As the deadline to reauthorize the federal surface transportation bill nears, the measure of success for many involved seems to be maintaining the status quo. Last week, leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives began touting “flat funding” as an accomplishment that Congress must work to achieve. But it’s flat out not. Here are some of the things that will happen if Congress simply continues the status quo over the next few years, from ASCE’s economic study on transportation:
- It will cost each American family’s budget $1,060 every year through at least 2020
- America will lose more than 876,000 jobs by 2020
- 234,000 jobs will force workers to take paycuts in 2020
- S. exports will drop by $28 billion in total by 2020
- America’s GDP will underperform by $897 billion in total by 2020
Short-changing transportation has a devastating ripple effect on our economy. With so much at stake, increasing our investment into transportation by fixing the Highway Trust Fund is the best choice for all Americans. The benefits of growing the surface transportation program go far beyond protecting those parts of the economy noted above. By increasing investment, we can start modernizing our transportation network so that it’s something Americans can again be proud of. Fewer potholes, less congestion, fewer deficient bridges, fewer off-loaded trains. Safer commutes, more time to spend with your family, better transit options.
A multiyear bill that continues the same amount of funding we’ve had since 2005 through SAFETEA-Lu is the opposite of aspiration. It will not help improve our low Report Card grades for surface transportation, and will do little to strengthen the economy. However, there is a way to not only fill the funding hole of the Highway Trust Fund but also grow the system. By increasing the federal gas tax, we can start investing in the projects America needs to have in place in order to continue to compete globally in the21st century. Every state has dozens of new construction projects that they would like to make a reality if they only had increased investment from all levels of government. Here’s our chance.
To fill the current federal funding gap and grow the federal Highway Trust Fund to address current documented needs, Congress should raise the gas tax by at least 20 cents. This would be the first increase since 1993, and the bump would recoup what has been lost due to inflation and increase funding. For the average driver, it will cost about $187 more a year*. In contrast, right now each motorist is paying $324 a year in additional repairs and operating costs. In addition, Americans spend an average 34 hours a year stuck in traffic, costing the U.S. economy $101 billion in wasted fuel and lost time annually. It’s a savings for your wallet by staying out of the auto mechanic shop. It’s an even bigger savings as it protects that $1,060 mentioned above.
There is a lot at stake if we merely continue with the same level of funding of the past 10 years for the next five. It will hurt your personal finances, hurt our already aging transportation system and do little to benefit our economy. Let’s increase our investment so that Congress truly fixes the Trust Fund in a way that allows us to modernize our transportation system.
Join ASCE in telling your Senators and Representative that you expect their leadership in passing a long-term, sustainable fix to the Highway Trust Fund that includes an increased investment to modernize the transportation system.
*calculated based on 18 gallon tank x 20 cents x 52 fill-ups a year (once a week)