House Republicans today plan to unveil a new transportation bill that would spend about $50 billion per year, setting the House GOP at odds with the Senate, which passed a bipartisan bill out of committee last year that would dedicate about $54 billion annually to transportation. The bills also have some significant policy differences — and Deron Lovaas, Federal Transportation Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the GOP’s bill a “march of horribles” for the environment and public transit — and according to many experts, neither piece of legislation comes close to meeting the critical infrastructure needs of the nation:
Neither bill comes close to the $262 billion a year that a panel of 80 transportation experts said the nation should spend to rebuild roads, bridges, water lines, sewage systems and dams that are reaching the end of their planned life cycles…The gap between what experts and most members of Congress would like to spend and what’s included in the two bills exists because the Highway Trust Fund no longer takes in enough gas tax revenues to sustain surface transportation needs.
“Clearly this level of funding is inadequate to support our needs as a nation,” said Joshua Schank, president of the Eno Center for Transportation. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the shoddy state of America’s surface transportation infrastructure will actually cost the U.S. economy more than $3 trillion in lost gross domestic product over the next decade. The ASCE found that “if the nation’s infrastructure were free of deficient conditions in pavement, bridges, transit vehicles, and track and transit facilities, Americans would earn more personal income and industry would be more productive.”
Not only do House Republicans want to pass a bill woefully underfunding the nation’s infrastructure, they also want to attach approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to the legislation, preferring political theater to actually addressing one of the country’s most urgent needs.