Transportation: Time for New Thinking
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Fresh Approach to Funding Infrastructure Needed
By Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Increasingly congested highways harm our quality of life, hinder business productivity and growth, and pose a threat to human safety and the environment.
We need a new vision for transportation in the 21st century. It is imperative that we build and maintain a modern and interconnected transportation system capable of meeting growing demand. That requires careful thought, planning, and-importantly-money.
The federal transportation financing system is woefully inadequate. At the current rate, the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for the maintenance and construction of roads, bridges, and transit systems, will run out of money as early as 2009. To get the most out it, we must take steps to ensure that Highway Trust Fund dollars are, in fact, used for transportation investment and not for other government programs. States should do the same with their highway funds.
We also need to look at a variety of funding alternatives, including indexing the federal gas tax to inflation or replacing the gas tax with a mileage-based transportation revenue system. Expanding the use of toll roads and innovative finance tools such as loan guarantees, private activity bonds, tax-credit bond financing, and investment tax credits should also be considered.
Some states are considering or have implemented alternative funding mechanisms. Businesses and chambers of commerce should engage in a dialogue at the local, state, and federal levels to help create a safe and efficient transportation system.