Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned that gridlock in Congress threatens critical infrastructure projects around Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn., two of the cities he visited this week on an eight-state bus tour.
Foxx began the trip April 14 in Ohio and was in Louisville and Nashville the next day, touting President Obama’s transportation investment plan and calling attention to the tottering Highway Trust Fund.
DOT expects the trust fund to fall into the red by late August, meaning its payment obligations will be greater than available cash.
“Part of what we want to do is highlight the fact that highways, transit, all of it is a partnership between states, local government and the federal government,” Foxx said in Louisville.
Kentucky and Ohio, with anticipated federal funds, are rebuilding two aged bridges over the Ohio River that carry traffic in and out of Louisville.
In Nashville, Foxx visited the Charlotte Avenue Bridge, which the city was forced to close three times last summer due to structural deterioration.
“I’m traveling across the country all week to highlight critical projects like this that we could address if we invest in America and commit to the future — because just doing more of the same isn’t going to help us meet the transportation needs of the future,” Foxx said.
According to DOT, if more federal money was available, work could start on rehabilitating the 1960s-era bridge, as well as on five other bridges that connect Nashville’s Interstate 40 Inner Loop.
Among those meeting in Nashville with Foxx was American Trucking Associations Vice Chairman David Manning, president of Tennessee Express Inc.
“This funding crisis can be averted if both Congress and the administration will raise the federal fuel tax, and index it going forward,” Manning said at the press event held beside the bridge. “The trucking industry fully supports this funding approach and is ready, willing and able to pay our share of the increased costs.”
Manning told Transport Topics after the event that Foxx did a good job of making the case for infrastructure investment.
“He does a good job of personalizing the pay it forward thing, that our parents and grandparents have made sacrifices for us that we enjoy today and we’re not doing the same thing for the next generation,” Manning said.
However, the secretary did not endorse higher fuel taxes, only the short-term solution proposed by the administration, Manning said.
Obama has proposed a four-year, $302 billion plan that would raise money for transportation through tax code changes that include repatriating money held overseas by American corporations to avoid paying taxes on their earnings.
Congress has yet to consider the president’s plan, and lawmakers haven’t come up with a proposal to replace MAP-21, the two-year transportation spending law that expires Sept. 30.
From Kentucky and Tennessee, Foxx’s tour continues through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, ending in Dallas.
The tour started in Ohio, where Foxx visited three construction sites, one of them in Dayton. Guests at the event included ATA Vice Chairman Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express, which is headquartered in Dayton.