ARLINGTON, Va. — Industry associations in the US have applauded President Barack Obama’s call for Congress to address the nation’s inadequate surface transportation system.
“President Obama is right to tell Congress to focus on the long overdue highway bill,” said Mary Phillips, the American Trucking Associations’ senior vice-president for legislative affairs, after attending a White House event where the President made his remarks. “We saw the havoc that a temporary shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration had on that sector, and the country cannot afford the job losses and lapse in safety programs that would result from the highway bill expiring.”
Phillips said the ATA joined the president in calling for quick passage of another extension, but added that more extensions are no replacement for a long-term federal highway authorization.
“Given the unlikelihood that the House and Senate will agree on a long-term bill by the Sept. 30 deadline, another extension is necessary,” she said. “However, Congress must also quickly craft a well-funded multi-year transportation bill that focuses federal resources on projects that are in the national interest and reform federal rules to improve the safety and efficiency of the highway system.”
“We must invest in the highways and bridges that carry nearly 70% of the nation’s freight, rather than on things that aren’t part of a core federal program, including rail, transit and non-highway projects,” said David Osiecki, ATA’s senior vice-president of policy and regulatory affairs, following the remarks.
Osiecki cautioned the administration about the courting of private sector financing for public infrastructure.
“On the heels of the Department of Transportation Inspector General’s report that highlights the perils of public-private partnerships, we continue to encourage the administration and Congress to look at traditional funding sources, including the fuel tax,” he said.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) urged Congress to extend the highway funding programs while also continuing to work on a broader, long-term reauthorization bill.
“While it is important that Congress and the White House come to an agreement on legislation to extend surface transportation programs, it is even more important that the next highway bill focus the limited money available on road and bridge improvements while reducing the red tape that is holding up needed and beneficial transportation improvements,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice-president.
Spencer noted that, “Now is not the time to spend money on things we don’t need. These limited funds should not foot the bill for a variety of special-interest projects like bike paths and high-speed rail.”
OOIDA also cautioned against using private public partnerships (PPPs) as a way to solve funding challenges.
“In recent months, foreign investors have talked about using our economic and infrastructure challenges as cover for purchasing more of our roads and bridges and adding tolls to the roads that are keeping our economy moving,” Spencer said.
“Congress should resist this effort and listen to the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, which in a recent report cautioned that the only way most PPP projects can work is if the private investors are provided with significant tax benefits from the public.”
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