Boosting The Highway Trust Fund Should Be A Priority

Posted on January 27, 2015 by Tom Halligan - Also by this author

More fuel, more vehicle wear and tear and maintenance, more time per ride coupled  with stressed chauffeurs and operation’s staff adds up to less productivity and on-time service — and revenue — because of our nationwide crumbling bridges, tunnels, roads and highways.

In his State-of-the Union Address last week, President Obama emphasized that if there is one common issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on it’s the urgent need to tackle our crumbling infrastructure. Consider: According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, it will take $3.6 trillion in investment by 2020 to fix it all, but that will require an additional $1.6 trillion in funding that is not currently included in current budgeting.

How bad is it? According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), it will cost $20.5 billion annually to fix more than 600,000 aged bridges, almost $7 billion more than the 12.8 billion budgeted. FHWA also reports that 42% of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion annually in wasted time and fuel.

You would think those stats would be enough for both parties to take off the gloves for one debate and figure out how to fund and fix our infrastructure that Americans would no doubt support.

However, given the love fest between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, finding the additional revenue, or increasing taxes to rehab the nation’s infrastructure, is not promising, especially as politicians are antsy about increasing taxes as the 2016 election circus begins.

The fact that the Highway Trust Fund is down to a few bucks, Congress has no choice but to come up with either a short- or long-term solution to pony up the money to not only repair the infrastructure, but to improve it.

In his address, the President said “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure” and “I know there is bipartisan support because members of both parties have told me so.”

He may be right. Even though New Jersey Governor Christie got scolded by the GOP for hugging Obama during their beach walk following Hurricane Sandy — that’s how much they don’t even want to be seen with him — a few Republican governors have recently bucked the no-tax mantra and are increased taxes to fix their state’s crumbling infrastructure.

An article in the New York Times Jan. 26 reported that Republican governors across the country are bucking the party and raising taxes to deal with budget shortfalls and to fund infrastructure projects (which obviously give a return on investment with jobs and better transportation productivity). In South Dakota and Michigan, for example, various gas tax increases are on the table solely to cover fixing highways, roads and bridges.

Considering how the private transportation has mobilized to lobby against TNCs at the local, state and national level, it also makes sense to me to piggyback lobbying efforts to put added pressure on politicians to adequately fund the Highway Trust Fund to give us a 21st Century modern and efficient infrastructure.

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