Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced legislation that would incrementally raise the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax to 33.4 cents-per-gallon. Blumenauer’s proposal, the Update, Promote, and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act, increases the gas tax by 15 cents, which is in line with a proposal that was included in the 2011 Simpson-Bowles budget reform recommendations. ASCE joined the Congressman at a press conference this morning in support of the legislation.
The nation’s infrastructure is facing an increasing number of challenges. In ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, a comprehensive assessment of infrastructure across 16 sectors, the cumulative GPA for the nation’s infrastructure rose slightly to a D+ from a D in 2009. The 2013 Report Card estimates total investment needs at $3.6 trillion by 2020 across all 16 sectors, leaving a funding shortfall of $1.6 trillion based on current funding levels.
The federal gas tax has not changed in twenty years and for the past five years revenue streams have fallen far short of what is needed to address America’s infrastructure needs. However, the problems of the past five years are small in comparison to the 10-year shortfall projected by Congressional Budget Office. To prevent bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund in 2015, federal surface transportation investment would have to be zeroed out for that year. This is an unacceptable path.
By gradually increasing the gas tax by 15 cents through the UPDATE Act and also establishing a competitive grant program to fund vehicle miles traveled pilot programs through a separate piece of legislation call the Road User Fee Pilot Project, Congressman Blumenauer’s bills will once again provide our nation’s surface transportation with long-term, sustainable revenue for the years to come.
It will take this bold leadership to ensure that the Highway Trust Fund can support our needed infrastructure improvements and continue to grow the economy. ASCE looks forward to working with Congressman Blumenauer and he works to advance infrastructure funding in Congress.