By signing the rescue plan for the highway trust fund, President Bush provided much-needed funds to keep infrastructure projects around the country moving. This will help ensure current projects are finished without overburdening state coffers and keep thousands of construction employees on the job.
Unfortunately, this is only a short-term fix for a funding system that needs a total makeover.
Because the highway trust fund receives its revenues from the federal gas tax, it is subjected to the ebbs and flows of consumer and business traffic behavior and does not provide the consistent stream of funding needed to repair and improve the nation's infrastructure.
"This is a Band-Aid to get us through the first step of the reauthorization process. In order to fully fund SAFETEA-LU, we need creative solutions to fund infrastructure renewal at the local, state, and federal levels," says David Hubbard, vice president of legislative affairs at the Portland Cement Association (PCA). "Gas taxes are only one way. Fair user fees, public/private partnerships, and sales-tax sharing are all options that need to be explored and need to be explored soon."
While congestion and the nation's deteriorating roads and bridges are a problem today, forecasts show it will only get much worse without appropriate support and improvement. Traffic congestion in the United States wastes three billion gallons of fuel and contributes 27.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, according to a report from the PCA. The overall economic impact of traffic delays adds up to $80 billion per year.
By the year 2032, the U.S. population is expected to reach 363.5 million persons, adding an estimated 49 million drivers and 58 million vehicles to America's highways. Wasted fuel from traffic delays will more than double, to 6.5 billion gallons. Carbon dioxide emissions traced to congestion will increase to 60 million tons.
Just to maintain our current levels of congestion while accommodating population growth, we will need 400,000 additional lane miles of highways by 2032.
"Without improvements to our roads and highways, wasted time and higher transportation costs will result in a cumulative economic impact of $150 billion annually," says Hubbard. "Added lane miles of highways could reduce congestion and wasted fuel significantly. Without an increased emphasis on infrastructure spending and new robust ways to raise funds, traffic congestion will worsen leading to escalations in CO2 emissions, wasted fuel, and overall cost to the nation's economy."
Based in Skokie, Ill., the Portland Cement Association represents cement companies in the United States and Canada. It conducts market development, engineering, research, education, and public affairs programs. More information on PCA programs is available at www.cement.org.