EDITORIAL: They shouldn’t have

Latest bill out of Washington has a bad smell to it

December 09, 2013

It is possible my flower needed a good wax job, but at least it could drive itself.

Yes, I was going to offer up a long stem of goodness on this page this month. I figured most were taking my argumentative columns like they were getting hit from above by a crop duster, so my rose (free of thorns) was going to be a nice, perfume-soaked talk about automated vehicle technology. Then a couple of members of Congress showed up and drove my bubbly behavior straight into a wall. So much for the floral offering, right?  

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) recently filed a bill that would gradually eliminate the federal funding of transportation projects. Perhaps these two need to sit in a room full of pollen-deprived bees. They call this soup of genius the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA), which would lower the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax to 3.7 cents in five years.

Yes, the fiscal stiffs in Congress have been talking about financial reform for quite a while now, and the idea of stuffing the responsibilities of the interstates under the domes of state capitols has been taking up more volume in political conversation circles in Washington, D.C.

Just a brief recap of my stand on all this: The national interstate system serves as a line of defense and also is a safety route (i.e., hurricane evacuation), so the federal government must handle it. However, with the Highway Trust Fund approaching zero some Republicans and Democrats are having a hard time finding a backbone for a solution, so they crank out bone-headed alternatives. Let’s also not forget that state coffers are having a hard enough time coming up with extra money for carnations for the annual royal ball.

What’s more comical is seeing the nonsensical dribble coming from the mouths of the TEA creators.

“People want to spend less time in traffic and more time enjoying life,” said Graves. “Our bill will streamline the highway program, allowing more projects to be completed at a lower cost.”

Yes, because, like I said, the states have enough cash, so much so that I believe holiday bonuses to every single household are in order.

“Under [the act] Americans would no longer have to send significant gas-tax revenue to Washington,” Lee said.

No, because what they have been longing to see instead are huge spikes in the sales tax and gas tax from their own politicians in their own state.

Don’t despair, though, because there is some hope coming out of the national policy-maker. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced a bipartisan-supported piece of legislation called BRIDGE Act, which calls for the assembly of a $10 billion infrastructure bank ready to support transportation projects across the U.S. To qualify for money, projects would need to cost at least $50 million and be of national or regional importance. Some tweaks are needed, but it is refreshing to know some in Washington want to show up to your doorstep with a dozen of something and ready to pay for a quality night out on the town, instead of those who are ringing the doorbell, then running for their dear lives. Well, this column was supposed to be about automated vehicles, and that is the core of the Transportation Empowerment Act. It’s a driverless mentality. R&B

Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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