House Transportation Committee Members Express Opposition to Transit Funding in Draft Stimulus Bill
We discussed the text of the stimulus bill yesterday, decrying its rather limited investment in transit, and the fact that it would allocate far less to transit and high-speed rail projects than would have Congressman Jim Oberstar’s Rebuild America proposal, even while maintaining the level of support planned for highways. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that some congressmen, especially those on the Transportation Committee, are calling foul:
“Some members of the House transportation committee objected to the proposed level of investment during a Democratic caucus session Thursday, and several members later spoke out during a committee meeting. Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.) suggested the committee draft a letter or resolution to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi objecting to the transport section of the stimulus bill.
“Rep. Oberstar suggested the committee “mobilize those practitioners of infrastructure” at a hearing next week to demonstrate the need to increase spending levels on shovel-ready projects. “Then I think we make the move on the House leadership and the incoming Obama administration,” he said.“
The good news here is that the Democratic members of the Transportation Committee are in open disagreement with their House colleagues on the Appropriations Committee. There is, then, a coalition in Congress that will push for improved funding for non-automobile transportation in the stimulus bill. It is our hope, then, that transit funding is pushed up from $9 billion to the $12 billion Oberstar proposed and rail funding pushed up from $1 billion to $5 billion. These would be worthy improvements.
High-Speed Two Advances in the United Kingdom
Even as Transport Minister Geoff Hoon approved plans for the controversial third runway at Heathrow Airport, he also announced that the government would begin the study of the U.K.’s second high-speed rail line. The first, High-Speed One, opened in 2007 between the Channel Tunnel and St. Pancras in London, and is the route taken by Southeastern Main Line trains and Eurostar trains to Paris and Brussels. The country will create an independent corporation – High-Speed Two – that will study how to connect St. Pancras with a new rail hub at Heathrow Airport and a new North-South high-speed rail line, which will eventually extend to Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, after passing through Birmingham in the West Midlands.
High-Speed Two will have an interchange at Heathrow with Crossrail, a new underground east-west regional rail system being built for London. It will parallel the route of the existing West Coast Main Line, which has reached capacity.
The Financial Times also reports that the U.K. is considering restarting its rail electrification program, a pragmatic move to increase speeds and energy efficiency. The next lines to be electrified (the East and West Coast Main Lines are already using catenaries) would be the Great Western Main Line from London to Wales and the Midland Main Line from London to Nottingham and Sheffield.
Hyderabad Metro Plans Fall to the Wayside
Hyderabad, a 7 million-person city in central India, has been planning a metro system for the past few years modeled on Delhi’s very successful Metro, which opened in 2002 and is rapidly expanding. The first phase of the system would have three lines: a north-south connector, an east-west line, and a northwest-southeast line, for a total of around 70 km of new construction. Trains would run on elevated viaducts around the city.
But the right wing-controlled Andhra Pradesh regional government have pushed out Maytas, which is an Indian infrastructure company. The project’s finances have recently become a bit confused, and the government is interested to rebidding to another contractor, but it’s unclear when or whether that will actually happen. Left and center parties in the region claim that farming out the contract to a private company, rather than the Delhi Metro corporation, for instance, has led to major financial problems and the use of public land and funds for private betterment. As of now, though, the project appears stalled.