Better Roads Staff
Pete Ruane, president and CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, foresees states facing a 50-percent cut in federal funding and the loss of hundreds or thousands of jobs if Congress and the Administration do not act later this year or early next year on reauthorization.
But the odds of that are slim. And even if there is action, the House Ways and Means Committee still has to find a way to pay for it at a time when the only choice to provide adequate funds – a hike in the gas tax – is simply not going to happen. This could result in a new bill with too little money, a situation which would essentially continue the short-term thinking and planning mire in which we are now stuck.
Ruane, never timid when it comes to candid assessments, speaking at the recent International Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh, said “Many politicians in Washington are saying that we need to get more innovative and creative in passage of a new bill. Unfortunately, innovative is usually a code word for ‘we can’t raise user fees’ and simply reflects their lack of political will.”
Capitol Hill, said Ruane, is the “land of the lost, inertia and downright ineptitude,” when it comes to a transportation bill. “Partisanship and dysfunction are the rule not the exception.” We are,” he said “in limbo and face threats from many directions.”
In Washington for the Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In (May 19-20) I heard members of both the House and Senate agree that a six-year bill is vital, but that there is no way to fund it. At that point, we were at a dead end. There are other funding choices and a number of speakers referred to them (tolling, VMT, PPP projects, etc.) but all conceded that they will not produce enough money to fill the Highway Trust Fund to a adequate level that is, to have enough money to do all the work that needs to be done.
It is frustrating to see the people we elect to solve problems basically tell us that yes there is a problem but we can’t, or won’t, solve it. v
An Ironic Explanation
By John Latta
Why is that Congress simply won’t consider the obvious and raise the gas tax. Yes, it’s a tax, and it’s mid-term election year. Basic reasons.
But there is a wonderful irony that is behind those two up-front explanations.
In late May at the annual meeting of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, some indirect answers to blunt questions provided some insight. I’m relying here on the take of veteran transportation industry watcher Ken Orski and his reference to remarks made by a panel of key senate staffers from the key Environment and Public Works Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
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