Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Local Officials Frustrated by Transportation Delays

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Local Officials Frustrated by Transportation Delays

Article excerpt

Senators and representatives may be frustrated at the prospect of reconciling differing versions of the transportation reauthorization bill, but local leaders are equally frustrated by the delays to their transportation projects.

"We need this bill passed sooner, not later," said Patrick T. Mumford, a councilman in Charlotte, N.C., which is in the midst of planning a new mass transportation system from the ground up. "We would like to see the conferees come together and resolve this important issue in a timely manner."

Earlier this year the Senate passed a $318 billion version of the transportation bill, followed by the House's approval of a $275 billion transportation bill. President Bush has promised to veto a transportation bill that exceeds $256 billion.

Further delaying passage of the legislation was wrangling between Democrats and Republicans concerning the make up of the conference committee.

The House unanimously agreed on June 3 to appoint a 52-member delegation to the committee, allowing the House and Senate to begin formal negotiations to complete the bill.

The appointment of House and Senate conferees is the first step in a potentially lengthy process to complete a bill. During negotiations on TEA-21, nine months passed between conferee appointments until TEA-21 became law.

June 30 is the next major deadline for reauthorization because that is the expiration date for the current TEA-21 extension.

For cities with transportation programs in the planning or construction phase, the delays are especially frustrating, as are questions over the bill's funding and how that may affect federal contributions to their projects.

In San Jose, Calif., officials wonder if and when the federal government will provide 20 percent of the funding necessary to extend the BART transit system.

Taxpayers in the city and surrounding region have already approved a tax increase to provide 80 percent of the funding needed to extend San Francisco's fight rail and subway system 16 miles to San Jose. …

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