Congressional gridlock will spell out real traffic headaches for commuters unless Congress approves federal funding for the Highway Trust Fund before it officially runs out September 30. Luckily, this hard deadline and a looming August recess where lawmakers will leave DC and will have to defend what they’re doing to solve transportation problems in their home districts, has finally motivated some lawmakers to go for broke to prevent the trust fund from running out.
The Short-Term Fix
Senator Wyden from Oregon has emerged as a leader on those efforts, having brokered an agreement with Republicans on a plan that would provide almost $11 billion in funding for the Highway Trust Fund—which is enough to keep it up and running until May 2015. Last night showed signs of progress as the House of Representatives approved a measure that funds the Highway Trust Fund for one year, similar to the agreement Senator Wyden hammered out. Now the measure awaits Senate action.
Further bolstering support for a short-term fix, the White House has signaled it would back a similar measure. However, President Obama and other administration officials haven’t lost sight of the long-view priorities of the Grow AMERICA agenda which the president spoke about in a Washington, DC event recently.
"Congress should act now, not just to make the repairs desperately needed, but to build the modern infrastructure essential to create and sustain jobs and to build a stronger, more competitive economic future," said Kim Glas, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance.
BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Kim Glas attended the event and said, “The state of our nation’s infrastructure not only impacts our economy, but our environment suffers as well. Congress should act now, not just to make the repairs desperately needed, but to build the modern infrastructure essential to create and sustain jobs and to build a stronger, more competitive economic future. The GROW AMERICA Act will help us accomplish just that.”
A Problem That Isn’t Going Away
We can and must do better than another short term fix though. Americans need and deserve a long-term plan that provides adequate funding, sets necessary policy, and gives states time to set priorities and plan projects. America’s roads and transit systems each earned a “D” grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Our nation’s bridges—which have an average age of 42 years old and nearly 65,000 of which are closed or have load restrictions due to age—didn’t fare much better, earning only a “C+” grade.
Now that the House has passed an extension, it’s the Senate’s move. Failing to act on a short-term fix to rescue the Trust fund puts 700,000 jobs at risk immediately—which would be like Congress firing everyone in Wyoming, Washington, D.C., or Vermont. But our long-term job growth depends on finishing the job.
We still believe Congress can come through on a plan to save the Highway Trust Funding from going bankrupt. But, more than that, we know it’s time for Congress to work together to pass a long-term, fully funded transportation bill that will fix the problems caused by decades of neglect and that will repair and modernize our infrastructure to support a prosperous 21st century economy.