A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The House transportation bill could kill Amtrak's Downeaster and most other transit services

The U.S. House of Representatives is today voting on H.R. 7, a 5-year transportation budget that would effectively kill public transportation in the United States in order to fund a Nero-like orgy of freeway construction and oil drilling.

Among the bill's features:

  • Elimination of the Mass Transit Account, which Ronald Reagan created in the 1980s to fund transit capital projects and maintenance;

  • Elimination of bike and pedestrian safety programs like Safe Routes to School. These programs comprise a miniscule fraction of federal transportation funding, but they make big impacts with safer crosswalks and more vibrant main streets. These projects use very modest funds to deliver big results to neighborhood safety and economic development. A political party that's fond of frugal government ought to embrace these programs — but a political party that's ruled by Big Oil paymasters might see them as an existential threat.

  • Elimination of Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) rules that would allow state Departments of Transportation to divert funds from transit operations and bike/ped projects to highway expansion.

    It's worth noting that the workers at Maine's DOT have a revolving door arrangement with several highway engineering and construction firms, and that the Amtrak Downeaster service relies substantially on CMAQ funding for its day-to-day operations. This change would leave the door wide open for Governor LePage to yank Downeaster funding in order to build a new freeway to Gorham.

  • And a massive expansion in domestic oil and gas drilling for good measure — as though sabotaging our public transit systems wasn't enough to make sure we stay addicted to the oil lobbyists who bought this bill from their Republican Party puppets.

Call your representatives and tell them to VOTE NO on H.R. 7, the House Transportation Bill:

Chellie Pingree: 1-888-862-6500 or email.

Mike Michaud: (202) 225-6306 or email.

New Hampshire 1st district (eastern/southern NH, including the coastal area):

Frank Guinta: (202) 225-5456 or email.

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