GOP platform: Cut Amtrak, privatize airport security and focus highway money on roads

The platform approved by Republicans on Tuesday calls for the elimination of funding for Amtrak passenger rail service, private airport security screening and stopping the use of money earmarked for highway construction for other purposes.

The more than 30,000-word document was approved on the first full day of the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa, Fla. It includes many provisions that were pushed by Republicans in the House during recent negotiations over the new $105 billion transportation bill that was approved by lawmakers in June.

Among them are reducing environmental regulations to expedite construction projects and using more money that is earmarked for transportation for road and highway projects, rather than other forms of transportation such as public transit or bicycling and pedestrian programs.

{mosads}The GOP platform takes a harsh tack on Amtrak in particular, which has been a frequent target of Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Amtrak continues to be, for the taxpayers, an extremely expensive railroad,” the GOP platform says. “The public has to subsidize every ticket nearly $50. It is long past time for the federal government to get out of way and allow private ventures to provide passenger service to the northeast corridor. The same holds true with regard to high-speed and intercity rail across the country.”

On highway funding, the GOP platform adds: “[S]ecuring sufficient funding for the Highway Trust Fund remains a challenge given the debt and deficits and the need to reduce spending. Republicans will make hard choices and set priorities, and infrastructure will be among them.

“In some states with elected officials dominated by the Democratic Party, a proportion of highway funds is diverted to other purposes. This must stop,” the platform continues.

The platform makes clear that Republicans oppose other funding mechanisms that have been suggested by some hardcore transportation supporters, such as a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax.

“We oppose any funding mechanism that would involve governmental monitoring of every car and truck in the nation,” the GOP platform says of the VMT proposal.

The GOP platform includes a brief mention of the U.S. port industry, saying that “[T]he nation’s ports have become a bottleneck in international trade.”

“America’s exporters sometimes use Canadian ports in order to reach the world market in a timely manner,” the GOP platform says. “With the widening of the Panama Canal, our East Coast and Gulf ports have an extraordinary opportunity to boost container traffic but require major improvement to remain competitive receivers of large vessels.”

The Republican platform also includes a plank about the Transportation Security Administration, arguing that the controversial agency is too bloated to be effective and violated airline passengers’ personal rights.

“While the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks brought about a greater need for homeland security, the American people have already delivered their verdict on the Transportation Security Administration: its procedures — and much of its personnel — need to be changed,” the GOP platform says.

“It is now a massive bureaucracy of 65,000 employees who seem to be accountable to no one for the way they treat travelers,” the GOP’s TSA plank continues. “We call for the private sector to take over airport screening wherever feasible and look toward the development of security systems that can replace the personal violation of frisking.”

Democrats will ratify a platform of their own at their convention in Charlotte, N.C., next week.


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