Monday, June 08, 2009


Business and labor have joined forces to support transportation funding, offer suggestions for reform.

Congress approved and President Bush signed HR 3, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) on August 10, 2005.

SAFETEA-LU is a $286.5 billion highway and mass transit bill aimed at enhancing safety, economic productivity, economic growth, and reducing traffic congestion and pollution.

SAFETEA-LU will sunset on September 30, 2009, and Congress is beginning the arduous task of determining how to revitalize this important transportation funding measure in the next reauthorization cycle.

Recently, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released a study citing “bottom line” funding needs for U.S. Highways and mass transit systems at a whopping $240.5 billion dollars per year.

Congressman James Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation Infrastructure, recently discussed a $450 billion dollar, six-year bill; however, it remains unclear how the other committees (namely Ways & Means) will decide to pay for that. To put it in perspective, let me remind you that the current authorization is $286.5 billion dollars over the five-year funding life of the program.

There is no question our nation’s transportation infrastructure is broken. We have not been investing enough money in roads, bridges and transit to maintain these systems, let alone build capacity. But increased funding is not the only answer. Long-term planning and investments in transportation must be a priority, but any proposed legislation must also provide reforms to ensure money is used for needed projects and not wasteful spending. It is critical that we provide significant revenues tied to fulfilling the federal responsibility in meeting the national interest and maintenance of a user-fee-based trust fund protected by budgetary firewalls.

As Congress looks toward reauthorization of funding from the Highway Trust Fund, the Americans for Transportation Mobility coalition, comprised of representatives from business, labor and transportation sectors have weighed in with some guiding principles for reform:

  • Focus on National Needs – A strong federal role built on national needs stemming from interstate commerce, international trade policies, interstate passenger travel, emergency preparedness, national defense, and global competitiveness.
  • Require Accountability – Project approval and funding must be linked to economic benefits and performance-based outcomes.
  • Encourage Private Investment and Financing – The federal government should encourage project financing and delivery approaches that attract private investment within an appropriate federal framework.
  • Eliminate Wasteful Spending – Limit earmarks that are not related to transportation infrastructure, if they do not address the goals of federal transportation policy, or they have limited or no national benefit.
Guest Blogger: Renee Radcliff Sinclair, executive director of Congressional & Public Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

1 comment:

  1. Great info. You may want to know that some members of Congress are discussing a funding level of $230 billion [over 6 years], a 20% drop from the current funding level. That would seriously delay or even kill a lot of local government and WSDOT projets. It would slow progress on relieving congestion, improving safety, and fostering economic development. Our communities need a federal transportation bill that provides more funding than the current bill.