Act Now to Make Sure the CLEAN TEA amendment — and Federal Support for Connected Street Networks — are in the Climate Bill

Special message from John Norquist:

Last winter, despite the best efforts of CNU and allies, the rapidly prepared federal stimulus bill wound up funding a lot of highway expansion projects that perpetuate automobile-dependence. Nevertheless, an argument CNU made — that streets that form highly connected, walkable networks are along with transit the backbones of sustainable neighborhoods and deserve federal funding — made an impression on some key members of the Senate and House.

These members — including Senator Carper of Delaware, Senator Lautenberg of New Jersey and Congressman Blumenauer of Oregon — are the sponsors of legislation known as CLEAN TEA, a proposed amendment to the Climate Bill that will soon become a focus in the Senate. If it becomes law, the amendment will require major metropolitan areas to create plans to reduce carbon emissions associated with transportation and land development. And just as importantly, it will set aside 10 percent of future cap-and-trade proceeds to fund these plans and the low-carbon transportation investments they'll incorporate. Thanks to CNU's efforts, the authors of CLEAN TEA expanded their definition of eligible clean transportation projects to include road construction that “enhances connectivity, increases the efficiency of network performance, and encourages the use of public transportation, pedestrian walkways, or bicycle lanes.”

These are the streets of new urbanist neighborhoods. Unlike the freeways the Feds regularly funds street networks can serve as a great setting for transit service, biking and walking. For the first time ever, the Federal government is on the cusp of distinguishing between good and bad pavement.

But CLEAN TEA will need a big push from CNU members and others in the Transportation for America coalition to become law. Only small portions of CLEAN TEA — and not the connectivity language — were included in the version of the Climate Bill that passed the house. Transportation for America is asking all of its members to urge their Senators to sign-on as CLEAN TEA sponsors and call for the inclusion of of the entire CLEAN TEA amendment in the Senate version of the Climate Bill.

Throughout the year, we get a number of valuable opportunities to join with T4America and take action. This is one of those special times to make sure you follow through. That's why I'm asking you personally to contact your Senators and tell them the importance of signing on as a co-sponsor and insisting the full CLEAN TEA amendment (S. 575) is in the Climate Bill, so that the federal government starts supporting the street infrastructure that reduces carbon emissions and helps create valuable, livable neighborhoods. Please call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be connected to your Senator’s office and leave a message with a staffer. For more information, see this action alert from T4 America.

If your Senator is a member of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, getting their support is doubly important.

EPW Senators not yet sponsoring Clean-TEA

Chairman Barbara Boxer

New York:
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Update 7-31-09: Elena Schor of Streetsblog reports that Gillibrand is now a co-sponsor of CLEAN TEA, leaving the Environment and Public Works Committee four members shy of having a majority signing on to support this important amendment.

Sen. Mike Crapo

Sen. George V. Voinovich

Sen. David Vitter

Sen. James M. Inhofe

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Rhode Island:
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Sen. Christopher S. Bond

Sen. Lamar Alexander

Sen. Max Baucus

Sen. Bernie Sanders

New Mexico:
Sen. Tom Udall

Sen. John Barrasso

Since the Obama Administration and top Congressional leaders have signaled their intention to extend the current Federal Transporation Authorization and put off serious transportation reform till next year or later, the Climate Cap-and-Trade Bill represents our best near-term opportunity to see our agenda incorporated into major legislation. Please, don't let this opportunity slip away.

John Norquist.


A related, if tangential, thought.

Perhaps something for another time, but this post got me to thinking. The next effort for transportation lobbying should be to make local streets eligible for federal funds. We all know how current funding formulas encourage sprawl, but what's less talked about is how discriminatory they are. Suburbs have shiny new streets and plenty of money for maintenance, while city neighborhood streets deteriorate more every day. This is particularly so in the older, often the poorest, parts of the city. It has a direct - negative - impact on property values and attractiveness, which contribute to poverty and disinvestment, but cities just don't have the wherewithal to keep up. It used to be that a replacement standard for city streets was thirty years. Practically speaking, it now probably exceeds 100 years in most places. (One could even imagine a civil rights issue in all this, as with other federal policies that disadvantage central city populations.)

States and RPCs would squeal like stuck pigs if this was raised, but we need to stop funding city street maintenance and reconstruction from programs like CDBG if central cities are going to be sustainable and competitive for investment.


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