Highway User Rate Commission Needed to Get Projects Built, Congestion, Pollution Reduced

Wed July 29, 2009 - National Edition
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The United States needs to adopt vehicle mile tax, make it easier for states to toll interstates and adopt public private partnerships to support economic growth, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) stated.

The best way to cut congestion, modernize aging bridges and roads, and expand transit services nationwide is to establish a federal commission to set and raise highway user fee rates, stabilize transportation revenue and adapt to evolving automotive technology, an AGC representative said July 23 during Congressional testimony.

“Our highways are crowded and crumbling while our country is growing and demanding,” said Don Weaver of El Paso, Arkansas-based Weaver Bailey Contractors, who testified on behalf of the AGC at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing. “It’s time to renew our commitment to having the world’s most efficient and effective transportation network.”

Weaver said that a new Highway User Rate Commission would determine, on a biennial basis, the rates associated with the various high user fees currently in place, including the excise on motor vehicle fuels. He noted that such a commission would allow the federal government to raise revenue rates based on an assessment of long-term economic need and financial merit, instead of short term political calculations.

Weaver added that the nation also needs to index the fuel tax while beginning to transition to a vehicle mile tax, provide states with greater authority to toll existing and new highways and encourage the establishment of public private partnerships to finance highway and transit projects. And he called on Congress to establish a national infrastructure bank to supplement infrastructure investments at all levels of government.

“Just because tolling and public private partnerships aren’t the only solution doesn’t mean we should take these options off the table,” said Weaver. “Our challenges are too great and our needs are too immediate to restrict any option or delay any single solution.”

Weaver noted that the nation’s highway and transportation needs are severe and getting worse. Despite some $49 billion in transportation investments as part of the stimulus, virtually every independent group that has evaluated current needs have noted that current transportation investments are meeting approximately 40 percent of current transportation needs.

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