With the White House's agenda crowded by high-profile debates that remain unresolved after lengthy talks with Congress -- think health care, financial regulation, even unemployment benefits -- only a handful of lawmakers are publicly engaging with the dominant issues surrounding the next long-term federal transportation bill.
Of course, adopting broad standards for federal transportation spending is far easier said than done. At a Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) event yesterday, current and former members of Congress reckoned with the challenge.
Perhaps the boldest suggestion of the day came from Sen. Tom Carper
(D-DE), sponsor of the so-called "CLEAN TEA" proposal to guarantee
clean transport a share of revenue from cap-and-trade climate
legislation. Carper wondered whether the nation's mounting deficits
make the case for replacing the formula-based system of federal
transport spending with a set of goals that would determine which
projects get funded.
Carper's four proposed goals were congestion relief, safety, air quality, and job creation, a list that resembles the "metrics" offered by the BPC in its June framework for transportation reform.
One of Carper's GOP colleagues, Sen. George Voinovich (OH), pronounced the concept "wonderful" as the BPC audience looked on. Voinovich described the House legislation offered in June by transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) as a major step towards a more accountable system, though some reform groups have questioned that bill's decision to let states and localities set their own transportation goals -- allowing a lot of wiggle room to develop.Read more...