Last week the American Highway Users Alliance, a grassroots motorists' advocacy group, testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the importance of investing in the nation’s ailing infrastructure.
Highway Users President & CEO Greg Cohen remarked, “We are facing an epic crisis with the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund and a transportation ‘fiscal cliff’ is approaching that could lead to full cancellation of highway funding for 2015.
The group says "There will be preventable deaths and injuries if funding is not available for systemic safety investments and hazard elimination projects funded by the Highway Safety Improvement Program. These projects have an average benefit to cost ratio of more than 42 to 1, according to SAIC, and correct systemic safety problems and hazards that kill and maim people of all ages.
The federal highway program benefits every state and serves every citizen, whether they drive or not. Even those who are not highway users depend on the vast national network of roads and bridges to get food, medicine, and products delivered to their door–often overnight. The investment in highway infrastructure serves America’s competitive interests as a whole while simultaneously improving individual lives in communities.
Cohen added, “25% of bridges are deficient. If we put them end to end, they would stretch 5,000 miles – or long enough to go from coast-to-coast and back. These bridges are collectively getting older and states are working hard to reduce deficiencies. But if we go over the transportation fiscal cliff, bridge deficiencies will grow, with potentially catastrophic results."
Cohen also emphasized the major negative impact of traffic congestion: “In fuel and time alone traffic costs exceed $100 billion per year. But the true cost of congestion may be many times that amount once safety, stress and other health impacts, unreliability in the logistics chain, emergency medical service delays, and reduced access to labor markets are figured in. If states are unable to fund congestion relief projects, the impacts will be felt far beyond individual metropolitan areas, they will affect the entire country the way blizzards affect the network of airports.
The Highway Users Alliance says that it specifically advocates the following:
•Keeping the Highway Trust Fund Solvent: The presence of the HTF locks off funding for its intended purpose. It creates trust for taxpayers that their use taxes will be spent primarily on roads and bridges and not diverted to non-transportation purposes.
•Keeping the Base Broad: Everyone who uses the road pays and the users (and country as a whole) benefits. According to GAO, a mere $96 in federal gas taxes is collected for the annual use of a typical sedan. It’s an incredible deal for unfettered access to a vast highway network.
•Solve the Funding Problem Once and For All: The funding solution should be sustainable over the long-term so that reauthorization bills can be enacted with stable, predictable, and guaranteed funding levels for a minimum of five years at a time. The problem with the current, static, per-gallon gasoline tax is that it doesn’t automatically adjust with the variables that impact its purchasing power.
Sounds reasonable to me. Your thoughts?