Secretary LaHood's Dour Outlook on Transportation Reauthorization

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (front), expresses his gloomy sentiments about the possibility of a comprehensive transportation bill passing Congress

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (front) and three former Secretaries of Transportation express their sentiments about the likelihood of a comprehensive transportation bill passing Congress this year

Last week at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, the current and former Secretaries of Transportation were asked whether they were optimistic or pessimistic about a federal transportation reauthorization bill finally passing Congress this year.  Current Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood gave a fairly pessimistic response:

Given the politics, the number of days that remain, the differences between what the Senate and House are looking at — I think its very unlikely we will have a surface transportation bill during this year of Congress.

The last surface transportation act expired in 2009 (see the counter below). Continued political posturing, like Speaker Boehner’s weekend announcement that he will try to force the Keystone Pipeline as a rider to the highway bill, has kept transportation funding up in the air, inhibiting rational transportation planning and employment gains through meaningful infrastructure investment. Similarly, failure to reauthorize the FAA over the last four years has exacerbated the consequences of the nation’s aging air traffic control infrastructure, as detailed in this New York Observer article:

The most frequent complaint heard from carriers to air traffic controllers is that Congress must act. It must implement the NextGen air traffic control system, a GPS-driven system in the works since the 1980s and still not due for full implementation until 2025. In the meantime, most cellphones now come equipped with the technology, and it will probably be implanted into our brains by the time NextGen is realized. This is the same Congress that has refused to fully reauthorize the FAA since 2007, passing 22 short-term extensions instead.

The nation’s infrastructure is failing while Congress continues its myopic maneuvering. The Secretary’s doleful expression seems justified indeed.