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New Report Misses the Mark

The Competitive Enterprise Institute just released a study entitled “Transforming Surface Transportation Reauthorization: A 21st Century Approach to Address America’s Greatest Infrastructure Challenge.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? It’s not.

The report says Congress should:

  • Eliminate federal spending outside of highway freight corridors or at the very least allow federal capital funding to be redirected toward operations and maintenance activities.
  • Establish a mileage-based user fee pilot program to examine a shift away from motor fuel user taxes.
  • Eliminate federal prohibitions on states tolling their own Interstate segments.
  • Eliminate the private activity bond lifetime volume cap and expand project eligibility.
  • Eliminate procurement, labor and environmental rules that unnecessarily increase costs and delay project delivery.

So essentially the main point the report is built around is that we should be focusing our infrastructure-improvement efforts largely on highways that are used for commercial trucking. Yes, that is important, but that is only a part of the puzzle.

A recent TRIP report focused on the deteriorating condition of rural roads. Should these roads be put on life support? I don’t think so.

“America’s rural transportation system provides the first and last link in the supply chain from farm to market, connects manufacturers to their customers, supports the tourism industry, and enables the production of energy, food and fiber. Rural Americans are more reliant on the quality of their transportation system than their urban counterparts,” TRIP aptly states.

The Competitive Enterprise report also calls for the elimination of the Highway Trust Fund in favor of mileage-based user fees. While that is a novel idea, no one I know takes it seriously, given the staggering political implications of that seismic shift, as well as the challenges of high administrative and operating costs, and jurisdictional issues.

But my biggest complaint about the report is this statement: “Contrary to a common narrative, infrastructure does not face a broad immediate crisis in the U.S.”

Spoken like someone sadly out of touch with reality.