A Small Bill

It’s the sort of story you don’t want to read because it will confirm the bad news you feared. Yet here it is in the Washington Post.

Soon, maybe tomorrow, a bill to replace SAFETEA-LU will emerge from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. According to the Post, and also to a lot of people I’ve been talking to, it could be funded at something like $230 billion over six years. Unable to find new sources of funds or raise the gas tax in this depressed economy, the committee headed by John Mica will take the only option left — cut spending.

So the inevitable may be about to happen.Before the election the Democrat-lead Committee was looking at $450 billion; the Administration wants a bill at $550 billion and Senator Boxer, the Democrat who will lead the Senate response to the House bill, wants a lot more than $230 billion. Studies show we need at least twice that amount to even start keeping up with demands of our transportation infrastructure present and future. The reality of course is the economy which leaves us without enough money to pay for it and voters unwilling to augment what Washington takes in to do so.

If an inadequately funded bill is inevitable so is the continued deterioration of our transportation infrastructure. Sort of a lose-lose situation.

Read the Post story and see the maze we’re in, thinking we’re moving forward only to find we keep coming back to the starting point. At least with a bill on the floor of the House there will be something concrete to work on and the days of pretending a huge bill could pass will be gone. We will swap inertia for reality, which, of the two, is preferable.