Same Old Thing in World of Surface Transportation

By Janet Kavinoky, Executive Director, Transportation & Infrastructure, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Puxatawny Phil saw his shadow last week – six more weeks of winter if the little critter’s prediction is correct. I think what he was predicting, though, instead of whether the seasons will soon change, may have related to the current, never-ending winter of discontent for anyone who cares about our nation’s surface transportation funding program.


I’m one of those people who care greatly and here’s what I mean: on Monday like every day–I rolled over in bed, grabbed my phone to hit the snooze button, and opened up my email. I had the *joy* of reading the same transportation headlines and stories.

“We don’t need to raise money for transportation. And it’s not economically beneficial anyway. Just get rid of waste, fraud, and abuse! ” Claimed the Wall Street Journal. Again.

“We don’t need to raise the gas tax,” said the President of the United States, (and Rand Paul, and Barbara Boxer and several others). “We just need money from U.S. companies earning it overseas,” they said. Again.

“Incredible amounts of money are being wasted!” boomed a right-wing group on a Christian radio talk show, spouting details about the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) that are years outdated – their lines about the feds forcing states and communities to spend money on bicycle paths and other liberal priorities should have been retired when MAP-21 was passed and such practices rectified. The many Christians who took the time to tune in deserve better than misrepresentation of information on an issue that is as important to their economic wellbeing as it is to their ability to get around safely and efficiently.

Devolutionists [link to wherever devolutionist piece is uploaded] were in full force in community papers: “Don’t ask drivers or taxpayers to pay the federal government more for transportation. Let’s give the responsibility back to the states, ” (Where, by the way, they WILL still have to pay more.)

“We shouldn’t pay for anything *I* don’t think is valuable to *me*,” said other groups, about roads, or public transportation, or [insert your least preferred way of getting around here], on extremist blogs.

I feel like it’s Groundhog’s Day every day in transportation. Or Whack-A-Mole. Where instead of focusing on waste, fraud, and abuse, I’m spinning around, focused on disabusing people of the notions that come from tall tales, misinformation, misleading headlines and just plain myths. And the misleading commenters seem to apply the same level of rigor as America’s most famous groundhog to their claims and predictions.

I liked Coca-Cola’s #MakeItHappy advertisement during the Super Bowl last weekend. Because instead of negativity, accusations, and denial, we need a little more positivity in transportation policy. The U.S. Chamber’s energy is focused on getting everyone to yes, by applying the facts:

  • Yes to the Federal government maintaining—and ideally increasing—its level of investment in highways and transit.
  • Yes to getting back to long-term transportation bills—five, six, or more years.
  • Yes to continuing the principle of having transportation users pay for their transportation infrastructure via the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) construct and supporting it with dedicated, ongoing, growing transportation-related revenue sources.
  • Yes to building on the policy and programmatic reforms contained in MAP-21.
  • Yes to complementing HTF funding with federal project financing assistance and encouraging public-private partnerships not just for the up-front capital, but also for their innovation, efficiency, and focus on total costs.

“No” is not an option, considering the state of America’s highways and public transit systems and the impact inaction will have on our nation’s economic success and that of communities across the country.

The Chamber and the Chamber-led Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) coalition will do all we can to educate Members of Congress on viable options and press for a solution before the May 31 expiration of MAP-21 and the next HTF cliff.

Help us get to “yes” by visiting and asking your Member of Congress to make sure we don’t have to continue to endure Groundhog Day.

Americans and American businesses deserve transportation infrastructure that is efficient, sound and safe – Congress can’t ignore that forever, and a small increase in the federal gas tax/user fee is by far the least expensive way to make that happen.

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