Highway Bill in the Slow Lane

AS CONGRESS ADJOURNS for its August recess, a much needed highway spending bill is left in limbo. Advocates, particularly at the state level, have been urging Congress to pass a bill for months, but partisan bickering, as well as infighting within the GOP majority, has left highway funding in the lurch.

Since the beginning of 2015, advocates have stressed the importance of investing in infrastructure for the deteriorating highway system. The Washington Post reported back in February that at least 42 state Chambers of Commerce urged Congress to extend the Highway Trust Fund and authorize other key transportation funding. Congressional dysfunction, perhaps unsurprisingly, has left lawmakers with less than two months after they return from recess to address these pressing issues. Because, according to the Sunlight Foundation, federal funds account for approximately half of all new infrastructure construction (such as bridges and new roads), local budgets highway budgets would be stretched to the breaking point.

Even if a bill is passed, the Sunlight Foundation points out that the ban on earmarks will make it more difficult for state officials to secure funding for their own infrastructure projects. As a result, local municipalities are banding together to create regional coalitions, in the hope that presenting a united front will make it easier to secure federal funding for crucial roadways that would benefit the whole region.

Congress has until the end of October, when highway funding is set to expire, to pass a new bill, but the Hill notes that other pressing legislative issues loom which could put a potential spending bill in jeopardy. For now, the state of America’s highway infrastructure remains in limbo.

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