The long-running congressional battle over transportation funding is not over, and the outcome could be grim for the whole country. Pennsylvania alone could lose over $900 million in transportation funding.
At a time when gas prices are at an all-time high and every job counts toward our nation's economic recovery, the U.S. must continue to invest in a modern transportation network. Our federal transportation bill should ensure that goods, services and workers move reliably and efficiently. Instead of passing a long-term federal transportation bill that meets these needs and allows local and state transportation planners to get back to work and begin multiyear projects, the House has forced another short-term extension. This is the ninth such delay over two years.
The tottering House transportation proposal, HR 7, inspires only bipartisan conflict. HR 7 would victimize transit commuters, people who bike or walk — and leave suburban drivers stuck in worse traffic jams than ever. It would strip away public-transit funding, slash Amtrak by 25 percent and eliminate improvements for bicycle and pedestrian programs.
By contrast, the Senate's version of the transportation bill was developed with input from strong conservatives, from committed liberals — and from everyone in between. It passed easily with votes from both parties and from nearly every state. There is every reason to believe a bipartisan bill could pass the House.
That's why a bipartisan group of U.S. House members co-signed an appeal to Republican House leaders, urging them to vote for the Senate transportation bill, MAP-21. This two-year road map for a 21st-century transportation network passed the Senate by a healthy margin, 74-22. While the bill isn't perfect, it ensures funding to repair and enhance highways, bridges and mass transit, and to make it safer to walk and bicycle. House members now have a chance to adopt a duplicate of the Senate's bill, recently introduced in the House as HR 14.
In support, Chicago-area Republican Reps. Robert Dold and Judy Biggert wrote a letter to House leaders urging them "to immediately provide some certainty to the transportation sector" by passing the Senate's bill.
What about our own area Reps. Jim Gerlach, Mike Fitzpatrick and Charlie Dent? Their suburban districts have many constituents who use transit and rail to get to work. Businesses in their districts need their customers and employees to have viable, affordable transportation options to traffic congestion. And everyone needs a bill that will stop limiting the ability of state and local government to plan for large, long-term projects that meet the needs of our communities.
So we ask Gerlach, Fitzpatrick and Dent: please urge Republican House leadership to adopt HR 14. Pennsylvanians — commuters, transit and road-repair workers, businesses and commercial fleets — can't afford to endure more delay, and there's no sound reason we should have to. n
Peter Javsicas is executive director of Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions Inc.