It’s official—America’s new five-year, $305-billion transportation bill, dubbed the FAST act, became law on Friday with President Obama’s signature. The passage of long-term legislation amid the general gridlock of the current Congress is certainly a form of progress in its own right. But far less clear, as experts and advocates wade through the 1,300-page tome, is whether or not U.S. cities made out well in the deal.
The good news is there are some bright points for local governments. The brightest involves new flexibility on city street design. In the past, metro area planners had to follow the design standards used by state planners, particularly for projects that involved federal funding. If a city wanted to narrow the lanes of a particular road from 12 to 10 feet, for instance, it often could only do so with the state’s blessing.