February 4, 2013 8:00 AM, EST

Editorial: Investing in Infrastructure

This Editorial appears in the Feb. 4 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

It’s nice to hear from the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that he recognizes what dire straits the Highway Trust Fund is in and that he’s open to all suggestions as to how to fix it.

While Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) isn’t the only legislator to recognize the problems with the fund, his open mind inspires hope that Congress is finally ready to give a number of ideas a good, hard look.

American Trucking Associations continues to believe that raising the federal fuel tax is still the best and least complicated fix. But it has been hard to get Congress or the White House to even consider it, because of the stigma attached to raising any tax lately.

“Everything needs to be on the table,” Shuster told Transport Topics last week during an interview. He said he “is willing to discuss anything” that can meet the nation’s need for expanding and repairing its transportation infrastructure.

And we’re glad to hear it.

Shuster said he believes it’s imperative that the United States maintain the best transportation network in the world in order to remain competitive in world markets.

He specifically cited China as a country that is investing big-time in its roads, bridges, ports and airports as it moves to expand its exports.

It’s gratifying to hear from the new chairman that he not only recognizes the importance of infrastructure investment but also that he’s willing to make the hard choices necessary to find the money needed to make it happen.

And his approach to invite all interested parties to the table to champion their suggestions might just be what we need to get sufficient momentum to push a major infrastructure plan through Congress.

Shuster said he’s hoping to make his efforts bipartisan. Coupled with some statements from the White House about the need to strengthen our infrastructure, perhaps the day is coming when the national leadership can get a consensus so that we can move forward.

A recent study from the American Society of Civil Engineers stated that a $157 billion U.S. investment in infrastructure over the next eight years would yield $3.1 trillion in gross domestic product and $1.1 trillion in foreign trade and would create 3.5 million jobs.

That study helps quantify the importance of maintaining and expanding our transportation network.

Rep. Shuster, we’ve got our fingers crossed that your efforts are successful.