MAP-21: A Real Victory for the Transportation Community

MAP-21: A Real Victory for the Transportation Community

The passage of MAP-21: Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21stCentury represents a real victory for the transportation community despite its numerous shortcomings.  While the serious challenge of how to stabilize and increase funding into the Highway Trust Fund remains, the fact that a new transportation authorization act was finally passed and signed into law during a major election year after years of delay is significant. 

Here’s why transportation advocates should take heart:

  • The transportation bill was viewed and reported in the media as a “jobs bill.”  This legislation was considered a genuine vehicle for creating and maintaining thousands of well-paying jobs in the construction industry and therefore an accomplishment that could be taken home just prior to the election.  With the continued sluggishness of the economic recovery, solidifying the role of transportation investments as a vehicle for job creation is important.

 

  • The final vote showed strong, bi-partisan support for the bill.  Notwithstanding the fact that the bill also included a fix for the student loan interest rate problem and the reauthorization of flood insurance, the strong vote in the Senate for the original MAP-21 and the strong vote on the final bill demonstrate the need for transportation projects all over the country.  Every state faces serious funding shortfalls for transportation infrastructure and every member of Congress knows of projects that need to get done.

 

  • The bill stops the draining of the Highway Trust Fund for the next two years.  If Congress had simply passed another extension of SAFETEA-LU, the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund that would eventually have to be dealt with would only be worse.  Clearly, the shifting of funds and questionable use of ten years’ worth of savings is not a solution, but passage of a two-year rather than another extension prevents a worsening of the problem.

 

  • New transportation policies will be put in place that have been needed for a number of years including project acceleration and simplification of the funding system as well as performance measures that will allow the public to see the value they receive for transportation dollars.

 

  • Passage of the bill was seen as something that needed to get by the June 30thdeadline thanks to pressure from advocates in the transportation, labor and business communities.  The fact that Congress responded to this push says something about the political clout of this coalition and bodes well for the future.

 

Unfortunately, this two-year transportation bill leaves advocates in the position of having to get back to work on long-term funding.  The good news is that the passage of MAP-21 provides a foundation to build on and momentum we need to leverage to actually increase funding and make more of the investments we need to improve the transportation system.