By Pete Grass, AI President
Gridlock. It’s not fun while trying to get somewhere in traffic. It isn’t good in Washington either. Ultimately, we are frustrated, unpredictably late, and productivity (competiveness?) suffers. It is a lose-lose.
We seem to be solidly in gridlock now. At some basic level, Americans and our elected officials know we have to fund transportation for all the great reasons. It keeps us competitive as a nation in an increasingly global economy. It provides for jobs for countless Americans while improving our quality of life. It provides for the efficient movement of our citizens and the goods that make our economy sing. But this is the motherhood and apple pie piece of the puzzle.
Funding is THE issue. How do you pay for this? Well, let?s study the problem. This has been done more than a few times fairly recently.
The “Transportation for Tomorrow” report from the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commissions published in December of 2007 was the first in the recent group of funding studies. A major effort of this study centered on paying the bill. In the end, the commission split—with a published alternative view of ideology and possible solutions.
A larger, central government role, or one based on regional centric solutions? An extension of the fuel based tax system through 2025 or a vehicle miles traveled tax? Disagreement on the role of localized transportation pricing mechanisms and public private partnerships? All arguably fundamental topics.
Follow that study with the report of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission entitled “Paying our Way—a New Framework for Transportation Finance” published in 2009. Created by Congress as part of section 11142(a) of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy of Users (SAFETEA-LU), it was charged with making recommendations on alternative approaches to funding and financing surface transportation infrastructure and reporting back to Congress.
It is no real surprise that the revenue options exhibiting “strong” recommendations from this second study include the vehicle miles traveled concept (a Federal option) and the concept of facility level tolling and pricing (a state and local option). Additionally, this commission also recognized that the current federal surface transportation funding structure that relies primarily on taxes imposed on petroleum-derived vehicle fuels is not sustainable in the long term and is likely to erode more quickly than previously thought.
And now other “listening sessions” are underway across the country to hear our view of the problem. It hasn’t changed, it’s the funding.
Remember the adage that a 90 percent solution delivered on time is better than the 95 percent solution delivered late—It’s late. We collectively know that infrastructure is vital and that we are currently mortgaging our future by ?deferring investment? in its development and today more than ever, even its maintenance.
Commonly, our lawmakers tell us that infrastructure just isn’t on the minds of the American people. It’s time to tell them otherwise. It is our future, and it is slipping away.