Oberstar says funds are short to fix traffic congestion

| 9/19/2007

The chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee says American lawmakers have not kept up with the amount of transportation funding needed to fight traffic congestion problems.

Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, spoke highly this week of the 2007 Urban Mobility Report issued by the Texas Transportation Institute. He also criticized the Bush administration for not doing enough.

Texas Transportation Institute researchers stated in the report that congestion in 437 U.S. cities drains $78 billion from the economy and causes 2.9 billion gallons of fuel to be wasted each year.

Oberstar criticized the Bush administration for allowing the Highway Trust Fund to be drained while the cost of highway projects has increased.

Although it pre-dates the current administration, the federal fuel excise tax has remained unchanged since 1993.

“By 2009, our federal Highway Trust Fund is projected to run a negative balance in the highway account,” Oberstar stated in a press release. “Unless that problem is dealt with promptly, the federal highway program will suffer very substantial cuts that year.”

Easing congestion is about more than just throwing money at the problem, he said.

“Some solutions are low-cost, such as rapid removal from busy highways of vehicles involved in accidents and synchronizing traffic lights to improve traffic flow,” he said. “Other solutions are much more expensive, including widening freeways, rebuilding interchanges and investing in large-scale rail transit systems.”

Click here to read the full text of Oberstar’s comments.

Meanwhile, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters continues to push highway privatization, interstate tolling and congestion pricing as methods for handling traffic congestion.

Click here to read the 2007 Urban Mobility Report by the Texas Transportation Institute.

– By David Tanner, staff writer