Among several transportation-related Congressional hearings this week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hosted U.S. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, the governors of Alabama and Vermont, and the South Dakota DOT secretary to discuss the need to fix the Highway Trust Fund.
Sec. Foxx told the committee, “Gridlock in Washington is now creating gridlock on Main Street.” In his testimony, he identified the challenges of operating a federal program that continually has short-term policy and funding extensions, concluding that these tactics are “Literally killing [the states] will to build.”
The state representatives offered their unique perspectives on how short-term surface transportation bills hinder their ability to effectively plan and executive projects. Gov. Robert Bentley (AL-R) talked about why the federal government needs to continue as a trusted partner “so that states can plan for and make infrastructure improvements,” and emphasized that “A long-term federal transportation reauthorization will provide certainty,” connecting transportation investment to economic development.
Gov. Peter Shumlin (VT-D) focused on how smaller states, such as his, have fewer funding resources and therefore depend on the federal government to fund projects through the Highway Trust Fund. He stated that “When there is uncertainty about funding…we’re in a terrible position of having to dig for cash that we didn’t anticipated we would need” or putting projects on hold.
South Dakota DOT Secretary Darin Bergquist echoed the two governors’ sentiments, speaking about the challenges specifically in his state caused by a smaller population and longer winter. “States cannot do it alone,” he said. “We need a strong federal program.”
This hearing is one in a series centered around the Highway Trust Fund and the law that governs it – MAP-21 – which is set to expire in May if Congress does not act.