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Lipinski: We Need a Fix, Not a Bandage on Transit System

 

Suburban Life

 

As the deadline looms to pass a long-term surface transportation bill in Congress and as federal funding for public transit has been under attack, I like to bring up this quote:

“Anyone who's driven the family car lately knows what it's like to hit a pothole. Woeful tales of highway disrepair have become part of the trucking lore. Bridges are crumbling from under us in many of our older cities while growth is being stifled in our newer ones.

“Common sense tells us that it will cost a lot less to keep the system we have in good repair than to let it disintegrate and have to start over from scratch. Clearly (the Surface Transportation Act) is an investment in tomorrow that we must make today. It will allow us to make interstate repairs, strengthen and improve our bridges, make all of us safer, and help our cities meet their public transit needs.”

This is a quote from Republican conservative icon, Ronald Reagan, in 1983. He knew the importance of good transportation infrastructure, including – as you notice in that quote – public transit. In fact, he signed the bill that for the first time dedicated a portion of the highway trust fund to public transit.

Now, 32 year later, things have only gotten worse; locally we need $34 billion to replace, rehabilitate, and maintain bus and train service. This is the service that provides 2 million rides per day.  

I understand how important this is to my constituents and to so many others in the region, but Congress continues to kick the can down the road. In the past 6 years, there have been 12 temporary extensions of the bill that funds road and transit improvements.  

The backlog has gotten bigger, the funding gap has grown, and the system just gets more expensive to fix. If we invest in our bus and train lines, expand existing lines, and create new connections, we can reduce congestion for riders and drivers, make transit accessible for more people, and ensure that people and goods arrive on-time.

With better public transportation we will have less congestion, less gasoline wasted, less pollution, and fewer hours lost. And to get this done we need a robust, long-term federal highway and transit funding bill.  

That’s why I recently gathered almost 300 of my colleagues to sign a letter calling on House leaders to pass such a bill. It is rare to get such strong bipartisan support for anything these days in Washington.  

I look forward to continuing to work with the heads of the transit agencies and with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this done. We need a fix, not a band-aid.

Transit State by State (10/23/1512:14 PMET )
State by State Totals (10/23/1512:13 PMET )
The Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 (10/16/1510:13 AMET )