Congress has a responsibility to fund transportation infrastructure and make sure the tax dollars you send to Washington come back to benefit you. However, for the past decade, Congress has only been able to pass short-term reauthorizations of highway funding, without needed reforms and funding stability.
That’s frustrating when you’re a state or local government trying to plan for projects without knowing what will actually be funded past a year or so. Talk to any mayor or county commissioner, and they’ll tell you that uncertainty about funding for roads, bridges and other infrastructure can be a serious impediment to economic growth in our communities. Transportation infrastructure is the backbone of commerce, and ensuring a safe, reliable highway system helps strengthen business and grow the economy.
That’s why I’m pleased the House recently passed the six-year Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015, which seeks to give long-term certainty to states and local governments for highway planning. While Congress must ensure taxpayer dollars are spent effectively and efficiently, I strongly believe we need to defer more decision making to state and local governments. To that end, I am pleased the House-passed bill transforms the Surface Transportation Program (STP) into block grants, increasing funding and providing greater flexibility for states and local governments for road surfacing projects. The bill also eliminates duplicative regulatory processes within the Department of Transportation, a long overdue reform.
Beyond the reforms and provisions in the bill, I am encouraged by the orderly, deliberate process by which it came about. Instead of being written by a few top leaders and pushed on the rest of us, it was written and marked up in committee and came to the floor in an open way. Well over 100 amendments were offered in order and voted on, allowing each Member’s voice to be heard and considered.
While that may seem long and cumbersome, this bottom-up, open process is how the House is supposed to work. It represents a positive start to Speaker Paul Ryan’s tenure, and I’m hopeful we can return to this “regular order” on all major legislation.
Since the House and Senate passed different versions of highway funding legislation, the issue will now go to a conference committee where Members from each chamber will meet to work out differences in language. With the expiration of our current highway bill rapidly approaching, I hope we can get the bill finalized and to the president’s desk for signature.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She is currently serving her third term.