By Philip Newman
Congressional members, transit officials and labor leaders have raised an alarm about proposed Republican legislation that would end automatic federal transportation money and leave New York City’s transit system in jeopardy.
“This is a bill aimed like a dagger at the heart of cities and suburban areas,” said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) at a news conference at Grand Central Terminal Monday.
“What the Republicans are trying to do would cost New York City $1.7 billion,” warned U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights). “Quite literally, this will massacre our mass transit system.”
Since President Ronald Reagan signed legislation more than 30 years ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other large transit agencies in the country have received automatic grants from gas taxes, with the MTA averaging $1 billion a year.
The GOP wants to divert the gas tax money to highways and bridges.
MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota called it “the worst piece of legislation anyone could ever imagine.”
He said, at worst, it could force higher transit fares.
“This bill isn’t worth a warm bucket of asphalt,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria). “This provision will never get through the Senate and may not even pass the full House.”
The members of the city’s Democratic congressional delegation who gathered in front of the station’s Information Booth said the Republicans were trying to divert the federal funding away from mass transit by claiming that mass transit is “alternate transportation.”
“For millions of our people, there is no such thing as ‘alternative transportation,’” said Nadler. “It’s our only way to work.”
The bill was slated to be voted on next week.
Although those familiar with the proposed legislation concede it has little chance of becoming law, “we don’t want this to get that far,” Nadler said. “We want people to know what the Republicans are doing. We want people to know about it and to protest.”
One of those who also opposed the Republican proposal was a Queens Republican.
Rep. Robert Turner (R-Middle Village), who was not at the news conference in Grand Central, released a statement on the GOP transit bill to the media: “Earlier this week, I sent a letter to the leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Chairman John Mica [R-Fla.] and ranking member Nick Rahall [R-W.Va.], urging the committee to maintain a fair allocation of funding for New York.
“I will not support any bill that does not allow New York City to sufficiently meet those needs.”
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 718-260-4536.