do.

"We're going to continue the drumbeat. No extension," LaHood said. He called an extension the "death knell" of the Highway Trust Fund and the jobs that rely on it. The highway bill has been temporarily reauthorized eight times since 2009.

The House GOP's decision to spurn the Senate bill, at least for now, leaves open the possibility of a standoff that could lead to a shutdown. Sen. Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, said Tuesday he was "not inclined" to approve a temporary extension in light of the Senate's broad bipartisan vote.

"I hope that we will force this issue" with the House, said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Asked in the same press conference whether Democrats would refuse to back a temporary Highway Bill extension, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Democratic leadership, would not say they would.

"We think it's a very bad idea," he said.

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: Highway Bill Could Be Headed for a Standoff

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

People with a stake in the billions of dollars worth of highway funds and gas taxes may have breathed a temporary sigh of relief a few hours ago when Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica said the GOP would opt for a temporary extension next week.

Not so fast.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says he's not interested in putting a temporary extension of the Highway bill on the Senate floor if the House passes one next week, given that the Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion version of its own last week with 74 votes.

The current Highway bill extension runs out March 31. That means the Senate can keep the program going by passing the House's temporary extension, which will likely include a motion to go to conference with the Senate.

"I'm not inclined to do that," Reid told reporters Tuesday.

If Reid sticks to his guns, that leaves Option Two: Force the House to swallow the Senate's two-year bill or, Option Three: Risk being held responsible for a shutdown reminiscent of last summer's Federal Aviation Administration shutdown fiasco.

Time is running short, and House Republicans have already said they won't try for a version of their 5-year bill before the Easter recess. "There's plenty of time for the House to pass our bill," a Senate Democratic leadership aid says.

The aide wouldn't go so far as to close down all possibilities of a temporary extension as House Republicans now want. But the tough talk has started, and along with it a game of chicken with a March 31 deadline.

"The House had their chance, and they blew it," the aide said.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich





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Transportation Nation

House GOP Opts for Short-Term Transpo Extension

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

House Republicans have decided to pursue a short-term extension rather than take up the Senate's recently-passed two-year Highway bill, The Hill newspaper reports.

The paper quotes House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) after remarks delivered at a rally for infrastructure investments near Capitol Hill. "The time and length of that extension will be determined in consultation with the leadership," Mica is quoted as saying.

The decision to go for an extension, the ninth since 2009, means House Republicans are not ready to capitulate to the Senate on its 2-year bill, even though it passed last week with a broadly bipartisan 74-22 vote. Republican leaders have been busy polling their members on the prospect of endorsing the Senate bill and avoiding a showdown. But Republicans, particularly conservatives, are unhappy with the Senate bill's price tag, its treatment of transit policy and other issues.



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Transportation Nation

LaHood: America is "One Big Pothole"

Monday, March 19, 2012

L to R at Hoboken Station: US Transpo Secty Ray LaHood, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, Hoboken Councilwoman Elizabeth Mason (Photo: Jim O'Grady / WNYC)

(Hoboken, NJ -- WNYC) U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to Hoboken Train Station to make a full-throated cry for Congress to pass the Senate's version of the federal surface transportation bill.

LaHood said the House version of the bill is inferior to the one just passed with 72 votes by the U.S. Senate, which he claimed would provide an annual $1 billion investment in roads and transit, fully restore the transit tax benefit and employ 54,000 workers in New Jersey.

LaHood called on Congressional Republican leaders to act quickly. "Speaker [John] Boehner, take the Senate bill," LaHood said himself a former Republican congressman, adding that the bill would pay for crucial road repairs.

"America is one big pothole," LaHood said. "We need this."

Flanking the secretary were Democratic elected officials from New Jersey. One of them, Senator Frank Lautenberg, challenged New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to convince his fellow Republicans to back the Senate bill.

"Governor Christie, don't be afraid," Lautenberg said. "Tell House Republicans to back away from the extreme Tea Party ideology and pass the Senate transportation bill."

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Transportation Nation

Senate Moves on Transit Tax Deduction

Monday, March 12, 2012

US Senate (photo by flickr user samuel.bowman)

After a few months of reduced tax credits for all the money they spend getting to and from work, commuters may finally be getting a break.  The U-S Senate is expected restore commuter transit benefit worth more than $2,000 annually when it votes on the Transportation bill this week.

Until this year, subway, bus and train riders were able to deduct up to $230-dollars from their pre-tax paychecks to pay their monthly transit bill.  The tax credit was administered through an employer benefit program.  But that benefit cap dropped to $125-dollars as of January 1st after Congress let it lapse after year-end gridlock.

The Senate tried to restore the benefit last month [February] as part of a payroll tax bill, but all amendments in that bill were dropped as part of a deal to get bipartisan support for it from both parties.

Now Senate leaders have embedded the tax credit directly into the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill – it is not an amendment.

The legislation would extend the commuter tax credit through the end of this year.  It would also increase the credit by $10, to $240.  That would give it parity with the existing tax benefit that drivers get each month to offset expenses.  Commuter advocates complained that the lower $125-dollar cap was actually a tax increase on commuters, especially in areas with relative high transit costs for commuting, like suburban New York, New Jersey, Washington, and San Francisco.

In New York,  the minimum monthly pass for all three of the region’s commuter rail systems costs more than the lower, $125-dollars benefit.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) expects the transportation bill will move forward.  “It’s our hope to have this passed by Wednesday at the latest, and now we’re putting a full court press on our colleagues in the House to pass this crucial legislation as well,” he said.  Many New York area House Republicans broke with their party over the last version of the Highway bill, because it excluded dedicated funding for public transit.  After several unsuccessful tries to pass its own bill, the House, led by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), is now expected take up the Senate bill, instead of crafting a version of its own.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would lobby House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who is visiting New York City.  Bloomberg said he wants some help getting a tax credit for commuters. “You know the highway bill helps you if you drive but it doesn't help mass transit and we're very dependent on that,” said Bloomberg.


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Transportation Nation

Bloomberg Wants To Talk Transit With Cantor

Monday, March 12, 2012

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, March 2012 (photo: NYC Mayor's office)

Does New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg want money for the 9/11 museum?  Apparently, he wants money for transit, more.

At his daily press conference, Bloomberg was asked about an upcoming meeting with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor -- and if the Mayor would ask for federal funding for the 9/11 museum.  Bloomberg didn't address the 9/11 museum, instead riffing on the need for transit funding.  Here's the transcript:

Q: Are you going to ask Representative Cantor to support Federal funding for the 9/11 Museum?

Mayor: It’s a whole bunch of things. You know the biggest thing that we really, I think, could get done with him because it probably fits in with what the politics are on both sides of the aisle in Washington at the moment, I’d like to see if we can’t get some help in getting a tax credit for commuters. You know, the highway bill helps you if you drive, but it doesn’t help mass transit and we’re very dependent on that. But there are a whole bunch of issues that are nationwide issues that I- we really care about – immigration and those kinds of things.

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Transportation Nation

Boehner: We'll Work with Senate if GOP Balks on Highway Bill

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Speaker John Boehner (House Photo)

The Senate's transportation bill bill may be the last game in town.

House Republicans leaders have been struggling for weeks to drum up enough support in their own ranks to pass a 5-year bill. Now, faced with a ticking clock on an expiring law, they may be forced to align instead with a bipartisan alternative now on the Senate floor.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) acknowledged Thursday that the GOP's bill still doesn't have the votes it needs to come to the floor and pass. That's despite last-ditch pleas from Republican leaders this week, warning members that the bill might be their last chance to put a conservative stamp on a debate that must ultimately include the Senate and President Obama.

"At this point in time the plan is to bring up the Senate bill, or something like it," Boehner told reporters. He added that talks continue over the 5-year bill, priced originally at $260 billion. Boehner said a longer-term bill is one "most of our members want.'

But getting enough of them to agree to how to do it, and where to find the money to pay for it has proved another matter. And House Democrats have kept the effort at arm's length.

Meanwhile, the Senate began voting on amendments to its own 2-year, $109 billion bill Thursday, though none was directly related to transportation policy. The most high profile vote killed a GOP effort to force approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called Boehner's comments "a big step forward" in getting final agreement on a bill.  Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) who handles political strategy and messaging for Senate Democrats, said Democrats and Republicans could reach a bipartisan deal on the bill and urged Republicans not to "muck it up."

The Senate is set to continue voting on transportation amendments next Tuesday.


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Transportation Nation

Report: Boehner Making Last-Ditch Effort to Rally Republicans on Transpo Bill

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Hill is reporting that House Speaker John Boehner is making one last push to rally Republicans around his $260 billion transportation bill.

From the report:

Boehner bluntly warned lawmakers that if the House does not pass its own bill, it will be stuck with a two-year, $109 billion Senate bill, or “something that looks just like it,” according to a source in the room.

“You don’t like that? I don’t like it either. Why would any of us like it?” the Speaker told his members. “It means punting on the opportunity to pass an infrastructure bill that bears our stamp. It means giving up on the opportunity to make sure a bill is enacted that is responsibly paid for, that has full-scale reforms in it and, most importantly, that is linked to increased production of American energy.

“But right now, it’s the plan.”

More soon.

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: Boehner Says GOP Panning 18-Month Transpo Bill

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

UPDATED WITH BOEHNER COMMENTS House Republican leaders have arrived at an 18-month highway bill they hope can replace a much broader five-year bill that faltered earlier this month, according to lawmakers and aides.

But speaking Thursday morning, House Speaker John Boehner says the 18-month option was falling flat with members of congress.  ""Apparently our members don't think too highly of it," Boehner said of attempts to sell the shorter bill to the House majority. ""I would only think of it as a fall-back measure."

Boehner said leadership is still trying to work on a 5-year bill.

The 18-month bill would reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund into mid-2013, and also reconnects federal transit funding to the trust fund. Disconnecting the two proved contentious in the 5-year bill and caused several Republicans in transit-heavy districts to revolt.

The shorter bill would  also glean about $40 billion from new cuts to federal worker pensions, a move guaranteed to enrage Democrats, especially since the figure appears to be much larger than a $10 billion estimated gap in the bill for the Highway Trust Fund.

The rest of the bill's policies remain largely the same to the 5-year bill that was scuttled when conservatives also rejected it because of its $260 billion price tag. Republicans do not yet have a total cost figure for the 18-month bill, an aide said.

Republican members were polled for their support while on the House floor Wednesday evening, according to Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a moderate and GOP point person on transportation. "They're going to try to jam it," he said. "They went backward because that's what the conservatives said they wanted," LaTourette told Transportation Nation.

A Republican leadership aide confirmed the details of the new bill and said it could be on the House floor as early as next week.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich

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Comments [5]

Transportation Nation

Tie-ups Mean No Transportation Votes Likely this Week

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don't waste any time scanning C-SPAN for for congressional transportation votes this week. It's only Wednesday, and already the prospect of any floor action on transportation legislation in Congress is dead for this week.

That's the line from lawmakers and aides in both the House and Senate, as progress on highway bills in each chamber remain bogged down.

In the House, GOP leaders are still working on a scaled-back version of their five-year, $260 billion highway and infrastructure bill after Democrats balked and many Republicans revolted earlier this month. As reported elsewhere, discussions center around a shorter-term bill with a lower price tag. Republicans are tinkering with many provisions, including rejoining federal transit programs to funding from the Highway Trust Fund.

But those negotiations won't be anywhere close to done this week, lawmakers and aides said. "The leadership is working with the chairmen to try to bring a bill to the floor that can pass," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, put it more succinctly: "What they're trying to do is find the votes," he said.

Meanwhile, while a two-year, $190 billion bill is pending on the Senate floor, leaders there have still not agreed to the list of amendments needed to let debate proceed. Republicans are insisting on dealing with several other non-transportation-related votes first. They include an amendment to allow broad religious exemptions to new Obama Administration rules requiring insurance coverage for contraception and another taking foreign aid money away from Egypt to punish that country for its crackdown on US non-profit organizations.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he expects a vote on the contraception amendment to take place Thursday, with others to follow. But no transportation-related amendments are likely to come up for the remainder of the week, Senate aides said.

The current Highway Bill's authorization expires at the end of March, and the slow pace of progress in both chambers is putting a new authorization in serious doubt. The House is session next week but out of session the week after. Assuming Republican leaders come up with a workable bill, that would leave just two weeks to pass it and reconcile it with a Senate version. And THAT'S assuming the Senate completes its glacial process and list of amendment votes that is already dozens of votes long.

Talk of yet another temporary Highway Bill extension, possibly 18 months in length, is growing on Capitol Hill.


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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: SF's Newest Subway Line Moves Forward; DC's Population Is Up, But Cars Are Down; LaHood Bearish On Transpo Bill

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top stories on TN:
NY MTA Board Member: Overnight Shutdowns Too Broad--And More are On the Way (Link)
Will High Gas Prices Hurt Obama’s Reelection Chances? (Link)
Residents Look at Ways to Bring Walkability Back to Old Houston Neighborhood (Link)

(photo courtesy of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency)

It's all systems go for San Francisco's newest subway. (San Francisco Chronicle)

DC's population is up, but car registrations are flat lining. (Or as WTOP puts it, "New DC residents: I couldn't 'car' less.")

Airline co-pilots would have to meet the same experience threshold required of captains—the first boost in four decades—under regulations proposed Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration. (AP via Mercury News)

Ray LaHood is bearish on Congress' chances of passing a transportation bill before the March 31st deadline. “I’m going to use past as prologue. We’ve gone 3½ years beyond the last bill...I don’t see Congress passing a bill before this one runs out, before this extension runs out." (Politico)

Meanwhile, state and local transportation officials are anxiously watching Washington for news about the transpo bill. (Politico)

Auto sales are growing so fast American auto makers can barely keep up -- which could lead to shortages that drive up prices. (NPR)

Lawyers for NYC are heading to court today seeking an appeal of a judge's order that the Taxi and Limousine Commission must submit a long term-plan for wheelchair accessibility. (WNYC)

Following safety concerns, NYC will unveil proposed changes to the Prospect Park loop in Brooklyn that would reduce cars to one lane -- and create two separate lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians.  (New York Times)

Future roads will have new technology to ease congestion -- and more congestion because of the new technology. (Marketplace)

TransCanada says it will start building the Oklahoma-to-Texas portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. (NPR)

A bill calling for more transparency at the Port Authority was approved by a New Jersey state senate committee. (Star-Ledger)

New York Times' Room for Debate: how to make cities safer for cyclists and pedestrians? The answers: better street design -- and better enforcement. (Link)

One DC bus rider wrote a song about the errant #42 bus: "One bus, two bus, three bus, four/Can't seem to find those open doors/At this rate how am I gonna get anywhere." (Washington Post)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Ray LaHood Says GOP Wants to "Emasculate" Transit, Tappan Zee Bridge Public Hearings This Week

Monday, February 27, 2012

Top stories on TN:
New Fears Over Revamped Transportation Bill (link)
Mitt and Ann Romney Drive Four Cars (Link)
NY Ports Chief Calls Docks Bastions of Discrimination, Vows Action (Link)
Federal Government Gets Child-Sized Crash Dummies (Link)
Florida Transportation Officials Plug Safety as Train Traffic Increases (Link)
NYC Officials Arrest More for Using Fake Parking Permits (Link)

From "Paradise Parking," a series of photographs of antique cars slowly decaying in nature. (Photo by Peter Lippmann)

The next round of public hearings for the Tappan Zee Bridge rebuild will happen this week in New York's Rockland and Westchester counties. (Poughkeepsie Journal)

Egypt delayed trial proceedings against a group of nonprofit workers --including Sam LaHood, son of transportation secretary Ray LaHood -- until April. (New York Times)

More New Yorkers are charging their cab rides. (Wall Street Journal)

Will gas prices continue to rise if the Keystone XL pipeline isn't built?  (NPR)

Meanwhile: expect sales of fuel-efficient cars to increase if gas prices don't start dropping soon. (Marketplace)

Three pedestrians have been killed in three days along a dangerous stretch of road in Cobb County, Georgia. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SouthCobbPatch)

One reason New York's MTA has an 82% fine collection rate: New York State will take the money out the tax refunds of scofflaws. (New York Daily News)

Los Angeles wants to kill a bus line in favor of light rail service, but advocates say the changes will negatively affect poor and minority communities. (Los Angeles Times)

Sex crimes are underreported on most transit systems, including San Francisco's BART -- where just 95 were documented last year. (Bay Citizen)

New York Times: U.S. should get on board with Europe's cap-and-trade plan for airline's carbon emissions. (Link)

Ray LaHood continues to rail against the GOP's transportation bill, tells crowd at AASHTO event that the Republican plan would "emasculate" transit programs. (Tweet from Ashley Halsey III)

Mitt Romney: "I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners." (The Hill)

London is putting its new Routemaster II buses into service -- to the delight of the Guardian's design columnist. (Link)

Paradise Parking: a series of photographs by Peter Lippmann of antique cars decaying in nature. Check out more gorgeous pictures at Laughing Squid.

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Transportation Nation

New Fears Over Revamped Transportation Bill

Friday, February 24, 2012

(photo by Flickr user: IceNineJon)

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.


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