Consumer group laments transportation-funding quick fixes

The most recent extension on funding for federal transportation projects is the 33rd measure of its kind passed by Congress in the past six years, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) said on Wednesday.

The PIRG said Congress has been using these extensions since the original 2009 expiration of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

“The problem isn’t just that funding for infrastructure shouldn’t be in a perpetual state of crisis,” John Olivieri, PIRG's 21st century transportation campaign director, said. “The endless fire drills also keep Congress fixated on budget gimmicks to patch us to the next crisis, rather than reforms to fix the system. It’s ridiculous that our elected representatives cannot seem to do better when our national transportation system is at stake.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, predicts that Congress likely will resort to another extension before its month-long recess in August. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), ranking member of the committee, voiced his frustration with this trend.

"It’s a heck of a way to run a nation. It’s embarrassing,” DeFazio said.

It is generally understood that gasoline taxes are largely used to pay for transportation and other infrastructure projects, but PIRG said fees and taxes from fuel account for less than half of current funding.

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