Letter to the Editor on Transportation Bill

Featured September 7th in the St. Louis Post-Disptach

Transportation bill must be reauthorized

This past week President Obama urged Congress to pass an extension of the federal transportation program which expires September 30th along with the gas tax.  Why should we care about this in St. Louis?  We should care because it affects every part of our region whether you feel you use the transit system or not.

The federal reauthorization bill provides the funding necessary for transportation systems such as Metrolink and MetroBus (that serves thousands daily), our highways, our bridges and Amtrak and high speed rail. These systems keep people, businesses, and our economy moving in the St. Louis region.  It also provides money for JOBS, including any future transportation projects and those currently under construction.  Here in St. Louis and across the country we know creating jobs and improving the economy are critical.  If the transportation bill expires so will the construction jobs, transportation agency jobs, and service cuts to our transit system affecting people’s access to jobs.

According to numbers from the US Secretary of Transportation, if this law expires, along with the corresponding gas tax of 18.4 cents, almost one million workers will lose their jobs in the next year.  If extending the bill is delayed for just 10 days, the country will lose nearly $1 billion in highway funding.  Revenue from the gas and diesel taxes fund the Federal Highway Trust Fund which funds the transportation programs nationally.  These taxes have not been adjusted since 1993 and revenue has been declining in recent years.

A recent Brookings Institute report demonstrated that people without access to transit systems also have less access to higher paying jobs. Letting this bill expire will significantly increase the numbers of individuals without access to a transit system, forcing them into cars (if they can afford them) and on to roads that can no longer be maintained or repaired because there is inadequate funding.

The American public supports increased funding for public transportation. Even in this poor economy, 77 percent of all transit-related ballot initiatives passed across the country in 2010.  St. Louisans voted in April 2010 for more MetroLink and a better transit system. Letting this bill expire will undermine the hardwork and desires of St. Louis voters.   Ask your legislators to support a clean extension and to work towards a transportation bill, that at the minimum, maintains current levels of funding for transit.  Transit is not an option, it is a necessity whether you use it or not.

Kimberly M. Cella, Executive Director
Citizens for Modern Transit