RoadWorks: Inside the Highway and Bridge Industry
Go Ahead, Tax Us,
We Need the Infrastructure.
By John Lattta, Tina Grady Barbaccia and Tom Anderson
A nother major transportation industry is prepared to support a hefty tax increase on itself to help provide the healthy infrastructure it must have.
Barge operators are prepared to accept a 30 to 45 percent increase in the diesel tax paid by barge and tow operators. A plan set to go before Congress calls for a six to nine cent addition to the 20-cent-per-gallon diesel tax now paid by barge operators. The American Trucking Associations and the Truckload Carriers Association have both supported a diesel tax hike for the same reason – the new revenue would help provide better roads and less congestion.
“More than half of the 240 Army Corps of Engineers-operated inland navigation locks have outlived their economic design lives by more than 50 years. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ recent report card graded the inland waterways a D-,” says Cornel Martin, President and CEO of the Waterways Council, a national public policy organization that advocates for a properly funded and well-maintained system of inland waterways and ports.
Raising the grade and the efficiencies of our locks and dams is essential, says Martin. “If adopted by Congress, these recommendations will help improve the reliability of our waterways so that our nation continues to benefit from our energy-efficient, congestion-relieving waterways transportation system.”
A starting point is a set of recommendations that would prioritize, over a 20-year period, navigation projects across the entire inland waterways system, improve Corps of Engineers’ project management and processes to deliver projects on time and on budget, and recommend an affordable funding mechanism to meet system’s needs. The recommendations were prepared by the Inland Marine Transportation System Investment Strategy Team comprised of key U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel and members of the congressionally established Inland Waterways Users Board, a federal advisory committee that provides advice to Congress and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
“If adopted by Congress, these recommendations will help improve the reliability of our waterways so that our nation continues to benefit from our energy-efficient, congestion-relieving waterways transportation system,” says Martin. “New funding parameters included in the proposal will necessitate an increase in the 20-cents-per-gallon fuel tax currently paid by industry, the only segment of system users who are taxed, but it is viewed as worth the investment to ensure the future viability of America’s inland waterways system. And, if adopted, it would tax the system in a more equitable manner than recent White House proposals which would more than triple the tax levied on freight moving on our inland waters.
“Modern infrastructure, whether it be locks and dams or roadways and bridges, is essential to the economic health of our nation, from U.S. competitiveness in world markets, to energy efficiency, to congestion relief, to environmental protection, to modal competition and to the sustainment of jobs. This is good public policy for our nation and its future,” says Martin. v
According to Cornel Martin, President and CEO of the Waterways Council, waterborne transportation is better for the environment and our consumption of energy. Just one barge has the same capacity as 70 trucks or 16 rail cars, with the lowest carbon (C02) emissions among the three modes. Moving a typical 15-barge tow means 1,050 less truck transits on our highways. And towboats pushing barges have the best energy efficiency record among all transportation options, traveling 576 miles on one gallon of fuel as compared to 413 for train or 155 for truck.
Deputy DOT chief:
“Markets alone” will not create essential transit-oriented development
Public investors need the ‘spur’ of cooperating government agencies to create essential transit friendly communities according to John Porcari, deputy secretary of transportation.
Porcari was speaking to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works on March 24 about opportunities to improve energy security and the environment through transportation policy. DOT, he said, will create an Office of Livable Communities within the office of the Secretary of Transportation.
He said: “We propose, within our FY2011 budget request, that the Office would coordinate the distribution of $200 million for capacity enhancement at state and local transportation agencies. Through this support, state and local agencies could be better equipped with the tools, data and training needed to understand how transportation, housing, economic development and other infrastructure investments impact one another.
“Planning and capacity enhancement grants to state and local governments may, at first glance, appear to involve small sums of money, but they leverage far larger sums of private and public transportation and real estate investment over periods of many years. Because transit-oriented development requires private investment spurred by the cooperation of multiple governmental bodies, we cannot depend on markets alone to create these communities. Sustainable development that is transit –oriented and friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists will help foster economically competitive, healthy, opportunity-rich communities, while reducing petroleum consumption, increasing energy security, and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.” v
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