On Monday, Tri-State joined United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Congressman Albio Sires (D-Jersey City) in Hoboken to urge the House of Representatives to pass a transportation bill that safeguards public transit, pedestrians, and America’s crumbling infrastructure.
The House’s transportation bill, which would decrease funding for both rail and transit, has attracted criticism from all quarters, while the Senate’s recently passed bill, a bipartisan effort titled MAP-21, would take the country’s transportation policy in a more accountable, environmentally sustainable, and efficient direction. At Monday’s press conference, Tri-State Associate Director Veronica Vanterpool thanked New Jersey’s senators for their work in improving and passing the bill.
“Thank you…you joined a strong, bipartisan majority of senators who protected transit, Amtrak, and road funding, restored the transit commuter tax benefit to $240 per month, included a complete streets provision that would ensure streets are designed for all users, and maintained local access to pedestrian and bicycle safety funds,” said Vanterpool.
Secretary LaHood and Senators Lautenberg and Menendez, pointing to the Senate bill’s virtues, called on the House to pass the upper chamber’s version.
“I’m thrilled that the Senate has passed a bipartisan transportation bill that will put millions of Americans back to work repairing our aging transportation infrastructure,” said Secretary LaHood. “If the House follows their lead, we can relieve congestion on our roads, expand our transit and rails systems, and provide Americans with safe, affordable ways to reach their destinations when gas prices are high.”
Citing a 2010 TSTC report, Senator Menendez noted that New Jersey’s 200+ structurally deficient bridges are a powerful reason to pass the bill promptly. So is the state’s aging transit infrastructure: last week, New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson and NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein said that increased federal investment in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor was needed to reduce delays on NJ Transit. Senator Lautenberg said that Governor Christie should call on his colleagues in the House to “back away” from extreme ideology and support the Senate bill.
Over the past week, opinion-makers across the nation have praised MAP-21 and urged the House to pass a similar bill. Newsday called the bill “eminently sensible” and said that “the House must now put aside ideology and pass the Senate version.” The New York Daily News urged the House to ensure transit funding and restore the transit commuter tax benefit, and the Connecticut Post similarly commended the commuter benefit restoration. From Chicago to Miami to Sacramento, editorial boards have come out in favor of the Senate’s legislation.
House leaders have not heeded the call so far, signaling that they will introduce a 3-month extension of current transportation policy that would buy time to push for some version of their original, flawed bill. But the Senate bill was also introduced in the House this week by Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Long Island) as HR14. Congressman Sires has signed on as one of 92 co-sponsors, a list that continues to grow.