Here We Go Again

It seems that I spend a lot of time in this column talking about funding (and the lack thereof) and decrying the federal government for not giving the surface transportation industry the money it needs to not only keep up with capacity but just to preserve the system of roads we have. And here we go again.

As I write this editorial column in early October, the government is in the second week of its shutdown. I guess it’s not a surprise that a small minority is holding up the work of the federal government with the healthcare issue that has nothing to do with passing a budget. This Congress just can’t seem to work together.

It’s estimated the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) will be bankrupt by 2015 and MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act) is set to expire in September 2014. Infrastructure projects are already being put on hold because of the uncertainty of federal funding.

A recent report from TRIP (a national transportation research group) titled, “Bumpy Roads Ahead: America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother,” says pavement conditions are likely to worsen under current funding by all levels of government. Through 2032, the U.S. faces a $156 billion shortfall in the amount needed to maintain roadways in their current condition, a $374 billion shortfall to make modest improvements in pavement conditions and a $670 billion shortfall to make significant improvements to roadway conditions.

A 2010 U.S. Department of Transportation report found that the nation would need to increase annual funding for road and highway improvements by 21 percent to keep them in their current condition, by 51 percent to make a modest improvement in overall conditions and by 91 percent to make significant improvement to their condition.

Federal dollars are a key source of transportation funding in many states. A lack of adequate funding beyond the expiration of the MAP-21 federal surface transportation legislation next September threatens the future condition and performance of the nation’s roads and highways.

According to the TRIP report, in the fall of 2014, nationwide federal funding for highways is expected to be cut back by almost 100 percent from the current $40 billion investment level unless additional revenues are provided to the federal HTF. This is due to a cash shortfall in the HTF as projected by the Congressional Budget Office.

As a nation, we cannot continue to ignore the crisis facing our national transportation system. But it seems our do-nothing Congress is doing what it does best — nothing. If this government can’t agree on something as simple as funding our infrastructure, it’s no wonder the bigger issues can’t get resolved.

Midterm elections are over a year away, but let’s not forget how little this Congress has accomplished, especially for our industry, when the time comes to vote. Let’s clean house and start getting something done in Washington.

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