With a number of items on their plate, such as: Climate Change; Health Care; Financial Market Reform; and Immigration Reform
Congress also is debating how much to spend fixing the nation's transportation system. According to Roll Call, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), has been pushing a six-year, $500 billion bill (highway bill) to repair highways, bridges, airports and mass transit systems, among other things. But President Barack Obama and some Members of Congress instead support a smaller, $20 billion extension of current spending that would delay an overhaul for at least another 18 months.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee wants to move the transportation authorization bill forward and pass a bill the President will sign before it expires on September 30, 2009. As a result, the T&I Committee is working hard this week to approve a $3 billion infusion for the Highway Trust Fund. Passing a bill out of committee this week, would set the stage to avoid an extension and continue to keep various projects funded. They argue the reauthorization will create jobs, and allow for the construction of badly needed bridges and roads. Any extension, committee members argue, will leave states unsure as to how to move forward on any project.
The Senate also is poised to pass a bill before their August recess. But the Senate could spoil Oberstar’s plans by passing a bill that provides a short-term fix until they could pass a more comprehensive bill sometime next year.
The President supports waiting. He has a number of priorities that his Administration is working on and want resolved before tackling this important piece of legislation.
Regardless of the outcome, America’s transportation policy is set on a path that favors sustainability and “intermodal” transport. Nonetheless, creative financing must be found to ensure state's like Michigan get their fair share and that funding is secured for projects such:
The M1 Rail project;
Bus improvements in Saginaw;
New buses for the Branch Area Transit Authority; or,
New buses for the Muskegon Area Transit System;
According to Roll Call:
The National Highway System carries 40 percent of all U.S. traffic and 75 percent of truck traffic.
America relies on trucks to deliver nearly 100 percent of our consumer goods and 70 percent of our nation’s freight tonnage.
Over the past 25 years, the number of registered vehicles has increased more than 50 percent, yet new road miles have grown by less than 5 percent and lane capacity has increased by just 6 percent.
According to the Texas Transportation Institute:
Congestion annually costs the U.S. economy $87.2 billion in the form of 4.2 billion lost hours and 2.8 billion gallons of wasted fuel.
If key congestion bottlenecks were eliminated, the trucking industry alone could save 4.1 billion gallons of fuel over 10 years and 45.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The federal government, in consultation with state and local government and private-sector stakeholders, should tie federal funding to the fulfillment of broad national goals in order to ensure that federal investments are consistent with national priorities. While organizations have been consulting and lobbying Congress for more than a year, it is not to late to join the discussion and offer suggestions as to what the nation's transportation policies should be for the next six years, and how it should be funded. Those affected by transportation policies should work through their trade association and/or individual lobbyists to represent their interests.