Infrastructure is the collection of physical facilities that permit business and commerce to exist and flourish. It comprises all of the variously interconnected systems and services that serve as the underpinning of society; those that facilitate our daily activities and those that promote our collective engagement in commerce.
Despite its importance, the only time we generally think about infrastructure is when it fails or is absent – the collapse of a bridge, contamination of a water supply, a sustained power blackout, insurmountable and costly traffic congestion, failure of a communications network, or overcrowded buses and trains in communities unable to afford to maintain a state of good repair. We completely ignore infrastructure when it works as intended, and we complain mightily when it doesn’t. Our nation needs to continually modernize and maintain its infrastructure to make the United States an attractive place for businesses to operate and for people to live. This requires collective action and sustained public investment in infrastructure notably at the federal level.
The individual resolve and advocacy by our congressional leaders for a long-term transportation funding bill has not resonated because it has not resulted in collective action by Congress in this crucial area that is so important to its citizens. The current transportation funding bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP 21), was a two year bill that authorized $10.6 billion in FY 2013 and $10.7 billion in FY 2014 for federal transit programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). MAP 21 also authorized just over $40 billion annually for highway programs administered by the Federal Highway Administration. MAP 21 authorized a variety of programs that address different transportation needs, specified how funds can be used and set formulas for their distribution. It did not provide any increase in dedicated funding for public transit or highways, despite the fact that current dedicated revenues going into the Highway Trust Fund will not fully fund even current levels for public transit or highway programs in future years. Current dedicated funding falls far short of what is needed to provide a long-term dedicated revenue source to fund the growth of those programs.
The MAP-21 law was set to expire on September 30, 2014. Congressional action was required to extend or modify programs and provide authority to fund MAP-21 programs supported by the Highway Trust Fund. In July, 2014, Congress extended MAP-21 provisions until May 31, 2015. The transportation industry, in near unanimity, is advocating for a long-term, sustainable and reliable transportation funding bill; not another short-term extension of MAP 21. The industry has made a strong case with Congress that the lack of a long-term federal funding bill results in tremendous uncertainty at the local level in terms of transportation project planning and it discourages private sector investment based on risks associated with no long-term funding commitment by the federal government.