By on July 28, 2014

New Mexico bridge ramp construction

Alongside 11 former U.S. Department of Transportation secretaries, current secretary Anthony Foxx urged both houses of Congress to find a long-term solution to the funding of the U.S. Highway Trust Fund beyond what is under consideration at present.

According to Autoblog, Foxx notes that while he and his comrades — going back 35 years and 7 presidents in total — are hopeful the upcoming funding bill will go through, he states that the current unpredictability of the crisis-to-crisis method of governance over the past few years “is no way to run a railroad, fill a pothole, or repair a bridge.”

The DOT Dozen are calling, instead, for Congress to consider the long game regarding the nation’s infrastructure: 100 million new people and 14 billion tons of additional freight by 2050. There, they see some hope among the Beltway leadership to come up with ideas to remedy the issue, though finding consensus within the houses will take some time.

In the near term, Foxx explains that as much as $1.8 trillion will need to be spent by 2020 to bring surface infrastructure up to an adequate state, including the group of structurally deficient bridges whose number is great enough to connect Miami with Boston if laid end-to-end.

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44 Comments on “DOT Dozen Call For Congress To Focus On Long-Term Of Infrastructure Funding...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    *sigh* The naivete is touching. “Kicking the Can” is the true national pastime; an even more sacred part of our national tradition than baseball!

    The math here is not hard; the highway trust fund is built on fuel taxes, which seem a pretty sensible way to fund transportation. The fuel tax is fixed, while the costs of everything the tax pays for aren’t, and are currently a lot more expensive than the last time the rate was set.

    I can understand protests about a radical change like use-pricing, or some kind of special electric vehicle surcharge. But you’d think at least a one-time increase to what the tax should have been if it were inflation-indexed, plus a provision for future increases automatically inflation-indexed would be pretty uncontroversial.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      You would think that raising the gas tax makes sense, but if the president wants it, the only way he can get it is an executive order (which doesn’t extend to budget/taxation issues).
      This won’t change unless the voters decide, and it looks like it will only happen when either party has control of the legislative and executive branches.
      I will say that privatization/tolls would be a bad idea; toll booths cost money and waste fuel, and private companies can be less accountable to the taxpayer than even corrupt politicians.

    • 0 avatar
      Nicholas Weaver

      You’d think so.

      You’d also think that a significant tax on fossil-fuels would be just a national security issue: Screw the environment, I just want to make it so D#@)(@#*-bags like Putin and those A@#)(*-holes in the Middle East can go to hell rather than calling the shots because they have the oil and natural gas under their dirt.

      My entire lifetime has been defined by A@#)*(-holes with Oil calling the shots to our country’s detriment. But unfortunately neither party wants to be the one to “raise taxes”, the democrats are an abomination and the republicans are even worse.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        I would be as pleased as punch to tell Putin, Maduro, Abdullah, etc. to FOAD. Putin, Maduro, Abdullah, etc. provide only around 17% of US oil. 80% of world oil consumption and 100% of growth in that consumption is taking place in other countries. Higher gas taxes here don’t tell them anything.

        I would settle for telling Obama, Congress, and their corrupt cronies to FOAD. Be more responsible with the money you’ve already got before coming to me for more.

    • 0 avatar
      furiouschads

      megadittos on raise it and index it. job done.

  • avatar

    I don’t give a damn about Iraq, Afghanistan or the Ukraine’s infrastructure. I want to spend that money here.

    Strong border control.
    Highways without potholes.

    Country first.

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    I’ve been in bridge building a long time. If there’s one think Iv’e learned, its that politicians won’t put their necks on a line in an election season to raise a tax, even if it means tens of thousands of jobs at home or that you won’t care about the tax (really, would you even notice gas going up $0.02/gallon every two months for the next 2 years?)

    there’s no end to millionaire talk show pundits or billionaire media owning nutbars who won’t skewer any lawmaker that steps out of line.

    Sadly, the usual way infasructure funding increases happen is in the wake of a ‘fundraiser’ event like a bridge collapsing and killing/maiming people in the process. Even then, it’s a few years of the blame-game before that happens. Think about that on your way home today. Think about the bridges your kid’s school bus goes over.

    • 0 avatar

      Generally speaking, no one wants to act until AFTER a tragic event of that magnitude has happened and even then, the solutions that come about are often like a bandaid on a sucking chest wound.

      The real solution is to have a group of billionaire philanthropists literally bankroll a revamping of America’s transportation infrastructure through targeted campaign funding and private enterprise. When the big money talks, everyone else tends to clam up and hear what it has to say.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        A lot of us believe that the current hype about raising the tax is being driven by the millionaire to billionaire construction moguls who are going to benefit most from the extra spending. So much about the entire US transportation process is broken that it’s hard for many taxpayers, even those dissatisfied with their roads, to buy into more wasteful and corrupt spending. Maybe you’re right, we need some mega-billionaires to step in and fix it.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “Generally speaking, no one wants to act until AFTER a tragic event of that magnitude has happened and even then, the solutions that come about are often like a bandaid on a sucking chest wound.”

        Yes, because pre-emptively fixing things is socialism. /sarc

        “When the big money talks, everyone else tends to clam up and hear what it has to say.”

        This is part of the premise (and the title) of Ralph Nader’s recent book. As much as it saddens me to think, it’s probably true.

        The problem is, even when big money (like, say, Buffet, Gates or Soros) talks, there’s big money on the other side of the aisle that pays just as much to keep it quiet, or at least re-cast it as champagne socialism.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    The government is self-contradictory. It wants you to buy more gas (fuel tax), but it wants you to buy less gas (CAFE). Can’t have both.

    Someone in a similar topic used the equation (axles * miles driven * rate), and that makes the most sense, so long as the “rate” part is truly fair to all parties.

    then again, I believe in Flat Tax too, so I know better than to think any kind of fair, loophole-free tax scheme will ever come to pass.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Yes, in the very long-term, as fuel consumption drops due to electric cars, efficiency measures, etc., a real decision is going to have to be made about a different way to tax. But that problem is a LOT smaller than the immediate issue of the fact that the price of building roads increases with inflation, while the fuel tax hasn’t. But because of the whole “I’m going to get completely beat up if I propose a tax increase three months before election problem”, even the sensible fix of inflation-indexing the fuel tax would go a long way.

  • avatar
    B Buckner

    Zero out the federal tax and let the states raise the gas tax to a level that balances citizen needs for acceptable infrastructure against an acceptable level of pain of paying taxes. Elected government accountable to the people. The federal government takes 17% of the tax as overhead to run its agencies, and then gives the rest back to states with many strings attached. They do so in an unpredictable manner that is very difficult for a state to plan on, as is the current situation. The federal government can maintain a small planning and standards setting role, and a minor funding of a few cents a gallon. No need for a large federal role now that highway system is built out. Most of federal role now is due diligence to make sure its money is being spent properly. The states also have to do this as projects are jointly funded. A waste of money.

    • 0 avatar
      kojoteblau

      A gas tax that is collected only by the states wont work, simply because some states can’t afford it. Wyoming has a smaller population than the city of Seattle, that number of people simply couldn’t pay enough taxes to maintain the roads they have and need. They rely on some of the taxes that Californians and New Yorkers pay. And with major transcons like I80 and I90, letting those roads lapse because a state can’t afford them would really hurt trucking and people movement nationwide.

    • 0 avatar
      Hillman

      That would be unfair for a few reasons. The biggest reason would be that states like Delaware would be unfairly subsiding the northeast by paying for roads that other states use.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      When I had my TDI, I took a trip once to New York City. I fueled up in Virginia, got 750 miles out of the tank, and didn’t have to refuel until I got back into Virginia. Needless to say, I drove on roads in multiple states but only Virginia got any fuel tax out of it.

      As cars become even more efficient, or electric, gas tax benefits states even less.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Participating in the funding of interstate road projects is a pretty normal thing for the federal government to do. And there is certainly plenty of funding needed for expansion and upkeep that a few cents a gallon probably would not be sufficient.

      If we left it up to the states, highways that are usually used for thru traffic would be drastically under-funded.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Try cutting spending elsewhere and prioritizing.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Where would you “cut spending elsewhere? What are your priorities?

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        There are lots of good ideas. None of them are new. Here are some:
        You don’t have to agree with every one. But there is plenty of money to be saved.

        http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/sites/downsizinggovernment.org/files/balanced_budget_plan.pdf

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m concerned Washington’s priorities are opposite mine, but mine would be to:

        1. Not destroy the county.
        2. Not destroy the county.
        3. Not destroy the county.

        and as a bonus objective:

        4. Not destroy the planet.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          My county is kind of a shthole 28. I think they should probably knock it down and start over.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Oh we’ve fast become a Banana Republic minus the trendy clothing. Internal factors certainly echo this fact but this is also apparent in the complete lackadaisical behavior of the Executive branch of late coupled with Langley/The Pentagon stoking a proxy war with a nuclear backed opponent like bloodthirsty warmongers. Makes me proud to be an American.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            28

            When you are trillions in debt, your roads are crumbling, your bridges are falling down, your middle class is disappearing, you’ve lost control of your borders and your politicians are coming to you for tax increases for basic government functions while they spend money like water on pet projects and handouts? 3rd world? Yeah…I would have to agree.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      road taxes should pay for roads. general funds should not pay for roads. people who argue otherwise are just trying to skirt around paying for what they use, or are trying to get elected.
      Pulling from general funds to pay for roads is the most socialistic solution to the problem, and oddly, the one most pushed for by Republicans in congress. Coincidence, or Red State plot, comrade?

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I am all for higher fuel taxes, done right, they would lead to two desirable outcomes, increased conservation, and nicer roads. I would pay $1 per gallon in gas taxed to have primo roads everywhere.

    There is one little fly in the gas tax scheme however. Tesla. EV’s are the camel’s nose under then tent that is going to open the debates for other schemes, such as the ideas being bandied about in Oregon.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    One other thing, the misplaced mindset among a subset of Americans including many in high places in government that has been fostered by decades of propaganda, is the mistaken belief that a publicly owned realm created by laws and taxes by an electorate and its representatives in a elected government, is the same thing as (dreaded buzzword) SOCIALISM!!!!! , and of course all and any socialism is inherently pure evil to avoided at all costs.

    Long sentence, I know . . .

    • 0 avatar
      darkwing

      Funny, I was going to blame the subset of Americans who recognize they benefit from the current status quo — you know, the one where someone else pays for their fair share — and disingenuously argue around it.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Lately I have come to appreciate and focus on the areas of life where one can enrich themselves for little to no money. I was always a voracious reader so this comes to mind of course, but also the vast amount of information available freely via things like Youtube lectures and resources like meetup.com. If I could realistically withdraw from society financially speaking, I would.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I think we could start by returning to the situation where motor fuel taxes exclusively pay for roads and bridges . . . not “light rail” projects, bike paths and so on. While I realize that, in percentage terms, it’s not all that much that gets diverted, it’s the optics of the thing. Here in the Capital of the Free World, I get the benefit of metro Washington’s expensive subway system, paid for in part by taxpayers in the rest of the country. If I lived in, say, Wyoming, where driving large distances in something other than a TDI or a Prius (e.g. a pickup truck) is a way of life, I would feel pretty pissed off that my motorfuel tax money is paying for a light rail project in Baltimore or a subway in metro Washington.

    With better optics, perhaps getting support for raising the taxes would not be so tough. A second, continuing battle, of course, is whether heavy (over 5 tons GVWR) trucks pay their fair share of road use taxes, given, no doubt, that they create a lot more wear on the roads. I recall driving cross-country about 14 years ago and I-40 was positively rutted in the right lane from trucks. It was punishing to drive in that lane, the rutting was so bad. Now, this may indicate poor roadway design, but it also indicates the wear generated by heavy trucks.

    The reason people don’t support tax increases is because they don’t believe the government is honest any more. The average motorist doesn’t have a strong lobby like the trucking industry, so most people reasonably believe that over-the-road trucks get off comparatively easy when it comes to motor fuel and other taxes. And they look at the rich guys owning $90,000 EVs who don’t pay any taxes, while even the guy with the Chevy Spark (which weighs a lot less) pays taxes, and they scratch their heads. And then they look at money diverted for projects that benefit a handful of often wealthy (as in metro DC) metropolitan areas that are funded by motorfuel taxes and they scratch their heads a little more (especially because many folks in those areas, especially New York City, either don’t own a car at all, or drive much less than average and therfore pay much less motorfuel tax. I have not quite broken 75,000 on my 13-year old BMW, as an example.

    This is what happens when the government loses the trust of its people: they don’t want to pay; they want to keep what money they have because they don’t have confidence that the government will spend them money “as advertised.”

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Investment in public infrastructure?

    Socialism!

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      The best argument for raising taxes for infrastructure improvements can be made by the DOT or others with data that shows that the money raised by the gas tax is being spent on the intended projects (road/bridge repair, build out of new roads, refurbishing of roads past their useful life, etc.) and is not sufficient funding for the intended purpose. The issue is that neither the DOT nor any government dept. from what I’ve seen or heard has made this claim. They’re claiming there’s not enough money, but don’t provide details of how much money has been collected and accounted for the spending of the funds supposedly earmarked for the repair and buildout of infrastructure – specificially roads.

      Many people don’t believe that the government is a good steward of spending tax dollars. Bungled websites, lack of oversight at the VA, corruption and coverup at the IRS and the myriad of other scandals or examples of governmental ineptitude abound.

      Maybe I’m just a tad jaded by what I’ve seen here in Los Angeles and how the city is extorting money from homeowners by telling them that if they want the road or sidewalk in front of their home repaired, they have to pay a special assessment.

      In both this example and the federal level, the question is the same: What the hell did you do with the money you’ve already collected?

  • avatar
    formula m

    Gas obviously isn’t expensive enough if the #1 selling vehicle is a full-sized pickup. Taxing gasoline a $1 or $2 per gallon to be on par with other global markets and fixing the roads/bridges would make sense. Seems people would rather drive an F-150 on rough roads than a compact car on a better road surface.


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