Few Clouds 48° Good Afternoon
Few Clouds 48° Good Afternoon

On our minds: Congress needs to fix the Highway Trust Fund

Newsday's editorial board spends all week striving to be a reasoned and pragmatic voice for Long Island and its values through our editorials and columns. We debate local, national and international issues and write on those we think will impact our readers.

Some topics come up that don't turn into longer pieces, but are part of the national conversation and worth bringing up. Here's how we're telling you about them.

Highway fund needs fix before Capitol recess

Congress needs to refuel the Highway Trust Fund
Photo Credit: iStock

Congress needs to refuel the Highway Trust Fund before lawmakers motor out of town this week for their August recess. Without an infusion of cash, the fund for road and bridge repairs will run dry next month, idling hundreds of thousands of workers.

This week the Senate will debate alternatives to an $11-billion bill the House of Representatives passed July 15. But even if the Senate finds common ground with the House, $11 billion will fund projects only through May 15. And to raise some of that money, the House bill would allow companies to cut payments to pension funds.

That's a bad idea. While it would fatten both employer taxable bottom lines and federal coffers, a likely result is more underfunded pension plans. Congress must avoid temporary fixes. Reliable funding is essential to keep our roads and bridges in good repair.

Don't confuse weather and climate

370 - That's how many days Long Island
Photo Credit: Flickr / Nev Brown

370 - That's how many days Long Island had gone without the thermometer hitting 90 degrees, as of Friday.

Our beautiful spring and summer, following a severe winter, could make us doubt the Earth is warming. Worldwide, though, it was also announced that last month was the hottest June in 134 years of tracking, on the heels of the hottest May. Weather and climate aren't the same thing. What we see and feel when we step outside, hot or cold, can't tell us much about the broader picture and the long-term trend.

Tougher oil-tank cars will protect public

Trains carrying crude oil have derailed and burned
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Trains carrying crude oil have derailed and burned across the country at an alarming rate, so tougher federal regulations to lessen the potential for disaster are on the right track. Rules proposed Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation would require a shift to safer tank cars for hauling crude within two years. Much of the volatile crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota is transported across the country to Albany, where it is then shipped to East Coast refineries.

The cars would be required to have thicker steel walls, better brakes and greater rollover protection. Many old ones are prone to rupture in derailments. There is a 60-day public comment period before the proposed rules become official. While the railway supply industry has been voluntarily upgrading tank cars, it's time to put it on the clock.