November 21, 2016 4:00 AM, EST

Editorial: Seize the Day on Infrastructure

This Editorial appears in the Nov. 21 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Daylight hours are dwindling rapidly now, yet this is the time to make hay because, in a sense, the sun is shining on makers of highway and transportation policy.

American Trucking Associations said it is speeding up efforts to become involved with the infrastructure program being developed by President-elect Donald Trump and his aides. He envisions spending $1 trillion over 10 years.

The ramifications of such an Eisenhower-like plan for trucking are potentially enormous, so the acceleration of the creation of an ATA infrastructure task force makes a great deal of sense.

Trucking and the nation are desperately in need of sturdy bridges and well-kept highways that are not perpetually clogged with traffic. The five-year FAST Act signed in December 2015 took a swipe at this but didn’t do nearly enough. Its main virtue was that it ended the long-reigning chaos of a lengthy chain of temporary extensions.

This could make a real difference for the nation’s network of roads, bridges, airports, electric grid and water systems — the prosaic but essential components of civilization. But how to pay for it all?

ATA still backs fuel-tax increases on diesel and gasoline, which would then be protected against inflation through indexing. While this has been a superb mechanism for feeding the Highway Trust Fund, Congress has been loath to raise those tax rates.

The perfect cannot be the enemy of the good, so ATA is looking into what its president, Chris Spear, calls “a number of robust funding sources.”

Spear and ATA Chairman Kevin Burch said they will appoint a task force of CEOs of ATA members and state trucking associations from a broad cross-section of the industry.

Burch said the information produced by the task force will be used to “educate, educate, educate,” both members of Congress and the next administration. ATA started its approach to both major presidential campaigns well before Election Day on Nov. 8.

Although infrastructure is at the heart of ATA’s efforts, Spear said his organization also is involved in discussions on other key issues, including the restart provision of driver hours of service, the pre-emption of state regulation of meal and rest breaks, general business tax reform (which could be linked to infrastructure) and international trade, especially in North America.

It’s a daunting set of policy challenges, but we’re pleased to see that progress, stalled for so long, might actually be made.