For months, people who build roads and who advocate for public transit have been living in a scary limbo.
They've been waiting for Congress to pass a long-delayed transportation spending bill fearful the feds would cut their programs to the bones.
Congress finally reached a spending deal this week. Few like it. Many are calling it a step backward. There isn't nearly enough money in it to address the nation's transportation woes, they say.
But many in the transportation business sounded relieved Thursday. The ugly cuts that could have happened, didn't.
"It kind of holds things at a stable level," said Matt Carpenter of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the local agency in charge of distributing federal transportation funds. After three years of waiting for some kind of commitment from the feds, "this allows projects to move forward with more certainty."
Sacramento Regional Transit, the bus and light-rail company, appears to have dodged a potential problem.
This spring, RT launched construction on an extension of light rail to Cosumnes River College in south Sacramento, even though there were rumors Congress might eliminate the federal program that would co-fund the project.
It worked out. Congress is holding mass transit funding steady, and keeping the "New Starts" program.
"Very good news," RT's Mike Wiley said. He expects RT to sign a $135 million grant contract later this year with the federal government.
Feelings among local cy- cling and pedestrian advocates were mixed Thursday. Both groups say the federal bill means less money earmarked for bike lanes and pedestrian safety projects.
"That really puts the pressure on us at the local level" to gear up lobbying efforts and preserve recent momentum, said Trish Hedahl of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates.
Terry Preston of WalkSacramento said one of his chief concerns is that bike and pedestrian advocates don't end up fighting each other for funds, rather than cooperating to lobby for mutually beneficial projects.
Congress notably is shifting more decision-making for spending federal funds to the state and local level.
Carpenter at SACOG said that should give the region's city and county leaders more freedom to respond quickly to local needs.
He said he expects his agency to continue placing a high priority on integrating pedestrians, bikes and transit use into new streets and new communities.
Transportation planners, including WalkSacramento's Preston, said the biggest problem with the new two-year spending plan is that it's just a Band-Aid. Funding isn't keeping up with the nation's transportation needs.
"Come 2014," Preston said, "we will have this discussion all over again."