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ZippyTheChimp
July 29th, 2005, 07:26 AM
New York Called Winner in Transport Bill

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
July 29, 2005
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/17766

WASHINGTON - New York lawmakers yesterday hailed the $286 billion transportation bill heading toward President Bush's desk as a significant, if somewhat unexpected, victory for the state.

"We're giddy with excitement because we've done so well for New York," said Senator Schumer, who indeed appeared deliriously pleased as he briefed reporters on the legislation allocating federal funds for highway and transit programs over the next five years. "They said it couldn't be done, but we've actually gotten more funding in the bill and lots of special projects," he said.

Senator Clinton called the measure "a tremendous, tremendous win for New York."

The bill agreed to by a House-Senate conference committee Wednesday night includes $10.7 billion for New York highways, an increase of 19% over prior levels, and $6.5 billion for New York mass transit projects, a gain of 30%.

[A scheduled House vote late yesterday was put off until Friday when several House members strenuously objected to a provision placed in the bill by the Senate that would reopen a closed runway at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, the Associated Press reported. House leaders decided to reconvene Friday morning after trying to resolve the controversy. The Senate is also scheduled to take up the six-year highway bill on Friday before Congress recesses for its six-week summer break.]

The lawmakers said the sharp funding increases for New York were remarkable because southern and western states, which get back less money than they pay in federal fuel taxes, mounted an aggressive campaign to strip money from northeastern states that are net gainers, such as New York.

"There were lots of scary moments. It was a death-defying ride," Mrs. Clinton said. "There was a lot of pressure."

One of the largest and most notable New York projects in the bill is $100 million to fund studies and design for the proposed Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel, which would stretch from Brooklyn to New Jersey. The inclusion of money for the tunnel was a personal victory for Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat of New York, who has long been pushing for the project.

Mr. Nadler said the rail tunnel would help prevent area highways from being completely gridlocked as traffic increases over the next decade. "Without the tunnel, it'll be totally jammed."

The bill also contains $25 million for the Peace Bridge in Buffalo and $18 million for a pedestrian walkway along the High Line, the unused elevated rail area on Manhattan's West Side.

Another provision in the measure would promote the purchase of anti-pollution gear for diesel construction equipment. Mrs. Clinton said that could be a boon for a local manufacturer of the anti-pollution devices, Corning Incorporated. "It's going to be a huge job-creator," she said.

Mr. Schumer said it was difficult to overstate the importance of the legislation to the economic vitality of New York. "The transit bill is our farm bill. It's our lifeblood," he said.

The pressure to keep down the cost of the politically popular bill came primarily from Mr. Bush, who threatened to veto the measure if it exceeded $284 billion. Earlier versions of the legislation have weighed in at as much as $318 billion. The package agreed to on Wednesday overshoots the president's target by about $2.4 billion, but lawmakers said the White House has indicated that Mr. Bush would sign it.

Criticism of the legislation came primarily from environmentalists, who believe the measure shortchanges public transit, and from fiscal conservatives, who denounced the bill as pork-ridden.

About 81% of the money in the compromise bill is devoted to roads, while public transit projects account for about 19% of the funds. A spokesman for the Sierra Club, Eric Olson, said that is a smaller percentage for transit than in previous years. "I fear that it's actually slipping back into the past policies of more highways and less transit," he said.

However, many expected that lawmakers from rural states would squeeze the transit funding even further. "It's a lot better than it could have been," a policy analyst for Friends of the Earth, Colin Peppard, said.

Still, Mr. Peppard said his group would have preferred more money for public transportation. "We've done a great job building roads. It's really time for us to be looking at alternatives. We don't need more. We need to maintain what we have and keep them safe," he said.

A transit economist affiliated with the libertarian Cato Institute, Gabriel Roth, said the process of allocating money in Washington for local construction projects around the country is foolish. "The problems in New York should be determined by New York people. The U.S. Congress should have better things to do than to determine transportation priorities in New York," Mr. Roth said. "It makes no sense for New York road users to pay road taxes that are sent to Washington and come back with all kinds of constraints on them."

Mr. Roth acknowledged that New York is a net beneficiary of the current system, largely because of the area's complex and costly public transportation networks. "The transit people in New York are obvious gainers," he said.

The economist said the federal monies promote waste and inefficiency on the part of those who run trains, buses, and subways in the metropolitan region. "People who use transit should cover the costs. New York transit is so crowded I can't understand how it can cover its costs," he said.

A key player in the negotiations on the House side, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a Republican of New York, said he was a bit surprised that the Northeasterners prevailed over the Southern and Western coalition, which was led by the House majority leader, Rep. Thomas DeLay of Texas.

"They had muscle, but guess what? We had merit," Mr. Boehlert said at a midday news conference with Mr. Schumer, Mrs. Clinton, and Mr. Nadler.

Moments later, however, Mr. Boehlert described the battle over the bill in a way that did not invoke such high-minded conceptions as merit. "We're not talking about philosophy here. We're talking trench warfare," the congressman said. "This is a government teacher's nightmare, the way it really works. It's like watching sausage being made."

July 29, 2005 Edition

Ninjahedge
July 29th, 2005, 10:15 AM
I do agree, there is a lot that needed to be looked at with this bill....


The southern states complaining about the northern getting transportation dollars is like us complaining about farm subsidies, some are NEEDED.


BUT, things like opening up a closed runway in MONTANA, a very important military outpost for the safety and security of the US (sarcasm) and similar provisions still need to be trimmed.


Also, what one of the guys in the article said is correct. We do not need to build a bunch of new stuff, we need to make sure all the old stuff is running properly. Like how about getting some REAL WORK CREWS ON THE BQE and getting the thing fixed instead of the ubiquitious empty "construction site:" that serves to block traffic.

More mass transit improvements, such as superstructure repair and system redesign would be nice (although the union would NOT like an automated transit system, it would help to make what we have more timely and efficient...).

I just hope that this will not go like other $$s have, right through the fingers and into the pockets of construction managers and politicians that are more concerned about their cut than what they are cutting to get it....

czsz
July 29th, 2005, 03:46 PM
The lawmakers said the sharp funding increases for New York were remarkable because southern and western states, which get back less money than they pay in federal fuel taxes, mounted an aggressive campaign to strip money from northeastern states that are net gainers, such as New York.

That's such bullshit considering that Northeastern states are net contributors overall to the needs of the welfare-dependent rural states of the South and West. On the map below, net contributors are blue whereas net gainers are red. The numbers represent how much each state receives back for every dollar it contributes nationally.

http://www.edthibodeau.com/nonplussed/red%20and%20blue%20states%20-%20taxes.gif



About 81% of the money in the compromise bill is devoted to roads, while public transit projects account for about 19% of the funds.

Ugh. Essentially (in terms of New York), more money to promote wasteful and unnecessary suburban housing development in rural areas outside stagnant, emptying upstate cities, less to fix ailing New York City transit.



do not need to build a bunch of new stuff, we need to make sure all the old stuff is running properly.

Definitely. Occasionally, despite the beauty of the East River bridges and such, I wish New York's bridges and highways had been bombed as Europe's were during WWII; the preservation of so much prewar infrastructure has left the city with a shitty legacy of expensively maintained, decaying and insufficiently capacious infrastructure.

Ninjahedge
July 29th, 2005, 05:32 PM
Definitely. Occasionally, despite the beauty of the East River bridges and such, I wish New York's bridges and highways had been bombed as Europe's were during WWII; the preservation of so much prewar infrastructure has left the city with a shitty legacy of expensively maintained, decaying and insufficiently capacious infrastructure.


You never know.

With the "Resistance to religious extremisim" now in effect (that is what it is called now, right?) you could get what you wished for...

:eek:

sfenn1117
July 30th, 2005, 01:17 AM
It would be a shame to lose the Manhattan and esp. the Brooklyn Bridge.

Wasn't there a proposal for a new Williamsburg Bridge in the mid 90s? Why was that cancelled? It looked nice. I'm noty crazy about the current Williamsburg Bridge and wouldn't mind a new one. The Brooklyn/Manhattan bridges better never go away though. They are priceless beauties!