The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or “FAST Act” is Signed Into Law

FASTAct2America has always been a nation on the move. But an aging and crumbling transportation system is not only slowing Americans down, it’s reducing productivity, undermining our ability to move products across the country and around the world, and increasing congestion and air pollution. It’s time to get America moving again! – U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Last month, the first law providing long-term funding certainty for surface transportation in over a decade was signed into law. The implementation of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or “FAST Act” States means that local governments should be able to move forward with critical transportation projects, like new highways and transit lines, more easily. “After hundreds of Congressional meetings, two bus tours, visits to 43 states, and so much uncertainty – and 36 short term extensions – it has been a long and bumpy ride to a long-term transportation bill,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx. “It’s not perfect, and there is still more left to do, but it reflects a bipartisan compromise I always knew was possible.”

The deteriorating condition of America’s roads, bridges and rail lines have been an area for concern for some time.  According to US Department of Transportation, sixty five percent of America’s major roads are rated “less than good” condition, while one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic and 45 percent of Americans do not have access to transit.

The FAST Act is considered by many to be a good start, as it increases funding by 11 percent over five years. “This is far short of the amount needed to reduce congestion on our roads and meet the increasing demands on our transportation systems,” states the U.S. Department of Transportation. “In comparison, the Administration’s proposal, the GROW AMERICA Act, increases funding by 45 percent”.

The law also makes changes and reforms to many Federal transportation programs, including streamlining the approval processes for new transportation projects, providing new safety tools, and establishing new programs to advance critical freight projects.

For a more detailed summary of some FAST Act provisions, visit www.transportation.gov/fastact.

 

A Brief History of our Interstate Highways

Many of us take our highway system for granted, but it is hard to imagine life without them. In fact, our Interstate System has been hailed as the “Greatest Public Works Project in History”.

Earlier this month, AAA projected 94.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season in it’s annual Year-End Holidays Travel forecast.

The report also estimates that ninety-one percent of those travelers (85.8 million in all) will travel by automobile!

With so many of us hitting the highways this holiday season (an estimated 27% of the American population), we thought this would be a good time to share some interesting facts about our 42,800-mile Interstate System–now officially called the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, that has served us for decades.

www.census.gov

 

• The origins of our highway system date back to 1893 when General Roy Stone, a Civil War hero and good roads advocate, was appointed Special Agent in charge of the new Office of Road Inquiry (ORI) within the Department of Agriculture. With a budget of $10,000, ORI promoted new rural road development to serve the wagons, coaches, and bicycles on America’s dirt roads.

 

•When Henry Ford introduced his highly acclaimed Model T in 1906, the federal government became pressured to become more directly involved in road development.

•The Federal- Aid Road Act was passed in 1916. It is historic as it established the basis for the Federal-Aid Highway Program under which funds were made available on a continuous basis to state highway agencies to assist in road improvements.

•The Federal Highway Act of 1921 authorized The Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) to provide funding to help state highway agencies construct a paved system of two-lane interstate highways. During the 1930s, BPR helped state and local governments create Depression-era road projects that would employ as many workers as possible.

•After World War II,  the nation’s roads were in disrepair, and congestion had become a problem in major cities. In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed legislation authorizing a network of rural and urban express highways called the “National System of Interstate Highways.” Unfortunately, the legislation lacked funding.

•In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act and the the Interstate program as we know it got under way.

•By 1966, the changing times prompted legislation to establish the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). When the new department opened in April 1967, BPR, renamed the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), was one of the original components.

•Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Federal Highway Administration  worked with the states to open 99 percent of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

• As of 2010, our Interstate System has grown to 47,182 miles, making it the world’s second longest after China’s.
The cost of construction has been estimated at $425 billion (in 2006 dollars).

• Today, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is responsible for ensuring that America’s roads, bridges and highways continue to be among the safest and most technologically sound in the world. FHWA conducts research and provides technical assistance to state and local agencies in an effort to improve safety, mobility, and livability, and to encourage innovation

Article Sources:
www.fhwa.dot.gov
www.inventors.about.com