Urgent Action: Oppose Highway Robbery in Senate Stim Bill

Stimulus debate continues today in the Senate, where the stale ideas keep on coming. In addition to the $50 billion highway slush fund floated by Senators Boxer and Inhofe (no vote on that one yet), Missouri's Kit Bond plans to offer two amendments that would rob from transit, rail, and green transportation to pay for highways.

These are the two amendments from Bond:

  • One strips all $2 billion set aside for high speed rail and redirects it to highway funds.
  • The other takes $5.5 billion from "competitive grants" for transportation and gives it to highways.

How quickly the days of $4/gallon gas are forgotten. It goes without saying that de-funding high-speed rail and shoveling extra billions to unaccountable state DOTs, most of which have a penchant for expanding highway capacity, is exactly what we don't need right now. (Bond should be trying to locate billions for transit operations instead: His constituents in St. Louis are bracing for the nation's most severe transit cuts.)

What's more, the $5.5 billion for competitive grants could serve as an early litmus test for Ray LaHood's Department of Transportation. The funds are not set aside for a specific mode -- they could be spent on transit, roads, aviation, or ports. But if the criteria for winning the grants include traffic mitigation or emissions reduction, this pot of money could spur innovative transportation reforms, much like the Urban Partnership program under Mary Peters. Because the bill leaves it open-ended, we don't know yet how LaHood will use the money, and if Bond's amendment passes, we'll never find out.

To oppose backwards transportation policy that deepens oil dependence, worsens quality of life, and flies in the face of sustainability goals, call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urge your Senator to vote no on Bond's amendments and the Inhofe/Boxer amendment. You can also use action alerts from Transportation for America and Environmental Defense to get the message out. Keep us posted about those phone calls in the comments -- we'll have more updates throughout the day.