As Congress considers legislation to avoid a shortfall of the Highway Trust Fund, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and 11 of his predecessors wrote an open letter to Congress.
In addition to Secretary Foxx, secretaries Ray LaHood, Mary Peters, Norman Mineta, Rodney Slater, Federico Peña, Samuel Skinner, Andrew Card, James Burnley, Elizabeth Dole, William Coleman and Alan Boyd all signed the letter. Their message: Congress’ work doesn’t end with the bill under consideration. Transportation in America still needs a much larger, longer-term investment.
“This week, it appears that Congress will act to stave off the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund. The bill, if passed, should extend surface transportation funding until next May,” the letter stated. “We are hopeful that Congress appears willing to avert the immediate crisis. But we want to be clear: This bill will not ‘fix’ America’s transportation system. For that, we need a much larger and longer-term investment. On this, all twelve of us agree. Never in our nation’s history has America’s transportation system been on a more unsustainable course.”
They said that in recent years, Congress has largely funded transportation in fits and starts and federal funding bills once sustained the transportation system for up to six years, but over the past five years, Congress has passed 27 short-term measures.
“This is no way to run a railroad, fill a pothole, or repair a bridge. In fact, the unpredictability about when, or if, funding will come has caused states to delay or cancel projects altogether,” they wrote.
The authors of the letter say that the result has been an enormous infrastructure deficit – a nationwide backlog of repairing and rebuilding.
“Simply put, the United States of America is in a united state of disrepair, a crisis made worse by the fact that, over the next generation, more will be demanded of our transportation system than ever before,” the letter said. “By 2050, this country will be home to up to 100 million new people. And we’ll have to move 14 billion additional tons of freight, almost twice what we move now. Without increasing investment in transportation, we won’t be able to meet these challenges. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, we need to invest $1.8 trillion by 2020 just to bring our surface transportation infrastructure to an adequate level.”
America needs is to break this cycle of governing crisis-to-crisis, only to enact a stopgap measure at the last moment, they wrote.
“Adequately funding our transportation system won’t be an easy task for our nation’s lawmakers,” the letter stated. “But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Consensus has been brokered before.”