The current federal highway and public transportation programs, known collectively as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), have been operating on a series of short-term extensions since their expiration on September 30, 2009. The existing programs have been widely criticized for doing little to identify or address national needs, being heavily earmarked, and over obligating available funding, thereby leaving the Highway Trust Fund insolvent and in need of recurring bailouts.
These programs are failing to keep pace as national needs have continued to grow and construction, labor, and land costs have rapidly increased. Further, the ongoing recession is having an impact on needed funding as state budgets and credit markets across the county constrict, and federal revenues fall short of projections due to a drop in vehicle miles traveled. To prevent cuts, Congress must swiftly reauthorize the surface transportation programs while ensuring that the federal role is defined, existing programs are reformed, wasteful spending is curbed, and federal investment in U.S. highways and transit systems is increased.