Thursday morning, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer held a press conference (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZoGpdW2jlo#t=15m27s) with members of the transportation and infrastructure community to highlight the impending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Rob Victor, Chairman of ASCE’s Committee for America’s Infrastructure, spoke along with Senator Boxer and other industry representatives about the declining condition of our infrastructure and the consequences of inaction.
At the press conference were executives from small, family-owned business and large associations on behalf of hundreds of thousands of members, representing the breadth of groups affected. Discussing the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Rob Victor emphasized that current funding projections will cost our economy more than 876,000 jobs and individual families over $1,000 per household every year. This includes not only damages directly related to crumbling infrastructure like more frequent car repairs, but also increased cost of living as shipping prices rise, groceries become more expensive, and the cost of commodities jump as companies seek to account for higher costs. Without proper infrastructure funding, our GDP will be suppressed by $897 billion by the year 2020.
Senator Boxer expressed her determination to fix the HTF before it is too late. “I don’t want to wait until, you know, midnight. I want to get ready for this. It’s coming in September 2014”. Saying that she was open to many options that could either supplant or complement the gas tax, Senator Boxer however conceded that there was little support on the Hill for a VMT system.
After the press conference, chairs of the three relevant Senate committees sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to other Senate members, arguing that 3 million jobs would be at risk if Congress fails to find stable funding for the highway trust fund. The letter from Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Commerce Committee John Rockefeller (D-WV), and Chairman of the Banking Committee Tim Johnson (D-SD) was sent out along with a state by state breakdown of how many jobs would be lost if the Highway Trust Fund is allowed to go bankrupt.
The Highway Trust Fund is expected to be exhausted in September of next year. Surface transportation makes up the largest portion of the $1.7 trillion investment gap. If the HTF is allowed to go unfunded, the costs to our economy and families will only accumulate faster.