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Blumenauer: Tranportation Bill Must Include ‘Green’ Projects

An effective and efficient transportation system is one that offers an interconnected network of roads, railways, bus routes, bike paths and pedestrian accommodations. These multimodal transportation options give commuters choices and create competition, improving our ability to move people and goods as efficiently as possible.

To achieve this goal, it is critical that transportation policy treat all modes of transportation equally.

We have heard quite a bit recently about taking the Highway Trust Fund “back to its original intent,” but we are no longer operating the 1950s-era economy that helped shape that intent.

A 21st-century economy demands a 21st-century transportation system, and today’s consumers and businesses are making their demands for more transportation options loud and clear.

When asked, three out of five Americans say they would prefer to see increased spending on public transit, as well as infrastructure to make biking and walking safer, rather than simply expanding road capacity.

Communities are asking for support to expand their public transit systems and ensure safe streets for pedestrians, and businesses need options to create a competitive low-cost supply chain. 

Investing in only one mode of transportation decreases reliability and holds businesses hostage to weather, congestion and the rising cost of fuel.

Unfortunately, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) has proposed cutting overall funding for our aging transportation system by a staggering 34 percent and removing protections for pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure funding.

As our economy continues to struggle out of the worst recession in our lifetime, discouraging communities across the country from investing in projects that create jobs and improve the lives of their citizens would be foolish. These investments are often some of the cheapest we can make to improve our transportation network.

In Portland, Ore., we constructed more than 200 miles of bike lanes for the cost of just one mile of urban freeway. These new bike lanes save commuters money, reduce congestion and decrease the time it takes to get around our city, and they do it for a fraction of what it would have cost to expand our highway capacity.

Alternatives to highway transportation don’t just reduce congestion and commute times — they play a strong role in reinvigorating our economy. Dollar for dollar, green commuting options create more jobs than conventional highway construction projects.

Last month, a study from the Political Economy Research Institute compared job creation as a result of bicycling and walking infrastructure projects to roadway construction and concluded that, dollar for dollar, bike projects have created 46 percent more jobs than road projects without bike or pedestrian components. It is more important than ever that we invest in green transportation alternatives that create jobs, promote economic development and save communities money.

These transportation systems create the type of livable communities in which residents want to live and businesses want to invest. The Dallas Area Regional Transit light rail system has spurred more than $800 million in private investment since construction began in 1990. Portland has seen more than $3.5 billion in development along our streetcar lines, and a new light-rail system in Phoenix has brought in more than $6 billion. Simply put, investments in light rail, streetcar or simple bike and pedestrian infrastructure pay off.

Transportation choices shape the quality of our lives and our access to economic opportunities. Now is the wrong time to neglect our investments in a transportation system that serves all Americans and makes our communities healthier, safer and more economically secure. I hope that my colleagues will listen to the American people and support a multimodal, 21st-century transportation system.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is a member of the Ways and Means and Budget committees, and he is a regular bicycle commuter between his Capitol Hill apartment and his House office.

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