"Archaeologists Fear Outcome of Congressional Debate on Highway Bill" - Science Insider, November 9, 2011
Since 1992 over 200 archaeology projects in Delaware have been funded by a piece of federal highway-building legislation known as the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program. To date more than $51 million has come from the program.
Now, the U.S. Senate committee is looking at a new version of the program in an attempt to reauthorize the federal government's $50-billion-a-year surface transport funding system. Archaeologists are watching the process closely.
Current law says that states must spend 10% of certain federal transport funds on enhancement projects. One of the 12 types of activities, or enhancement projects, is "archaeological planning and research". This means that about 2% of overall surface transport budgets go to enhancements (including all 12 categories). That amount is about $12 billion since 1992.
In 2010 less than 1% of the available funds went to archaeologists in Delaware. Certain projects could not have been completed if the funds were not available.
The current highway law expired in 2009. Congress has been passing short-term extensions in the mean time while they attempt a major rewrite of the complicated an onerous law. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has:
outlined a plan to authorize $230 billion for transportation infrastructure spending over 6 years. that would be a significant cut from current levels...
...enhancements won't be included in the bill he expects to release later this year.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has promised that states "will not be required to spend a specific amount of funding on specific types of projects, such as transportation museums or landscaping.
Some lawmakers in the Senate argue that the U.S. can no longer afford TE projects when there are bridges and roads to repair. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and other Republicans have offered amendments to the pending law to end or scale back the program.
McCain is building a reputation for undermining archaeology and environmental projects. See my last post: #61.
It will be interesting to see how this all works out. It's no surprise that funding for archaeology and environmental projects is in trouble with the re-writing of this program. Why do Republicans completely reject these types of projects? Is it all about money and jobs? What motivates a Republican to hate anything that doesn't make them millions of dollars? It takes an enlightened and evolved people to spend money on preservation and on things that will not provide an economic return but rather, a social return. Someday we'll get there.