A Chicago congressman wants his colleagues to rethink how they spend hundreds of billions of dollars on transportation projects—especially roads—before they soon take up reauthorization of the government’s main spending program.
In a Washington press conference and a phone interview, Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia announced that he and 21 colleagues, all Democrats, have formed a new Futures of Transportation Caucus. The goal: get lawmakers to rethink how they want to spend money before they fight about how much they’ll spend.
“For too long, conversations about transportation and infrastructure have focused too much on funding and not enough on policy,” Garcia said. “Our current systems leave out communities of color, contribute to congestion and disrepair and fail to respond to disruptive technologies and the climate crisis.”
If that sounds like a call to shift spending from roads to transit and other non-auto options—a tough sell even in a Democratic-controlled House—Garcia conceded such a change “could be” on the table. But so will be helping rural areas that now have no public-transit options and in many cases still lack broadband communications.
More money for transit agencies such as the Chicago Transit Authority and Metra also is likely to come up for discussion, the congressman said. But how to get them to cooperate with ride-hailing services such as Uber that are stealing away some of their passengers also needs to be considered.
Among other items on the agenda: “thinking beyond” the onset of electric vehicles with a view toward cutting road congestion overall, and considering how items such as scooters and bicycles fit in the mix.
The new group won immediate praise from Transportation for America, an advocacy group that encourages options to the automobile. But Garcia said he hopes that some House Republicans will soon join the caucus.
Co-chairs of the caucus are Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and California Rep. Mark Takano.