In his weekly column syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group, Neal Peirce decries the "wildly imbalanced transportation bill" in the House of Representatives, saying it supports highways but imperils federal support for public transit systems, for biking, walking or livable communities."
"The measure would devote the entire federal highway trust fund to roads, terminating a 30-year old agreement, made with President Reagan’s approval, to apportion 20 percent of the gas tax-supported fund to public transportation," Pierce points out. "Transit would be invited to struggle for general fund congressional appropriations each year—a scary prospect in a time of deep, impending cuts to the entire federal budget, with a requirement to show an 'offset' in other federal spending for each transit dollar appropriated."
Pierce links House Republicans' embrace of the bill to the Tea Party activists who for the last year, he says, have been "storming community planning meetings, raising angry voices against efforts by citizen groups or local or regional governments to promote smart growth, density, rail service, walking trails or other amenities."
Pierce warns that with the trust fund's revenue base—the gasoline tax—having declined substantially, and with Congress unwilling for the past 19 years to raise the tax, the advocates of spending all the revenue on highways and bridges may face a day when the tax fails to provide adequate support even for highways.
He calls for courageous leaders who will stand up for the need for a high-quality, diversified transportation system.
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