For almost 100 years, America’s infrastructure has been the envy of the world. But over more recent decades, total investment in transportation has fallen as a share of gross domestic product—while population, congestion, and maintenance backlogs have increased.
America’s infrastructure is in terrible condition. Inaction is simply not an option. We need to modernize America’s infrastructure immediately. The time to act is now.
To rebuild and expand our roads, bridges, and transit systems, it is time for a modest increase in the federal motor vehicle user fee. The user fee was last raised in 1993. Since then, inflation has eroded nearly 40% of its value. In addition, vehicles are significantly more fuel efficient than they were 25 years ago. As a result, motorists spend less on fuel to drive the same number of miles, but there is significantly less revenue to maintain the roads they drive on.
Specifically, we call on Congress to raise the user fee by 5 cents per year for five years for a total of 25 cents and adjust the fee to inflation thereafter.
CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCING
Rebuilding and modernizing our airports, ports, waterways, water systems, dams, rail systems, utilities, and other core infrastructure require a multifaceted financial approach that includes leveraging private-sector resources. We can meet today’s infrastructure needs and build for the
future by financing the costs over the long term.
A small federal investment now would leverage significant additional funding for infrastructure projects. This would allow the nation to embark on the rebuilding that we need without breaking the bank.
The permitting process for major infrastructure projects is broken. It can take longer to get government permits than it takes to construct a project. It takes on average five years to complete an environmental impact statement, a federal requirement for many large projects. And depending on the type of project, permitting can involve state and local approvals in addition to myriad federal permits.
In addition to setting firm deadlines, it is time for Congress to merge sequential and duplicative reviews, codify the “One Federal Decision” policy so that there is a single agency responsible for shepherding a project through the approval process, and ensure that post-approval lawsuits do not needlessly delay projects.
THE WORKFORCE NECESSARY TO REBUILD OUR INFRASTRUCTURE
Rebuilding America’s infrastructure will require skilled workers ready and able to take on new projects. Yet today—before any major new investment in our infrastructure—78% of construction firms report that they are having a hard time finding qualified workers. If we do not expand the workforce, it will be impossible to move ahead with the projects that need to be undertaken.
We need to keep the skilled workers who are currently in the workforce because of programs like DACA and TPS. Ultimately, Congress must enact immigration reform so that we can attract and admit the skilled workers our nation needs.