As Congress turns its attention to appropriations, advocates of smart growth and New Urbanism see the results so far as mixed.
Reconnecting America expressed satisfaction Tuesday (Sept. 20) with one of the most recent Congressional decisions.
“I would like to praise the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) for their foresight in retaining $90 million in the HUD Sustainable Communities Planning Grants program,” John Robert Smith, president and CEO of Reconnecting America and co-chair of Transportation for America, said in a written statement.
“Though Reconnecting America is disappointed to see that no funding was provided for the high speed and intercity passenger rail program,” Smith said, “we are pleased that funding for public transportation and Amtrak have been retained at current levels.” He also expressed satisfaction that funds have been included that would continue TIGER discretionary grants, which communities use for infrastructure projects.
Streetsblog reported that Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, was “discouraged” by the elimination of high-speed rail grants during a markup session of the subcommittee. “It’s a casualty of the cuts mandated in the debt-limit deal,” he said.
Tanya Snyder wrote on Streetsblog: “Despite his strong push last winter for high-speed rail service that would reach 80 percent of the U.S. population in 25 years, President Obama has been willing to sacrifice high-speed rail funding in tense budget fights with Republicans. The Senate seems to be following suit.”
Snyder said that the Senate’s refusal, so far, to cut Amtrak’s budget, and the House’s earlier devastating cuts to Amtrak, have set the stage for a pitched battle once the two chambers reconcile their differing budget bills. Snyder said it appears that TIGER is to be funded by the Senate at $550 million—slightly higher than the $527 million allocation it has now.
The budget decisionmaking is a work in progress, so what seems settled now could be altered. Smart growth groups had been expressing alarm at the prospect of slashes in federal programs that support the smart growth agenda.
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