A Highway Bill That’s Not Just About Highways
The Environment and Public Works Committee approved a highway bill today that would keep federal highway programs going for the next six years that “largely maintains the status quo and avoids controversial new proposals.” But in trying to avoid controversial proposals, lawmakers have evidently also bypassed necessary innovation.
The Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill that would keep transportation spending at current levels, plus inflation, in a rare burst of bipartisan bonhomie, with Democrats and Republicans lavishing praise on each other. No one spoke against the measure, which passed on a voice vote.
No one in Congress, that is. Emily Goff, a transportation policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, listed several reasons the legislation will be harmful.
One of the fundamental problems with current transportation policy is how money is being spent — funds are used on projects that states and local governments should fund. This bill does little to change that.
Goff explains it would “continue to divert federal gas taxes paid by motorists to fund purely local programs and activities that have no relationship to road and bridge improvements.” These include constructing bicycle paths and historic-style street lamps. The bill reduces flexibility for states with regard to how they use finding.
It would increase spending on highway and other programs and spend $125 million annually for a new “competitive grant” program.
Better solutions have been offered by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) 100% and Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) 83%. Sen. Lee’s bill, the Transportation Empowerment Act, would empower the states to fund and manage their transportation programs and priorities. Use the form below to tell your senators to co-sponsor this legislation.