The fix (for transportation funding) isn't in yet, and that's a bad thing

Posted by mmcmullan on 03/13/2014

Big day at the House Transportation Committee yesterday. The committee took a look at the reauthorization of the 'Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act' (MAP-21) as well as President Obama’s 2015 budget request for transportation funding.

So here’s the rub: MAP-21 -- which authorizes the Department of Transportation's (DOT) federal highway, transit, and highway safety programs -- became law in July 2012. But it expires in September, and it’s dangerously underfunded. According to DOT, the Highway Trust Fund account that pays for highway and rail projects will drop below $4 billion in July.

That’s a big number on its own, but let's put it into context. It's not a lot of money for construction and maintenance on transportation projects nationwide. And it happens to be the trigger at which DOT will have to begin slowing federal reimbursements to states who use federal money to fix their roads, rails, tunnels, and bridges.

That means the deadline for shoring up funding for transportation will need to take place in July – not in September.  

But what about the White House's funding plan? Well, the administration gets part of it right: It laid out a $302 billion funding proposal in its 2015 budget that would dedicate additional funding to transportation projects. That’s good. Plus, its forthcoming proposal for a reauthorized MAP-21 act is expected to last for four years instead of two. Also good.

But we’re definitely concerned by the White House's proposal to fund MAP-21 with a windfall from corporate tax reform. That puts a lot of transportation chips on a very uncertain thing: the ability of Washington to see tax reform through this year.

Without federal funds to back them up, states across the nation are going to be pressed to prioritize what roads and bridges need fixing.

And lots of those bridges definitely need help. According to Transportation for America:

If all 66,503 structurally deficient U.S. bridges were placed end to end, you could drive from Washington, DC to Denver, CO entirely on deficient bridges. At 55 mph, you’d be taking your chances for over 28 hours on one, long, bad American bridge.

And if you’re still not convinced of the need to secure funding for MAP-21 and transportation projects across America, you can go to the Transportation for America website and find a bridge in need of repair near you.

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