Will It Take a Death to Get Congress to Act?

Since 2009, Congress has passed 34 short-term bills to fund transportation programs. This “kick-the-can-down-the-road” strategy seemed likely to end at press time, with news that the Senate was close to working out a deal on a six-year bill.

This is a positive development.

The bill, however, only guarantees funding for three years. The bill would provide more than $40 billion in revenues to cover shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund during the first three years of the legislation’s six-year authorization. To raise its three years of funding, the bill would, among other things: reduce a dividend that the Federal Reserve pays banks for the money they deposit into the Fed system, index customs fees to rise with inflation and sell 100 million barrels of crude oil from the strategic petroleum reserve.

Notice anything missing?

This Congress will apparently not lift a finger to raise the gasoline tax, which has not been increased since 1993. I guess the concept of a “user fee” is foreign to our elected officials.

And what is to be done about the final three years of the bill? Are we to have confidence that Congress will snap their fingers and instantly fund the final three years? More than likely, they will drag their feet again, resulting in more band-aids, duct tape and Elmer’s glue.

Meanwhile, on July 19, an elevated section of Interstate 10 collapsed amid heavy rains in the California desert, injuring one driver, stranding many others and halting travel for thousands by cutting off both directions of the main corridor between Southern California and Arizona.

This wasn’t a bridge that collapsed during a demolition or a failure during a new construction. It was a working bridge.

No one was killed, thank God. But the message this tragedy sends is very clear. The Senate and Congress must come together to finalize a plan fund the repair and rebuilding of our infrastructure, or people are going to die.

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