Long Term Road Authorization Serious in Washington DC

January 29, 2011

Earlier this week both the House and Senate held hearings, with Ray LaHood, US Transportation Secretary claiming it was his intention to have the bill passed into law by August 2011. This follows on from President Obama's State of the Union address where he made it clear that there is a need for affirmative action in dealing with America's long-term transportation strategy.

A key issue will be rebuilding America's road and transportation infrastructure, which has long been starved of investment and effective management. It is not just about high speed trains which will be faster than taking an airplane; it is also about creating a road transportation network which will encourage and facilitate the flow of goods and the generation of new business opportunities. There is an issue with such multi-billion dollar spending (and it will take many tens of billions to put America's road system back into shape) – President Obama made it clear that any bill which comes with earmarks he will veto it (earmarks are additional bills rolled into the main bill in exchange for garnering support for it, and usually with a lot of ancillary cost too).

So much for presidential talk though – can a transportation bill make it through with a divided Congress and a lame duck president?

At least with presidential support the prospects have a firm foundation and Obama has made it clear that the issue is not one for politicking (no earmarks). Despite the partisanship inherent in Congress, the transportation bill will be played out against no backdrop other than the transportation issues. Fortunately, this is something which carries bipartisan appeal and support – there is no argument that the road system needs an overhaul. The big dividing issue will be how it is all going to be paid for – the Republicans are adamant that any extra spending must be fiscally prudent, or as John Mica (R-FL) Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, "we need to do more with less."

The transportation issue is also going to be a presidential election with the clock already running down to the next election. Playing politics and hampering the passing of a constructive bill for America's benefit is going to wreak havoc on any politician's chances of winning any sort of political office in the near future. So far, the reaction from the main trucking associations seems to be positive too, but guarded – there's still time to consider before running out to go buy a new truck.

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