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DOT Will Post Trust Fund Balance to Illustrate Infrastructure Deficit

January 15, 2014

By Oliver Patton

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Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx outlined the familiar issues surrounding the nation’s “infrastructure deficit” and added a new wrinkle: DOT will post a monthly update on the balance in the shrinking Highway Trust Fund.

Foxx, speaking at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C., described the “infrastructure deficit” in terms similar to those used to describe the better-known budget deficit.

“When we talk about our long term infrastructure deficit, let's understand that every day we fail to tackle it, we’re actually creating more expensive projects. And we’re kicking those higher costs to our kids and our grandkids,” he said in his prepared remarks.

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(Click on graphic to enlarge.)
(Click on graphic to enlarge.)

He noted the recent history of what formerly was a robust federal reinvestment in infrastructure. It’s been 10 years since Washington has produced a long-term highway program, making it difficult for state and local governments to plan their investments.

Foxx noted the pending October deadline for completing a new highway program and said the Highway Trust Fund could start bouncing checks as soon as August.

In an effort to raise the issue’s profile with the public, DOT will post the fund’s balance on its website each month, he said.

“Now, this is a number we share with Congress. But the American people need to know it, too, because they are the ones who use America’s transportation system – and they are the ones who will travel slower and less safely if it isn’t funded.”

Foxx listed the some of the funding ideas now on the table, such as the Obama administration’s plan for a one-time infusion from corporate tax reform and legislation by Rep. Earl Blumenauer to raise the fuel tax, and said he hopes Congress will act.

He discussed institutional reforms at DOT to improve efficiency, mentioning the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s move to drop driver inspection reports when the truck has no defects and noting that additional gains are possible.

He also mentioned the ongoing effort at DOT to create a National Freight Plan, describing it as part of an overarching DOT effort to plan for a unified transportation system.

“Highway people like highways, transit people like transit, rail people like rail…and so on,” he said. 

“But our transportation system should be greater than the sum of its parts. We need a plan that takes our roads and rails and ports and links them and remakes the finest system of transportation the world has ever known into its 21st-century incarnation.”

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