Memorial Day Forecast: Heavy Traffic, Deteriorating Infrastructure

(Originally posted at https://www.uschamber.com/blog/memorial-day-forecast-heavy-traffic-deteriorating-infrastructure)

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

Ready to hit the road this weekend? So is everyone else. AAA is forecasting that 33 million Americans will travel by car this long weekend, a 5.3 percent increase compared to last year’s Memorial weekend and the highest volume in ten years.

The vast majority of travelers will take to the roads vs. air, bus or cruise ship, presumably because of pent up travel enthusiasm after rough winters and lower gas prices. If you’re joining the masses, by all means, be safe, but also think about the roads and bridges on which you’ll be traveling – and specifically the fact that, while they might work to get you where you need to go this weekend, Congress is doing them no favors.

Even as holiday travelers make their way using America’s highway and transit networks, Congress has opted to temporarily “patch” the Highway Trust Fund – which pays to maintain and progress those systems – with a short-term extension to the expiring current law, keeping it barely funded for two months rather than giving it the real commitment and support it needs in the form of a long-term, fully funded bill. (The short-term Band-Aid should be finalized by this weekend.) So if Dad is on the side of the road this weekend, fixing a flat after hitting a pothole … you know who to blame!

Here’s what we told Congress about their approach in a letter we sent to them Tuesday:  “Kicking the can” down the road in this way has costs – companies can’t plan for hiring; projects that need multi-year funding commitments are delayed; and opportunities for economic development and economic growth are lost. It’s no way to run a country. We need a thoughtful, sustainable solution and we need it now.

The same week Congress decided to go short, the Chamber joined a host of other organizations, including AAA, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the U.S. Travel Association in the release of the “Rural Connections” report, which provides further evidence for why Congress needs get serious about transportation infrastructure funding.

The report shows America’s rural transportation system is in need of repairs and modernization to support economic growth in the Heartland, which is a critical source of energy, food and fiber and home to an aging and increasingly diverse population that is heavily reliant on the quality of its transportation system. Yet according to Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP – the nonprofit that generated the data for the report, with long-term federal transportation legislation stuck in political gridlock in Washington, economic growth in America’s rural communities could be threatened.

The Chamber is going to work with our ATM Coalition partners over this holiday and the next two months to encourage people to send a letter to Congress, write an article for your local paper or share the facts with others in your community – get the message to America’s leaders:  no more delays. These roads are your roads, they were made for you and me and Congress and the Administration need to respect that and invest in them. Happy travels!

 

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