WASHINGTON — Lawmakers need to move forward on a comprehensive, long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill, business and transportation leaders said Wednesday.
With less than 100 days left until the existing surface transportation authorization extension runs out, lawmakers, as well as business and transportation professionals said Wednesday a long-term funding plan would have a positive impact on economic productivity and help states maintain, modernize and expand roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects.
Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said they were in agreement on the need – but the question remains about how to fund for a surface transportation bill.
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law MAP-21, the last surface transportation reauthorization bill, which was set to expire last June. Unable to agree on a way to pay for a new infrastructure bill, Congress passed a short-term extension that expires at the end of May.
Several manufacturing companies and state transportation organizations added their voices to the many calling for passage of a comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization bill and a sustainable means of funding it.
The reauthorization extension lasts through May. But the uncertainty about what comes next has state officials concerned about how to plan new projects in time for construction season.
The American Society of Civil Engineers, a professional organization representing thousands of civil engineers, releases a report card for America’s infrastructure every four years. In 2013, the ASCE gave American infrastructure a D-plus, indicating that it is in “poor” condition. It estimates a $1.6 trillion funding gap between current funding and the amount needed for necessary improvements.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee members floated several funding options, including raising the gas tax, taxing repatriated corporate profits, selling bonds, fees on the sale of new and used vehicles and fees based on vehicle miles traveled.
Whatever form funding takes will have to pass muster with the Senate Finance Committee.
Last year, the public works committee, then controlled by Democrats, passed a comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization, but it went unfunded. Boxer, who was the committee chairwoman in the last Congress, said she is determined that this year’s funding plan not face the same fate.