March 13, 2009
Complete Streets Legislation Introduced in House and Senate
BILL WOULD ENSURE STREETS ARE SAFE AND CONVENIENT FOR ALL USERS
This week, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA, 5th) introduced the Complete Streets Act of 2009 into the US Senate and House (S. 584/H.R. 1443), to ensure that federal transportation infrastructure investments provide safe travel for Americans whether they are driving, bicycling, walking, or taking public transportation. The bill would require that states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations adopt policies to ensure that future road investments take into account the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and vehicles, as well as the needs of people of all ages and abilities. The Act is modeled on Complete Streets policies that have been adopted in more than 80 jurisdictions across the United States in the last few years, including California, Illinois, and dozens of cities.
The National Complete Streets Coalition led the efforts to craft the bill language and gain support for the legislation. Visit their website for more information about the bill and resources such as talking points, fact sheets, and sign on letters.
TAKE ACTION: Show your support for this important legislation by calling or emailing your Member of Congress and asking him or her to co-sponsor the Complete Streets Act of 2009.
Congress Prepare to Move Climate Change Legislation This Year
CLEAN-TEA IS INTRODUCED IN BOTH CHAMBERS
Also this week, Sens. Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR, 3rd), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA, 10th), Steven LaTourette (R-OH, 14th), Melissa Bean (D-IL, 8th), and Mark Kirk (R-IL, 10th) introduced The Clean Low-Emissions Affordable New Transportation Equity Act or CLEAN TEA. The bill is predicated upon passage of a comprehensive climate change bill, which would generate revenue for the Federal government. Under CLEAN-TEA, ten percent of the revenue would be used to create a more efficient transportation system and lower greenhouse gas emissions through strategies including funding new or expanded transit or passenger rail; supporting development around transit stops; and making neighborhoods safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.
As Congress prepares to move climate legislation later this year, the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee is holding a series of hearing. This past Thursday the committee heard from a panel focusing on proposals designed to assist consumers under a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
House Democratic leaders have indicated that they plan to mark up a climate change bill by Memorial Day. The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to solicit comments this month on a draft energy and global warming bill. Over in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also pledged to hold a floor debate later this year on a comprehensive energy and climate bill.
Smart Growth America, in partnership with Transportation For America will continue to work to advance smart growth and transportation policies in climate legislation and bills in the House and Senate move forward.
TAKE ACTION: Show your support for CLEAN-TEA by calling your Member of Congress and asking him or her to co-sponsor the bill. Dowload this fact sheet for more information on the benefits of CLEAN-TEA and specifics of the bill.
FY 2009 Omnibus Spending Package Signed into Law
SENATE APPROVED PACKAGE TUESDAY NIGHT AFTER MORE THAN A WEEK OF DEBATE
On Wednesday, the FY 2009 omnibus spending package was finally signed into law. Only three of the twelve annual appropriations bills were approved in 2009, leaving nine bills remaining for the 111th Congress to complete. The economic recovery package took priority early this session, but the House managed to pass the $410 billion omnibus on February 25, by a vote of 245-178. Debate over earmarks scuttled plans for a quick passage by the Senate. The continuing resolution that had been funding the federal government since last fall expired on March 6 and a second stopgap measure was approved to extend funding through Wednesday. On Tuesday night, the Senate approved the omnibus package by voice vote after a lengthy debate was ended with a 62-35 vote to invoke cloture.
The omnibus included $31 billion or 8 percent, more than the total funding granted to these nine bills in fiscal 2008. The Department of Transportation is allocated $67.2 billion, including $38.6 billion for the Federal Highway Administration and $10.1 billion for the Federal Transit Administration.
Senate Banking Committee Will Hold Several Hearings, Briefings and Meetings on Transit
HEARING THIS WEEK FOCUSED ON TRANSIT AS A SOLUTION TO 21ST CENTURY CHALLENGES
In preparation for writing the next national surface transportation law, several committees and Members of Congress have announced plans to hold hearings and briefings on transportation issues. On the Senate side, the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs will have jurisdiction over transit provisions in the upcoming authorization. Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) recently announced that the Committee would be holding a series of hearings on the state of the nation's transit systems and options for enhancement.
The first hearing was held Thursday morning, entitled "Sustainable Transportation Solutions: Investing in Transit to Meet 21st Century Challenges." Panelists appearing at this hearing included Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; John Hickenlooper, Mayor of Denver, representing the U.S. Conference of Mayors; Joseph Marie, Commissioner of the Connecticut DOT, representing AASHTO and Dr. Beverly Scott, General Manager of MARTA in Atlanta, Chair of the American Public Transportation Association. Topics of discussion included dramatically increasing funding for transit and the creation of a national infrastructure bank, which Senator Dodd enthusiastically supports. In his opening statement Secretary LaHood reinforced the Administration's support of increased funding for transit and sustainable infrastructure stating, "Climate change must be acknowledged as a reality. Funding for public transportation must increase to help out here. Sustainability must permeate all we do, from highways and transit to aviation and ports."
The House Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee held two transportation related hearings this week. On Tuesday, a hearing addressed DOT management challenges and on Thursday a panel of experts appeared before the committee to discuss rural transportation challenges. DOT challenges include curbing metropolitan congestion and finding a permanent solution for shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund. The most significant transportation challenge in many rural areas is the lack of a designated planning agency.
Water Projects Bill Passes in House
BILL FUNDS $19.4 BILLION FOR WATER QUALITY MEASURES
This week the House passed a long awaited water projects bill (HR 1262). This legislation included five water quality bills that separately passed the House in the last Congress. The package reauthorizes $13.8 billion over five years in wastewater treatment grants and loans as part of a broader $19.4 billion package of water quality measures.
Included in the package was the reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides low-interest loans and grants to local communities for construction of wastewater treatment facilities, for the first time in 15 years. The measure would provide $300 million each year through fiscal 2014 in state management assistance and $100 million in annual grants to nonprofit organizations to provide technical and management assistance in improving wastewater treatment systems in rural areas, small municipalities and tribal communities.
Also included in the bill is a manager's amendment offered by Oberstar (D-MN, 8th) which would authorize $100 million annually for a watershed pilot projects program and would set aside 20 percent of combined storm sewer and sanitary sewer grant money for communities implementing environmentally friendly water infrastructure projects.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to mark up its own water quality bill at the earliest opportunity, building off legislation that the panel approved in 2008.