How to Pay for Roads?
Memorial Day weekend is here and thousands of Americans are hitting the highways. I'll know it's a holiday weekend for sure when I see half the residents of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts as I crawl my way along I-95 south in Virginia this afternoon. As I'm sitting in line to get home today, I will join our Congressional Representatives in thinking about transportation funding.
According to the Journal of Commerce,a transportation industry publication, bipartisan consensus is emerging around a comprehensive transportation bill, but there are wide differences of opinion on how to fund it. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., called a proposed gas tax hike political suicide for Democrats saying: "If they passed a gas tax now, not only would I be (transportation committee) chairman, there would be no minority members."
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the highways and transit subcommittee, favors a multi-pronged approach to funding, but notes the need for substantial new revenue. "Public-private partnerships, infrastructure banks - those are all nice side things, but the problem is we need a substantial increase in direct investment in our national transportation system on a multimodal basis. That means the T-word."
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is also thinking about transportation funding. He was in Washington this week stumping for a new highway bill. Here's what he said about the public's willingness to support infrastructure spending:
"The most fascinating thing about the polls is the public is willing to pay for infrastructure improvements but they want them to be transparent, they want them to be accountable and they want them to be subject to some sort of merit-based cost-benefit analysis," Rendell said.
Transportation legislation suffers from a poor reputation from the last highway bill, which included a number of controversial earmarks, including the "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska that was highlighted during the 2008 presidential race.
Rendell indicated the next highway bill must be transparent.
"That necessarily doesn't mean the end of earmarks, but it does mean the major projects need to go through some sort of major review," he said.
Read more in this article from The Hill: Supporters of new highway spending legislation turn to new arguments.
As you sit in traffic on the way to the lake, beach or mountains, take a moment to consider our national transportation infrastructure and the mechanisms that fund its maintenance and expansion.