Five unnamed but heroic Democratic Senators refused to support Boxer and Inhofe’s amendment to add $50 billion in highway spending to the stimulus. According to Streetsblog, they insisted on these criteria:
Allocating a minimum of 30 percent of the total to clean water and public transportation/passenger rail. Of the total funds allocated to highways and bridges, 10 percent would have to be set aside for Transportation Enhancements, i.e. bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
Giving the Secretary of Transportation discretion to redirect funds from states that were not adhering to certain criteria to states that were adhering to them. The criteria Dems and enviros wanted to see, for example, would not have allowed states to receive funds by showing that a project improves vehicular Level of Service.
Remember, Level of Service (LOS) is an outdated metric that assumes the only objective of roads is to move the maximum numbers of cars as fast as possible. When transportation departments focus on LOS, they end up with wider intersections and more lanes that reduce walkability and pedestrian safety and promote sprawl.
According to Streetsblog, the Boxer/Inhofe amendment is “nearly dead”, though nothing is certain yet. Update: Infrastructurist reports that Inhofe hasn’t given up. The Bond amendments to cut rail programs also appear to be going nowhere.
I’d love to know who these five unnamed Senators are so that we can thank them for their enlightened approach to transportation.
In other stimulus news, The New York Times this morning reports that Japan’s stimulus in the 1990s failed to revive its economy. Economists both inside and outside Japan disagree on whether “didn’t go far enough… [or] was a colossal waste.” According to the article, they built “increasingly wasteful roads and bridges” instead social services. The article doesn’t mention transit at all, whether in the wasteful or the more useful category. Tip: Greater Greater Dad.
In a Boston Globe op-ed, Ed Glaeser argues for a separate infrastructure bill to create the transportation network we need, and for limiting the stimulus to items like repairing decaying infrastructure that we can actually begin right away.