While far from the end of the surface transportation reauthorization saga, passage of the Senate bill, dubbed MAP-21, was an important milestone that now shifts pressure onto House Republicans in the face of the impending expiration of the current authorization bill at the end of the month.
According to Weisman, "The Senate bill...consolidates 196 federal transportation programs to about a dozen, while giving more flexibility to the states to decide transportation priorities. But it largely keeps the scope of federal highway, transit and other surface transportation projects intact." Writing in The Washington Post, Ashley Halsey III reports that the bill also, "gives states money for projects that ease congestion and air pollution, increases highway safety funding, cuts red tape that delays projects and expands a federal program that provides loans and loan guarantees that encourage private investment." D.C. Streetsblog, which has been on top of the transportation bill's ups and downs, promises more policy details later in the day. In the meantime, Transportation for America has provided a handy amendment tracker.
Critics content that the "gimmick" funding maneuvers used to bridge a nearly $10 billion funding gap merely delay reckoning with the key issue behind the Senate bill's relatively short term spending measure, the impending bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund.