After months of partisan gamesmanship, Congress finally coughed up a transportation bill today.
Both the House and the Senate voted to okay a compromise of a compromise that is a major letdown for fans of bikes and clean transit. President Obama is expected to sign it into law today or tomorrow.
Despite much back-patting and talk of bipartisanship, a semi-decent Senate version of the bill was gutted during the conference-committee process. First House lawmakers loaded it up with “poison pills,” including a provision that would have forced the approval of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline. Those pills were dropped from the final bill, but so were measures that would have promoted public transit, walking and biking infrastructure, air quality, accountability, and environmental review.
What was left? Highways, highways, and more highways.
“The final bill looks a lot like HR7,” a never-passed House version of the bill that would have slashed funds for transit, bike paths, and safe routes to school, says David Goldberg of the nonprofit Transportation for America. “This is the last gasp of a spent, 20th-century transportation program.”
When last seen, members of Congress were hightailing it for their Fourth of July recess, kicking up a cloud of exhaust. They were quickly caught in pre-holiday traffic, however, giving them a taste of what we’re all in for in the years ahead.