Basso, AASHTO: "It's unlikely that a new highway bill will pass soon after the November elections. Because of the makeup of the new Congress, the odds of passage are better in 2011. But then the question is, how do you pay for it?"
Highway Trust Fund
AC: The Highway Trust Fund has several obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is the Obama administration's reluctance to raise the gas tax in light of 10% unemployment.
What does the future hold for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF)? Where will additional funds come from knowing that alternative-fueled vehicles are gaining in popularity and the gas tax remains unchanged?
Solsby, ARTBA: "The HTF remains the most effective and viable transportation financing program in place. But its effectiveness is undercut because it is not indexed to inflation and because its level has not been augmented to reflect current economic values.
"The Fund has lost some 30% of its purchasing power in recent years. Imagine if you had no pay raise since 1992! We support raising the gas tax and indexing the tax to inflation going forward, as do many in Congress. To fund the next bill at a level commensurate with goals outlined by key Congressional leaders, we will have to look at putting all revenue options on the table - including raising the gas tax."
Simonson, AGC: "AGC supports a gradual switch to vehicle miles of travel as a basis for taxing all vehicles equitably. In the meantime, the gas tax should be increased."
Basso, AASHTO: "The 18.4 cents federal gas tax was enacted in 1993, and current estimates suggest that the HTF will get us to 2012. In the short run, raising the gas tax and collecting more DMV fees is the course to follow. Long term, a 7 to 8 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax will only allow the industry to tread water whereas a 13- to 15-cent increase would be more appropriate."
AC: Generally speaking, what will 2011 look like for asphalt highway contractors and producers? Solsby, ARTBA: "There will be challenges, there's no doubt about it. ARRA funding tapers off, states have cut spending on infrastructure, and we still don't have a highway bill. We see this as reason number one to push for the next highway bill."
Simonson, AGC: "At best, new contract awards are likely to remain at pre-ARRA levels in early 2011. ARRA funds will be quickly depleted, and large cutbacks in activity and employment are likely by late 2011 unless there is a new surface transportation act by then."
Basso, AASHTO: "We need long-term, well-funded legislation. Until we get it, numbers will continue to head south. AAA now supports a gas tax to help fund a bill. So does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as do we and a number of other organizations."