KC Light Rail

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New transpo bill dead this session

Congressional leaders and the White House declared this week that the new transportation reauthorization bill released Monday is dead for this session because there is no agreement on how the $500 billion proposal can be funded. Congress will take up the new bill in the 2011 session.

What exactly does that mean for transportation in KC and the rest of the country?

a) DOTs, municipalities, and transit agencies put long-range plans not fully funded by the stimulus package (ARRA) on hold.

b) Congress must plug a $20 billion hole this year in the Highway Trust Fund — which pays for roads and transit — due to falling gas tax revenues. This is essentially an 18-month extension of SAFETEA-LU, the last authorization that began (also late) in 2005. This is in addition to the $8 billion infusion that game from the general fund last year.

c) Politicians realize that there is actually political support for raising the gas tax to fund infrastructure and transit improvements (i.e. perhaps wait until mid-terms are essentially over).

The good news for transit actually has nothing to do with this bill, but another bill that is working its way through the House today — Waxman-Markey, also known as the "cap and trade bill" or "climate change bill" — assuming your media outlet of choice is even covering it (OMG MJ!). Check this quote from the Streetsblog mother ship:

The climate bill gives the states 10 percent of its carbon emissions allowances, the total worth of which is projected to hit $70 billion by 2010, to invest in energy-efficiency projects such as solar power or "smart" electricity grids.

Today's [June 24] agreement allows 10 percent of those state allowances — yes, 10 percent of 10 percent — to help pay for transit expansions, new bike trails, or any other transportation efficiency project.

It's at least something, but it won't come soon enough to help stop service cuts slated to kick in this Sunday.

2 Comments so far

  1. Anon June 26th, 2009 2:42 pm

    It’s almost hilarious that Congress thinks this “cap and trade bill” or “climate change bill” will generate anywhere near the amount of revenue they are projecting.

    Businesses will make changes before they pay these kind of tax increases. For example, I read an article where it was estimated that 1 out of 6 US onshore refineries would be shut down and the oil companies will begin bringing in refined gasoline from offshore refineries via tanker.

  2. Joe Medley June 29th, 2009 7:55 am

    The point is to change domestic habits. High gas prices will do that too.

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