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Saving Transit and Highway Programs From Insolvency

By Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

TTD was proud to stand with Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and other transportation advocates this week in support of new legislation that will fix the broken funding mechanism for our nation’s transit, highway and road safety programs.

The bill, formally titled the Update, Promote, and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act (H.R. 3636), would gradually increase, by 15 cents, the per gallon tax on gasoline and diesel over the next three years and deposit the proceeds into the Highway Trust Fund.  If something is not done to shore up this fund, it will go into insolvency next year and send our already maligned transportation system into further disrepair and put thousands on the unemployment line.

Larry Willis, TTD Secretary-Treasurer, spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference and told attendees:

This bill is about creating and sustaining jobs for transit employees, construction workers and those who depend on an efficient and multimodal transportation system.  It is about reversing years of neglect and underinvestment in our transit systems, highways and bridges.  And it is about boosting the ability of our businesses to move goods efficiently and providing Americans with safe and reliable commutes.

Here is the problem – we are trying to run a 2013 surface transportation system on a 1993 budget.  Of course it’s not working.  Bridges are literally falling down, highway delays are choking our economy and public transit systems are cutting routes and jobs while Americans are demanding more transportation options.

We are in this moment in time where the nation needs its surface transportation infrastructure modernized and expanded and millions of workers are unemployed or underemployed.

Congress must summon the political will to do what virtually everyone agrees must be done.

TTD’s Executive Committee adopted a policy statement  earlier in the year that called on Congress and the Administration to address the funding shortfall and noted that the “simplest solution to the threat of insolvency is to increase the gas tax and index it for inflation.”  The Executive Committee also noted that other options including the imposition of a vehicle mile traveled (VMT) fee should be considered as a longer-term approach.

What’s clear is that we cannot allow Washington gridlock to prevent us from failing to meet the most basic transportation and job needs of the nation.

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