By Stephen Lee Davis
More than a third of all U.S. states have plans of some sort to raise new money for transportation to help cover yawning budget shortfalls and keep up with maintenance and new construction of their state transportation networks.
NPR picked up the story this week that we’ve been following very closely and spent some time talking to T4 America director James Corless about the growing trend of states stepping out on their own to raise their own money for transportation to augment the federal funding that did not increase with the last transportation bill.
One major reason federal transportation funding did not increase is that “cars are getting more efficient, and people are actually driving less,” James Corless told NPR. “So that has conspired really to put less revenues into these state and federal funds — trust funds out of the gasoline tax. So purchasing power is declining, and so states are getting creative,” he said.
According to figures released by Transportation for America, which advocates for modernizing the nation’s infrastructure, 19 states have approved or are considering legislation to increase transportation funding.
One creative approach was taken by Virginia, which actually eliminated its gas tax while raising sales taxes and imposing a tax on wholesale fuel. The state is also allowing the congested Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads areas to raise their own tax revenue.
Republican William Howell, the speaker of the Virginia House, helped broker the deal. “It was a true compromise,” he says. “As with most any compromise, no one’s 100 percent happy with every feature of it. There are some things that I’m not crazy about. I’m sure there’s some features that other people don’t relish. But we had to do it.”
Though a third of all states do have some sort of proposal in the works, they’re all certainly not created equal. Ohio is looking to borrow more than a billion dollars against future turnpike revenues to build yet more roads. Gov. Walker in Wisconsin wants to borrow $1.2 billion and repay it with dwindling trust fund dollars and general tax revenue. A bill in Indiana would allow Indianpolis counties to tax themselves and invest that money in transit. Massachusetts has a plan to raise as much as a billion dollars a year for multimodal needs, including budget relief for their amazingly indebted transit agency.
Want to learn more and see what your state is planning, if anything?April 9, 2013
By Stephen Lee Davis
With MAP-21 signed into law last summer, attention has shifted from Washington out to the states.
In many cases, states have looked at the bottom line in MAP-21 and are deciding that they need more money for transportation and are embarking on ambitious and often groundbreaking plans to raise additional revenues for transportation.
Visit the home for state plans here, where we’re tracking all of the proposed (and enacted) plans in one easy, simple chart. If you see something we’ve gotten wrong or a state we should add, drop us a line and let us know.
And don’t miss our series of posts examining the plans and debates in a few key states.April 3, 2013
By Stephen Lee Davis
We’ve previously written about how Amtrak passenger rail, new public transit construction and the innovative TIGER program just had their budgets slashed in sequestration at a rate five times higher than traditional highway programs. That was due to the fact that those programs generally get their money from the general fund, and highways are funded through a protected trust fund. (Read that linked post for the details.)
There’s no way to prevent those cuts this year, but the Senate’s new budget for the next ten years — the first they’ve approved in years — lays the groundwork to create dedicated funding for transit, passenger rail and the innovative competitive TIGER projects, as well as generating new revenues for transportation.
The Tucson, Arizona streetcar is being funded both by a TIGER grant and New Starts money
Can you take a minute to thank the Senate for recognizing the importance of 21st century transportation investments and urge Congress to build on this budget and find new revenues for transportation while protecting these important programs?
At a time when transportation funds aren’t keeping pace with what we need to maintain AND build, the Senate’s bold plan could very well become the foundation to raise new money for transportation and create dedicated revenues for programs that help give us new options for how to get around.
Sequestration disproportionately cut the very programs that do the most to provide all of us with more ways to get around — new streetcars or bus rapid transit lines, competitive TIGER grants for innovative projects all over the country, and passenger rail that’s continuing to break ridership records.
The Senate’s plan could be the beginning of a new unified trust fund or a tax reform plan that raises new money for transportation — which could help protect these programs from these kinds of disproportionate cuts they just received.
So let’s make sure that the Senate and the House know that we need to both increase investments in transportation and protect the money that gives us more options for how to get around.March 27, 2013
By Stephen Lee Davis
When Maryland’s Intercounty Connector (ICC) highway opened in 2011, it did more than create a new east-west toll road between I-270 and I-95 in the northern suburbs of Washington, DC: It also severely hampered Maryland’s ability to build other large-scale transportation projects for years to come. But now there’s significant momentum to raise new state revenues for transportation to ensure that the state won’t have to shelve their plans for a 21st century transportation system.
Update 4/3/12: The Senate passed the House bill (HB515) last Friday, heading to Gov. O’Malley for his signature. The separate “lockbox” bill will require a conference to reconcile the differences in House and Senate versions.
With MAP-21 out the door, attention has shifted from Washington to the states. In many cases, states are deciding that they need more money for transportation and are embarking on ambitious and often groundbreaking plans to raise additional revenues for transportation. This post is part of a longer series we’ll be doing in 2013 examining how states are addressing the need for more transportation dollars, along with key policy changes. Visit the home for state plans here, where we’re tracking all of the news. - Ed.
While half of the ICC’s almost $2.6 billion cost was paid for with future tolls that don’t really impact the state’s transportation budget year to year, the other half ($1.3 billion) was covered by sources that have huge impacts on Maryland’s ability to build any other significant large transit or road projects.
The state spent $265 million in general funds and though the $180 million from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund represents only about 10 percent of what the state gas tax and vehicle fees bring in each year, Maryland is also devoting $750 million in future federal funds they haven’t yet received to the project — or almost 130 percent of what the state receives from the feds each year for all of their state highway needs. ($580 million in FY12.)
That means that a large share of Maryland’s future federal transportation dollars under MAP-21 — which itself represents a loss in real dollars over previous transportation bills — are already spoken for by this mammoth project.
The ICC under construction in 2011, Creative Commons Flickr photo by Dougtone.
Even without building the ICC, like a lot of states, Maryland would certainly have to make some tough decisions. But with it, it’s easy to understand how state and independent analysts have been saying that by 2018, Maryland will only have enough money to cover maintenance and repair, making it nearly impossible to fund any new highway projects or any of the long-awaited and much needed public transportation projects, including the new Red Line subway in Baltimore, the Purple Line rail link for Metro and the innovative Corridor Cities Transitway rapid bus line in the DC region.
Get Maryland Moving, a new coalition of advocates of all stripes from across the state, coalesced around the urgent need to keep these worthy projects (and many others) from being relegated to a perpetual “wouldn’t that be nice” wish list, providing Marylanders with other options for getting around, and ensuring that Maryland doesn’t have to cease all investment in their transportation network.
Since the (state) gas tax was set at its current level of 23.5¢ in 1992, construction costs have doubled, according to this report from the CA DOT. Simply put, just like the federal gas tax that was last increased in 1993, inflation has far outpaced the value of the gas tax, and with Americans driving fewer and fewer miles each year in more fuel efficient vehicles, they each bring in less revenue.
Urged along by the diverse Get Maryland Moving coalition, the current proposal started from a plan put forward by Governor Martin O’Malley, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, though it has been modified as it has moved through the state legislature. The House passed the bill (HB1515) just last week, and the Senate is due to debate and vote on it soon.
You can view the Governor’s initial plan on our page of state transportation funding plans, but here is the deal as it currently stands in the Maryland legislature. The plan would:
- Index the gas tax to inflation starting immediately (with a ceiling of 5 cents maximum increase in any given year.)
- Add a three percent sales tax at the gasoline pump, phasing that in over a period of three years starting this summer.
- There are other provisions that could change the sales tax rate on gasoline that have to do with internet sales tax. In short, if Congress allows states to tax internet sales, Maryland will devote that revenue to transportation. If not, they’ll raise the sales tax on gas to five percent.-=
- Raise $4.4 billion for transportation over six years (including the ability to borrow against increased future revenues.)
A popular argument against the tax has been the supposed increase that residents will see at the pump — 13-20 cents per gallon as reported by state analysts and trumpeted loudly above the fold by the Washington Post and other outlets. But gas prices fluctuate wildly even within submarkets — many places may see gas prices go up by 20 cents a gallon in just a few weeks at certain times of year.
Along those lines, the Get Maryland Moving coalition visited a bunch of Maryland gas stations on one particular day to show the wild variety in prices, sometimes at locations within sight of one another, and produced this terrific graphic.
The Get Maryland Moving coalition consists of some of T4 America’s core local partners in the region as well as strong representation from local elected officials and business groups that don’t want to see Maryland drop the ball on projects like the Purple Line that would create a vital (and decades overdue, many would argue) east-west transit connection in the region that would also eliminate long rides through the core of the Metro system to reach the opposite end of the Red line.
“This is a big problem, and we need a big solution,” Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) testified at a hearing of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. “My view is go big or go home.”
Leggett appeared on the same panel with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D). All three praised a bill introduced by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) but said they remain open to alternative methods to raise more money for transportation.
The moment of truth is coming soon for Maryland’s transportation future. The 90-day legislative session ends in just a few weeks in early April.March 22, 2013
By Stephen Lee Davis
If your head is spinning from trying to figure out what sequestration, the “continuing budget resolution,” and the myriad proposed budgets have on transportation funding, this simple chart is for you.
This helpful chart shows the notable recent spending plans and compares each of them to what was spent on transportation in 2012, for the key programs that we care about.
There’s still a lot there, so let’s break down what’s there and simplify it. The first column shows what was approved for spending in 2012. These appropriations bills were passed before MAP-21 passed last summer, so 2012 mostly represents the levels authorized by SAFETEA-LU. This is the baseline we’re using for comparing to the 2013 spending.
The second column is the 2013 budget proposed by the Senate in the last (112th) Congress.
The third column is the spending levels established by MAP-21. Keep in mind that the standing transportation law just “authorizes” funding levels — the money still has to be “appropriated” each year. But typically, appropriators follow the levels laid out within the current transportation law for the most part.
The fourth column is the important one to pay attention to, because this is where all the cuts that are part of “sequestration” have been made. This is the “continuing budget resolution” that the Senate and then the House passed in just the last few weeks. A CR, as its known, just extends spending authority ahead through a certain amount of time — usually when Congress can’t agree to write a proper new annual budget before the current one expires. It’s a stopgap measure. A CR usually keeps funding at the same level and almost never changes policy, but in this case, there are cuts in the CR, and most of these are due to sequestration, which required cuts to all discretionary funding.
The last column shows the difference between the funding for transportation in 2012 vs 2013, comparing the first column with the fourth. Hopefully this provides some clarity for a confusing issue.
Would you like to download this chart as a sharable PDF? Find that here.
|Program||2012 funding levels||Senate's draft 2013 proposal (112th Congress)||MAP-21 authorized||2013 CR (implements sequestration)||Difference: 2013 v. 2012 funding levels|
|Transit Formula Grants||$8.36B||$8.36B||$8.5B||$8.5B||$10M|
|Transit Capital Grants (New Starts)||$1.955B||$2B||$1.9B||$1.86B||—$95M|
|High Speed Rail/High Performance Passenger Rail||$0 (HSR)||$100M from PRIIA||PRIIA has jurisidction||$0||$0|
|Amtrak Capital*||$952M||$1.05B||PRIIA has jurisidction||$904M||—$48M|
|Amtrak Operating*||$466M||$400M||PRIIA has jurisidction||$442.5M||—$23.5M|
|Partnership for Sustainable Communities Grants||$0||$50M||$0||$0|
|Projects of National and Regional Significance (PNRS)||Did not exist – created under MAP-21||$500M||$0||$0 (or —$500M from MAP-21)|
|Hurricane Sandy FTA Emergency Transit Funding||$10.9B||$10.35B||—$545M|
|Hurricane Sandy Amtrak Emergency Funds||$118M||$112M||—$6M|
|Hurricane Sandy FHWA Emergency Highway Funds||$2B||$1.9B||—$100M|
By Stephen Lee Davis
It’s a state that boasts the first active subway line and a network of turnpikes that predated the Interstates, so it shouldn’t surprise you that Massachusetts has some of the oldest infrastructure in the country.
Though Massachusetts’ bridges are middle of the pack in deficiency nationally, they’re beyond middle age (an average of 56-plus years) and many of its busy subways, bus lines and commuter trains – and the roads, bridges and tunnels that carry them — are starting to fall apart after decades of heavy use. Saddled with debt from the Big Dig (among other things) and chronically underfunded after years of budget cuts, Massachusetts leaders and advocates are trying to reform their transportation agencies while raising new money to bring an aging system into the 21st century.
With MAP-21 out the door, attention has shifted from Washington to the states. In many cases, states are deciding that they need more money for transportation and are embarking on ambitious and often groundbreaking plans to raise additional revenues for transportation. This post is part of a longer series we’ll be doing in 2013 looking at how states are addressing the need for more transportation dollars, along with key policy changes. Visit the home for state plans here, where we’re tracking all of the news. - Ed.
These aging systems in Massachusetts combined with years of lacking the needed money for maintenance has left things in perilous shape and makes for unreliable service on the roads and rails— along with unsustainable levels of debt that force MassDOT to use their capital funds (intended for construction, expansion, new trains, etc.) just to keep the system operating day-to-day.
Here’s one crazy fact for you: 100% of MBTA (The “T”) fare revenues go to paying down debt, because Big Dig-related debt largely ended up on the MBTA books.
While a significant 2009 reform merged the Bay State’s myriad of transportation agencies into one MassDOT, the revenue question was left unanswered. Reform did indeed result in some savings, however the funding gap identified by numerous Blue Ribbon Commissions and nonpartisan think tanks has remained and indeed expanded in the past four years.
A big source of the problem is that thanks to generations of budget cuts, a painful recession at a terrible time and rising expenses (like healthcare), the state has been paying for everything with bonds and other non-sustainable sources (read: debt.) A couple of winters of failing commuter trains, unreliable bus lines and overcrowded subway cars has helped convinced the public that the system is falling apart.
The state recently tallied up — confirmed by other independent sources — that they need about an extra $1 billion a year to bring the system into a state of good repair, fully fund operations and address some critical “expansion” projects.
But enough about the past, what’s the plan going forward?
Paraphrasing our partners at the T4 Massachusetts coalition, how will Massachusetts raise enough money from sustainable sources to fully fund the systems’ operations and invest in its future, spent in a transparent manner that helps increase access to transportation choices across the whole state, supports the economy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector?
Gov. Deval Patrick introduced a plan that addresses some of the issues through dedicated sales tax revenue with some very progressive elements. His plan would:
- Lower the sales tax rate from 6.25% to 4.5%, but deposit it all to an infrastructure fund for multiple things, including transportation. This alone will reduce revenues by $1.1 billion, but…
- Index the gas tax to inflation to bring in an additional $13 million in 2014, and up to $118 million more by 2021. (The state gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1991 and was never adjusted for inflation, so it’s actually at its lowest level since the introduction of the tax.)
- Increase vehicle fees by 10% every five years beginning in FY16
- Increase tolls by 5% every two years beginning in FY15
- Raise state income tax from 5.25% to 6.25% with changes to exemptions to raise $2.8 billion.
- Increase MBTA transit fares 5% every two years.
- Unlike some other states, the new money raised is expressly intended for multimodal projects. There’s no restriction on spending money on transit.
There’s a statewide pilot program for a vehicle-miles-traveled tax, a proposal to pay down Big Dig debt with other funds (freeing up transit money for, you know, transit), and the Transportation Investment Act, which would help guide how money gets spent in the state. This act, supported by a broad cross section of business, community and environmental groups and backed by the T4MA coalition, would send money to Regional Transit Agencies across the state, invest in low income communities, and enable DOT to comply with the states’ other obligations, like their “mode shift” plan to triple the share of travel in Massachusetts by bicycling, transit and walking. (Read Streestblog for more on that.)
The ball is currently in the Legislature’s court, but the clock is ticking.
A plan must be approved in time for the MBTA’s budget submission deadline around the corner in April or there will definitely be more fare hikes to keep the MBTA operating. The impact of that could be disastrous for lower-income commuters who depend on the “T”, a system that’s already experienced drastic fare hikes over the last 7-8 years.March 19, 2013
By Stephen Lee Davis
America’s civil engineers raised the grade given to our country’s infrastructure from four years ago, but unfortunately, it’s still a failing grade for America.
With the $3.3 trillion dollars needed by 2020 (according to ASCE) unlikely to arrive in this current climate of reduced budgets and austerity, is there a way forward that can make smarter decisions with the money we have and knock back our maintenance backlog while still investing in the 21st century infrastructure our country needs?
The latest edition of the every-four-years report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gives America a “D”, up from the “D-minus” we received in 2009. Improvement is always good, but a failing grade is still unacceptable, like a baseball player who hits a homer in a game his team loses.
“While our country’s association of civil engineers continues to do the yeoman’s work of sounding the alarm on our country’s infrastructure,” said T4 America director James Corless this morning, “it’s a sad reality that little has changed since the last Report Card in 2009.”
The truth is that few should be surprised at the state of things when they log on to the fantastic new ASCE interactive report card app (available on the web as well as for Android, iPhone and tablets) and sift through the national and state data.
Few would be surprised, because has anything here in Washington changed to drastically improve the condition of our roads, bridges and transit systems? Last summer, Congress finally passed a replacement to the transportation bill that expired just a few months after the last ASCE report card was issued — in 2009. Though a definite sign of progress in some areas, the new law provided no new dollars for transportation in the two years to come. The program dedicated to repairing our country’s 69,000 structurally deficient bridges was eliminated after making steady progress on reducing the backlog over the last 20 years.
Beyond the federal bill, which only represents about a quarter of all transportation spending, state and local revenues in many places are falling rapidly (MAP-21 held federal funding level at least) leading many Governors and state legislatures to float alternate plans for raising for revenue to make needed repairs and build anew.
While we certainly believe we need to increase the amount of money that we spend on infrastructure (especially transportation), simply increasing the amount of money is no panacea — ASCE is certainly right that we need to change how the money is spent — it’s not enough to pour more money into a cup with a hole in the bottom.
ASCE has some encouraging recommendations in this year’s report card moving the discussion in the direction of smarter, more transparent spending on infrastructure. We do need more leadership, more transparency, and a “focus on sustainability and resilience,” as they say in their recommendations. And we can no longer ignore growth patterns and things like a housing-jobs mismatch when making transportation decisions, affirmed by ASCE’s insistence that “infrastructure plans should be synchronized with regional land use planning.”
Some states aren’t waiting for billions that are unlikely to come and are already far ahead of the curve, thinking about ways to make their dollars do more. Like Massachusetts, where the DOT director issued a goal of tripling the number of trips taken by foot, bike and public transportation — reducing the load on roads and bridges that are among the oldest in the country. Or Tennessee, where the state DOT has taken a long look at their list of their proposed projects to see if they’re really necessary at a time when funding is dwindling, resources are scarce, and residents are looking for options to sitting in traffic.
Pushed between a rock and a hard place with forced austerity through reduced budgets yet being asked to do more with less, it’s time for a different approach.
With $1.7 trillion in needs by 2020 for surface transportation identified by ASCE and MAP-21 funding levels only due to bring in about $400 billion in that same time period, it begs the question: Who’s going to pay the difference? While ASCE avoids the question specifically, they do assert, much as we do, that there will continue to be an important role for the feds in planning and paying for infrastructure. “Federal investment must be used to complement, encourage, and leverage investment from the state and local government levels as well as from the private sector,” the report says. But it doesn’t stop there. “In addition, users of the infrastructure must be willing to pay the appropriate price for their use.”
Will we be willing to pay for what we need? Or do too many people think that we need to make the spending smarter before we make it bigger? However you answer, there’s not really an option other than smarter spending for the next two years, because MAP-21 didn’t provide any new money to states.
Yet MAP-21′s expiration is already on the horizon and the Highway Trust Fund is still headed towards its own fiscal cliff. The Senate budget resolution and the President have both suggested big increases in transportation spending. But where will the money come from? Despite key questions about where that revenue would come from, the simple fact that the 113th session of Congress has started with a number of proposals to increase investment in infrastructure, along with supportive comments from new House Transportation Chair Bill Shuster, have given transportation advocates a reason to be hopeful.
“With the federal gas tax bringing in less money every year, strong leadership from Congress is needed now more than ever,” said T4′s James Corless.
Some comparisons with 2009 at a glance:
- Bridges improved from a C to C+
- Rail improved from a C- to C+
- Roads improved slightly from a D- to D
- And transit was unchanged at a D
By Transportation for America
On the release today of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card on America’s Infrastructure, Transportation for America’s Director James Corless released the following statement:
February 27, 2013
“Our country’s association of civil engineers continues to do the yeoman’s work of sounding the alarm on our country’s infrastructure — the roads, rails and waterways that we depend on to move our goods from place to place and get us where we need to go each day. But it’s a sad reality that little has changed since the last Report Card in 2009, with America’s grade climbing only slightly from a D to a D+. Has anything in Washington changed to drastically improve the condition of our roads, bridges and transit systems in the four years since? Last summer, Congress finally passed a replacement to the transportation bill that expired a few months after the last ASCE report card was issued — in 2009. Though a definite sign of progress in some areas, the new law provided no new dollars for transportation in the two years to come. The program dedicated to repairing our country’s 69,000 structurally deficient bridges was eliminated after making steady progress on reducing the backlog over the last 20 years.
With the federal gas tax bringing in less money every year, strong leadership from Congress is needed now more than ever. We must invest more in fixing our aging 20th century infrastructure, but as the civil engineers rightly point out we also need to be much smarter about how we approach our 21st century transportation needs. We applaud ASCE’s recommendations that focus on innovation, resilience, and strong regional infrastructure plans, and urge Congress to build on these principles as they begin crafting the next federal transportation bill.
By Transportation for America
It’s not too late! Join us today (Wednesday, February 27th) at 1pm EST for an online presentation to learn how to use MAP-21 to fund rural transportation priorities and strengthen your community. Click here to register.
Investing in a variety of transportation options — like public transportation, vanpooling, bicycling, walking and safe roads and bridges — are crucial for stronger, more resilient communities in our rural cities, towns and communities. It’s important to know how the new federal transportation law (MAP-21) changed the way communities will access transportation dollars and what these funds may be used for.
Elected officials and municipal staff from non-metropolitan areas are encouraged to join this online presentation. This presentation is free and open to the public; feel free to pass this invitation on to others in your network.
Our panelists for this discussion include:
Commissioner Kathy Rinaldi, Teton County, Idaho
Charles W. Fluharty, President and CEO, Rural Policy Research Institute
Chris Zeilinger, Director of Policy Development, Community Transportation Association of America
Georgia Gann, Deputy Director of Government Affairs, Transportation for America
John Robert Smith, President and CEO, Reconnecting America and Former Mayor of Meridian, MS (moderator)
Wednesday, February 27th
1pm EST/10am PST
By Stephen Lee Davis
The White House put out a press release on the President’s plan for infrastructure that was introduced at the State of the Union last week, and though it’s still short on details, it does start to paint a picture of what the President intends. The three major thrusts of the plan are investing in a “fix-it-first” policy, attracting private investment through a “Rebuild America Partnership”, and a plan to cut red tape and speed up the timeframe for transportation projects.
The New York Times had a short story on the President’s plan Wednesday after getting an early copy of the release in which a pair of frequent T4 America collaborators responded to the Times on the plan. Rob Puentes from the Brookings Institution and Phineas Baxandall from US PIRG were both cautiously optimistic, though Puentes noted one of the biggest differences between this plan and the President’s plan for the transportation bill of a couple years ago is that “‘the important shift seems to be the administration is not waiting for the legislature,’ but is ‘maximizing the things they can do themselves.’”
While the idea of private capital flowing to new infrastructure projects, an infrastructure bank and cutting red tape are well and good, the idea of “Fix-It-First” is definitely a popular one with voters across the board.
According to data from a Public Opinion Strategies/Hart Research poll from 2011, 86% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the idea of establishing “a ‘fix-it-first’ policy that focuses, as much as possible, on maintaining our existing networks of roads, bridges, and public transportation systems before building new ones.”
When faced with the choice of either expanding highways or repairing the valuable infrastructure that we’ve got, it’s no contest.
Maintaining and repairing roads, highways, freeways, and bridges (51%); along with “expanding and improving bus, rail, van service, biking, walking, and other transportation choices” (33%) both win out over “expanding and building new roads, highways, freeways, and bridges,” which was a distant third place with only 16% supporting it in a 2011 national poll.
70,000 deficient bridges is a number that can stop people in their tracks. It certainly stopped Jon Stewart in his tracks on The Daily Show after the State of the Union, urging Stewart to give the President some advice in hindsight for the speech:
“70,000 structurally deficient?!? I mean, come on! Shouldn’t you have opened with that!”
Even a large portion of the news coverage following the State of the Union honed in on that 70,000 number, and more than a few outlets returned to our report chronicling the state of our country’s deficient bridges. In fact, 35 times! more people viewed our interactive map of deficient U.S. bridges on the week of the State of the Union compared to the week before.
$40 billion for repairing our existing infrastructure is a step in the right direction, though, as with many big sweeping policy proposals emanating from Washington, the devil is in the details. And in the days to come, we’ll see how serious the President is about pushing this policy forward into Congress, a body that incidentally just voted to eliminate all dedicated bridge repair funding in the new MAP-21 transportation law last summer.
Fixing our infrastructure and taking care of our past obligations first is a popular idea with voters. Will Congress take note?