Over the course of the past decade, industry analysts have become increasingly concerned about the troubled state of America’s transit infrastructure. Earlier this year, for example, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association released a report that identified 61,000 bridges as “structurally deficient.” In an effort to address concerns such as these, the Obama Administration signed a new five-year, $305 billion highway bill into law early last month. It’s known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, and it’s the first major long-term highway bill to be passed in over a decade.
What it Means for Mass Transit
Of the $305 billion included in the bill, $48.7 has been allotted to repair and update the country’s mass transit systems. A large portion of this will likely be devoted to fixing an ailing rail system that has troubled the shipping industry in recent years. The FAST Act also includes legislation that makes it easier for city officials to make decisions regarding their local transit infrastructure. With the adoption of this new bill, there will (in theory) be less red tape for local transit authorities to cut through when trying to update mass transit systems or offer alternative forms of transportation such as bike lanes and car sharing programs.
So Where is That $305 Billion Coming From?
The Fast Act has the potential make some big improvements on the country’s transit system, but some legislators and economists are worried about how the funding for those improvements is being sourced. Some of the funding will be generated by selling oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve. Even more worrisome, however, is the fact that some of the funds will come directly from a Federal Reserve account. Technically speaking, Congress doesn’t have access to that money. Perhaps in an effort to preserve the country’s essential traffic infrastructure, the designers of the bill were willing to bend the rules a little (or a lot, as the case may be). After spending years trying unsuccessfully to bandage America’s aging transit infrastructure, it seems desperate times are calling for desperate measures.