To use a common football analogy, this week Congress decided to "punt" on finding a long-term highway and transit funding solution and reauthorizing federal surface transportation programs. In football, the purpose of punting is for a team to be in a better strategic position following a failed offensive effort. Congress might need to be reminded of this because their action this week did nothing to get them closer to identifying a long-term solution to increase transportation investment. Their failure to deliver on this important objective harms the nation and will lead to more potholes, overcrowded transit cars, and more deficient bridges.
The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved a measure to extend the current highway and transit program until July 31, 2015, and the U.S. Senate will soon follow suit. This sets-up a similar dynamic as we saw last summer, where the federal Highway Trust Fund will approach bankruptcy at the same time that programs to build roads, repair bridges and improve transit systems will expire. This means that at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) contingency planning will begin on how to soon slow down payments to states for project work completed and, if Congress fails to do anything by the end of July, plans will be in place for the possibility of an August highway and transit department shutdown. More importantly, the extension means that states and localities will pull back even further in their planning and delivery of projects amidst this summer uncertainty. This represents the state of affairs when Congress shirks its responsibility to provide states budget certainty and adequate funding to meet the mobility needs of their residents and local businesses.
Over the next 11 weeks, ASCE will be urging Congress to find a real and lasting solution that will allow America to modernize our roads, bridges, and transit systems. We can't do this alone; we need your help and voice in this policy debate to ensure that members of Congress feel the pressure on the need to act. Please take a moment and write you members of Congress and tell them that they need to fix the Highway Trust Fund and act to improve the nation's transportation system. It's fourth and inches and time for Congress to run a play that gets this issue across the goal line.