What Does the Final Federal Bill Mean for Transportation Reform?
With the clock ticking on the expiration of the federal highway trust fund, and a tenth extension to the previous transportation bill looming, Congressional negotiators reached agreement on a long-term transportation bill for the first time in seven years. With a prime opportunity to reform the nation's transportation policy from the top down in response to the historically high usage of public transit nationwide and a sustained decline in driving, Congress instead approved, "A stopgap that is the last gasp of a spent 20th century program," writes Transportation for America Director James Corless. "It doesn't begin to address the needs of a changing America in the 21st century."
Passing the House by a vote of 373 to 52 and the Senate by 74 to 19, "the nation's new transportation policy is a grave disappointment to people seeking to reform the current highway-centric system," writes Tanya Snyder.
"This is a bill that's been called 'a death blow to mass transit' by the Amalgamated Transit Union, 'a step backwards for America's transportation system' by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, 'a retreat from the goals of sustainability and economic resiliency' by Reconnecting America, 'a substantial capitulation' by Transportation for America, and 'bad news for biking and walking' by America Bikes."
Snyder delivers a rundown of the contents of the final agreement, which managed to avoid the worst elements of what House Republican leaders sought (such as Keystone pipeline approval and disconnecting transit funding from the highway trust fund), but "falls far short of progress."