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Congress Reaches Agreement on 5-Year Transportation Bill

Buses at Rapid Central Station.

For the first time in nearly a decade, congressional leaders have struck a deal on a 5year, $281 billion transportation bill that would increase spending to address the nations’ aging and congested highways and transit systems.

The bill was unveiled on Tuesday, and it puts an end to the cycle of temporary extensions and threatened shutdowns of transportation programs that have plauged Congress for the past seven years, making it difficult for states to plan long-term projects.

The bill boosts highway spending by 15 percent and transit spending by 18 percent over its duration. It also authorizes $10 billion over five years for Amtrak, $12 billion for public transit and $1 billion for vehicle safety programs. However, that money is subject to annual spending decisions by Congress rather than being paid for from the federal Highway Trust Fund.

The bill still falls far short of the $400 billion over six years that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said is needed to keep traffic congestion from worsening, and it puts off the difficult decision of how to sustainably pay for transportation programs.

The federal 18.4 cents-a-gallon gas tax, the main source of Trust Fund revenues, hasn’t been increased since 1993 and no longer covers annual spending on transportation.

The House and Senate must still vote on the final bill. Passage is expected by Friday, when government authority to process aid payments to states expires.

The bill is paid for through a series of revenue-raising provisions, some of which have been criticized as gimmicks and budgetary sleight of hand.

Learn more about this bill: Associated Press

Written by The Rapid

The Rapid (Interurban Transit Partnership) is the authority that provides a variety of public transportation services for the Grand Rapids metro area and beyond. It is organized and operates under Michigan Public Act 196 of 1986.