Committee affirms need for strong federal role in transportation

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 2/14/2013

House transportation leaders said Wednesday that the U.S. should maintain a strong federal role in its transportation and infrastructure. Truckers have long believed in a national highway system, and they reject efforts by some to piece out the funding and control to local, state and private interests.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee dedicated its first hearing of the 113th Congress to discussing the importance of the federal role.

“Working together in the 113th Congress, the Committee will focus on strengthening America’s national transportation network to make us more efficient, more competitive and more prosperous,” T&I Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-PA, said. “This is an important responsibility of government – especially the federal government.”

OOIDA, whose members pay fuel taxes and other user fees to use the national system, agrees.

“Truckers know firsthand the importance of investments in roads and bridges to improve and continuously revitalize our national lifelines of commerce,” OOIDA Executive Vice-President Todd Spencer said.

The hearing was one day after President Obama’s State of the Union speech that emphasized the need to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and repair 70,000 structurally deficient bridges.

“Most would echo President Obama’s comment of ‘fix it first’ and add ‘do it now and for the future,’ ” Spencer said. “For that to become reality, we have to have reliable and fair funding mechanisms that preserve the tried-and-true user fee system that fuel taxes have always represented – while maintaining the trust that is at the heart of our transportation core.”

The Highway Trust Fund, which is the repository for fuel taxes and other user fees that pay for federal programs and state funding grants, faces a massive shortfall in the coming years after the current two-year highway funding bill expires in 2014.

OOIDA rejects concepts that involve tolling and piecing out the highway system.

“Moving toward proposals that involve tolling more roads, especially interstates, would have a negative impact on that national network,” Spencer added.  “We need to do something to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund as it faces a $100 billion shortfall over the next 10 years, and that needs to be a major priority for Congress and the White House over the next two years.”

The hearing was the first of many involving the issues and possible solutions to pay for infrastructure and keep the network strong.

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