April 15, 2013 8:00 AM, EDT
Editorial: Infrastructure Plan Lacks Funding
This Editorial appears in the April 15 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The good news is that President Obama once again has called for a major new federal investment in infrastructure to fix and expand our roads and bridges.

The bad news is that, once again, he has failed to offer up an ongoing, dedicated funding source to pay for that new investment.

The president, when he unveiled his proposed federal budget last week, again voiced his support for a $50 billion shot-in-the-arm for infrastructure projects, specifically including $27 billion for roads and bridges. But again, he called for paying the bill for those projects through a massive one-time chunk of cash.

This approach makes many in the transportation industry and on Capitol Hill question the sincerity of the administration’s dedication to infrastructure improvements and makes it sound more like campaign rhetoric designed for good headlines and less like a new direction for America.

Virtually no one disputes that our infrastructure network is aging and that it is the backbone of the nation’s entire commercial system.

Every month, it seems, we hear of a new study detailing the billions of dollars Americans are wasting waiting in traffic in lost productivity or higher fuel and equipment costs.

So those of us who make our livings in the transportation business are certainly predisposed to support calls from the White House to improve infrastructure. And that makes it all the more disappointing that we’re getting only half a loaf.

As American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said: “For five years, we’ve waited for President Obama to clearly state how we should pay for these critical needs and, I’m sad to say, we continue to get lip service about the importance of roads and bridges with no real road map to real funding solutions.”

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), agrees. “The president’s budget repeats his call to increase spending without identifying a viable means to pay for it,” he said soon after the budget was released.

For years, we’ve been urging Congress and the White House to support higher fuel taxes, with the revenue that is produced targeted to infrastructure projects as the best way to pay the bill. And we still haven’t heard a better idea.

Mr. President, we all know that our nation’s infrastructure needs new and massive investment. But let’s get serious about finding a way to pay for it. Then, and only then, are we going to find a solution.