Associations Target Importance of U.S. Highway Program to State Economies

AASHTO Journal, 5 December 2014

AASHTO and two other national transportation trade associations have joined together to detail the crucial role the nationwide road, bridge and transit network plays in the economic activity of states.

In a position paper approved by AASHTO’s board of directors on Nov. 24, the state DOT executives along with groups representing road builders spelled out how the federal surface transportation supports 1.25 million direct and indirect jobs with a $77 billion payroll. The paper also explains that truck-hauled freight shipments through the road network carry 82 percent of the nation’s cargo tonnage.

“Virtually every trip made using our network involves an economic transaction of some sort,” the paper says. “Collectively, these transactions are what determine the health of a state’s economy and the resulting quality of life for its citizens.”

That discussion paper was a joint effort of AASHTO, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the Associated General Contractors of America.

That comes at a time when policymakers in Washington are planning how and when to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which is now funded only through next May. (See President Obama’s comments to the Business Roundtable in this week’s Top Stories.) And it comes as some infrastructure advocacy groups are questioning how to maintain the trust fund model amid repeated short-term extensions by Congress and a weakened dedicated revenue base. (See related story in Nation section).

The federal transportation program, the joint paper says, “ensures that the roads and transit systems most important for workforce and customer mobility, inter-modal freight shipments and tourism in every state are maintained and improved to meet demand in a sustained, coordinated manner.”

For instance, it says over the 2001-2011 period “the federal program has provided, on average, 52 percent of all capital investment made by the states in their most important highway and bridge infrastructure.” Without that sustained federal investment, the paper says both the “integrity” of the national highway system “and the success of individual state economies dependent on it” would be at risk.

Here is the full policy document, along with maps showing the value of truck-hauled shipments by state and a 10-year look at the federal share of state road and bridge capital investments.

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