Industry says Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan needs more work

Trucking industry advocates are pressing for greater infrastructure funding. American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said: “It is heartening that the President is bringing the issue of infrastructure modernization to the forefront, but in order to address our nation’s needs, it is essential we identify real and immediate sources of revenue that are conservative and fair like the Build America Fund.

“While the White House’s plan kick starts this debate, it unfortunately falls short of the President’s campaign promise to go big and bold, because it lacks the required federal investment. A proposal that relies on fake funding schemes like highway tolls and privatizing rest areas will not generate the revenue necessary to make significant infrastructure improvements.

“ATA has a solution to the funding question--the Build America Fund--which would generate $340 billion over the next 10 years. This is the most efficient, conservative and viable approach to funding infrastructure.

“To be clear, new tolling on existing interstates is a non-starter for our industry. Tolls are ineffective and wasteful, with as much as 33% of revenue being wasted on administrative and overhead costs.

“We also have grave concerns with the failure of the Administration’s budget proposal and infrastructure proposal to address the imminent collapse of the Highway Trust Fund. To be blunt, America is hurtling toward a highway funding cliff. If we continue on this trajectory, the motoring public, the American taxpayer and future generations are going to pay a very steep and unacceptable price. Any infrastructure funding proposal that does not address this situation is unacceptable.”

NATSO, the national association representing America’s truckstops and travel plazas, said the association will actively oppose key aspects of the Trump Administration’s new infrastructure proposal. Specifically, NATSO is concerned about provisions designed to increase interstate tolling and commercialized rest areas.

“Interstate tolls cost the government significantly more to administer and enforce than the existing motor fuels tax,” said NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings. “Why would anyone fail to support an increase in the fuel tax and, at the same time, work to create another type of tax (such as toll roads) that costs more to collect than the fuel tax?”

Not only do toll roads cost more than the fuel tax for the government to administer, interstate tolls divert traffic to secondary roads. This diversion not only damages these roads, it increases accident rates.

NATSO also strongly disagrees with the White House proposal to commercialize rest areas. Rest areas built after 1960 can only sell vending machine items. Rest areas before this date can sell food and fuel, and as a result have stifled business growth at the exits. In counties with commercial rest areas, there are 56% fewer restaurants, convenience stores and truckstops than other counties.

“We urge the President to reverse his support for rest area commercialization. Commercialization allows the government to hand-pick one company to operate exclusively at the state rest areas; this company behaves as a monopoly simply by virtue of its location on the highway shoulder or median,” Mullings added.

While Mullings cautioned lawmakers to avoid actions that would close businesses and put people out of work, she also emphasized that the association strongly supports increasing federal investment in infrastructure through a fuel tax increase.

Among wealthy countries, no one wastes more money sitting in traffic than Americans do. On average, a motorist in the United States spends an extra $1,200 because of congestion, and this doesn’t even take into account the hundreds of dollars in car repairs caused by potholes and other poor road conditions or car accidents due to dangerous roads.

Elaine Nessle, executive director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, said: “We appreciate the President’s recognition of the importance of improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure. We must strengthen our national freight transportation network, particularly if the recently-enacted tax reform law spurs significant economic growth as projected by proponents. 

“Freight network improvements cannot be delivered piecemeal by states and localities. Over 77% of the nation’s freight moves between states, requiring a coordinated goods movement strategy and robust funding from the Federal government. In addition, the economic benefits of significant freight movement accrue nationally, while the negative impacts--such as traffic congestion, safety impacts and unreliable travel times--are felt locally.

“The Commerce Clause of our Constitution authorizes the Federal government to support interstate commerce, accomplished through significant investments to support the movement of goods. We call for a minimum annual Federal investment for freight infrastructure of $2 billion above current levels. However, we are concerned that the White House proposal does not identify investment amounts specific for freight projects and appears to treat all infrastructure alike, which could result in underinvestment in regionally and nationally significant freight infrastructure improvements necessary to sustain American economic growth.

Moreover, now is not the time to eliminate programs that support goods movement infrastructure, as was suggested in the President’s FY19 budget request. Therefore we call on Congress and the Administration to maintain current transportation programs, especially the bipartisan Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. An invaluable tool for goods movement infrastructure, over a total of eight rounds, 42 percent of total TIGER funding has been awarded to projects with a strong freight component, making awards across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and US territories.”

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials said long-anticipated White House infrastructure proposal should be seen as a starting point.

“State DOT leaders appreciate the president’s ongoing interest in, and support for, increased federal investment in infrastructure,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director. “We hope the release of the Trump infrastructure plan can be a starting point for a robust conversation on how best to make the critical investments in surface transportation. AASHTO and its members stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress to address the long-term viability of the Highway Trust Fund and to speed the federal review and permitting process.”

The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen E Sandherr said: "The President has outlined a needed and thought-provoking proposal to rebuild and improve the nation's aging and over-burdened public infrastructure. The details of this proposal are important and many, including this association, will seek changes to further improve upon the President's concept. Yet the most significant aspect of today's release is that it signals the start of what should be a timely, bipartisan and bicameral process to identify the best ways to fund and finance desperately needed improvements to our public infrastructure.

"This process should build on the many positive aspects of the President's infrastructure proposal. These include increasing direct federal funding for public works by at least $200 billion over the next 10 years; making improvements to the federal permitting process that maintain strong environmental protections while significantly accelerating project reviews; and finding innovative new ways to use federal funds to leverage additional state, local and private-sector funding for infrastructure.

"At the same time, as the President's own proposal makes clear, Congress must identify ways to address chronic funding shortfalls affecting the federal Highway Trust Fund that have put needed highway, bridge and transit improvements at risk too many times during the past decade. And Congress must also identify effective and long-term ways to fund other infrastructure improvements that are just as vital to our continued economic success as is the surface transportation program.

"Moving forward, this association will work vigorously to ensure Congress passes a significant, new, long-term infrastructure funding package as quickly as possible. Our goal will be to make sure every member of Congress appreciates that our economy will not be able to grow if we continue to allow our infrastructure to deteriorate."

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