Transportation 101 Series

Sunday, August 5, 2012 - 8:00pm

It's Time to Reform the Nation's Highway and Transit Programs

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The U.S. surface transportation system links Americans and our businesses to one another and to the world. This enormous network of highways, ports, freight and passenger railroads, and transit systems is vital to America's economy, security, and way of life. It is currently the best surface transportation system in the world―the challenge now is to ensure that it remains the best in the future.

- Source: National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission

The evidence is mounting showing that America's roads, bridges, and public transportation systems are failing to keep pace with the needs of a growing population and a changing economy, with increased global competition.

  • Congestion cost urban Americans 4.2 billion extra hours and 2.9 billion unnecessary gallons of fuel in 2005. Total cost: $78 billion―a "congestion tax" of $710 per traveler. (Texas Transportation Institute, 2007 Urban Mobility Report)
  • Driving on rough roads costs the average American motorist approximately $335 a year in extra vehicle operating costs. Drivers living in urban areas are paying upward of $750 annually. (The Road Information Program, Rough Roads Ahead: Fix Them Now Or Pay For It Later report)
  • Before the current recession, logistics costs for businesses climbed for five years in a row, from 2003 to 2008. Higher transportation costs and higher inventory carrying costs― partially attributable to an unreliable, unpredictable transportation system―pushed logistics costs to nearly 10% of GDP. (Council on Supply Chain Management Professionals, State of Logistics Report 2008)

Reform and responsibility are necessary for the nation to rebuild the platform that American businesses need to thrive and that people require for a high quality of life. It is time for the United States to strategically plan and invest in its transportation system. In SAFETEA-LU reauthorization, Congress should reform federal policies and programs around a strong, yet focused, federal role that supports addressing national needs, including the following:

  • Maintaining roads, bridges, and public transportation systems that are in the national interest.
  • Reducing crashes, injuries, deaths, and property damage.
  • Keeping freight moving.
  • Getting the gridlock out of our cities.
  • Connecting rural America to the global economy.
  • Supporting environmental and energy objectives.
  • Requiring accountability of state and local governments that invest federal funds.
  • Supporting research and development.
  • Speeding project delivery.
  • Eliminating wasteful spending.

"When you see how much modern infrastructure has been built in China since 2001, under the banner of the Olympics, and you see how much infrastructure has been postponed in America since 2001 it's clear that the next seven years need to be devoted to nation-building in America."

- Source: Thomas L. Friedman. "The Biblical Seven Years," The New York Times.