The Transportation Cliff

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ratpag is usually a bit behind on things so it was news to us that the transportation funding deadline – when the Highway Trust Fund is expected to have run dry in July – is being called the “transportation cliff.”  Catchy enough.  Easier to wrap you mind around than “sequestration.”  Cliffs are generally bad.

So what is happening?  Well, the LA Times reports (a week ago – we said ratpag was behind) that

Failure to agree on new funding sources will put at risk more than 112,000 highway projects, 5,600 transit programs, and nearly 700,000 jobs, the White House said.

This seems like a straight-forward fix, right?  Everybody uses transportation in some way or another every single day.  Even if you live in some sort of underground bunker we’d wager all ratpag has versus all you have (please take this bet) that transportation was used, in some way, to build or get you to that bunker.

Naturally, the solution to these funding problems is not being seen as straight-forward at all by those in Congress.  The Washington Post, two weeks ago, described the various “harsh choices” that Congress faces in dealing with transportation funding – including reducing “spending on roadways by 30 percent and on transit by 65 percent.”  Of course, to avoid doing something so stupid such as that, the Post suggests raising the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax, which hasn’t budged since 1993.

The gas tax has become less effective with the rise of more fuel efficient cars and who knows what to expect once self driving cars hit the streets.  People aren’t likely to be happy with the idea of further crumbling roadways and worsening transit.  The last transportation bill was “patched together at the last minute” – a strategy Congress has grown fond of but one that doesn’t seem likely to produce much meaningful investment in transportation – particularly rail and transit.

We’re happy to see these people from Minneapolis out rallying in support of mass transit.  It brings a tear to ratpag’s eye – we honestly didn’t know we had so many readers in Minneapolis.  So on this holiday weekend ratpag urges you, the ungrateful, lazy reader, to get out there and call for an useful transportation bill (preferably with significant rail and transit funding).  ratpag will be back on Tuesday, as we simply refuse to work or pay overtime on a holiday, to see what’s become of transportation funding.

We have a feeling that if we’re somehow behind on this reporting we won’t have missed a thing.  ratpag needs to get out of the political discussions.  It’s making us much too cynical.

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