Lipinski, N.Y. colleague form congressional transit caucus
By Greg Hinz
May 23, 2013
A Chicago congressman is one of two founders of a new group designed to help public-transit agencies squeeze money out of Washington.
Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago, joined New York Rep. Michael Grimm today in announcing formation of the Congressional Public Transportation Caucus. The group aims to help the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, Pace and others enlarge the pot of federal money available for capital projects.
"Public transportation is vital to people from all walks of life" in northeastern Illinois, Mr. Lipinski said in a statement. "Maintaining and improving our public transportation systems must be a part of the solution to creating jobs at home and ensuring our competitiveness in the global marketplace."
Mere formation of the caucus won't guarantee a penny more for buses and trains. But such caucuses frequently form in Washington as lawmakers pursue common interests.
Traditionally, road advocates have had more clout in Washington than transit fans. But that showed signs of changing last year when urban congressmen on both sides of the aisle revolted against a move by House GOP leaders to ax the guaranteed share of federal gasoline taxes that go toward transit.
The leadership eventually backed off and agreed to restore transit funding, but a new multiyear surface transportation funding bill is due to be considered again soon.
The new caucus won immediate praise from Joe Costello, executive director of the Regional Transportation Authority here. The group will "focus more national attention on this critical need," he said.
No word yet on how many more members might be recruited to join the caucus.
12:30 p.m. update:
In a quick word while he was waiting to hop a plane back to town, Mr. Lipinski told me he’s just starting on recruiting other caucus members, but hopes to have “at least 40 or 50” pretty soon.
Given last year’s experience with the gas tax, “It’s important to have a group of members who already are together working on these mattes, so that when we start to work on the next highway/transit bill late this year or early next, we are able to step up right away.”
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