The Senate's bipartisan approval of the MAP-21 transportation reauthorization bill this week was a major milestone in the three-year struggle to replace the last long-term transportation bill. While many observers have quibbled with the short horizon of the bill and its willingness to kick the Highway Trust Fund can down the curb, Freemark notes that "The bipartisan passage of the legislation - though not as close to unanimity as many previous transportation bills - suggests that there continues to be relative consensus among both parties that there is a rationale for federal investment in transportation infrastructure."
For all its faults, "the Senate's proposal is a significant advance over the existing law," claims Freemark, who provides details of the significant policy changes contained within. "If it were passed by the House, American cities would benefit."
Unfortunately, as Ezra Klein writes in a scathing commentary in today's Washington Post, the chances of such passage are basically nil. Calling Congress an "embarrassment," he reports that "Hill staffers tell Politico that the House won't take the Senate bill up before the end of the month. Which means, yes, a ninth transportation stopgap. A ninth bill that doesn't give states any predictable framework in which to make long-term investments. A ninth failure, in other words."
So, while the momentary excitement over movement towards a comprehensive transportation reauthorization solution seems to be fading fast, perhaps there is solace in hoping that bridges built during MAP-21's creation can guide the way to finding an equitable solution before a tenth stopgap is needed.