President Obama signed the new five year $305 billion highway bill last Friday. You probably will not take time to read it as it is over 1,300 pages of awfully boring government language. But the truth is the bill is pretty significant, although it has both strong and weak points.
The first strong point is that the bill is funded for a period longer than two years. The last time it was more than twenty years ago. Another strong point is that most of its funding will go to repair aging infrastructure. The major construction projects will be the highest priority for the next five years.
One of the weaker points is financing emerging technologies. The bill pays some attention to innovations like driverless cars and collision avoidance.
Autonomous vehicles are mentioned in the bill and are to be studied by no later than 2017. The bill also directs the DOT to work on advanced safety systems and transportation technologies.
It is likely that the innovations will be driven by the private sector and companies like Apple, Google and others. That is what already happening.
So, the bill’s main goal is to repair roads, bridges and tunnels. One of the strong points is also funding for public transit.
The bill also mentions pedestrian paths and bike lanes. The roadways of the highway systems will be taking in account bicycle access.
The highway bill is another weak spot because of the failure to increase the gas tax. The gas tax provides most of the funding for highways and it has been the same since the 90s.
The experts say that there is a risk for disinvestment for infrastructure in the future. That is because the funding comes from an account used by the Federal Reserve.
Having some great points, the new bill is still a disappointment to many. It has had a lot of potential but the least part of it has been used.