Between the water main break on UCLA’s campus, the two Senate votes, and House vote to patch the Highway Trust Fund, the high cost of the failure to act was obvious this week. D+ infrastructure, the overall grade in ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, is in part because of the aging pipes, roads, bridges, and train tracks in the United States. The way to improve the grades is to invest, which would include repairing and replacing infrastructure that has reached the end of its useful life.
The Highway Trust Fund is a crucial funding mechanism in raising the grades of roads, bridges and transit. States depend on the federal government to be a partner in funding transportation projects, and unfortunately the long-term status of the Highway Trust Fund is still uncertain.
Last week, the House approved a bill that would provide funding to the Highway Trust Fund until May. This week Tuesday, the Senate passed a similar bill, with one crucial difference: the funding would last until December, thus ensuring that Congress would be required to revisit the Highway Trust Fund before the close of the year, and hopefully pass a long-term bill with sustainable funding.
Because the two bills were at odds, the House then revisited the legislation on Thursday and voted to remain with the original bill it passed last week. Later that day, the Senate passed the House’s original bill, averting the USDOT’s slowing its payments to states, and the bill will now be sent to the White House for the President’s signature.
The bill provides a patch that will sustain the Highway Trust Fund through May. However Congress still has not passed legislation that includes a long-term, sustainable funding solution. Without this, state DOTs will have difficulty moving forward on projects, and Congress will still be focused on averting funding crises, rather than ensuring opportunity for long-term growth through surface transportation projects.
Behind every improvement of a Report Card grade and every filled in pothole, there is economic growth and improved commutes. Ultimately that is what this debate is about: improving Americans’ quality of life. While your Congressional members are back home during August recess, take the opportunity to visit or attend a local town hall, and ask your elected lawmakers to #fixtheTrustFund.