The future is now

In a couple of months, federal, state and local road agencies will award their 2008 contracts for scheduled projects, and the construction industry will be off and running on another busy season. And while projected funding for the year is expected to remain steady, it's incumbent upon all who rely on this vital industry to dedicate a concerted effort in lobbying for increased federal funding to not only maintain this country's current surface transportation network, but to expand the network over the next 25 years.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) released a 72-page report in November outlining major federal funding changes necessary to maintain a safe transportation network that can handle a projected huge increase in traffic in the years to come. The core finding of the comprehensive report, which resulted after a 16-month evaluation of the current transportation law, policy and administration, brings home clear and emphatic reasons why Congress needs to reform, refocus, restructure and refinance federal surface transportation programs when they are up for reauthorization in 2009.

Clearly, the federal government needs to protect the mega-billion dollar investment it has made to build the current transportation infrastructure we all rely on, but it also needs to expand the system through a Critical Commerce Corridors' (3C) program by adding new, multi-modal infrastructure capacity to facilitate continued U.S. economic growth and competitiveness.

In the report, ARTBA cites six transportation-related threats, including: lost lives and productivity; ever-worsening gridlock costing billions in lost productivity and wasted motor fuel; a doubling of truck traffic in the next 25 years; massive on-going transportation investments by other countries to facilitate their quest to be global economic superpowers; the current $19 billion annual shortfall at the federal level just to maintain current highway physical conditions and performance; and the expected insolvency (beginning 2009) of the federal Highway Trust Fund's highway accounts - the source of nearly half of all capital investments made to fund highway projects.

ARTBA's "A New Vision and Mission for America's Federal Surface Transportation Program" calls for phasing in a motor vehicle mileage tax to replace the current federal gasoline tax, utilizing freight-related user fees, encouraging more public/private investments, and bonding to finance the proposed commerce corridors initiative.

ARTBA's second recommendation, the "3C" program is a 25-year strategic business plan that identifies and addresses projects for development on a regional basis to improve freight movement and enhance the overall safety of our current highway network.

With much of the national spotlight focused on the 2008 presidential campaigns and election, the highway construction industry needs to do its part in making sure increased federal funding remains a top priority among current and future political leaders. The future of the federal highway/transit investment law, as well as the economic future of the highway construction industry and this country, is now!