With a new surface transportation re-authorization bill on the table, the process to pass a long-term bill before Congress’ July 31 deadline is materializing.
This week the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a six-year, $278 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill called the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act. This bipartisan bill would increase funding for highway programs by approximately $2.5 billion per year. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing, which explored federal, state and local financing options for road, bridge, and transit projects. After Congress returns from the Independence Day recess, it is possible that additional Senate committees will act to put the final pieces of the transportation bill into place before the July 31 deadline. Funding the bill is the key challenge, with no consensus yet on where to come up with the approximately $100 billion necessary to fund the DRIVE Act.
While Congress is working on funding a long-term bill, more states are being affected by the lack of certainty. As a reminder of why our country desperately needs to increase investment into the program, The Washington Post featured TRIP’s latest analysis on the best and worst road conditions in the nation, showing that 28 percent of our nation’s roadways are in “poor” condition. Drivers in six states plus the District of Columbia can expect to pay well over $600 a year in extra vehicle upkeep costs due to bad roads, and drivers in Oklahoma and California will pay up to $760 per year. These dire road needs nation-wide demonstrate it’s time for us to modernize our transportation network, and further prove that states cannot wait for Congress to act.
Several states are struggling to fund much-needed state infrastructure projects and taking infrastructure funding matters into their own hands. In Arizona, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton discussed how he recognizes that improving infrastructure will take all levels of government—and that Congress must do its part by passing a multiyear surface transportation bill., In Maryland, Governor Hogan announced that the state would allocate $1.97 billion for road, bridge and highway improvement projects, emphasizing that “building, maintaining and fixing Maryland’s roads and bridges is our top transportation priority.” Similarly, Arkansas’ and Delaware’s local state construction projects are stalled due to uncertainty of federal highway funding.