America Needs A Comprehensive Infrastructure Program

As I began writing for the Community Word one year ago, my emphasis was on the idea that Congress should pass a comprehensive infrastructure bill which provides the funding to begin getting America back to number one in infrastructure. Congress squandered an entire year debating the elimination of Obamacare with little or no legislative activity to address other important issues.

Now as Congress begins 2018, the top legislative initiative should be passing and funding a bipartisan comprehensive infrastructure program. This will enable hundreds of workers including engineers, contractors, and construction workers to begin rebuilding America. Currently there are 60,000 structurally deficient bridges in America. Our interstate road system is crumbling. America is one big pothole. Cities large and small all over America are in need of new transit equipment whether it be new cars, new buses or new rails and infrastructure. Citizens all over America recognize the dramatic need for infrastructure improvement. The biggest question that Congress will face is how do we pay for the billions of dollars of infrastructure improvements that are needed.
For the past several years, I have been recommending a comprehensive approach to funding that includes five major funding sources.

First, raise the federal gas tax 10 cents a gallon and index it to the cost of living. The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993. In the past three years, 25 states have raised their gas tax in order to provide resources for road and bridge repairs while expressing great frustration with Congress’ inactivity. The highway trust fund is broken due to lack of adequate gas resources. Raising the gas tax would restore the big pot of money necessary to leverage other dollars for infrastructure improvements.

Second, establish an Infrastructure Bank through the sale of bonds to leverage private dollars for big expensive projects such as bridges and interstate road improvements.

Third, expanded use of TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) and TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) programs which already exist at the U.S. Department of Transportation and can assist local communities leverage their dollars to fix local roads and other infrastructure improvements.
Fourth, establishment of pilot programs to test VMT (Vehicles Miles Traveled) in selected states to determine how much money could be raised.

Fifth, provide legislative language to allow states to toll roads to expand capacity and provide funding through TIGER and TIFIA loan programs.

Finally, passing a comprehensive bipartisan well-funded infrastructure program must be the number one priority for Congress beginning in January. Democrats are ready and willing to work with Republicans to pass an infrastructure program for America. There are no Republican or Democratic roads or bridges. Infrastructure has always been a bipartisan issue. Congress can put America to work and make infrastructure in America number one again.

Ray LaHood



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