Short-Term Highway Bill Opens Door to Better, Long-Term Legislation

With August looming just days away, traffic on First District highways and interstates often hits a fever pitch.

First, there’s the last minute family vacation. A new school year starts in less than a month, and dads and moms often pack up the kids for one last adventure or visit before summer’s relaxed routine wraps up.

Right after that last-minute trip, backpack-toting children wait for yellow buses to carry them to the same buildings where some of us learned to read and write. It’s the start of school, and it’s coming whether parents are ready or not.

Then, there’s the opening kickoff for football. That sentence alone can get even the mildest sports fan giddy in our district, and folks will travel countless miles to watch their favorite high school team on Friday nights or the Red Wolves or Razorbacks on Saturdays.

In the middle of this increased traffic volume, we still see business commuters and operations traveling their daily routes to keep us supplied with the products and services we demand.

We rely heavily upon roads in our primarily rural First District. Stretching from the Missouri border in the north to the Louisiana border in the south, our residents often travel many miles before reaching their destinations — especially during August.

But even as the start of the August brings busy and exciting schedules, it also carries a major concern; budget reports cited the insolvency of the U.S. Highway Trust Fund beginning August 1. Compounding that problem, Congress holds its annual monthly recess during August, necessitating its need to take action quickly.

The Highway Trust Fund plays a critical role in our upkeep and development of federal road systems. In fact, my office recently received a letter showing 15 major projects in the First District would fall to the wayside should Congress not act immediately.

Thankfully, my House colleagues passed bipartisan legislation H.R. 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014, extending federal surface transportation programs and ensuring the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund through May.

This short-term bill allows Congress to begin immediate work crafting reformed, multi-year legislation so it doesn’t find itself in a similar situation any time soon. In the meantime, we must share and receive ideas for that bill as access to global markets expands through trade negotiations and improved trade routes, such as the current Panama Canal expansion. The U.S. cannot remove its focus from domestic trade routes, and a new Highway Bill will take a needed step to protect the future of our country’s highway and interstate systems and the jobs that depend upon them.

And for future years, we can be sure that Arkansans enjoy their hectic August schedules on First District roads once again.

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