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Tolling Points

LaHood Urges Bipartisan Support for Infrastructure Investment

Bill Cramer

The Republican Member of Congress who served as Transportation Secretary in a Democratic President’s cabinet is starting the year with a call for bipartisan action to clear America’s crippling infrastructure deficit.

“Messy commutes, dilapidated bridges, and major delays are just some of the headlines that Americans have gotten used to seeing on a daily basis,” writes Ray LaHood, now Co-Chair of Building America’s Future, in an opinion piece that appeared in Newsweek last week.

“Solutions to these challenges are within our grasp, but it’s going to take both parties and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue working together to make the hard choices.”

With talk that the White House will release details of its infrastructure plan sometime this month, LaHood’s comments could not have been better time. And right on cue, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are out with a proposal for a $75-billion, 10-year Bridge Investment Act to upgrade structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges.

The bill “would go a long way to lessening the $123-billion backlog [in bridge maintenance and upgrades], as it would be coupled with state and local investments to yield up to $150 billion worth of projects,” said James Pajk, Advocacy Captain at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

A Missed Opportunity

LaHood’s opinion piece in Newsweek tells a familiar story about the state of U.S. roadways—the two out of five urban interstate highways that are congested, according to the ASCE, the average cost to drivers of $960 per year, and the four out of 10 bridges that were “built before the moon landing”. And he points to an 11-hour power outage last month at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the world’s busiest airport, as evidence that the critical need for funding extends beyond surface transportation.

“Infrastructure investment creates good-paying jobs and long-term growth,” he writes. “But for too long, current and past administrations and Congresses have failed to pass a comprehensive infrastructure package with long-term, sustainable funding.”

He said the passage of last year’s tax reform package without an infrastructure component was a missed opportunity to bring all levels of government and the private sector together on a plan to inject “much-needed revenue” into the Highway Trust Fund.

Seize the Moment

“However, as we start 2018, I’m still hopeful that our leaders have learned the consequences of delaying infrastructure funding and repair,” LaHood states. With polls showing overwhelming public support for infrastructure investment, and constituents making their voices heard, “we need a bipartisan and strategic plan that provides long-term funding.” The elements of his plan include a long-overdue federal gas tax increase, a strong working relationship across all levels of government, and forward-looking policies and regulations to keep up with changing technologies.

“We know that the most consequential and long-lasting reforms are often bipartisan, and revitalizing our nation’s infrastructure and keeping Americans safe should not be solely a Democratic or Republican issue,” he writes. “Let’s resolve to make a long-term and well-funded infrastructure plan a reality in 2018. If our leaders want to put partisanship aside and start investing in our future, the options are on the table.”

Start making the case for infrastructure investment with your own elected officials! Download your copy of IBTTA’s Grassroots Toll Kit today.