Dems Release Stimulus Draft: $30B for Highways, $10B for Transit

Via Greater Greater Washington, the Huffington Post is reporting that House Democrats have released a draft summary of an economic stimulus bill, and at first blush there's little for green transportation advocates to cheer. $30 billion is slated for highways, $10 billion for transit -- a marginal improvement over the longstanding 80/20 split in federal funding. Check after the jump for more details.

The transit figure falls short of the $12.5 billion called for by Rep. James Oberstar, and it appears as though none of the funds would go toward desperately needed operating assistance. The money set aside for capital investment, meanwhile, pales beside even conservative estimates of current needs.

There's no indication yet as to how the highway money would be distributed, but Rep. David Obey, chair of the committee that released the draft, has publicly stated that he wants all of it funneled directly to state DOTs -- a recipe for more highway lanes, more traffic, and more pollution.

The document does not mention any dedicated stream for bike or pedestrian projects.

Intercity rail gets $1.1 billion when the northeast corridor alone has a $10 billion backlog according to the feds' own estimates.

While this draft is certainly headed for significant revisions, as Matthew Yglesias points out, that's not necessarily good news. Seems like a prime opportunity for soon-to-be-President Obama to show city dwellers that he's more than just talk when it comes to urbanism.

The Streetsblog Network is all over this story -- follow the jump for a sampling of what they're saying.

The Transport Politic

...overall, the bill lacks any overriding ambition, and seems to be willing to provide only the modicum of funding with little attention to greater goals or even current needs.

Twin Cities Streets for People

If the $30 B in road money is used for maintenance, to prevent things like future 35-W bridge collapses... and if the other $30 B in energy-saving infrastructure includes alternative transportation investments that can help our cities get away from carbon-centered auto-centered travel... then it looks like a pretty good deal.  Of course, those are two big 'ifs'

Hugh Bartling

On the transit/Amtrak side, we continue to see lack of parity with regard to highway financing–approximately $10 billion. What is interesting is to note the disparities between the demand for financing and what is proposed in the bill. Whereas the bill gives about half of the financing needed for highway projects, in the areas of transit upgrade/repair and Amtrak, the proposed federal contributions are rather minimal.

From the bill draft:

MODERNIZE ROADS, BRIDGES, TRANSIT AND WATERWAYS

To build a 21st century economy, we must engage contractors across the nation to create jobs - rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing public buildings, and putting people to work cleaning our air, water, and land.

Highway Infrastructure: $30 billion for highway and bridge construction projects. It is estimated that states have over 5,100 projects totaling over $64 billion that could be awarded within 180 days. These projects create jobs in the short term while saving commuters time and money in the long term. In 2006, the Department of Transportation estimated $8.5 billion was needed to maintain current systems and $61.4 billion was needed to improve highways and bridges.

Transit: Public transportation saves Americans time and money, saving as much as 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline and reducing carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons each year.

  • New Construction: $1 billion for Capital Investment Grants for new commuter rail or other light rail systems to increase public use of mass transit and to speed projects already in construction. The Federal Transit Administration has $2.4 billion in pre-approved projects.
  • Upgrades and Repair: $2 billion to modernize existing transit systems, including renovations to stations, security systems, computers, equipment, structures, signals, and communications. Funds will be distributed through the existing formula. The repair backlog is nearly $50 billion.
  • Transit Capital Assistance: $6 billion to purchase buses and equipment needed to increase public transportation and improve intermodal and transit facilities. The Department of Transportation estimates a $3.2 billion maintenance backlog and $9.2 billion in needed improvements. The American Public Transportation Association identified 787 ready-to-go transit projects totaling $15.5 billion. Funds will be distributed through the existing formulas.
Amtrak and Intercity Passenger Rail Construction Grants: $1.1 billion to improve the speed and capacity of intercity passenger rail service. The Department of Transportation's Inspector General estimates the North East Corridor alone has a backlog of over $10 billion.