I was interviewed by Nicole Dungca at the Boston Globe who writes “Could a Trump administration kill the Green Line extension?” (NOVEMBER 18, 2016). My quotes in context below:
1. Sanctuary Cities
Somerville and Cambridge, both involved in the Green Line extension, are so-called “sanctuary cities,” which generally do not cooperate with immigration officials to detain undocumented immigrants. A strong critic of undocumented immigrants during his campaign, Trump made headlines promising an end to federal funding to such cities.
Would moving on those promises cut funding to Green Line extension project, which is counting on that massive federal grant?
If local and national transportation funding watchers are worried, they’re not letting on. University of Minnesota’s David M. Levinson, a transportation analyst and professor, said that defunding sanctuary cities could affect so many communities that it’s essentially a non-starter. And several leaders of sanctuary cities have already said they plan to be defiant if Trump does make good on his promise.
2. Walking back commitments:
“In terms of spending priorities, most money has been allocated from the previous transportation bill,” Levinson said. “The question is whether there’s new money coming up in anything.”
Trump has touted a $3 trillion spending plan that relies mostly on giving incentives to convince private firms to invest in building roads, bridges, and other big transportation projects — but Levinson said that it would likely only apply to select projects with very high returns. And that description doesn’t generally apply to the money-losing public transit projects that urban centers need to battle decades of underinvestment.
3. New spending:
What if Trump actually wants to make extending transit lines or spending big federal dollars on transportation a priority?
He’ll face a skeptical Congress. With Republicans capturing the majority in both chambers, any ambitions for substantially increasing federal funding for transit would likely face a lot of pushback unless it relies on substantial private sector help.
Many transportation watchers are taking a “wait and see” attitude. Pollack said she’ll keep talking with the national American Public Transportation Association, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to keep updated on whether there will be any changes in funding.
And as news trickles out about Trump’s new administration in the coming weeks, transportation is likely to take a back seat to talks about higher-profile appointments, such as secretary of state and attorney general.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty about this administration,” said Levinson. “But transportation spending doesn’t seem to be the thing they should be worried about in this administration.”