Senate "Do or Die" Deal Might Shave 1.6% of Highway Bill

Senate "Do or Die" Deal Might Shave 1.6% of Highway Bill

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) threatened to hold up extension of SAFETEA-LU and authorization of Federal Aviation Administration spending if the bill did not eliminate the requirement that states spend money on "transportation enhancements" such as trails for pedestrians and cyclists, historic preservation and beautification. Under an agreement reached with other senators that allowed the extension to go through, lawmakers promised loosen restrictions on the enhancements when they rewrite the country’s transportation spending plan.

But state transportation officials, who pressed Congress for an extension before the previous law expires on September 30, stayed neutral on the issue of enhancements.

"Our members have used transportation enhancements pretty effectively for their own purposes," says Jack Basso, director of program finance and management at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). "They find it’s goodwill, it deals a lot with the locals. It has not been viewed as a negative, from our end."

Currently, the enhancements cost about $650 million a year, out of the roughly $40 billion the federal government spends on surface transportation, Basso says."It’s not change, but it’s not huge money either when you spread it out over 52 jurisdictions."

(More on the fate of transportation sending . . . )