While there are some new solutions for funding a bill when MAP-21 expires being mentioned, there is still no mechanism, new or old, gaining bipartisan favor. Meanwhile, the fractious climate on Capitol Hill makes reaching an agreement even more difficult.
In July, Congress passed a new two-year bill – MAP-21. Highlights contained include an expanded TIFIA program as well as streamlined New Starts and project delivery processes.
With Republicans taking over the House and focusing on cutting spending, it will be interesting to see where transportation falls on their list of priorities. Despite T&I Chairman Mica's plan to push for a transportation authorization bill early this year, the major hurdle remains how to fund it.
Even with no authorization bill in sight, consultants are finding many positives, including increased ridership, a new federal philosophy and exciting projects in the pipeline. Many are looking for high-speed rail to have the same nation-changing impact as the interstate highway system or the beginning of the space program.
The changes may substantially impact what sort of projects will be selected in the program going forward, with more of a focus on sustainable, economically beneficial projects. The addition of programs, such as funding for urban circulators, may also play a major role in how New Starts/Small Starts decisions will be made in the future.
Several recent reports and bills currently being considered by Congress provide some indication of the direction of the policy shifts being considered.
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