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#StuckInTraffic:5 Reasons, in 140 Characters or Less, Why Congress Should Support the Highway Trust


A tweet fest, led by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, broke out on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, February 11. It was a show of bipartisan support for arriving at a solution to fund America’s aging transportation infrastructure, and the idea of a tweet fest on this subject—#StuckInTraffic—makes sense for several reasons. For starters, opponents of federal programs have been busily spreading half-truths and inaccurate information to undermine any value in the federal road, bridge, public transportation, and highway safety programs. Secondly, the value of transportation programs can be summed up in ways that are short and easy to understand. Here are five reasons – tweet-worthy – on why Congress should fully support the Highway Trust Fund and take the necessary steps to fully fund it through a surface transportation bill passed this year.

The Federal-aid highway and transit programs connect individuals and businesses by miles and miles of roads, highways, bridges and transit lines across all the states because they were always intended to be national in scope. Like other national programs, such as defense, Social Security and Medicare, homeland security, aviation and agriculture, these programs provide benefits for all Americans, regardless of where they reside. Could we really expect local and state politicians to overcome political pressures and economic downturns to carve out adequate funding for America’s 47,714-plus miles of interstate highway and 256,000 miles of National Highway System arteries?

Every $1 of federal highway investment results in $1.80 to $2.00 in additional growth in goods and services. Every $1 billion in federal spending on transportation infrastructure, when combined with minimal state and local matching, supports or creates 34,500 jobs, and, unfortunately, Congress has not adequately supported the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) – which pays for the federal highway and transit programs – for years.

The average person pays $8 a month – or 8.6 tenths of a cent per mile – in federal fuel tax. For this, they have access to the nation’s interstates, urban and rural highways, and improved mass transit services. Meanwhile, deficient surface transportation costs the average household $1060 per year in vehicle maintenance. A 10 cent to 15 cent per gallon increase would mean an additional $4 to $6 dollars a month – a reasonable amount for federal highway network users to pay to progress this network so it is more efficient, reliable and safe.

Devolution – or ending the federal government’s role in funding transportation infrastructure – would further worsen the current situation. When devolution is fully implemented, federal funding for highways and transit will drop by $45 billion dollars annually. To fill this hole, every state would have to increase its gas tax by 18.4 cents per gallon and its diesel tax by 25.4 cents per gallon. Assuming not all states would impose such a dramatic tax increase, we would end up with a patchwork transportation network.

The HTF is intended to be funded through user fees, not the general income tax. Each time users of our nation’s transportation network buy fuel and pay into the HTF, they are contributing to the maintenance, modernization, and expansion of for the nation’s transportation networks. However, nearly $70 billion has been transferred from general revenues since 2008 because there are still that many infrastructure needs across the country and increases in the gas tax lag far behind inflation. Because of lack of support for the HTF, Arkansas last year announced its decision to suspend $60 million in highway projects. Tennessee followed suit and at least eight other states – Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont – have publicly expressed concern.

The HTF will become insolvent in this summer if legislation re-authorizing MAP-21 is not passed and signed into law; the federal government will slow or stop sending checks to state DOTs this summer. The economic consequences of not being able to pay contractors and employees will send shockwaves through our economy.Hundreds of projects slated to begin around the country will not move forward if MAP-21 is not re-authorized.

The economic benefits of building infrastructure projects are clear: It is irresponsible for Congress not to act to prevent the negative economic impact of inaction on communities across America.

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