New House, New Transportation Spending?

Nancy Anderson
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With all the changes in the U.S. House of Representatives, many have begun to wonder what this means for transportation spending, and the recovery of the infrastructure construction industry country-wide. Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) was the head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; he suffered defeat in the mid-term elections, and now his role as the committee head is being filled by Rep. John Mica (R-FL). Both of the men agreed that funding needed to be extended to renew the nation’s transportation infrastructure, but where Oberstar believed that a hike in the tax on fuels was necessary, Mica wants to avoid it.

And this is part of the question being raised with regards to transportation funding: What is the most effective way to fund infrastructure projects? Congress approved interim measures for ‘shovel-ready’ projects, but few of them were truly ready to break ground. Little has been done, and the congress is still divided, even within the transportation committee, on how best to proceed. Project prioritization has been bandied about before as a good method to get projects the funding they need, and to get people back to work, but there’s no set metric at the moment to effectively prioritize projects. Giles Lambertson writes an excellent piece on the issue at Construction Equipment Guide.

As Lambertson notes, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) published their 2010 report card on the state of the nation’s infrastructure, and transportation has received a D-. Between this barely-acceptable grade, and unemployment in construction having reached 17% across the United States, there is great pressure from the populace on the house to push forward funding as soon as possible to get the sector back to work, and improving the condition of the nation’s lifeline -- the transportation infrastructure that enables the freedom of movement and trade the U.S. domestic economy relies upon.
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Mike Wrightly is mostly diesel fumes and duct tape; he grew up around heavy equipment, and holds a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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