AASHTO Journal, 25 July 2014
In an open letter published this week by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and 11 others who previously held his position, Foxx and his predecessors pushed Congress to quickly find a way to provide long-term investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure to keep the U.S. moving and growing economically.
The letter, which acknowledges the need for a quick short-term Highway Trust Fund fix to avoid consequences at the state level at the end of the month, includes support and signature from Foxx and former secretaries Ray LaHood, Mary Peters, Norman Mineta, Rodney Slater, Federico Peña, Samuel Skinner, Andrew Card, James Burnley, Elizabeth Dole, William Coleman, and Alan Boyd. Those signatories served a total of seven presidents and represent both Republicans and Democrats. “Suffice it to say, we’ve been around the block. We probably helped pave it,” according to the letter.
In the letter, the group acknowledges the immediate issue with the HTF and applauded Congress for working toward a short-term solution. As of June 27, the Highway Account of the fund stood at $6.5 billion, down from $8.1 billion last month. USDOT prefers to keep a minimum of $4 billion in the highway account in order to properly manage day-to-day financial transactions. At the end of the month, when the HTF is projected to drop below that $4 billion level, USDOT will exercise cash management strategies, such as limiting payment reimbursements to state DOTs (see related AASHTO Journal story here).
“We are hopeful that Congress appears willing to avert the immediate crisis. But we want to be clear: This bill will not ‘fix’ America’s transportation system. For that, we need a much larger and longer-term investment,” according to the letter. “On this, all twelve of us agree.”
The group addresses the nation’s aging infrastructure in relation to the projected increase in population and demand, asserting that “without increasing investment in transportation, we won’t be able to meet these challenges.” This underscores the need for a long-term, sustainable solution for the HTF and transportation investment, according to letter signatories. And while there is a long way to go, the secretaries acknowledge they are encouraged that some in Congress are beginning to come forward with ideas.
“While we—the 12 transportation secretaries—may differ on the details of these proposals, there is one essential goal with which all 12 of us agree: We cannot continue funding our transportation with measures that are short-term and short of the funding we need,” according to the letter. “On this, we are of one mind. And Congress should be, too.”
The full text of the open letter to Congress is available here.