Our transportation system, the foundation for America’s economic engine, is worn out. The scale of this infrastructure crisis is alarming. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it will take $1.7 trillion between now and 2020 to rebuild transportation infrastructure in need of repair.
The 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax is inadequate to cover current program levels, let alone the additional investment necessary to modernize our transportation infrastructure. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Highway Trust Fund will run dry by 2013.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2008 draft Framework for a National Freight Policy cited the need to create a living document, which would be as dynamic as the transportation sector and the economy it serves. It seems Congress is finally beginning to take action.
A bipartisan bill moving through the Senate would address freight needs as part of the broader Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. Freight investments would go to fund infrastructure and operational improvements to boost U.S. economic competitiveness by addressing congestion and environmental concerns, while improving the safety, security and resiliency of freight transportation.
The House Transportation Committee has outlined a plan to address both land and maritime infrastructure needs. This recognition of maritime as a fundamental part of the U.S. transportation system is a significant step forward. Modernizing America’s shipbuilding programs and facilitating short-sea shipping are critical steps in developing future U.S. competitiveness in the transportation field.