American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President Peter Ruane spoke before a Senate panel Feb. 12 about the need to generate new revenue for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).
According to a Congressional Budget Office report, fixing the highway trust fund would require, on average, $16.3 billion annually to preserve the existing transportation program, and by September it will not be able to support investments in new projects. Ruane called this a “painful scenario.”
He warned the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee that if the HTF shortfall is not addressed, more than 12,000 highway, bridge and safety capital projects across the nation could be lost.
Ruane noted that trucks carry freight worth more than $11 trillion over the nation’s roads and bridges every year, and nearly 75 percent of that travel takes place on the federal-aid system. “Without that federal investment in these roads, trucking mobility and economic productivity are at risk,” he said.
Ruane explained ARTBA’s economics team researched how the public’s federal gas tax dollars were put to use in 2012. It took a Freedom of Information Act request and computer analysis of millions of data points to get answers.
Among the highlights of the research: the federal program helped fund 12,546 capital improvement projects (7,335 road, 2,407 bridge and 2,804 road safety)—all focused primarily on the system that moves most of that $11 trillion.
“We believe one of the federal program’s biggest problems is that government at all levels does a poor job of telling the American public how their federal gas and diesel tax dollars are invested each year,” Ruane said. “We believe the public would be impressed and widely support this federal program if they knew the full story.”
He told Senators the average American household spends roughly $160 per month for cell and landline phone service, and only $46 per month through state and federal motor fuels excises to support the road, bridge and transit systems they depend on every day.
“If the public was asked to invest each month as much as they willingly spend on cell and landline phone service, we would not be here talking about the Highway Trust Fund problem. We would be providing Americans with the first-class transportation network they deserve,” Ruane said.