A safe and reliable transportation infrastructure is critical to the U.S. economy. The multi-modal movement of goods and people impacts the country’s productivity, competitiveness and growth. With demand outpacing capacity and the performance of the U.S. transportation system eroding, global competitors are investing heavily in their transportation systems – building highways, public transit, rail lines, ports and airports. Some studies predict that if underinvestment and business-as-usual transportation policies and programs continue, the U.S. will find itself unable to compete in a world economy.
The most urgent problem is funding. The federal government raises revenue for transportation projects and programs through a series of taxes and fees related to the use of the transportation system – most notably a federal gas tax. For many years, Congress could count on ever-increasing traffic volumes and gas usage to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund in the black. However, with more fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles on the road, and no increase in the 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax in more than two decades, the Trust Fund is headed toward bankruptcy. Click here for the Highway Trust Fund Ticker
The other sticking point is vision and purpose. After several years of delay and ten short-term extensions, in the summer of 2012 Congress finally enacted a surface transportation law known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), providing federal funding through September 2014. While MAP-21 is the current blueprint for federal transportation investment it will expire in September without Congressional action. Click here for MAP-21: 10 Key Things to Know
As of March 2014, the Obama administration has proposed the details of its four-year, $302 billion transportation plan as part of its 2015 Budget Request to Congress. The President’s plan is important because it goes beyond setting spending levels for fiscal year 2015, which is the predicted date of the Highway Trust Fund’s insolvency. Simply extending the current MAP-21 Plan would require an infusion of $19 billion next year or $100 billion over 6 years. In his proposal, which is an $87 billion increase over current spending levels, funding for transportation projects would come from $150 billion in transition revenue generated from business tax reforms and current revenues from the federal gas tax. As for what’s likely to happen next, because the bipartisan budget passed by Congress in December 2013 set top-line budget amounts for fiscal 2015, it’s uncertain if the House or Senate will introduce or pass their own budget resolutions this year. Still, whether the ultimate legislative vehicle is the reauthorization of MAP-21 or appropriations bills later this year, it’s essential that Congress and the President come to agreement on a way to continue supporting communities’ efforts to maintain their transportation infrastructure and prepare for the future.
Here are couple of links to read more about the Administration’s Federal Transportation Plan:
The lack of federal action has pushed states to come up with their own methods of funding for transportation projects to the states. These options have included: increasing the state gas tax; indexing the state gas tax for inflation; increasing vehicle registration fees; expanding the use of tolling; increasing transit fees; increasing the state sales tax; implementing a vehicle miles travelled tax; bonding; redirecting rainy day funds to transportation; and public private partnerships.
Award-Winning Chamber Examples
Chamber Examples for Transportation Improvement
- The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce (Tenn.) launched Thrive 2055 as a strategic visioning initiative to engage the people of the Chattanooga region in creating an action plan to make the most of their economic opportunities while preserving what they love about their home communities. After an intensive public engagement process, four regional priorities were defined: economic development, education, transportation, and the protection of the region's natural treasures. Thrive 2055 determined that by keeping these priorities in balance the people of the region would always live healthy, fulfilled lives with access to the wealth of natural and cultural resources.
- The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is leading the city’s taskforce on reducing traffic, which includes staff from the mayor’s office, regional agencies, and business associations. This working group meets regularly and the agenda deals with strategies for enforcing traffic and parking control, as well as incentivizing sustainable options like carpooling and public transit. The group also studies current trends, like the effects of ride-sharing firms.
Below are several resources on transportation funding and policies.
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| TransportationLast Updated: 10/5/2017