Friday, June 19, 2009

Oberstar Unveils Transportation Blueprint

[NOTE: The following information is subject to change, as more details are learned about this major legislative proposal]

Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, unveiled his initial blueprint for the next highway and transit authorization on June 18.

Transportation advocates and stakeholders are poring over the broad language in Rep Oberstar's documents, to see what direction Congress is likely to be taking on this important legislation.

In terms of the relationships between public transportation and human services, one significant detail in this blueprint is a proposed consolidation of the current FTA Section 5310, Job Access, and New Freedom programs into a formula-based "Coordinated Access and Mobility Program" (CAMP). Another detail of possible interest is the proposed establishment, under the Federal Highway Administration, of an Office of Livability, which would be charged to administer some grant programs and provide technical support to promote livability and sustainability in planning and transportation system design.

Other items in Rep Oberstar's documents allude to increased funding overall for transit and highway spending, increased share of formula grants to rural and small-urban areas, an emphasis on performance targets and accountability in transit programs, increasing federal share of transit operating assistance, and expanded use of ridership data in determining transit formula grant apportionments. Major transportation projects would be approached in a multi-modal fashion through programs to be administered by the DOT Secretary's office, including a "Metropolitan Mobility and Access" program. There would be a DOT-wide emphasis on streamlining, and performance-based reporting. In the planning arena, there would be increased possible roles for rural transportation planning organizations, and increased expectations for local stakeholder participation in metropolitan and rural planning processes.

Video of Rep Oberstar's news conference releasing this blueprint, along with links to key documents (note that legislative language has not yet been made publicly available), are at Look for the section entitled The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009: "A Blueprint for Investment and Reform"

MEANWHILE, President Obama and DOT Secretary LaHood are calling for a short-term 18-month extension of SAFETEA-LU. This has been reported in a number of places, including a report (based on a direct interview with Sec LaHood) at StreetsBlog,

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