Just in time for the start of summer travel and construction season, the Highway Trust Fund received yet another short-term extension this week. Congress has “punted” once again on passing a long-term highway and transit funding solution until July 31, 2015. This short-term patch is just the latest of temporary solution over the past six years. The Atlantic discussed Congress’ short-term patch response to extending the Highway Trust Fund another two months as a bipartisan issue. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) told the Huffington Post that his own party was to blame for the absence of long-term solution and that a “true conservative” would support federal spending for roads and bridges.
With funds dwindling, states are worried about the lack of federal funding for summer construction projects, announcing that construction projects like the Ashford Avenue Bridge Project and $36 million worth of projects in Montana could suffer if the Federal Highway Trust Fund expires.
Wisconsin Public Radio used the recent Amtrak derailment to underscore the importance of addressing our nation’s infrastructure needs. ASCE’s Senior Managing Director Casey Dinges, who spoke on the program, stressed the importance of learning from past infrastructure calamities, noting that, “those events do capture the public’s attention, and regardless of the causes of some of these incidences, it does create an opportunity for people to talk about infrastructure needs.”
With Memorial Day approaching May 25, our highway, bridge and aviation infrastructure will be put to the test. AAA Mid-Atlantic expects more than 800,000 area residents to be traveling at least 50 miles between Thursday and Monday, which is the most for any Memorial Day weekend in a decade. The increased number of vehicles on the nation’s deteriorating highways will undoubtedly also have safety implications. According to ASCE’s Report Card, roadway conditions are a significant factor in approximately one-third of all U.S. traffic fatalities and cost the U.S. economy $230 billion each year.
In addition to roads, air transportation is also in need of tremendous investment and modernization. The House of Representatives released a report of U.S. airports, showing how they have failed to keep up with passenger capacity needs. The report highlights the significant challenges airports face during peak travel periods and delays due to inclement weather. Despite these unresolved issues, passenger fees continue to rise. Upgrade My Airport has released a petition to persuade Congress to upgrade our airports.
Because infrastructure affects each one of us every day it is critical that Congress feels the pressure to come up with a long-term, sustainable funding solution and pass a multiyear bill by the end of July. If you want to get involved, please write to members of Congress why they need to fix the Highway Trust Fund.