Federal Highway Investment Needed Now

 

Transportation advocates made a strong pitch for work to move forward in the coming months on a new federal highway bill.


Among them was Bob Lanham, vice president of the Associated General Contractors of America and a board member of the Transportation Advocates of Texas.


“The time for infrastructure investment is now. Any new infrastructure plan should be broad-based.  In the past, funding uncertainties and short-term extensions have led to project delays, cancellations, higher cost, delays of improvements that affect safety, efficiency and economic development,” Lanham said in testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.


“A broad infrastructure package must include a sustainable, long-term solution to funding the Highway Trust Fund and further improving the environmental review and permitting process is necessary,” Lanham said.


“What’s different today is that leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and on all ends of the political spectrum agree that the addressing our nation’s transportation infrastructure is the top priority for the new Congress. And, this committee and its leaders are an essential component to making this priority a reality,” he said.


Lanham pointed to a 2015 estimate that annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges needs to increase from $88 billion to $120 billion.  There is an estimated $1.1 trillion funding gap for surface transportation through 2025.


Also presenting testimony as Carlos Braceras, president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, who said highway officials believe it is now time for all transportation stakeholders, led by Congress and the president, to begin work on reauthorizing the FAST Act [2015 highway law] and to ensure a smooth transition to the next long-term bill without the need for disruptive extensions.


Leaders of the Senate committee agreed that action is needed.  Chairman John Barrasso said Congress has failed to prioritize the needs of vital infrastructure systems.


Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee’s ranking member, said he sees a bipartisan consensus on the need to invest in infrastructure.  He is one of the few members to support raising federal taxes on gasoline and diesel.


The current highway authorization law expires in 2020, presenting policymakers with a deadline to avoid disrupting federal infrastructure funds. Concerns about the federal government’s ability to consistently guarantee multiyear infrastructure funding led more than half of the states to increase their taxes on gas and diesel fuel in recent years.

 

December 11, 2018