A few weeks ago, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation was forced to shut down for two days because the short-term extension of our current federal transportation spending bill had expired. The shut down meant that approximately 2,000 people could not go back to work and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal reimbursements could not be paid. Federal inspectors, safety programs, and the entire highway department were closed for business.
Politicians in Washington knew the deadline was quickly approaching and yet, not until the Friday before the expiration, was anything introduced to fix this problem.
Because the federal surface transportation bill is the spending program that funds our transit, rail, road, highway and bridge improvements for six years, it requires significant discussion, plenty of debate and clear goals that will keep America’s long-term transportation vision moving forward. This spending bill expired on Sept. 30, 2009, and has since been given four short-term extensions.
Earlier this week, Congress kicked the can down the road one more time and extended our current spending bill to last until December 2010. For the next nine months, Congress will discuss major road projects, allocations to transit, safety, bike and pedestrian improvements, and investments that will have a national impact.
There’s hope that this is the last extension of our existing program and that Congress will have more than enough time to negotiate the direction of our nation’s transportation network. We have nine months to work with Congress to create a new vision that embraces intercity rail travel, adequately supports our aging transit network, and encourages a cleaner, safer, and healthier way to travel.
By encouraging people to live near work, we can reduce the time we spend stuck in traffic and spend more time with family or friends. When we create more options for people to get where they need to go – whether walking on a beautiful day like today or taking a leisurely bike ride – we are also investing and improving our local communities. What would you recommend to Congress? Let us know!