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Transportation issues update

October 7, 2021

As October arrives, there has been a flurry of activity in Washington pertaining to transportation.

First, the good news. Congressional leaders have agreed to a short-term measure to raise the debt ceiling into early December, dissolving an impasse that some believe could have plunged the U.S. economy into recession. The issue will need to be addressed again before the end of the year, however.

Additionally, Congress approved and President Biden signed a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown that could have occurred as the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30.

Still unsettled is the trillion-dollar-plus bipartisan infrastructure bill, which seems to have become less bipartisan as House Republicans are using it to express their displeasure with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has gotten friendlier with Democrats and supports the infrastructure measure.

Then there’s President Biden’s decidedly partisan $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” initiative, which includes an array of social programs and climate initiatives, along with additional infrastructure projects. The initiative has drawn criticism from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

For his part, President Biden has conceded that the $3.5 trillion price tag on his plan is likely to be reduced, but its connection with the smaller infrastructure package is drawing resistance from progressives who support the $3.5 trillion spending plan, which is drawing resistance from moderates who say it’s simply too expensive.

Democratic leaders insist that both bills will pass, but at this point, neither has the votes due to the convoluted situation described above, and negotiations continue. The American Road and Transportation Builders Association, a national transportation trade association tracking this situation, remains optimistic that the bipartisan infrastructure bill will prevail.

Back in Harrisburg, the transportation topic quieted down this week following a House Transportation Committee hearing last week on PennDOT’s Public-Private Partnership proposal. Most of those who testified spoke in opposition to the plan, which would impose tolls on as many as nine major bridges set for refurbishment or replacement.


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