On April 9 140 communities across the U.S. are staging a “Stand Up for Transportation Day” to emphasize the need for long-term investment in our transportation infrastructure — and the reauthorization of a federal transportation bill before it expires on May 31. Below is an unhappy story about ongoing problems reauthorizing the federal bill. (Note: The Washington DC-based American Public Transportation Association is organizing “Stand Up for Transportation Day” — and I borrowed some from their blog for my post below. Also note: Incoming LA Metro CEO Phillip Washington is APTA’s current chair.)
Infrastructure makes life and commerce possible. The interconnected systems of highways, bridges and rail lines, water and power supplies, and communications networks are the underpinnings of society as we know it — but we’ve become so used to these systems that we take them for granted, until they fail.
As a nation we need to maintain and modernize our infrastructure in order to make the U.S. a more attractive location for people and for businesses — and because the transportation infrastructure literally keeps our economy moving. Reinvesting requires collective action and sustained public investment locally, but also at the federal level.
Congress has not been able to agree upon a 6-year transportation funding bill since the bill called TEA-21 (the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century) was passed in 1998. When TEA-21 expired in 2003 Congress couldn’t agree on a path forward and extended that bill several times until members finally decided — because they still couldn’t come to agreement — to adopt a 4-year bill named SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act — A Legacy for Users, famously named after the wife of then House Transportation Committee Chair U.S. Rep. Don Young from Alaska, whose late wife’s name was Lu).
That bill was then extended no less than 10 times until it was finally replaced with a 2-year bill called MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). When Map-21 was set to expire last September Congress — once again unable to come to agreement — extended it until May 21, 2015!
What’s the problem? The Highway Trust Fund — the funding source upon which many federal programs rely — has seen its revenue source, the federal gas tax, dwindle in recent years because of improved fuel efficiency and a decline in driving. As a result Congress has had to make several General Fund transfers just to keep the Trust Fund solvent, and Congress has not been able to agree on increasing the federal gas tax or on another new source of revenue to maintain the Trust Fund.
As the May 31 expiration date looms, the transportation industry is virtually unanimous in calling for a longer-term and more reliable federal transportation funding bill. Anything less results in so much uncertainty for local project planning and construction, the industry says, that repair, maintenance and other construction projects are often just put off.
We’re lucky to have three half-cent sales taxes that help keep our system in shape in LA County!
This is why Move LA is standing up with other partners on “Stand Up for Transportation Day” April 9 to emphasize the need for long-term investment in our transportation infrastructure, which is truly the backbone of our local and national economy. And for this reason we urge you to stand up with us too!
Where: Patsaouras Transit Plaza, behind the LA Metro headquarters building at 1 Gateway Plaza, in downtown LA behind Union Station.
When: Thursday, April 9 at 8 a.m.