Protecting our cities’ transportation funding

California cities will lose vital funding for mass transit, bike and pedestrian improvements, and 21st-century road planning if the House passes the transportation bill in its current form. Critical federal funds would be redirected with a short-sighted emphasis on roads and bridges alone.

While roads and bridges are a critical component of California’s infrastructure, diverting vital funding for sustainable modes of travel is unwise. If this wrongheaded approach moves forward in the House, the nation’s transportation network will take a giant step backward to a “roads only” policy for dedicated funding.

It is no surprise that experts across this country have labeled this bill as the worst they have ever seen, including President Barack Obama’s secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood. This plan jeopardizes mass transit expansion, improvements in air quality and progress we have made to address road congestion. In essence, our cities would be in danger of being stuck at a red light when it comes to advancing transportation alternatives that not only improve our cities, but improve the quality of the lives of hardworking Americans.

Cities throughout California are dependent on a robust multimodal, accessible transportation system. Maintaining mobility in our communities is fundamental to our overall economic vitality, getting people to their workplaces, daily appointments and to downtowns for shopping.

We’ve seen that cities, particularly those in California, continue to drive our nation’s economic resurgence. To choke off our most important resource for transportation infrastructure would be devastating to our recovery. We mustn’t stay silent as the House considers this legislation.

As troublesome as this bill would be, it only gets worse. The legislation would also prevent California from being eligible for high-speed rail funds. It would open the North Slope of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing, allow oil shale development on public lands and expand drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

This bill would also put an end to 30 years of bipartisan support for joint funding of both highways and public transportation and explicitly contradicts President Ronald Reagan’s support for mass transit in 1982.

If there is good news in this situation, it is that there is an alternative to this potentally disastrous piece of legislation. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California and her committee colleagues passed a bipartisan transportation bill that goes to the Senate floor next week. We support Sen. Boxer’s attempts to pass a reasonable reauthorization bill, and oppose the House’s version.

We believe Congress must sustain the long-standing commitment to this funding that reflects support for broad transportation needs across all communities. This is critical to continued economic recovery in California.

Ed Lee is the mayor of San Francisco, Jean Quan is the mayor of Oakland and Chuck Reed is the mayor of San Jose.

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