Senator questions whether DOT livability program will hurt financial support for roads
The Trucker News Services
WASHINGTON — The ranking minority member of the Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee for a second time expressed concerns during a hearing Thursday that money channeled toward sustainability initiatives undercuts financial support for highways and might "reflect a view that we want to get rid of auto transportation."
During questioning by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood defended the $527 million requested in the Obama administration's Fiscal Year 2011 budget for livability efforts at U.S. DOT, according to the Weekly Transportation Report issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
LaHood was appearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development along with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.
The two were testifying about the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities.
LaHood said highways are not being shortchanged.
"We have a state-of-the-art interstate system in America; we have very good roads," he said. "At DOT, we have an obligation to maintain our roads, to make sure they're fixed up, and in places in the country where they need capacity, we're for that. The idea we're giving up on our road program or don't care about highways is nonsense."
LaHood also underscored, however, the widespread frustration with traffic congestion and how many people want transportation alternatives.
He discussed the importance of meeting transportation needs not with a "one size fits all" approach but rather through understanding the unique priorities and preferences of communities nationwide.
Efforts to create multimodal transportation systems in those communities, he acknowledged, "have to come from the ground up" and enjoy popular support.
Helping Americans gain better access to more transportation options, lowering travel costs, and providing affordable housing are also goals of the partnership.
LaHood cited his agency's efforts to help state and local governments leverage investments in transportation infrastructure to advance sustainable development.
"As I have traveled around the country soliciting input on our surface transportation reauthorization, I heard resounding support for our livability initiative," LaHood told senators. "The feedback has been clear: It's time to rethink how we are investing in our nation's communities."
Bond and LaHood first exchange comments about the administration livability efforts during a hearing before Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during a discussion of a new transportation bill.
“What’s livability?” Bond asked LaHood.
“Communities where people have access to many different forms of transportation and affordable housing and the ability to really have access to all of the things that are important to them, whether it’s a grocery store, drug store access. … These are communities and neighborhoods where people want to live where they have access to all the things that they want,” the secretary responded.
Bond argued livability issues would focus on cities, at the expense of rural areas and pondered whether it was the federal government’s responsibility to build such livability features as sidewalks."I've got a lot of constituents for whom livability means having a decent highway," Bond said. "They've got to drive between one town and another town."
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