Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday urged state transportation officials to “be bold, don’t be afraid” as they meet with members of Congress in what is likely to be a crucial week for transportation legislation.
The Senate is scheduled to debate Monday afternoon on a two-year, $109 billion transportation bill. House Republicans are scheduled to caucus Tuesday morning to consider a revamped transportation plan that originally called for a five-year $260 billion spending plan.
The measure would have taken spending for mass transit out of the Highway Trust Fund, a proposal opposed by several House members from urban districts. LaHood told members of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials that they helped push back on a program that would have “emasculated transit.”
“You helped us send a message to Capitol Hill that they can’t write a bill that leaves out one of the most important aspects of transportation in America,” LaHood told.
LaHood praised the Senate bill and plugged the Obama administration’s own transportation plan, a six-year, $476 billion plan that would use trust fund revenue and half of the “peace dividend” from reducing U.S. involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When AASHTO members meet with their congressmen this week, “If you don’t have anything else to say, tell them to pass the president’s budget for transportation,” LaHood said. “It’s not a bad place to start. It’s comprehensive way to start. The money’s there. It’s paid for. No excuses. We’ll pass it and put our friends and neighbors to work.”