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April 9, 2012 8:00 AM, EDT

Editorial: Pass a Highway Bill

This Editorial appears in the April 9 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Let’s hope that the current congressional recess gives several members of the House of Representatives an opportunity to rethink their positions on the nation’s infrastructure and leads them to help forge a strategy to fix our ailing roads and bridges.

Once again, Congress has had to resort to a temporary extension — the ninth in the latest round of political impotence — rather than grapple with the serious issues facing the transportation sector.

Now that President Obama has signed the extension, Congress has another 90 days — that is, until June 30 — to try to find an acceptable, long-term plan for funding highway-related construction projects.

While short-term extensions keep the lights on, they are not a reasonable substitute for a real federal highway program.

The Senate managed to forge a bipartisan solution and approved a two-year compromise highway bill.

Two years is not ideal, but it sure beats 90 days.

The legislation — with the blessing of Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and ranking Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma — passed the Senate by a vote of 74-22.

The House, however, continues to flail about, as GOP members argue with each other about how to craft an effective highway bill.

House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) continues to push his five-year, $260 billion highway bill, but resistance from the anti-tax wing of his own party continues to stymie his efforts.

At least some backers of the Senate bill objected to the temporary extension, saying that the failure to enact a longer-term bill meant that up to 100,000 jobs that might have been created by new construction projects won’t materialize.

The latest delay could well push many worthy projects off for another year, since the construction season could be over in many parts of the country before plans are finalized, even if Congress acts in May or June.

As the Senate has shown us, national transportation legislation needn’t be held hostage to partisan politics.

We urge Congress to press forward and do the work necessary to forge legislation that will allow us to make the appropriate and necessary investments in our national infrastructure.

Must we remind members of Congress that we all rely on our road network to make the economy work? We need action on this legislation now.