Category: Congress

Transportation and infrastructure take center stage in President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal

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President Obama released his proposal for the fiscal year (FY) 2016 federal budget yesterday, and if passed, it would be an enormous help to communities looking to grow in better, more economically vibrant ways.

Most notably the proposal includes significant investment in transportation and infrastructure programs (there’s even a photo of a bridge on the cover). Building on the Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act, the budget proposes $94.7 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Transportation and sweeping improvements to its programs as part of a six-year, $478 billion surface transportation reauthorization. That would be a $176 billion increase over the last authorization, and $76 billion more than the four-years of funding proposed in the GROW AMERICA Act last spring.

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U.S. Transportation Anthony Foxx voices support for transit-oriented development before Senate EPW Committee

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works this morning on a number of issues related to the next transportation bill. Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) asked the Secretary what role, if any, transit-oriented development should play.

“When you build a transit station, it captures the imagination of real estate developers,” Secretary Foxx replied, “and they start to build dense developments and bring amenities to communities. I would urge that we do more to partner with local communities, and to help them develop the tools to utilize land use opportunities.”

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What the ‘cromnibus’ would mean for federal community development programs

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On Tuesday, the House released its plan to fund the federal government for the next fiscal year. The bill is part omnibus, part continuing resolution—hence the nickname “cromnibus”—and sets discretionary federal spending at close to $1.01 trillion for the rest of fiscal year 2015. The House is expected to take up passage of the bill by tomorrow and the Senate is expected to follow soon after, in hopes of avoiding a potential federal shutdown when the current funding bill expires this week.

The good news is that nearly all federal community development programs would be funded as part of this bill. The bad news is that the majority of those programs would face cuts of some kind.

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Senate, House tangle over highway funding cliff

In the past week, with just days left before the Highway Trust Fund runs dry, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed short-term measures that would keep the fund solvent through the end of this year.

While both plans are essentially short-term patches for a long-term problem—meeting America’s growing infrastructure needs with funding from a gas tax that hasn’t risen since 1993—the Senate version, passed Tuesday, is a big step in the right direction.

Gone are the pension-smoothing and accounting gimmicks, included in the House’s earlier version of the bill, that Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) called “generational theft.” Furthermore, rather than delay the Trust Fund’s insolvency to May of 2015, the new proposal only runs through the end of this year, forcing Congress to confront a long-term solution sooner.

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Congress moves toward short-term transportation fix

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Chairman Wyden helped two committees arrive at a short-term fix.

This week, the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees moved toward passing a short-term fix for the transportation funding crisis, with each committee passing a complementary bill designed to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through at least early 2015. If passed into law, the bills would transfer $10.8 billion dollars to the trust fund, keeping federal transportation operations in the black for another few months.

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Congress takes a stand for neighborhoods with transit

Have you ever caught a bus right outside your office? Taken the subway to a ball game? Or ridden the light rail to go to the grocery store?

If you have, you know how convenient and inviting transit-oriented development can be.

This strategy—of building neighborhoods with homes, shops and offices near public transportation—can create significant economic development, generate new tax revenue for towns and cities, and lower housing and transportation costs for families. But these projects come with complex infrastructure challenges, and as a result need more than just bank support.

A new bill introduced today in Congress would help make transit-oriented development projects more financially feasible.

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What the GROW AMERICA Act would mean for smart growth and community development

Yesterday the Obama Administration sent Congress its proposal for a four-year federal transportation bill—the GROW AMERICA Act. The current bill, MAP-21, is set to expire at the end of September, and the new bill has implications for highway and rail construction as well as economic development programs like TIGER grants. How would these proposals impact community development and smart growth?

The good news
The bill includes several promising policies for smart growth advocates.

First and foremost, it would require cities and states to consider all modes of travel when designing federally funded roads, provisions very similar to those proposed in the Safe Streets Act. This strategy gets the most out of federally funded projects, makes sure a given project best meets a community’s needs, and supports neighborhoods with a wide range of transportation choices—all things that Smart Growth America supports.

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BUILD Act moves through committee

This morning, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted unanimously to pass the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2013. The bill will go next to the full Senate for a vote.

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