The U.S. Senate passed a surface transportation bill by a wide margin recently. Since the House doesn’t have a bill, it is likely to debate the Senate bill. One of the groups looking with interest and making comments on the bill after it passed the Senate was the Soy Transportation group, an entity supported by soybean groups in several states, primarily in the Midwest, including Indiana.
Mike Steenhoek, director of the coalition, says that the $109 billion proposed in the Senate bill is still far less than what is needed to begin to correct problems with transportation systems, but it would be a plus compared to living under the temporary, short-term extensions of the previous law that have occurred because Congress couldn’t make a decision on which way to proceed.
One problem is that the bill only covers two years. He argues that in transportation circles, two years is hardly enough time to plan projects and make plans. The Soy Coalition would have preferred a six-year bill.
Nevertheless, the primary sticking point, as always, is how to increase revenue to improve transportation systems. This bill doesn’t resolve that issue, Steenhoek notes. Currently, most of the funding comes from an 18.4 cent per gallon tax on gas and a 24.4 cent per gallon tax on diesel fuel. It does not produce enough revenue to keep the gap between the Highway Trust Fund and what U.S. infrastructure truly needs from widening, Steenhoek asserts.
The bottom line is that the Senate version is a step in the right direction, but is still far less than what is needed if the U.S. is to keep up with transportation needs, including road repair, in the future. Compared to doing nothing, it would be a start, Steenhoek concludes.