U.S. PIRG Statement: Why the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act is the Wrong Deal for the Country

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U.S. PIRG Statement: Why the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act is the Wrong Deal for the Country

Statement by John Olivieri, National Campaign Director for 21st Century Transportation at the United States Public Interest Research Group on House and Senate Passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

Yesterday, Congress completed its work on the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act – the first surface transportation bill funded for longer than two years in a decade. Yet, despite the long wait, Congress has once again missed the mark.

 “This bill uses tomorrow’s money to pay for last century’s transportation agenda – ignoring the enormous road and bridge repair deficit and the changing transportation needs of the country.  This is a major missed opportunity that will have significant economic, environmental, and public health consequences for years to come.

“The ‘FAST Act” does little to encourage states to focus on repair of our existing roads and bridges. One indicator of the depth of the problem is thatstates are collectively spending more than $20 billion annually to expand just one percent of the current system, while spending just $16 billion annually preserving the other 99 percent. Kicking this can down the road only makes the problem worse and the solution more expensive and painful. 

“At the same time, this bill fails to make critical investments in public transportation, biking, and walking infrastructure that our nation so desperately wants and needs. Such investments are critical as they help take cars off the road, and significantly reduce harmful emissions that pollute our air, make us sick, and contribute to global climate change.

“Millennials are acutely aware of these benefits. They are driving less than previous generations, and increasingly looking for more public transportation, biking, and waking options. Yet, rather than planning for the transportation system we need now and in the future, our policies remain stuck in the past.

 “The bill also cuts out vital environmental safeguards designed to protect our air, land, and water from polluting and destructive projects in order to make expanding highways faster and easier. The end result will be more highway expansion, more pollution, and more global warming causing carbon emissions.

“Despite claims that this bill is fully paid for, it relies on over $70 billion in ‘off-sets’ that are really nothing more than budget gimmicks and accounting tricks.”