At long last – an entire decade, actually – it appears that Congress has finally cobbled together a multi-year funding measure. The bill, called the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act,” is set for congressional approval this week and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.

On balance, the measure is a very positive development. It will fully fund a five-year, $305 billion highway and public transportation program, boosting revenue by 15 and 18 percent in those programs, respectively. Other provisions would streamline the planning and approval process for transportation projects, provide incentives for improving safety and create grants for passenger rail systems to install safety devices to prevent derailments and train-to-train collisions.

On the other hand, it does not address longer-term revenue needs, using one-time revenue transfers and accounting methods to fund significant portions of the program. The federal gasoline tax, unchanged since 1993, remains at 18.4 cents per gallon. The $14 billion annual shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund requiring subsidies from the General Fund will grow to $20 billion by 2021.

Moreover, even with the increases for highways and public transportation, the measure falls well short of the level required for restoring our infrastructure to the world-class transportation system it once was. Nevertheless, the measure should begin to stem the tide of the slow deterioration of our surface transportation assets over recent decades.

Transportation Issue Update