The American Highway Users Alliance warned Congress Monday that the projected $8.6 billion 2003 transportation budget cut could be "calamitous" for state transportation projects and the economy. The cut reportedly could result in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.
"A 27 percent cut in one year in the nation's largest infrastructure program is too much," said William D. Fay, president of the AHUA, speaking at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "It would have serious economic repercussions just at a time when the country is struggling to get out of a recession, and it would be a devastating blow to our national transportation system."
"Equally important from the perspective of motorists," Fay said, "a 27 percent reduction in funds will delay the important benefits of roadway improvements - the safety benefits of reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities; the air quality, time-saving, and fuel-saving benefits of relieving traffic congestion; and the economic and productivity benefits of speedier deliveries."
Fay said AHUA strongly supports The Highway Funding Restoration Act, which would restore $4.4 billion to fiscal year 2003 transportation funding. He also encouraged Congress to enact the proposal to funnel fuel tax receipts from the sale of ethanol into the Highway Trust Fund, close the loopholes are available to evade fuel taxes, and invest in the nation's transportation infrastructure.
"All of that money [in the trust fund] has been paid by motorists. All of it was intended for road use and bridge improvements," said Fay. "It ought to be used for its intended purpose."
Fay also said Congress should protect the integrity of highway-use taxes and reject proposals that could reduce transportation funding, including the expansion of the ethanol mandate and suggestions that trust fund monies be diverted to support passenger rail service. "We need a well-funded federal highway program to improve safety, reduce congestion, enhance air quality, and keep our manufacturers and producers competitive in the marketplace," he concluded.