Needed: A Vision

As asphalt contractors and producers, you’ve known for a long time that our highways, roads and bridges are falling apart. You live and work in it every day. And now Building America’s Future (BAF) Educational Fund, a national and bipartisan coalition of state and local elected officials, has issued a report, “Falling Apart and Falling Behind,” that explores how our poor infrastructure is not only bad for congestion and wear-and-tear on our cars, but that it’s causing the U.S. to seriously fall behind the rest of the world.

The report lays out the economic challenges posed by our ailing infrastructure, provides a comparative look at the smart investments being made by our international competitors, and suggests a series of recommendations for crafting new innovative transportation policies in the U.S. (The entire report can be found at www.bafuture.com.)

According to the report, as recently as 2005, the World Economic Forum ranked the U.S. No. 1 in infrastructure economic competitiveness. Today, the U.S. is ranked 15th. This is not a surprise considering that the U.S. spends only 1.7% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on transportation infrastructure while Canada spends 4% and China spends 9%. Even as the global recession has forced cutbacks in government spending, other countries continue to invest significantly more than the U.S. to expand and update their transportation networks.

Not only is the U.S. investing less money in transportation than our competitors, but we’re operating without a long-term strategy for meeting our national priorities. The last highway bill expired in 2009, leaving the U.S. without a national blueprint for funding and building the projects we need. The way it looks, a new multi-year transportation bill may not be passed until after the 2012 elections.

The BAF report has several recommendations for transportation reauthorization including passing a 6-year transportation bill, refocusing highway investment on projects of “national economic significance” and maintaining aging highways rather than building new ones (the old “fix-it-first”).

The report also points out that it’s time we consider new infrastructure financing options, including a National Infrastructure Bank and raising the nearly 20-year-old federal gas tax. Even accounting for state taxes, Americans pay an average of 39 cents a gallon in gas taxes – a fraction of what other countries collect. If Americans want smooth, modern highways, it’s time to put our money where our mouth is.

What we’ve seen out of Washington so far is not only a lack of funding, but a lack of vision, which has left the U.S. struggling to keep up with the rest of the world. America is a great nation - we need to start acting like one.

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