In 2005, Congress passed a legislative monstrosity popularly known as the transportation bill that funded Alaska’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.”
The bridge was never built, and now the law itself may finally expire -- after having been extended several times -- at the end of next month.
Washington is now arguing over several bad new ways to pay for transportation infrastructure in the U.S. But despite their deficiencies, recent proposals from the White House, the Senate and the House offer a few ideas worth considering as part of a more ambitious funding bill down the road, when a looming election isn’t inducing timidity and self-delusion.
Most glaringly, what all three proposals lack is a realistic or long-term source of funding. The White House hopes to pay for its six-year, $476 billion plan by “ramping down overseas military operations.” The Senate’s two-year, $109 billion bipartisan measure would invoke such exotic revenue sources as raiding the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund, also known as the LUST Trust Fund, and taxing imported Malaysian cars.
The five-year, $260 billion plan that House Republicans put forward, meanwhile, envisioned collecting revenue from currently nonexistent domestic drilling projects and ending guaranteed funding for mass transit. (That plan -- which Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican, called “the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service” -- was so egregiously political and unfeasible that House Republicans now intend to rewrite it.)