In early August, President Obama signed a bill crafted by the House and Senate that will keep the Highway Trust Fund from running out of what relatively little money it has until October. It was another Hail Mary pass by a government that has been putting off crafting a viable, long-term solution to the crumbling infrastructure dilemma for years.
But given that lawmakers are on summer recess until Sept. 8, this extension hardly allows debate on the more reassuring six-year fund re-authorization crafted by the Senate. As painful as it is to say, it seems like more Band-Aid solutions to the situation are on the horizon.
Th e temporary bill prevented an abrupt halt in the flow of federal funds to states struggling to fix dangerous highways. We all know the statistics: about 65 percent of America’s roads are rated in less than good condition and 25 percent of bridges need to be replaced, as the U.S. Department of Transportation has documented.
According to USA Today, this is the 34th time since 2009 that Congress has passed a short-term fix instead of the traditional six-year highway bill.
“Careening from self-inflicted crisis to self-inflicted crisis undermines our system,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote in a recent letter to state transportation officials. “We need Congress to break the cycle of short-term extensions; we need a long-term bill with significant growth.”
Senators had hoped to persuade House members to take up legislation that would have authorized highway funding for the six-year period and provided a total of about $47 billion in additional funding for the first three years. But House leaders said they needed more time to review the Senate’s 1,030-page bill before deciding whether to take it up or offer an alternative.
“A multi-year bill is now our joint goal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in the midst of the proceedings. “That’s important for our country. We know it represents the best way to provide state and local governments with the kind of certainty they need to focus on longer-term road and bridge projects.” One can only hope we’ll be lucky enough to see such legislation this year.
In this September edition of Th e Municipal, we will explore themes related to our nation’s new-found awareness of stewardship. We’re taking better care of the environment today than we have for at least the past 100 years; making more efficient use of natural resources, powering our industry and lifestyle with cleaner fuels and even extracting energy and more resources from our garbage. I’d say that these are all things we should have been doing all along, but history has proven there’s a learning that indwells most progress — including ours.
At least we’re doing it now, and The Municipal includes several ideas in this issue about how you can move your green projects one step further. Tennessee, in particular, has a few interesting green projects happening, all of which have been achieved via innovative partnerships. Find out who these municipal partners are on page 14.
Here in the North there are a few weeks left before we have to start hooking up the plow blades and loading the anti-icing equipment. Here’s hoping that fall holds something for your communities to look forward to also.