This is the second of two posts examining Rep. Bill Shuster’s candidacy for the chairmanship of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Yesterday, we took a look at Shuster’s positions on rail and his leadership style. Here we delve into his record on active transportation and the always-thorny topic of funding.
While you might not agree with him that privatization is the best medicine for a struggling passenger rail program, by most accounts Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) has a genuine interest in the future of rail in America. It’s hard to make the case that he cares nearly as much about making streets safe for walking and biking.
Bike Paths Kill!
Indeed, perhaps the most alarming aspect of a Bill Shuster chairmanship is what it would mean for progress on street safety. Shuster is no friend of the movement to make American cities and towns more bikeable and walkable.
He fell in line with the Republican army against Transportation Enhancements, a program that mostly funded bike/ped projects under the previous transportation law. “Not everybody uses a bike path,” Shuster said at the time. He chafed at what others in his party called “set-asides,” saying, “That’s for [the] community to decide, not for our federal government to sit up here in Washington and decide.” He claimed that eliminating TE was “fundamental to the reforms that we are trying to include in this bill.”
Indeed, Shuster’s conviction that transportation is a federal responsibility ends at the interstate. “When you start getting into the inner city, the federal government has less of a role to play,” he told an audience at the Transportation Research Board’s annual conference in January, ignoring the fact that much interstate spending is used to provide capacity for local car trips on highways. “It’s up to the local community and state to decide [their transportation priorities].”
His position that federal transportation dollars should be “focused like a laser [yes, one of his favorite phrases] on the national highway system” alarmed the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which issued an action alert to Pennsylvania voters when Shuster was appointed to the conference committee negotiating the final surface transportation bill. RTC noted that during his official conference statement, Shuster “regrettably… call[ed] out ‘bike paths’ as wasteful, even dangerous.”