The guiding principle of a new federal surface transportation investment program must focus on national priorities, connectivity and economic growth, Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman said during a speech January 10 at the National Press Club.
“The Highway Trust Fund is dead. We need to be thinking about how to replace it with a surface transportation program for the 21st Century,” he stated.
Boardman noted the current authorization for surface transportation programs, a two-year stopgap law known as MAP-21, expires this year, providing an opportunity to create a new framework for federal transportation investment.
Boardman said the notion of a highway program must be replaced with a new, balanced Transportation Trust Fund for projects that are truly national in scope and responsibility and generate policy outcomes the nation needs.
He explained that a balanced program can provide investment in any surface mode, including highway, transit and rail (both passenger and freight) and would unshackle transportation planners, system users and other decisions makers from chasing mode-restricted dollars.
“A world-leading economy today requires a world-leading transportation system that strengthens the whole network and recognizes and supports the unique roles each mode plays in supporting interstate commerce,” he said.
He stressed that every program, every investment must provide for national connectivity and the overarching objective of transportation policies and infrastructure investments must be America’s economic future. He noted America is not making the investments needed for growth and improvement and is just barely keeping the existing system going.
“We are facing a real challenge and the bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund is just the tip of the iceberg. It won’t be easy, but if we strive in good faith, we can find a way through to a solution that will give America what it needs,” he said.