The delay in passing a new highway bill is tied to debate over how to fund the $500 billion House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) proposed in his multi-year surface transportation legislation. It's obvious that a grassroots effort will continue to be needed to keep the discussion on the front burner and pressure on Washington to move forward in finding the solution.
Fortunately for asphalt producers/contractors, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood turned on the spotlight recently when he called the proposed legislation inadequate and recommended additional multimodal funding and an infrastructure bank to support this country's critical surface transportation needs.
LaHood knows the need to find innovative funding of the bill is at the heart of securing a substantial multi-year highway bill. He echoes the concerns of many in the surface transportation industry that funding must go beyond traditional fuel taxes that currently support the Highway Trust Fund. He also promotes multimodal solutions designed to provide a cost-effective way to move freight across the country.
This does not mean LaHood is advocating that a large portion of surface transportation funding should be earmarked for freight movement, but rather additional funding, above and beyond what's currently being proposed in the highway bill should be made available to upgrade this nation's freight shipping capabilities.
Part of that solution could very well include expanding the interstate system with additional truck-only lanes to enhance the freight-shipping capabilities across the country, but also improve the safety of other motorists using the road network by isolating heavy truck traffic to designated lanes. This solution is exactly what the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) proposed several years ago in a Critical Commerce Corridors recommendation.
LaHood is not suggesting sacrificing one for the benefit of another. He wants the $500 billion highway bill and he also wants additional funding designated specifically for improving freight transportation.
It's that type of recognition that's needed to continue moving the discussion forward in obtaining new funding for highways, and also to continue exploring new funding options to expand the transportation requirements of a prospering nation.
Greg Udelhofen, editor