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No Longer in the Driver’s Seat, Road Lobbyists Confront Changing Landscape
WASHINGTON - April 28 - Transforming federal transportation policy into a coherent plan that incorporates road construction, local development initiatives, and public transit has been a thorny endeavor, even by Washington standards, as the influential road lobby comes to terms with a push for "livability" proposals. In the new Center for Public Integrity analysis, "The Road Gang," lobbying disclosure data indicates that while highway interests have spent millions lobbying Congress for a new bill, there's little progress to show for their efforts.
The federal road gang - an influential assembly of highway engineers, labor unions, automobile associations, truckers and regional transportation coalitions - paid more than 300 lobbyists and spent more than $65 million lobbying Congress in 2009. In trying to influence the next $500 billion transportation bill, the road lobby is tangling with supporters of "livability" policies, which emphasize more mixed-use forms of transportation, such as mass transit and neighborhoodwalkways and bicycle paths. And everyone is wrestling with issues of crumbling infrastructure and new capacity at a time when the federal gasoline tax isn't funding what it used to.
Complicating the struggle to draft the next multiyear transportation bill is an economy hit by high unemployment, especially among construction workers, declining fuel tax revenues, and opposing interests unable to agree on a common set of principles and priorities. The last federal transportation law is on its fifth extension since September and a new bill remains stalled in Congress until lawmakers figure out how to pay for it.
View a summary of this Center project on YouTube, narrated by Center staff writer Matt Lewis, who traveled to South Florida to see how these issues play out in local communities.