Over in the other Washington, DC, the one that’s a curse on the lips of every politician running on a platform of change, advocacy groups on both sides of the transportation issue are gearing up for a fight that will determine the future shape of our settlement patterns, our future impact on the environment, and the success of our cities and towns: the mega transportation spending bill.
Streetsblog covered the launch yesterday of Build for America, a plan to revitalize our economy through investment in the transportation infrastructure we need now and will need in the future. And that doesn’t mean new
roads highways freeways expensive high-speed sprawl-inducing auto-only infrastructure, but greener transit that saves Americans from dependence on foreign oil and spending most of their income on gas.
At yesterday’s press conference in New York, Representative Jerrrold Nadler, who represents most of the West Side of Manhattan and sits on the Transportation Committee, said, “If we do it right, it will help us get out of the very deep recession we’re going into. If we don’t do it right, it will make the recession deeper and reduce our competitiveness.”
Right now, the nation’s attention is riveted on McCain-Obama and Congressional races. Those will have an enormous impact on transportation—Obama supports transit while John McCain just wants to drill and voted against Amtrak funding. Down the ballot, races like Kay Hagan’s in North Carolina also feature stark differences in transportation spending priorities between candidates.
Still, once the election is over, the hard work will begin for the Transportation for America coalition, which according to Roll Call will spend $4 million on the campaign. Five-point plans, press conferences and a Web site are a good start, but we’ll need more to beat the power of the highway lobby.
We’ll need a broad-based movement comprising citizens, bloggers, celebrities, economists, columnists, community organizers, unions, businesses, local governments, and more. Once Americans’ and our elected officials’ attention turns from the election to the harder work of governing, we’ll need that movement to break through the clutter of bad proposals that throw money at bailing out unsustainable development patterns. T4America has the money and the right ideas. Hopefully they can mobilize the nation to pull off a real change in our transportation spending priorities.