Investing in Transportation: Let’s Regain Our Momentum

Today, National Transportation Infrastructure Day, is a good time to call attention to the investment needed to support the transportation achievements that have given us more personal mobility than people have ever enjoyed before — even just a generation ago.

Top officials from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and other Bay Area transit agencies meet at San Francisco’s temporary Transbay Terminal today to call on Congress to pass a transportation bill with long-term funding for highways, public transit and the rest of America’s transportation networks.

The U.S. transportation system is no longer adequately meeting our needs, let alone those of a nation expected to grow to 400 million people by 2039. It is estimated that we will need $57 trillion of infrastructure investment by 2030, mostly to finance the road, power and water-related projects needed to support expected economic growth.

This is the situation as the nation navigates the federal surface transportation funding reauthorization process and the Highway Trust Fund teeters at the edge of another insolvency cliff just seven weeks from now (May 31).

Eleventh-hour congressional passage of a bill in July extended the current authorization, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), until the end of May. This temporarily postponed an Highway Trust Fund crisis that would have crippled the infrastructure industry in the heart of last year’s construction season. Now that spring is here, last year’s patchwork fix is about to expire, leaving us right where we were 10 months ago.

MAP-21’s original passage in 2012 moved the nation in the right direction with important policy reforms that reduce the time it takes to turn funding into construction. Yet the cause of our infrastructure investment problem remains unaddressed.

We need a 10- to 15-cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax just to keep federal surface transportation funding at the same rate it is today. Without it, we are running a serious transportation investment deficit. This increase has the potential to give us a meaningful investment in our future, address the current backlog of maintenance and improvement projects planned by our state and federal departments of transportation — improving our aging infrastructure — and help prepare for projected future population growth.

Let’s put it another way: Every penny added to the gas tax costs the average driver about $10 a year. That same penny a gallon would support or create more than 13,860 jobs in the nation’s transportation construction sector that would improve overall U.S. employment, economic growth and quality of life.

Does that strike you as a penny well spent? That’s the opportunity we now have before us. Positive momentum is building in San Francisco and in Washington, D.C., and it is up to us as taxpayers to keep Congress moving.

Let’s urge our representatives and senators to adopt the long-term funding for transportation needed to drive our economy into the future. Let’s move forward together.

Darlene Gee is vice president and Northern California district leader of HNTB Corp.

National Transportation Infrastructure Dayop-edOpinionSan Francisco Municipal Transportation AuthoritySanta Clara Valley Transportation Authority

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