WaysSouth Voices Newsletter • Summer 2011




Since SAFETEA-LU, the 2005 transportation authorization bill, expired in 2009, there has been no comprehensive program to meet our transportation infrastructure needs. The House leadership recently unveiled an outline for its six-year “Transportation Reauthorization Bill” (available at http://republicans.transportation.house.gov/Media/file/112th/Highways/Reauthorization_document.pdf). The outline is short on detail, and no bill text has been released, but a few things can be determined.

The House bill cuts transportation funding by approximately 34% from FY09 levels.  It would likely maintain the historic 80%/20% highway/non-highway ratio of funding, but all programs would suffer significantly.  It is unclear how or whether the bill will effectively address the growing backlog of highway and bridge repair needs.

The bill will consolidate and eliminate nearly 70 of the existing 100 transportation programs. Among the programs slated for elimination—and loss of all dedicated funding—are all programs related to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and high-speed rail. These projects may be eligible for funding if a state chooses.

The bill will include performance measures designed to hold states accountable for their decisions, but it is not clear what factors they will incorporate.  There are concerns that highway programs may be held to lower standards of performance than other Federal programs and it is unclear whether innovation and competition will be fostered. Most highway funds will be distributed via formula to states.

Several provisions to “accelerate project delivery” are indicated in the outline, but these are primarily attacks on the environmental review process. This shortsighted approach is likely to create more problems than it solves.

In the name of deficit reduction and tax-cutting, the House bill as currently proposed will slash investment in the transportation infrastructure that is necessary for economic vitality. WaysSouth is concerned that where it does allow investment, reauthorization will be skewed toward the outdated notion that bigger highways are always the best answer to society’s problems.

(Note: The Senate will be considering a two-year funding bill, but we do not yet have any details about it.)

As the reauthorization process proceeds, WaysSouth will continue to monitor and provide information and action alerts, particularly as they relate to the Southern Appalachians and Corridor K.