Our calls and lobbying made an impact. The “moderate” Senators crafting a stimulus compromise decided to leave transportation funding as is in the stimulus. Things can always change, but at the moment, it looks like there won’t be cuts to the transit funding, Boxer/Inhofe won’t add $50 billion more for highways, and Bond won’t cut high-speed rail.
The Transport Politic has a handy chart comparing the House and Senate bills. Basically, the Senate has $2 billion more for intercity rail (high-speed corridors and Amtrak) but $3.6 billion less for local transit (New Starts, transit formula funds, and more). The Senate bill also has the still somewhat mysterious $5.5 billion for “discretionary grants”, which (we think) USDOT could use for transit but could also use for roads.
If the Senate passes this version, the next step is a conference committee to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate versions. Since both dedicate approximately the same amount to transit, we’ll end up somewhere in between. The balance between intercity rail and local transit is up in the air, but the total balance is not.
People on the left and right have plenty of other complaints about this stimulus. And it still gives the lion’s share of money to states under the old formulas which favor highways. There’s no “fix it first” requirement making sure state DOTs repair crumbling bridges before building greenfield freeways. Still, we were able to stop the Senate from making things a lot, lot worse. That’s a start.