“Rally for Roads” Demands Transportation Funding Fix

Finance Committee Chair promises: "Failure is not an option." Photo: ##https://twitter.com/RonWyden/status/476793885050802176##Twitter/Ron Wyden##
Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden: “Failure is not an option.” Photo: Ron Wyden/Twitter

This morning, the road construction industry rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol to demand that Congress invest in infrastructure. But some of the best-known transportation reformers in Washington were also on hand for an event that didn’t focus on one mode over others.

The overriding message of the day was simple: Don’t let transportation funding dry up. While the list of sponsors included mostly construction groups that want more money for their industry, many of them would be just as happy to build transit as roads. Kerri Leininger of the National Ready-Mix Concrete Association, one of the main organizing groups, said limiting the Highway Trust Fund to only highways, as some have suggested, is not their message.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer pushed for his bill increasing the gas tax by 15 cents over three years and indexing it to inflation. Rep. Peter DeFazio unveiled his new plan to replace the gas tax entirely with a per-barrel levy on oil companies.

Sen. Ron Wyden intoned, “When it comes to funding transportation, failure is not an option!” As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Wyden is the person tasked with actually finding a way to fund transportation — and get it through both houses of Congress. He’s as aware as anyone of the looming possibility of failure.

“Don’t let anybody give you the suggestion that we throw another Band-aid on,” Blumenauer said. But at the same time, he’s resigned to the fact that the next move will be a Band-aid. Though the Senate is pushing ahead with the MAP-21 Reauthorization Act, the House hasn’t even started working on a bill. Blumenauer told an audience yesterday that the next task was to “transfer a small amount of money in to keep the program running but not enough to get into the next calendar year, the next Congress.”

His thinking is in line with an emerging consensus that the lame duck session of Congress after the November election is the best — and perhaps only — chance for passing a bill.

“Because if we lend into the next Congress, it’ll be three years before you get a full six-year reauthorization,” Blumenauer explained. “If we lend into the next Congress, it’s very unlikely you’re going to see people initiate the increase in revenue that is so long overdue.”

Organizers estimate that between 250 and 300 people were in attendance. The rally was part of the Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In, and closer to 500 people are in town for that, lobbying Congress for infrastructure investment.

  • Kyriacos Stavrinides

    “Rep. Peter DeFazio unveiled his new plan to replace the gas tax entirely with a per-barrel levy on oil companies.”

    This is a terrible idea for a few reasons. First it connects the cost of road building and maintenance to a consumption that doesn’t have a direct correlation to the cost of the road. The barrel of oil is going to be used to make products other than motor fuel. Secondly It also doesn’t put the cost onto the people who create it but tries to push it onto others. For the DOT’s and the government in general to realize what the true demand for roads is then the their cost must be put onto the people who create it.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Is the ‘Road Gang’ Losing Power in Washington?

|
That is the thesis posited in a new investigation from the Center for Public Integrity, which sent a reporter to sprawl-saturated South Florida to examine how much of a return the transportation construction industry is getting on its multi-million-dollar contributions to congressional campaigns. In a time of sluggish economic recovery, when federal dollars can make […]

Mica’s Transportation Proposal: Responses Flood In

|
The GOP transportation proposal is now online. Here are some early reactions. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chair of the Senate Banking subcommittee with jurisdiction over public transportation: “It used to be that Republicans understood that transportation investment was necessary to spur economic growth and create jobs. Now, I guess they think if we give the […]

The Problem With “Infrastructure Week”

|
You may have noticed that it’s “Infrastructure Week” in America — a time where engineering and construction industry groups beat the drum for more money, using big numbers and images of collapsing bridges. You can follow the dialogue on Twitter. It’s full of value-neutral statements like this one from Democratic members of the House Committee on Transportation […]