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January 31, 2018 1:00 PM, EST

ATA Chairman Dave Manning: Decongested Roads Important as Economy Improves

ATA Chairman Dave Manning John Sommers II for Transport Topics

The potential economic benefits of a long-term infrastructure funding proposal, and the impact a new tax law is having on certain businesses, reinforces a need for better freight connectivity nationwide, the chairman of American Trucking Associations said Jan 31.

“As the economy continues to grow, it’s going to be important for us to have less congestion, and better roads and bridges just to be able to move those goods efficiently,” Chairman Dave Manning, president of Tennessee-based TCW Inc., told Transport Topics.

RELATED: ATA announces $340 billion infrastructure funding plan

He was reacting to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union. Manning attended the event in the House chamber as a guest of Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.).

With Trump calling on the Republican-led Congress to craft a $1.5 trillion infrastructure measure during his address, Manning suggested policymakers consider ATA’s Build America Fund proposal. The fund, ATA estimates, would generate $340 billion in its first 10 years through a 20-cents-per-gallon fee on transportation fuel.

GOP transportation leaders on Capitol Hill are waiting for the proposal’s legislative principles from the White House before commencing a likely lengthy legislative process on transportation funding priorities.

Manning acknowledged Trump was light on details about the plan. He also emphasized bipartisanship would be key element in advancing the plan in the near term.

“It seems to me that infrastructure and workforce development appeal to both sides of the aisle, and that was apparent to me last night,” Manning added.

ATA is among stakeholders urging policymakers to raise federal fuel taxes. Doing so, the groups argue, would quickly boost revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, the account that assists states with maintenance projects. The 1993 rate on fuel taxes no longer is sufficient for maintaining the fund’s solvency.

White House officials say Trump has not ruled out pushing for a fuel tax hike. Republican leaders, however, are adamantly against it.

Meanwhile, according to the American Transportation Research Institute, congestion added $63.4 billion in operational costs to the trucking industry in 2015.