Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hailey supports transportation funding reform

Express Staff Writer

The Hailey City Council passed a resolution last week to support "21st Century Transportation For America," a federal transportation reform movement initiative begun by the U.S. Public Information Research Group. The resolution calls for long-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with automobile use.

"This resolution calls for a shift in the way transportation funding dollars are allocated," said Hailey planner Mariel Platt, who presented the resolution to the council last Monday. "The fact that the city signed the resolution shows they understand that building new roads, while it alleviates congestion temporarily, eventually leads to more automobiles and more traffic."

Platt said long-term solutions to traffic congestion and the associated greenhouse gas emissions are to be found in public transit.

John Krieger, a staff attorney for the Washington, D.C.,-based U.S. PIRG, wrote a letter to Hailey Mayor Rick Davis earlier this month calling for a prioritization of new capital funds for bus, light rail and other forms of modern public transit systems, rather than spending on new roads. The letter also called for the repair of existing roads and bridges.

Kreiger's letter pointed out that "nationally, public transportation saves 3.4 billion gallons of oil each year, prevents 541 million hours of traffic delay and reduces global warming pollution by 26 million tons. In Idaho alone, public transportation saves 100 thousand gallons of oil."

U.S. PIRG is a watchdog non-profit group working to build support for alternative transportation funding at the national level. It is gathering support in anticipation of a new federal transportation bill's being debated next year.

Kreiger asserted that "in the past this bill has been written behind closed doors with little regard for local interests, and federal transportation funds have prioritized new highway projects and rewarded states and municipalities for high gasoline consumption, more highway lane miles, and more vehicles traveled by car and truck. These formulas effectively punish states with reduced federal funds if they lead the effort to reduce America's dependence on oil and global warming pollution."

"It is thought that if cities such as ours sign on to these agreements, it could one day effect legislation at a federal level," Platt said.

Hailey is making progress toward its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from city property and vehicles to meet or beat international Kyoto Protocol standards. The worldwide emission of greenhouse gases is blamed for global warming. The goal was set when former Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant signed the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement in February 2007, joining more than 700 other municipalities in the United States committed to meeting or beating 1990 greenhouse-gas emissions levels.

The United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol—an agreement designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—which became binding in February 2005 for the 141 countries that have.

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