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Clock is Winding Down for Highway Bill

It is getting to be “situation critical” for passing a new highway bill.

On the heels of the Obama Administration’s Grow America Act, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved S.2322, the MAP-21 Reauthorization Act, a long-term bipartisan bill to reauthorize the nation's transportation programs for six years at current funding plus inflation, illustrating broad bipartisan support for passage by the full Senate.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee; Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), ranking member of the Committee; Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee; and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), ranking member of the Subcommittee.

Prior to the vote on the bill, National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association President and CEO Mike Johnson said, “The introduction of the bill is another very positive step forward and today's work by the committee is yet another. However, Congress has a lot of work to do and not much time to do it if our nation is to avoid the rapidly approaching crisis facing the Highway Trust Fund.”

Let’s just say we are driving quite rapidly (and hitting potholes all the way) in the direction of another fiscal cliff.

The bill garnered positive reviews from many associations, but there are detractors, such as The Heritage Group, which maintains that the bill fails to eliminate diversions to local or non-road programs, reduces flexibility for the states and does not “live within its means.”

Also, there is talk that the House may try to push a temporary fix and extend the decision out past mid-term elections, after which they expect to have more heft and influence. That would be wrong, in my opinion.

Congress needs to find a way to pay for this bill, whether it is through tax reform, increased tolling, or a long-overdue increase in the gasoline tax. It’s time to lean on your elected representatives – hard.

There is no perfect bill and not everyone is going to be happy with the final result, no matter what happens. At the end of the day, roads are falling apart, not together, bridges are weaker, not stronger, and that is not acceptable.

Mark S. Kuhar, editor
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