Sound Infrastructure Policy Vs. Candidates’ Election Prospects

This election year brings another major short- and long-term domestic policy funding challenge for an incoming president and Congress. Though not on the


This election year brings another major short- and long-term domestic policy funding challenge for an incoming president and Congress. Though not on the scale of 2004’s proposed Social Security reform, the 2008 challenge centers on a need over the next 50 years to double, at minimum, federal and state governments’ annual investment in highway, transit and passenger rail systems.

That challenge was outlined in a report, Transportation for Tomorrow, from the National Surface Transportation Policy and Review Study Commission. Created by the SAFETEA transportation legislation covering 2004-09, the commission seeks to provide a blueprint of how future infrastructure needs can best be met. According to the North American Concrete Alliance (NACA), commission members suggest a federal gasoline tax increase up to 40 cents per gallon, phased in over the next five years at 5 to 8 cents annually, then rising every year following, while being indexed for inflation. The current federal gasoline tax, 18.4 cents per gallon, was last raised (4.3 cents) in 1993. NACA also cites the commission’s call for a federal/state/local government and private sector investment of $225 billion-$340 billion over the next 50 years; plus, a streamlining of more than 100 current federal transportation programs to 10 area-focused programs under the National Surface Transportation Commission.

Other federal construction interests also weighed in on Transportation for Tomorrow. Noted National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) Reauthorization Task Force Chairman Michael Stanczak (Hanson Material Service), The commission report reflects many of [our] recommendations. This includes the need for a new vision of transportation in the 21st Century, a multi-modal system that employs technological advances to increase efficiency of the system and the need for more research to continue advances to ease the congestion clogging our urban areas and imposing increasing costs in time and wasted fuels.

Of particular importance to the aggregates industry are report conclusions focusing on improved coordination between states and metropolitan areas on transportation and land use to meet congestion relief and other goals. Such coordination will include planning and permitting provisions to ensure availability of local aggregate resources for road and highway improvements. NSSGA believes no financing options should be off the table Û from increasing the fuel user fee to increased tolling, public private partnerships, and new ideas like a carbon tax directed to transportation infrastructure.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) urges Congress to carefully study the report recommendations as deliberations begin for September 2009-targeted transportation funding reauthorization. A vital infrastructure is an integral part of our daily lives at work and leisure. It is clear that we have enormous infrastructure repair and maintenance needs, and we encourage Congress and the Administration to consider all options recommended by the Commission during highway bill reauthorization, said Association of Equipment Manufacturers Chairman Glen Tellock (Manitowoc Co.).

As the protracted (Oct. 2003-July 2005) SAFETEA development proved, highway bill reauthorization has become more complicated, while funding needs have escalated sharply. Members of the Concrete Alliance, NSSGA, AEM and allied groups advancing federal construction investment have their work cut out for promoting a SAFETEA successor. While they might not be able to advance all the funding mechanisms outlined in Transportation for Tomorrow, they are in a better position than the Social Security reform advocates of 2005. Good, safe transportation is a more tangible talking point than a trust fund that might face insolvency three or four decades down the road.
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