"Not Exactly the Change We Were Expecting from This Administration."

By Josh Feit January 22, 2009

This morning, we reported on today's U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's recommendation for Washington state: $847 million (out of the $40 billion in federal transportation stimulus money.)

Nationally, the $40 billion is divided about $30 billion for roads and $10 billion for transit, which is slightly better than the historical 80/20 split we've typically seen.

Locally, it's divvied up similarly, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2), who's on the committee, reports. About 25 percent of the $847 million, $216 million, is slated for transit. 

That seemed pretty low to me, but before I mouthed off—full disclosure, I'm a transit fan (after leaving the Stranger last Spring, I did media work for the Prop. 1 light rail expansion campaign)—I checked in with Transportation Choices Coalition Executive Director Rob Johnson to see what he thought. 

"Not exactly the change we were expecting from this administration," Johnson says. "Taken in concert with the [Ray] LaHood appointment [Obama's Republican, roads-friendly Transportation Secretary, as of today,] it looks like the status quo on doing transportation."

Johnson also pointed out that the roads money is a "giveaway," meaning there are no stringent guidelines or metrics for channeling it. This lackadaisical approach at the front end encourages legislators to go for roads money because its easier to justify. Transit money, on the other hand, must meet all sorts of rigorous metrics about ridership and green house gas reduction (which is great), but which makes it harder for legislators to nail down at the front end.

"There's not only a dollars imbalance," Johnson concludes, "there's a criteria imbalance."

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