Federal transportation funding has been a dominant topic in transportation policy, and with the dramatic near-bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund last year, many are looking at Congress to come up with a long-term transportation funding solution soon. President Obama is hopeful that a bipartisan agreement can be reached in the next year, after 6 years in office, and reiterates his belief that better infrastructure is crucial to America’s competitiveness.
At the same time, its impossible to ignore the very long to-do list that transportation legislators have for 2015. With the problems of funding and partisan disagreement, it’s questionable whether or not the next year will be as productive as we hope. Funding remains the biggest issue to tackle–the Highway Trust Fund extension will run out in May, and Congress will have to deal with finding money for it again very soon.
Aging infrastructure is an urgent problem, especially in states like Minnesota. Many of its roads are far past their life expectancy, and a third of its bridges are structurally deficient. The state is considering gas and transit taxes to help fund its roads and highways. However, another issue with Minnesota’s transportation budget is that they spend far more money on new construction than they do on maintenance, which they direly need. Considering the fact that some of their old infrastructure is much more heavily used than their new infrastructure is projected to be, it seems unreasonable to continue funneling so much money for new projects while older infrastructure is falling apart.
Despite the uncertainty of transportation funding’s future, investment in transit continues to grow. There are dozens of new projects scheduled to begin next year, and municipalities are becoming increasingly adept at generating funds for transit projects by themselves.