This time they might be right.
Key Senate and House leaders on Thursday said negotioators are close to an agreement on a new federal transportation bill. Congress has been lurching along, with stopgap funding measures, for about three years, unable to hammer out a new overall bill of the kind usually passed about every five years. States and municipalties watch closely, looking for pots of money for everyting from maintaining bridges to starting up high-speed rail. (And it's an election year, so, yes, there also is the valid argument that this also is in effect a jobs bill. Construction work pays well, and that's welcome whether your congressman is red or blue.)
Among the many officials watching are those in Jackson County, where County Executive Mike Sanders is pushing a drive for a transit system, mostly likely based on several commuter rail lines, that would one day serve the entire metro area. His contention is that it would get drivers off our crowded interstates (OK, not California crowded, but still ...) and transform the area's economy and overall vitality in the way the interstate highway system did for America half a century ago. Specifically, he likes the area's chances to compete for federal funding based on his plan's low cost relative to others around the country. This is likely to go before Jackson County voters this fall, with a sales tax to get the plan rolling. The feds generally like to see local money in place -- ongoing money -- before they chip in. That's apparently at least part of why Kansas City this week didn't get federal money for its streetcar plan. Its local revenue stream is just now being voted on.
Leaders in Congress have given us the "we're this close" line before. Still, it is a safe to bet that the bill either gets approval now or sits on the shelf until at least January, when a new Congress and perhaps a new president start over -- with transportation just one of many items on a long list of prriorities.