U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate mass transit subcommittee, today issued the following statement following his no vote on a six-year Senate transportation bill:
“This is a transportation bill that ignores the transportation crisis in this country. It does not provide enough money to keep mass transit running, let alone make substantial improvements to our aging infrastructure. This bill does not do enough to advance Gateway and it disregards what we learned after the horrible train crash in Philadelphia by delaying implementation of Positive Train Control, which we know would have prevented the tragedy and saved lives.
“Our transportation infrastructure is literally crumbling. Our nation’s bridges are dilapidated, our roads falling apart, and Amtrak’s rail tunnels under the Hudson River are dangerously nearing the end of their life, stranding commuters, and putting in peril the vitality of the Northeast’s regional economy. We have serious problems that require serious solutions that adequately address our pressing transportation infrastructure needs.
“We can’t do this on the cheap. We need long-term, robust funding to ensure our transportation system is safe and reliable, not a series of band-aids and a bill that falls painfully short of achieving either.”
The Senator pointed to the following specific failures in the bill:
• Commits to a six-year authorization but only provides three years of funding—creating a Highway Trust Fund cliff in the middle of the bill
• Creates a private-sector transit New Starts program that allows projects with significant private sector involvement in designing, building, operating, or maintaining transit projects to jump to the front of the line for federal money
• Provides a disproportionate increase to transit programs that help rural States and smaller increases to transit programs that help New Jersey
• Contains a number of problematic safety provisions including a pilot program to allow 18 year-olds to drive commercial trucks, underfunding Positive Train Control, and a repeal of new braking standards for crude oil trains
• Contains a number of problematic environmental provisions, including allowing for more road-building in Clean Air Act nonattainment areas
• Offset by a number of controversial non-transportation pay-fors including a tax on mortgages, aviation and Customs fees, and a sale of Strategic Petroleum Reserve assets.