Look out America: lack of transportation investment is hurting us

October 8, 2010

This week, former U.S. transportation secretaries Norman Mineta and Samuel Skinner led a bipartisan panel of transportation leaders in issuing a wake-up call to the nation.

The former secretaries participated in a report issued by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. The report said transportation investment is lagging far behind countries such as China and India, which will lead to “a steady erosion of the social and economic foundations for American prosperity in the long run.

The panel of more than 80 experts concluded that the U.S. should commit additional revenue of up to $262 billion per year through 2035 to rebuild and improve roads, rail systems and air transportation in our nation.

“The United States can’t compete successfully in the 21st Century with a 20th-Century transportation infrastructure,” the report said. The report concluded that the U.S. is saddled with a rapidly decaying and woefully underfunded transportation system that will undermine its status in the global economy unless Congress and the public embrace innovative reforms.

The report (full version click here) recommends several short and long-term solutions to get the nation back on track. Among them are increasing the nation’s fuel tax rate, which hasn’t been increased since 1993 and has lost more than a third of its purchasing power since then. It also recommends some use of private capital and a commitment to converting to a national vehicle-miles-traveled fee system.

“While this report may not break a lot of new ground, the prominence of the panel and its bipartisan composition should capture the attention of members of Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly,” said PHIA managing director Jason Wagner. “Infrastructure is a core function of government, and the safety, security and economic future of our state and nation depend on long-term transportation investment.”

The fact is that real people interact with our transportation systems— and live with the consequences of current shortcomings—every day. Yet the frustrations they experience as individual users are rarely channeled into a clear, collective call for action.  — “Well Within Reach, America’s New Transportation Agenda” report, page 18.

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