Competing visions emerge on highway trust fund

Jim Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, announced today that he’d like to see a new, 6 year highway bill authorized this fall that provides 57 percent more money than the previous 6 year bill, SAFETEA-LU, which is set to expire in September. But….Ray LaHood, the new head of the Department of Transportation in the Obama administration says he favors an 18 month reauthorization of the current program until everybody can figure out what to fund and how to fund it.

This is shaping up to be an interesting debate and there is something to like in both sides of the argument. With Oberstar’s vision we finally have somebody who recognizes that our nation’s roadways need more funding to prevent further deterioration. And I’d give credit to LaHood, who in a rare moment of wisdom for someone inside the D.C. beltway, recognizes that this is a huge and complex issue, not easily or quickly solved.

So how about a compromise? Authorize an 18-month extension at 57 percent more than the last year of SAFETEA-LU, and put everybody to work crafting the best plan. Perhaps even more important is that 18 months might be enough time for the government and our industry to do the public outreach they’ve failed at so far and counteract the demogoging and correct the destructive misunderstanding the public has about the gas tax.