PHOENIX – Democratic congressional candidate Andrei Cherny said Congress must begin work immediately on a transportation bill that will protect the future of the Valley's successful Metro Light Rail, provide more funding for road and bridge repairs, and allow more local input into state and federal transportation planning.
The former Clinton White House aide said rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and expanding public transportation are key to growing the economy.
The transportation bill approved by Congress earlier this summer, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), maintained funding at roughly current levels for the next two years, but included little support for public transportation, with four times as much funding for highways as for other forms of transit.
"It doesn't make sense that Washington continues to subsidize Big Oil at the same time it suffocates cleaner modes of transportation that create more jobs and pollute less," said Cherny. "The residents of Congressional District 9 need a true 21st century transportation policy that makes public transportation projects like light rails, streetcars and expanded commuter bus services priorities."
Transportation had long been considered a bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill, but in recent years the Republican leadership has blocked critical updates to federal transportation policy and prevented necessary resources from going to the states. According to non-partisan transportation observers, during the recent Map-21 negotiations Republican House leaders eliminated funding for repairing roads and bridges, reduced the amount of money allocated for cities and local governments, and eliminated previsions to preserve existing public transit services. [Source: http://t4america.org/pressers/2012/06/29/newly-approved-transportation-bill-is-a-clear-step-backwards-a-message-from-t4-america/]
Local communities in Arizona are already feeling the pinch. A recent report from the City of Phoenix state that current "revenue sources to the Highway Trust Fund are insufficient to meet needs." The 2012 transportation funding bill will not fill this gap. [Source: http://phoenix.gov/webcms/groups/internet/@inter/@dept/@govrelat/documents/web_content/073178.pdf].
Cherny said his priorities for the next transportation reauthorization include:
- Boosting federal transportation infrastructure investment.
- Promoting transportation options that advance energy independence and sustainability.
- Strengthening the federal commitment to urban mass transit systems such as Metro Light Rail and other alternatives to highways and private transportation.
- Cutting red tape from the federal aid process, and providing direct funding to large cities and regional metropolitan organizations.
Cherny also called on the Obama Administration to continue to fully support Valley Metro Light Rail, which has received broad bipartisan support since its inception a decade ago. The project was originally included in budgets proposals from President George W. Bush, and in recent years has been championed by U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz. Cherny said he supports the inclusion of $20 million in President Obama's 2013 budget for completing the Light Rail extension into central Mesa, and would advocate for the rest of the $75 million requested by METRO from the Federal Transit Administration.