Last week, lawmakers in the House of Representatives did something we haven’t seen them do in a long time — they passed a long-term surface transportation bill that both Republicans and Democrats support. Because the Senate passed its own version of a surface transportation bill already, Congress may actually be poised to complete the first long-term, highway-transit bill since 2005.
Big deal, right? Don’t go driving down the fast lane just yet.
First, there are several policy issues and other differences between the House and Senate bills that need to be ironed out – many that directly impact transportation workers. The list of potential problems is long, but it comes down to two important factors: The bill cannot be used as a vehicle to go after the rights and jobs of workers, and lawmakers need to craft legislation that maximizes the creation of good, middle-class jobs.
Second, Congressional leaders have to figure out how much money to allocate for surface transportation. Let’s be clear: this bill will not come close to fully funding the needed expansion and modernization of our transit and highway networks. That price tag is in the trillions (yes, trillions with a “t”). The House bill came in at $325 billion and the Senate did a little better.
As lawmakers move forward, they cannot overlook the desperate state of our transportation infrastructure. It is imperative they take this opportunity to direct every dollar to reverse years of underinvestment.