FAST Act and Transportation Policies

In early December 2015 Congress passed, and the President signed, a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” or FAST Act. This was the first time in ten years that Congress had been able to enact such a multi-year bill.  Although the enactment of multi-year surface transportation bills by large bipartisan majorities had been almost automatic for a half-century, this achievement, in an otherwise deeply divided and partisan Congress and political environment, was notable.

In its re-affirmation of a continuing federal role in surface transportation, FAST Act is an important statute. However, this legislation continues a trend toward a growing dependence on general funds for these programs and stagnation in the general level of federal funding for surface transportation.  The inevitable result is a growing burden on states and localities to address the needs of an aging, deteriorating, and often-congested national surface transportation network.

FAST Act also fails, as did its most recent predecessors, to address the issue of establishing sustainable revenue streams to support the federal role in transportation. Moreover, the challenge remains to assure accountable and performance-based federal transportation programs, in order to increase the probability that scarce federal resources will be invested in the most beneficial projects.

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