This week, House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) presented his outline for the new transportation bill that sets transportation policies for both highway and transit funding for the next six years.
From early reports, the new transportation funding bill will not contain sufficient funding to meet the needs that have been identified, especially in the nation’s heavily congested urban corridors (including the Nation’s Capital). This could mean a critical loss of funding for key projects in our region, including the Purple Line and CCT, as reported in Robert McCartney’s column in today’s Washington Post.
On the positive side, it eliminates Congressional earmarks, streamlines decision-making, and realigns priorities so that more transportation revenues from the federal gas tax and other sources will be put to work on the most effective transportation projects, without the kind of politically-inspired diversions to non-transportation purposes we’ve seen in the past.
The big question is, what will the Senate bill look like, and will it restore sufficient funding to keep key local projects on track? Transportation infrastructure investment in our nation and the DC region is at a historic low-point, just when our economy needs stimulus and job creation the most.
This is the first time in our history, when faced with a severe economic recession or depression, that we haven’t launched a major public works and infrastructure improvement program to help get us out of it. Last year’s stimulus package contained only a pittance, most of which did not go to transportation capacity improvements. Why not? That’s a question only our elected representatives can answer. Investing in infrastructure has worked every time in the past to provide long-term growth and economic recovery.
This time, we all know the need is there, but our political leaders in both parties have gone AWOL.