When federal lawmakers return to Capitol Hill next month, one of their first assignments will be the normally routine task of finding money for better roads and rails. But given Congress' recent track record of letting seemingly mundane matters build to a crisis, transportation experts are keeping a wary eye on Washington.
The reason for the concern is the expiration of two key transportation-related statutes. At the end of September, the law providing for a federal gas tax expires. So, too, does the law that authorizes aid for building and repairing roads, subways and bridges. In the past, when the issue has come down to the wire, Congress has simply voted itself more time while it figured out a plan.
But that's not a given any more. When it comes to transportation funding, Republicans in the U.S. House and Democrats in the Senate have drafted plans that are miles apart philosophically.
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