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New transportation caucus to address equity, sustainability in federal funding

Congressional leaders want investments to prioritize climate, safety, and access to jobs

A city street with cyclists riding in bike lanes painted in green, pedestrians walking on a wide sidewalk, and a light rail line.
Congressional leaders are looking for multimodal transportation solutions—not just highways.
Courtesy Toole Design

As a major transportation bill winds its way through Congress, a group of House Democrats have formed a new caucus focused on improving the country’s transportation equity, access, and sustainability.

Announced today by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who represents much of Boston, Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, from the Chicago metropolitan area, and Rep. Mark Takano of Southern California, the Future of Transportation Caucus will organize briefings and other conversations exploring how proposed federal transportation funding will impact emissions, safety, and accessibility for marginalized groups.

“For too long, conversations about transportation and infrastructure have focused too much on funding and not enough on policy,” Rep. García said in a statement. “We have decades-old policies that inadequately address climate change and the shifting realities of Americans’ commute to and from home, work, and school. Our current systems leave out communities of color, contribute to congestion and disrepair, and fail to respond to disruptive technologies and the climate crisis.”

Rep. Pressley, who famously filmed a campaign video on a Boston bus, spent part of the year touring the country with the Sunrise Movement to drum up support for the Green New Deal. “With our current transportation infrastructure entrenched as one of the largest sources of carbon emissions, it is critical that we support multimodal transportation options like cycling, rapid-speed transit, and walking,” she said today.

The new caucus was formed in response to America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate in July. Although the $358 billion bill does include some components meant to address issues like reducing emissions and improving pedestrian safety, advocates say that without explicit priorities set for where the funding will go, most of it will be used to expand highway infrastructure.

“Every time transportation reauthorization comes up, we hear endless cries about the poor state of our crumbling infrastructure,” said Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America. “But the current federal program cuts a blank check with no clear promises for how this money will solve any of our myriad problems, or precisely what will be better or different after six years of spending billions more.”

Earlier this month Transportation for America announced that it would no longer advocate for new transportation funding unless the legislative goals adhere to three principles: prioritizing maintenance, designing for safety over speed, and connecting people to jobs.