With Congress back in session, the countdown for a long-term sustainable solution to fund transportation infrastructure is back on. At this point, lawmakers are in agreement that our infrastructure needs serious attention, yet Congress is in gridlock on finding a long-term solution.
Underinvestment in infrastructure does not only lead to a growing backlog of maintenance, but also a drag on the economy. If Congress does not increase investment in the next long-term surface transportation bill, our aging roads, bridges and transit will become an even greater drag on our economy.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal explains how poor transportation infrastructure harms businesses, who rely on roads and highways to transport goods in a timely, cost-effective way. This article discusses how road congestion affects businesses by hindering the movement of supplies and lengthening workers’ daily commutes. An effective supply chain relies upon a reliable transportation network, which in turn bolsters the economy.
Legislation to raise the federal gas tax, like the bipartisan Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act, would index the gas tax to future inflation and provide Congress strong incentive to bring our transportation costs and revenue under control by creating an automatic revenue increase if Congress fails to act in a year. In a recent CNBC op-ed, Reid Ribble explained that the only way to address our $16 billion annual shortfall is to either cut costs or raise revenues, making a federal gas tax increase the most attractive option. Business Insider emphasized that the Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act is supported by a diverse group of organizations that rely on infrastructure to do business, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The American Trucking Association and The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
On another note, states are flexing their creative muscles to come up with ways to fund their infrastructure needs. In Oregon, ODOT has created a new program called OReGO, which will be the first tested vehicle miles traveled program in the nation. Volunteers will be charged 1.5 cents per mile and will be offered a tax credit reimbursing them for the 31-cent-per-gallon Oregon gas tax. Though Oregonians are excited about this new program, they remain resolved that the federal government find a long-term, sustainable funding solution.
With time once again running out, it is critical that Congress feels the pressure to come up with a long-term, sustainable funding solution and passes a multi-year bill by the end of July. If you want to get involved, please write your members of Congress and let them know why America needs a fix to the Highway Trust Fund.