Funding for the nation's highways is a necessary investment that affects every American who travels the roads or purchases goods transported by truck. Infrastructure improvements and funding should continue despite the economic issues facing the United States today. Reducing vehicle wear and tear from traveling poorly maintained roadways would save businesses millions, even those already invested in advanced fleet maintenance software. Better highways would lead to improved transportation, safer working conditions for drivers and less traffic congestion for both commercial fleets and passenger vehicles.
An initiative set forward by the International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association and a proposed plan put together by John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, may offer the solutions that drivers on the nation's highways have been looking for. There is wide agreement that transportation infrastructure needs to improve and these campaigns may signal renewed progress on the challenge.
Moving America Forward
The initiative, Moving America Forward, was announced by the IBTTA at its quarterly board meeting in Miami, Florida. It is an awareness campaign to highlight the fundamental role that tolling can play in addressing the transportation infrastructure crisis. Through the campaign, policymakers, the general public and professionals in the transportation industry will be informed of the importance of supporting safe, reliable highway infrastructure.
"It's about time policy-makers at all levels of government took a serious look at tolling as an effective alternative to traditional funding options," said Robert Poole, co-founder of the Reason Foundation. "And with weak public and political support for raising any tax in this struggling economy, tolling continues to stand out as the way to go."
Increasing transportation investment
The federal Highway Trust Fund could become insolvent by October 2014, in turn reducing the annual federal highway investment from $41 billion to $6 billion and annual transit investment from $11 billion to $3 billion, Horsley claims. Slashing funding by this much on an annual basis can seriously impact the nation's highways, making many unsafe for nearly all motorists to drive. In light of these potential resource cuts, Congress needs to play a role in assuring ongoing transportation funding, Horsley remarked during his recent keynote address at the Transportation Research Board's annual Chairman's Luncheon.
Horsley supports a bill co-sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Senator John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) that would authorize a $50 billion Transportation Regional Infrastructure Project bond program. Each state would be given $1 billion to invest in transportation over the next six years. The money would come from U.S. customs fees and no debt would be incurred by the states.
"This program would create thousands of jobs, stimulate economic recovery, and improve mobility in every state," said Horsley.
Taxes on fuels would also change
With the United States recently avoiding the fiscal cliff, it is time for the transportation industry to do the same. With significant changes to the federal excise tax on fuels, the Highway Trust Fund would avoid many cuts.
"Fully supporting the program through highway user fees, rather than through transfers from the U.S. Treasury, would reduce the federal deficit by $150 billion over 10 years," Horsley said. "The cost of the reform to taxpayers would be less than $1 per week, per vehicle."