Monday, March 19, 2012
News Roundup

Infrastructure in the News: March 19, 2012


Politico: Morning Transportation: Rendell pessimistic but fights on
Former Pa. Gov. and Philly Mayor Ed Rendell told MT though he is heartened by the Senate’s bipartisan effort, he’s still not optimistic about the dynamic between the stalled-out House and upper chamber. “I’m not sure it can be reconciled.” As co-chairman of Building America’s Future, Rendell has long believed Congress needs to do something comprehensive on transportation at much higher levels than current funding. The Senate bill doesn’t get there, but the Pennsylvanian said the bill is “the best placeholder” and “would give us until 2013” to work on something big, which means a conversation about raising funds off vehicles’ miles traveled and fuel fees. “Clearly the gas tax is a requirement,” Rendell said.


The Atlantic: America's 2 Biggest Problems, and Why Washington Refuses to Fix Them
Economists are different from you and me (they're better at math), but they're like average people in one big way: They, too, can't stand Congress. That might have been the biggest takeaway from The Atlantic's Economy Summit on Wednesday, which included wonky heavy-hitters like Larry Summers, Bob Rubin, Paul Volcker, Gene Sperling, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin. In fact, they might -- incredibly -- hold Capitol Hill in lower regard than the rest of us. After all, Congress is where good ideas go to die. And economists don't like to see their good ideas perish. Two of their ideas were runaway favorites at the Summit: tax reform and infrastructure investment. There are no free lunches in economics, but tax reform and infrastructure spending are about as close as it gets.

Forbes: Congress Flunks Infrastructure
Congress hasn’t passed a proper Transportation bill since 2009, relying instead on temporary stopgaps that make it impossible for states to make long-term plans.  As Ezra Klein of the Washington Post reports, the Senate has passed a bipartisan funding bill, which “… only lasts for two years — the House wants a five-year bill, as does the White House — and, at $109 billion, it’s only about two-thirds the size of the president’s budget request for infrastructure, which was, in turn, smaller than what most infrastructure experts thought was needed.”

Washington Post: Time running out on transportation funding
With funding for the nation’s transportation system set to run out at the end of the month and their work done, Senate leaders appealed to House Republicans to abandon their own proposal and embrace the Senate’s plan. The odds that the House would do that or pass its own bill seemed slim, and a better bet was that Congress instead will approve the ninth temporary funding extension since the last long-term transportation bill expired more than two years ago.

DC Streetsblog: House Won’t Take Up Senate Transpo Bill as March 31 Deadline Looms
Even though his efforts to whip his party into passing a five-year transportation bill that attacks transit, biking, and walking have been fruitless, House Speaker John Boehner isn’t about to follow through on his threat to take up the Senate’s two-year bill. That bill passed with 22 GOP ayes (and 22 nays) in the Senate earlier this week. Politico reported this morning that the House Transportation Committee still plans to take up something resembling Boehner’s disastrous HR 7, but not before the eighth extension of SAFETEA-LU expires at the end of this month. The earliest the House plans to take up their bill is April 16, after the Easter recess – and it could be long after that.

The Hill: The week ahead: It's the House's move on transportation bill
All eyes will be on the House this week for supporters of a new federal surface transportation bill. The Senate has passed a $109 billion measure that would fund road and bridge projects for the next two years, but the House has not indicated whether it will take the Senate bill up or continue trying to pass legislation of its own. The chamber is up against a quickly approaching March 31 expiration date for the current funding for transportation projects, but after its own proposal for a five-year, $260 billion measure stalled, action in the House is far from guaranteed.

Transportation Issues Daily: Extending SAFETEA-LU, Not Passing Multi-Year Bill, is Now Focus of Congress
Congress will now turn its focus to extending SAFETEA-LU (which expires on March 31) and temporarily ignore passing a multi-year bill.  No version of the House proposal or the Senate bill is scheduled for action this week or next week.  The House has scheduled other legislation for action this week, and next week will be focused on 2013 budget issues. Sometime this week we should learn how the Senate and House want to handle extending SAFETEA-LU, This extension legislation must originate in the House, because it’s in part a tax measure.

Transportation Issues Daily: Four Burning Unanswered Questions about the Soon-to-Expire Transportation Bill
In an earlier story we looked at how Congress is now focused on Extending SAFETEA-LU, Not Passing a Multi-Year Bill. There are four questions about the extension which transportation stakeholders are dying to have answered.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Locked and Dammed: The region's 23 locks and dams are on the brink of failure
Pittsburgh's three rivers, an economic engine since Lewis and Clark departed the city for their epic exploration of the West, are flirting with disaster. The region's 23 locks and dams, which annually move 33 million tons of coal, petroleum and other commodities that fuel the local economy, are on the brink of failure, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency charged with maintaining them.

Grist: Trainspotting: Transit vote could bring new life to a gritty city (GA)
Here’s the $8.5 billion question: Can suburbanites be convinced to care about cities again? Urban America is hoping so. For some cities, it’s a matter of life and death. And nowhere is the question more relevant than in Atlanta, where citizens will vote this summer on a massive regional transportation initiative that would stitch together a city and suburbs that have been divided for decades along racial, economic, and political lines.

Chicago Magazine: The Chicago Infrastructure Trust: A Sign of the Times
Of course, raising gas taxes is close to politically impossible, both because it's a regressive tax and because prices have and will continue to rise as long as demand increases in developing countries (like, you know, China and India, which have a lot of consumption to go). Public-private partnership trusts and infrastructure banks allow the state to multiply government money with private-capital leverage. Absent cuts elsewhere or increased taxes, it's a politically appealing option. And it's a fairly old one, at least elsewhere.

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