AASHTO Journal, 24 July 2015
A group of 68 infrastructure advocacy groups, including state transportation agencies, sent Congress a letter calling for passage this year of a six-year reauthorization of Highway Trust Fund road and transit programs.
The coalition includes construction, engineering, trucking, safety, tourism and major freight shipper organizations, as well as highway and transit-focused groups.
Among the signers are the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AAA, MADD, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, U.S. Travel Association, National Retail Federation, American Farm Bureau Federation and American Trucking Associations, plus the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the American Public Transportation Association.
They sent the July 20 letter just one day before the Senate was scheduled to hold a key procedural vote to take up a six-year authorization measure that would be paired with only three years of guaranteed revenue.
That measure failed to win consideration on the first attempt July 21, as all Democrats and some Republicans voted against taking up the bill when they had not had time to review the lengthy, just-released text. It narrowly cleared a procedural vote late on July 22.
And the letter came just days after the House voted July 15 to extend the trust fund for nearly five months, in order to keep it operating past a looming July 31 expiration and give lawmakers in both chambers time to negotiate a six-year funding plan.
The letter said its signers represent “every sector of the U.S. economy,” as they urge lawmakers to “pass a six-year reauthorization of the federal surface transportation program in 2015 that increases investment in highway and public transportation improvements.”
The message continued to highlight the economic impact of investing in mobility networks. “America’s transportation infrastructure network is the foundation on which the nation’s economy functions,” it said. “American manufacturers, industries and businesses depend on this complex system to move people, products and services every day of the year. It is also a direct contributor to enhanced personal mobility and quality of life for all Americans.”
Those themes are similar to an AASHTO public information campaign called “America’s Transportation Future: Redefining Our Way Forward,” and an accompanying video that calls on Congress to make “big” decisions on project investments.
The infrastructure advocates also said: “The U.S. economy and all Americans require a surface transportation infrastructure network that can keep pace with growing demands. A six-year federal commitment to prioritize and invest in our aging infrastructure and safety needs is essential to achieve this goal.”
AASHTO and officials from many state departments of transportation have stressed that short-term extensions disrupt the planning process for multiyear projects, because state officials can’t be assured of federal funding when they will need to cover project costs.
The coalition letter said that “temporary program extensions and eight years of recurring Highway Trust Fund revenue crises do not provide a path to future economic growth, jobs and increased competitiveness. We urge you to end this cycle of uncertainty by advocating and voting for a six-year surface transportation program reauthorization bill during 2015.”