Know Your Road Lobbyists: The American Highway Users Alliance

For a 77-year-old nonprofit group with substantial Washington clout, the American Highway Users Alliance keeps a pretty low profile.

Its members are not listed on its website, but interested parties are asked a few questions: "Are you outraged by the deaths of 120 people each day on our roads? Are you pro-environment AND pro-highway?" Average commuters might be lulled into thinking they could join with the click of a mouse.

FH_031907_09.jpgGreg Cohen, the American Highway Users Alliance president and chief lobbyist (Photo: NSTPRC website)

But the Alliance has a specific agenda — which is on full display in the lobbying filings of Greg Cohen, its president and CEO.

During the first half of this year, Cohen reported working to "support additional supplies of domestic oil," "oppose the placement of tolls and congestion pricing on existing toll-free roads," and "support maximum funding for highways," among other goals.

That maximum cash for highways, in the Alliance’s view, should continue to relegate transit to 20 percent of federal aid. If Congress’ upcoming six-year transportation bill "starts looking more negative on highways," Cohen warned last month, "there is potential that the whole bill could be slowed down here."

Moreover, the Alliance mobilized to oppose the climate bill passed by the House last month and lobbied against Senate legislation that would set national transportation priorities such as emissions reduction and transit expansion.

Cohen also reported lobbying in favor of government loans for U.S. automakers — an appropriate priority given that the Alliance’s 2007 directors included senior lobbyists at Ford, GM, and Toyota, according to its tax returns.

The Alliance has been called many things, from "a leading nonprofit, nonpartisan group that advocates for improved mobility and safety" to "an advocacy group representing a wide range of motorists," but its true identity is best described as a card-carrying member of the road lobby.

  • CP

    I like this feature!

  • We as a society can no longer afford solely focusing upon and so very extensively subsidizing building more and more highways, each bigger than the last one, in order to relieve congestion and mitigate smog. Needless to say, blindly following this outmoded sprawl strategy will not provide any anecdote whatsoever to our societal illth and will, in fact, only exacerbate it both here and abroad. Not only that but it’s fiscally impossible to do so…Even the Texas Transportation Institute says so:

    “If a region’s vehicle-miles of travel were to increase by five percent per year, roadway lane-miles would need to increase by five percent each year to maintain the initial congestion level…(Our) analysis shows that it would be almost impossible to attempt to maintain a constant congestion level with road construction…Over the past 2 decades, less than 50 percent of the needed mileage was actually added. This means that it would require at least twice the level of current-day road expansion funding to attempt this road construction strategy. An even larger problem would be to find suitable roads that can be widened, or areas where roads can be added, year after year.”

    And yet Cohen and his ilk are still contriving ingeniously stupendously counterintuitive conclusions like we as a society should be driving more and that increasing urban density will only increase the amount of vehicle miles driven per capita and thus our multi-modality should solely be confined to building more and more auto-centric roadways, tollroads and flyovers to relieve congestion and mitigate smog.

    We here at The Placemaking Institute are adament that the so-called ‘basic God-given Patriotic American right to drive the biggest vehicle one can afford on an increasingly extensive roadway system’ myth that has been artificially inculcated into us virtually from birth (and benefits very few at the expense of many) should most definitely not supersede our basic human right to live our lives in healthy, productive manners. It has already been acknowledged that, largely because of our sprawl mentality, this young generation will fare worse than their parents’ generation (the first time that has happened in America’s history). And yet mindsets like Cohen’s are still fabricating and perpetuating (at the very least) myths (if not outright lies) that only prove them more than willing to sacrifice future generations by keeping us on a bleed-until-bankrupt transportation plan Osama Bin Laden would be proud of.

    David Parvo
    Most Senior Fellow
    The Placemaking Institute

  • Mark Cornwell

    While driving home from Manitowoc, Wisconsin last fall I got stuck in traffic snarls (rush hour) around first Milwaukee, then the greater Chicago area. I have seen this virtually everywhere in my travels but it hit me….this is NOT sustainable long term….from a number of standpoint. However, like that which I work on (road salt efficiency) like that effort, human mobility requires multiple options. Being from Michigan it is blasphemous to suggest that we must move to alternative means of transportation but I am concerned that if we don’t the unemployment ranks in Michigan will only continue to grow. We simply do not have the money to continually be fixing road infrastructure and trying to find new sources of fuel to run all these vehicles ( I wonder what that number is now worldwide?).

    While the events of this past winter (and now—flooding) may be just an anomaly (as the climate change skeptics would say), we have been experiencing weather that just gets stranger and stranger by the day. It grows ever more difficult for public agencies to deal with it.

    Building more roads begets more parking space need which all begets more pollutant runoff and urban heating which all begets more fossil fuel burning which begets more possible climate change that begets a whole bunch of other problems. Bottom line…we need to be thinking of some new ideas how to get around before we completely foul the nest.


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