Power failures, drivers frustrated with abysmal road conditions and increased media attention to our nation’s aging infrastructure have rattled Americans and driven more states to pursue raising their gas tax as a way of fixing the Highway Trust Fund.
This past Tuesday, a massive power failure left large sections of Detroit in darkness. According to the 2013 Report Card, our energy infrastructure scored a D+, largely due to the fact that the nation’s transmission and distribution systems, including 400,000 miles of electricity lines, have long outlived their life spans and desperately need maintenance. Much of the energy infrastructure dates back to the World War II era and some of it was constructed in the 1880s. According to the Yuma Sun paper, Detroit is in the midst of a $200 million upgrade to the power grid to help modernize it. If it takes $200 million to properly upgrade the power grid to one city, it is going to be a “tremendous undertaking to modernize the nation’s power grid.” ASCE would like to see partnerships at the state, local and federal levels to make these repairs happen.
At the federal level some bipartisan cooperation around the gas tax has increased despite Congress being in the lame-duck session. As reported in The Hill, Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) joined together, standing alongside a life-sized cutout of President Reagan, to reiterate support for the 1982 gas tax and to inspire lawmakers to raise the gas tax before the next Congress. ASCE supports this bipartisan proposal to raise the federal gas tax indexed with inflation and hopes it will continue to gain momentum.
Meanwhile, an increase to the gas tax continues to be a topic of conversation. The White House Business Roundtable referenced Andy Herrmann’s interview on 60 Minutes in the context of needing a sustainable funding solution to our nation’s infrastructure as soon as possible. Even President Obama weighed in this week on the state of the nation’s infrastructure when he said, “It makes no sense that we have a first class economy with a second class infrastructure.” In comparison with countries like China, our infrastructure puts us to shame.
Congress is running out of time this year to pass meaningful legislation to #FixtheTrustFund. Let’s hope they decide not to once again kick the can down the road and into 2015.