House chairman of transportation committee loses reelection (Minnesota Public Radio/AP)
James Oberstar, the Minnesotan and Democrat who had served 18 terms in the House of Representatives, lost to Republican challenger Chuck Cravaack. Oberstar has for the past couple of years been touting a massive expansion of federal spending on transportation as part of the reauthorization of the transportation bill. He never quite got traction, with the White House pursuing other legislation since Barack Obama took office in 2008. It remained to be seen how much Oberstar would have embraced the 30/10 Initiative, Metro’s effort to rewrite federal law to make it easier for regions to use federal loans and other financing to build transit projects. And now it remains to be seen how 30/10 will fair in a Republican-controlled House with a Republican in charge of the transpo committee. The transportation bill is already two years overdue, although the White House and some in Congress have indicated it will be written and voted on next year.
Boxer wins reelection to U.S. Senate (Mercury News)
While Oberstar is out, the biggest champion of 30/10 in the U.S. Senate won reelection last night with a win over challenger Carly Fiorina. It was Boxer who last month announced the $546-million federal loan the Crenshaw/LAX light rail project — a loan that the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated was in the spirit of the 30/10 proposal. Boxer chairs the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, which is an influential post. Still, as of this hour the power has shifted in the Senate, with the Democrats losing at least six seats with three election contests still undecided.
Transportation measures win around the country (Center for Transportation Excellence)
As of this hour, 41 of 55 measures had been approved, although many were small or not calling for new spending. A $125-million bond measure in the transit-friendly Portland, Oregon, area lost.
The American Public Transportation Assn. reports that based on a survey of 24,711 Americans, 62% said they would use high-speed rail for business or leisure travel if it was an option. The survey comes as the feds have issued more grants to high-speed rail projects around the country (which APTA applauds). It is probably worth noting that APTA also represents many private consulting and engineering firms that would like to win contracts to build high-speed rail projects. Story idea for an enterprising reporter: was sprinkling high-speed rail money across many Congressional districts across the U.S. a good strategy for the White House?