DOT’s Foxx: As roads, infrastructure continue to worsen, Congress must act

The Highway Trust Fund is expected to hit a shortfall by the end of the current fiscal year.The Highway Trust Fund is expected to hit a shortfall by the end of the current fiscal year.

The U.S. needs to stand up and face a looming “infrastructure deficit” by passing a long-term highway funding bill, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx told an audience at the Transportation Research Board’s Annual Meeting in Washington Jan. 15. 

Not only would the U.S. be able to save money long-term by tackling needed infrastructure problems now, Foxx said, it would be able to begin battling the ever-growing problem of under-funded, under-cared-for roads: One third of all roads in the U.S., he said in his speech, are in poor or mediocre condition. If the U.S. waits, he said, repairing roads will only become more expensive.

Also, he said more than 100,000 bridges are more than 60 years old, he said, and Americans combined spend 600,000 years stuck in traffic annually. 

“What’s true in business is true for infrastructure: Time is money. … And we’re kicking those higher costs to our kids and our grandkids,” Foxx said.

As the expiration of the current highway funding law, MAP-21, draws nearer (Oct. 1) — as does emptying of the Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to hit a shortfall sometime this year — the Department of Transportation will be posting a monthly update on how much remains in the Highway Trust Fund, for starters, he said. 

The DOT also will be touting plans from the White House and from Congress as to how to come up with money to fund infrastructure spending, including President Barack Obama’s funding plan, which called for funding transportation with funds gained from corporate tax reform, along with recent proposals from Congress to raise taxes on motor fuels

Foxx said his department is also putting stock into working efficiently and finding cost-cutting measures to get more infrastructure for less money, like Utah’s use of warm-mix asphalt and the paperwork reduction in the trucking industry. 

“Highway people like highways. Transit people like transit. Rail people like rail. But our transportation system should be greater than the sum of its parts,” he said. “We need a plan that takes our roads and rails and ports – and links them – and remakes the finest system of transportation the world has ever known into its 21st-century incarnation.”

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