The American Highway Users Alliance has called on Congress to use a $19 billion Highway Trust Fund surplus to restore a potential $8.6 billion drop in federal highway funding in fiscal year 2003.
The highway group also wants lawmakers to reject tighter Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards it says would compromise vehicle safety and consumer vehicle choice.
In a letter bearing the names of 346 groups from across the nation and hand-delivered to every member of Congress, AHUA urged lawmakers to co-sponsor the Highway Funding Restoration Act (S1917 and HR3694). The group says the act could help to avert thousands of lost jobs and project delays that are likely to result from an $8.6 billion (27 percent) cut in the federal highway program next year.
"Without congressional action, guaranteed highway funding for 2003 will fall to $23.2 billion, down from $31.8 billion this year," said William D. Fay, AHUA's president and CEO. "Because the highway account already has a cash surplus of $19 billion - taxes already paid in full by American motorists and truckers - it makes no sense for Congress to allow this economy-busting drop in highway funding to occur while the trust fund balance sitting in Washington, DC, grows even larger."
In a separate letter, Fay also encouraged the U.S. Senate to oppose the Kerry-Hollings CAFE language proposed in the Energy Policy Act of 2002 (S517). If approved, the proposed language would increase the fleet-wide CAFE standard to 35 miles per gallon in 2013. Currently, car fleets are expected to achieve a CAFE standard of 27.5 mpg. Light trucks and SUVs must achieve a fuel economy average of 20.7 mpg.
"There are far better ways to improve fuel economy for all vehicles than arbitrarily raising CAFE standards," said Fay. "A good start would be to enact measures relieving the stifling traffic congestion that is choking our nation's highways."
Fay noted that idling in traffic burns billions of gallons of fuel unnecessarily. A study commissioned by AHUA found that improving traffic flow at America's 167 worst bottlenecks would reduce fuel consumption by nearly 20 billion gallons over the next 20 years. Furthermore, Fay said that a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study has linked higher CAFE standards with reduced vehicle safety.
"With 42,000 Americans losing their lives on our nation's highways each year - a total that has been rising steadily since 1992 - Congress should not enact legislation that reduces vehicle safety," Fay added.