Report highlights Metro Transit innovation

Rep. Jim Oberstar planned to endorse the report but got stuck in traffic.

Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., is the chairman of a House transportation committee, but even he gets stuck in traffic. On his way to endorse a report on investing in public transportation Thursday, Oberstar got stuck in Washington D.C.âÄôs early morning rush hour and missed his meeting. âÄú[Washington, D.C.] has, I think, the second worst traffic in the country,âÄù said Sean Crowley, spokesman for the agency that issued the report . âÄúSo exhibit A to why we need better transit.âÄù The report by the Environmental Defense Fund showcased 11 âÄúinnovativeâÄù transit systems nationwide âÄî including Metro TransitâÄôs use of bus-only shoulder freeway lanes in the Twin Cities. The report comes as the six-year federal transportation bill nears expiration and will be reauthorized this fall. John Schadl, press secretary for Oberstar, said the congressman will be paying close attention to public transportation when working on the bill. âÄúThis bill is going to be so different and so ground breaking that [Oberstar] wonâÄôt let you use the term reauthorization,âÄù he said. âÄúWe are authorizing a new transportation bill.âÄù The bill sustains transportation projects, such as transit initiatives, across the United States. The Metro Transit bus-only lanes were highlighted as a project that can increase mobility without road expansion. In a prepared statement, Oberstar said the report shows that âÄúreinventingâÄù the transportation bill to fund transit projects in Minnesota and the nation will stimulate economic development and job creation. âÄúGiven our economic and environmental challenges, âÄòbusiness as usualâÄô transportation investments are not good enough,âÄù Oberstar said. âÄú[The report] sets the standard for transit investments in the upcoming transportation bill to fuel AmericaâÄôs economic recovery.âÄù Rep. Earl Blumenaur, D-Ore., and Matthew Welbes, acting deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, also spoke at Capitol Hill Thursday. Welbes said that transit ridership has steadily increased over the last few years, regardless of changing gas prices and the economy. “We need to assure that the new law will expand opportunities for transit and increase the pace of innovation,” Welbes said. The report also highlights similar programs in about 10 other states, including the Portland, Ore., streetcar system and a central station in Grand Rapids, Mich., that is a LEED certified, meaning it has a high standard of green design. The federal stimulus package includes about $8.4 billion for public transportation and another $8 billion for high-speed rail.