Infrastructure uncertainty – in Congress and Olympia

Here’s what frustrates transportation planners and the people dependent on good roads and bridges. The feds finally get around to addressing the highway trust fund and …

The U.S. Congress voted to extend federal funds for highways and mass-transit programs through July while lawmakers work on a longer-term financing plan.

The Senate’s voice vote early Saturday followed House passage Tuesday of the measure, which will go to President Barack Obama for his signature. The Highway Trust Fund’s current authority to reimburse states for transportation spending is set to expire May 31, at the start of the summer construction season.

Two months! Not nearly good enough. We wrote about the unstable federal-state partnership in our research report

Historically, the federal government has played a significant role in funding maintenance and preservation of state roads and bridges; however, federal funding has become less certain in recent years. The ongoing uncertainty makes planning difficult and further delays vital investment. 

The National Association of Manufacturers makes the right point.

Dealing with long-term transportation funding at a later date is not leadership.

With deteriorating roads and bridges, aging transit systems and growing maintenance backlogs across the states, Congress is telling manufacturers, businesses and the American people that transportation can wait.

The News Tribune editorial board has a similar message for Washington legislators.

The most pressing problem is congestion and the slow strangulation of freight movement. The Legislature could do something about it tomorrow: approve a transportation package that — in different forms — has already cleared both the state Senate and House of Representatives.

So far, the Republican and Democratic lawmakers haven’t made the necessary compromises. Failure to do so before they go home would be beyond shameful.

Funding a sustainable, long-term and  comprehensive transportation package must be a priority in the second special session here. And Congress needs to recognize that it is a vital partner and act provide the certainty states require. The investment can’t wait.