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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Support Transportation Equity in the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill

Advocacy Letter - 07/18/11

Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: U.S. House of Representatives


Dear Representative:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, we write to urge you to support transportation equity in the next surface transportation reauthorization bill. Chairman John Mica (R-FL) of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released an outline for the six-year transportation reauthorization bill. Although the bill addresses the need for a long-term authorization, the investments in the proposed bill fall drastically short of meeting the country’s past due infrastructure and safety needs.

The Leadership Conference is concerned that the $230 billion, six-year proposal represents a 35 percent spending reduction with potentially significant impacts on public transportation, safer walking and bicycling access, road and bridge repair and maintenance, and adequate funding for civil rights protections. The overall effects of the spending reduction would leave us short of the necessary amount required to meet rising demand for transit service, especially in this time of severe fiscal constraints. Moreover, the severe reduction in critical transportation programs will disproportionately harm low-income people, people of color, seniors, and people with disabilities who rely heavily on affordable, accessible transportation options.

Investing in our nation's roads, bridges, tunnels, rail, transit, and better biking and walking infrastructure can create millions of jobs in these sectors. By contrast, under the House- approved budget plan, a total of 630,000 private sector highway and transit jobs will be lost in 2012. Proposed cuts will continue to negatively affect job access and creation in the transportation sector.

Furthermore, due to cuts in revenue, transit systems have already been carrying out some of the deepest service cuts and steepest fare increases in recent history. Since the beginning of 2009, thousands of workers in the transit industry have been laid off, and approximately 85 percent of public transit systems have increased fares or cut services.

Chairman Mica’s proposal to give states broader latitude does not provide criteria for health and safety protections. The proposed elimination of dedicated funding to help provide more safe options for walking and biking is a significant safety issue. Over the last decade, nearly 50,000 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents, 67 percent of those fatalities took place on federal-aid roadways. Children, seniors, and people of color are disproportionately represented in the 76,000 Americans who, in the last 15 years, have been killed in pedestrian accidents. Streets that are safe for all road users, including pedestrians, are critical to keeping our neighborhoods livable.

Finally, the next surface transportation reauthorization should represent a federal commitment to repairing critical accountability gaps in civil rights laws. These laws were intended to ensure equal opportunity and nondiscrimination in federally funded transportation projects. The Chairman’s outline is silent on ensuring meaningful civil rights protections in project delivery. The next surface transportation reauthorization bill should reinforce our existing civil rights framework and ensure that civil rights laws are followed by all transportation agencies.

We hope that the bill language introduced by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will be revised to provide necessary funding and policy reforms to protect our most vulnerable populations.

Sincerely,

Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President

Our Members