For immediate release
February 10, 2009
Transit for Livable Communities
Transit for Livable Communities Applauds Investments in Infrastructure in Senate Recovery Bill, Urges Senate-House Conferees to Strengthen Transportation Provisions
SAINT PAUL, MN— The Senate today took a significant step toward an economic recovery package that could create the kinds of jobs in Minnesota that will help reduce transportation costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy dependence.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which passed by a margin of 61-37, provides urgently needed funding increases for expansion of mass transit and could be utilized to undertake long-neglected repairs of the state’s crumbling transportation roads and bridges if state and local officials adopt common sense spending priorities.
“This package will ensure that Americans can get back to work,” says Lea Schuster, Executive Director of Transit for Livable Communities. “A 21st century economy depends on a 21st century transit system, and we’re excited to see America moving forward.”
However, the Senate bill is not perfect. Like the House bill, it fails to provide urgently needed support for transit agencies threatened with service cuts due to local budget shortfalls. This is especially important for metro-area transit in Minnesota, which is facing its largest deficit in state history: a whopping $45-60 million for 2010 and 2011. Approximately one-third of the funding for the metro bus system comes from the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax (MVST); with fewer people buying new and used cars, MVST revenue has dropped sharply. If additional money is not provided, fares may be increased by another 50 cents and/or service could be cut.
The bill also joins the House bill in failing to provide the necessary criteria to ensure that state and local officials dedicate highway funds to fixing our crumbling infrastructure first and building a 21st century transportation system that reduces our dependence on oil.
“Minnesota needs a good transportation system to ensure that our state can attract and retain good workers and employers,” says Dave Van Hattum, Policy and Advocacy Program Manager at Transit for Livable Communities “Our state is renowned for its strong economy; we need good transportation to ensure that employed residents can reach and keep their existing jobs.”
Now selected members of the House of Representatives and Senate will come together in a conference committee to negotiate a final recovery package to send to the White House. The conference needs to preserve the best pieces of each bill that do the most to advance the goal of creating the kinds of jobs that will strengthen communities, increase transportation choices and reduce future traffic congestion, oil dependence, and vulnerability to high gas prices.
Specifically, the conference committee should ensure the following components are included in the final bill sent to President Obama:
- At least $8.4 billion for public transportation (Senate), $2.5 billion for New Start transit projects (House), and $2 billion for rail modernization (House) for a total of $13 billion in increased transit funding.
- A transportation enhancement program included in the House bill that will provide funding for ready-to-go bicycling and pedestrian projects which are among the most job intensive, shovel-ready construction projects there are.
- At least $2 billion provided in the Senate bill for high speed rail to create jobs that would reduce our dependence on carbon intensive transportation options.
- The $5.5 billion transportation competitive grants program that can be used for multi-modal investments of national significance, with the addition of criteria that will ensure priority for energy-saving transportation projects
- Additional criteria for highway spending in order to ensure that money goes to fund bridge and road repair construction jobs rather than new highways and highway expansion.
If the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is to bring both economic recovery in the short run, and investment in a clean energy economy for the long run, it must create the transportation jobs now that will help strengthen Minnesota’s communities for decades to come. That means funding the kinds of jobs in Minnesota that fix crumbling roads and bridges, enhance today’s transit services, and start building the world class transit systems necessary for our future success.
Transit for Livable Communities is working locally to ensure that Minnesota residents are heard in the stimulus process. It will continue to work closely with state agencies to ensure that stimulus funding is spent on projects that will provide choices in how residents can get around.
Transit for Livable Communities is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization working to reform Minnesota’s transportation system. Through advocacy, organizing, and research, Transit for Livable Communities promotes a balanced transportation system that encourages transit, walking, biking, and transit-oriented development.