March 27, 2009

T&I discusses transportation issues for disabled

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) members met with representatives of persons with disabilities on Thursday in a roundtable discussion of transportation challenges for the disabled and how those challenges might be addressed in the next multi-year transportation reauthorization bill.

“A number of challenges make it difficult for some Americans to utilize the transportation systems they help pay for and need to get to work and go about their daily lives,” said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla).  “In the next transportation reauthorization, we must work to address these important issues and make transportation accessible for everyone.”

T&I Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-Minn) pledged to work with Mica in a bipartisan effort to try to address the priorities outlined by today’s participants, which included representatives of the American Council of the Blind, Easter Seals, United Cerebral Palsy, the Arc, the National Organization on Disability, the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged, the Community Transportation Association of America and the National Association of the Deaf.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration also participated.

Advocacy group representatives outlined a number of their organizations’ concerns, including ensuring adequate funding for public transit, which persons with disabilities disproportionately rely on for transportation; making communities, infrastructure and transportation services more commuter friendly and more accessible; helping persons with disabilities with transportation costs, and making transportation services more affordable; ensuring that existing services and operating costs are not cut in favor of new transportation projects; and enforcing all existing accessibility rules and regulations.

US DOT officials outlined some of its relevant initiatives in various stages of development, including efforts to address accessibility related to aviation, passenger vessel, intercity rail and public transportation, as well as potential high-speed rail systems that may be established in the U.S.

“With the expiration of the transportation bill at the end of this fiscal year, now is the time to address as many of these issues as possible,” Mica said.  “I thank the participants in today’s meeting for helping us to focus our efforts as Republicans and Democrats work together on what will be critical a reauthorization.”

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