Congressional Recess Chorus: Tell Your Lawmakers Why Federal Highways, Transit Matter

(Originally posted at https://www.uschamber.com/blog/congressional-recess-chorus-tell-your-lawmakers-why-federal-highways-transit-matter)

By Janet Kavinoky, Vice President, Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition & Executive Director, Transportation & Infrastructure at U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. House of Representatives is on recess this week, and most members have gone back to their districts to hear what’s on their constituents’ minds.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also will swing through South Texas to talk with Republican members in and around Houston about a number of issues that must be addressed this year, including the need to re-authorize MAP-21.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other organizations concerned about the deteriorating state of the nation’s highways and public transit systems are focusing efforts there this week as well, to encourage businesses and consumers to call and write their members to let them know Congress needs to follow Texas’ lead, step up and do its job to fix the state’s federal highway and transit networks.

On the heels of the Texas Association of Business joining 41 other state Chambers of Commerce in sending a letter urging Congress to pass a long-term solution to fix and fund the nation’s transportation infrastructure, the Texas Senate passed SB5/SJR5 (Vehicle Motor Sales Tax Allocation). The bill — if also passed by the Texas House, signed into law then approved by Texas voters in 2016 — would constitutionally dedicate $2.5 billion each year to the State Highway Fund, starting in the 2018-19 biennium.

If this state legislation passes, would there still be a need to re-authorize MAP-21 and increase the federal gas tax in Texas? The simple answer is absolutely yes, and there at least 3.3 billion reasons why.

If Congress doesn’t do its job and re-authorize MAP-21, $3.3 billion in road projects for Texas alone will be endangered. Here are a few more good reasons:

  • Studies show that Texas needs at least $6 billion per year to slow the crumbling of its roads.
  • Texas fell from 17th in spending per capita by state in 2008 to 43rd in 2012.
  • Bad roads in Texas are costing motorists time and money and making everyday drives less safe. In fact, the result is costing Houston drivers $1,850 per year due to time spent in traffic and direct costs. And bad roads in Texas cost each motorist $373 per year in extra expenses and repairs.
  • Motor vehicle crashes on Texas highways cost every Texan $948 per year.
  • Investing $15 per month in highways saves every Texan $1,100 per year in vehicle operating costs.
  • Transportation investment generates $6 for Texas on every dollar spent and, inversely, nearly 50,000 jobs in the state could be put at risk unless Congress does its job and passes a highway bill.

All of these reasons motivated the U.S. Chamber and other organizations such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation OfficialsAmerican Society of Civil EngineersAssociated General ContractorsAssociation of Equipment ManufacturersAmerican Road and Transportation Builders Association, and the National Stone, Sand, & Gravel Association to share the facts with our Texas-based networks through email, traditional media, and social and digital advertising, ultimately encouraging them to let their voices be heard as Congressman Shuster brings their respective members of Congress to the table.

During this recess – and those scheduled for April 6-10 and May 4-8 – many members of Congress will set up constituent forums and town halls in their home districts; look for those that may happen in your own districts, and show up to let your voice be heard.

Time is growing short. Congress’ ability to hit – or miss – the May 31 deadline for MAP-21 reauthorization will be realized long before the deadline actually occurs, and what lawmakers hear from constituents over these recesses may determine how hard they push for a viable, long-term solution that gets federally funded highways and transit programs where they need to be.

Stay informed

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