[As published in Politico Pro’s Morning Transportation (subscription only) by Adam K. Snider, featuring Kathryn A. Wolfe, Kevin Robillard and Alex Guillen]
STATE OF THE UNION WISH LIST: 1) Funding. 2) Funding. 3) Funding.
President Barack Obama gives his annual State of the Union address next Tuesday and the transportation industry is once again left with a simple yet daunting request: A viable way to raise the tens of billions of dollars needed for a long-term highway and transit bill. Kathryn talked to leaders from some of the top transportation groups, and the unified message couldn’t be more clear — it’s all about the money.
—“There’s nothing really new here,” ARTBA President and CEO Pete Ruane said, adding that what he wants to hear in the speech is “clear evidence in the presentation that among his priorities for the coming year will be to help work on a solution to the HTF solvency issue.” A close second would be to hear Obama say he will support a “timely robust reauthorization of MAP-21,” Ruane said.
—Jim Tymon, director of program and finance management at AASHTO, agreed that topping the most wanted list for State of the Union is some indication that the White House wants to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund. “We’d love to see some kind of a proposal from the administration in the State of the Union that addresses the long-term viability of the Highway Trust Fund,” he said.
—Ed Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, echoed others, saying he’d like to see Obama “put a real, viable plan on the table in the State of the Union to deal with a massive funding shortfall” afflicting not only surface transportation, but also aviation and ports.
—Rob Healy, vice president of government affairs for APTA, said the transit group wants to hear Obama talk about pushing a new surface transportation bill across the finish line before MAP-21 expires at the end of September. “We need the president’s leadership to move a bill forward that really provides a long-term well-funded surface transportation program,” he said. “And, we’d like to see the president talk about an interconnected system that includes public transportation, highways [and] intercity passenger rail — including high speed passenger rail investment.”