Last month I let loose with my frustrations regarding what passes for national transportation policy today. Since then, the US House of Representatives took up and passed a six-year surface transportation bill. I, along with many who care about the condition of America's roads, buses, sidewalks, trails and trains, am happy to have a federal commitment to fund transportation for the next six years. Yet I remain frustrated at the many missed opportunities.
“In a country that’s drastically changing, the House has doubled down on the status quo and declared that our country’s current model for investing in transportation is the best approach for another six years to come. Congress has once again failed to have a meaningful conversation about raising new revenue from users of the transportation system, choosing instead to tap as much as $85 billion in general taxpayer funds to close the yawning gap in our country’s transportation trust fund — leaving the hard decisions for those willing to lead some other day. We’re as disappointed with Congress as we are with many in the transportation community who are willing to accept a flat-funded multi-year bill that’s paid for by any means necessary."
The House and Senate will need to "conference" their two different bills before final legislation is passed and signed into law. But there is no denying that it was heartening to see this Congress finally show that they can, in fact, legislate.
If only we could have seen them embrace smarter investments which recognize the need to better fund transportation that works for cities and people -- this means thinking beyond just road investments or assuming state DOTs deserve to control almost all the funding. On a positive note, it continues to appear that voters across America recognize the opportunity and value of investing in local innovation and mobility options. Eleven out of 16 local transportation measures passed funding transit expansion in places like Seattle.