Our industry was given an early holiday gift on Dec. 4 when President Obama signed the FAST Act, which stands for Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, which also is essentially a highway funding bill. The good news this time is that the FAST Act is long-term funding legislation equating to five years and $305 billion, a far cry form the kicking-the-can-down-the-street approach that had been going on for several years with short-term extensions.
While it’s great to have this kind of funding certainty again for our aging infrastructure, the $305 billion, though a lot of money, is not nearly enough to address all the problems. It’s kind of like when were kids and we asked for a train set and we got a nice one, but not the really good, but expensive one we had seen in the catalog. Like the train set, this funding will keep us busy for a while.
Of course, it would also be nice if all of this money went to actually building new roads and bridges and rehabilitating the ones that can be saved, but that’s not the case too many times. Much money still goes to impact studies and other peripheral administrative costs, and that’s what bothers a lot of people about government spending in the first place. You never really know what’s being spent on what, so it’s like looking at the weight of a bag of chips, but you know a percentage of that is factoring in the fistfuls of crumbs at the bottom of the bag. How much of that bag, or in this instance, how much of this $305 billion is actually usable, productive and fixing our crumbling, outdated and sometimes dangerous transportation system?
Of course, the precise answer to that question cannot be known now, but, for the time being (five years), state DOTs can have funding certainty so that they can at least address some of the larger problems we have and people will be working, which is always the best thing of all.
Have a happy, healthy and safe 2016.