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By John R. Bolton
The president fiddles at his domestic altar while the world burns
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Topic - Federal Transit Administration
President Obama is losing another trusted member of his Cabinet with the announcement Tuesday that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is leaving the administration.
Driven by high gas prices and an uncertain economy, Americans are turning to trains and buses to get around in greater numbers than ever before. But the aging transit systems they're riding face an $80 billion maintenance backlog that jeopardizes service just when it's most in demand.
Federal officials have given Maryland the green light to continue planning for its proposed Purple Line light-rail route, though looming federal budget cuts could still slow or derail the $1.9 billion project.
Cries of outrage reverberated across the country when House Republicans, led by Rep. John Mica of Florida, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, proposed a 30 percent reduction in federal surface-transportation spending. Never mind that all Mr. Mica's plan does is limit spending to no more than the gas taxes and other highway user fees that fund federal surface-transportation programs.
Metro officials avoided taking sides Thursday over a compromise proposal to move a planned underground rail station at Washington Dulles International Airport above ground to save money, but board members warned the final choice should not be at the expense of transit or customer service.
For as long as three years, engineering officials overseeing bus and rail vehicles at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority kept safety officials out of the loop when modifying equipment and systems — a potential violation of federal transportation rules flagged just months before the worst accident in the history of the transit agency.
President Obama's proposal for a transportation infrastructure bank has been lauded as a way to bring "rationality" to federal transportation spending. In fact, such a bank - call it "Trannie Mae" - will just increase the politicization and reduce the effectiveness of transportation dollars.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Thursday announced $293 million in federal funding for six transit projects - primarily streetcars - in Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty was snubbed in his request for a share of this handout, but the setback is likely to be only temporary. White House nostalgia for obsolete transportation modes is so great that the $1,548,000,000 price tag on Mr. Fenty's trolley scheme will be seen as economically sensible.