As the Interstate Highway System enters its seventh decade, last year’s five-year, $305-billion Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act will provide only a slight funding increase to address the system’s infrastructure needs.
Since President Eisenhower signed legislation on June 29, 1956, launching the interstate system and the motor-fuels tax to pay for much of its construction, its traffic and congestion have worsened, and funding is short of what’s needed to maintain and upgrade the 47,662-mile network, according to a June 27 report from TRIP, a Washington-based transportation research organization.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), speaking at a June 29 Washington event marking the 60th anniversary of the Federal-Aid Highway Act, urged attendees “not to wait around until 2020” to start working on the next reauthorization.
Inhofe also told the gathering, sponsored by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and American Trucking Associations, there may be ways to “integrate the future of highway re- authorizations into a tax bill.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx agrees that “we have a challenge with the upkeep of our conventional transportation system.” But he wants to focus on where post-FAST Act dollars will go. Meeting with reporters on June 29, Foxx said, “Every time a transportation bill comes up, the only thing people want to talk about is, how much and how long? And I think the question of what we are spending our money on is as fundamental a question as anything else.”
Foxx noted that more of the U.S. population is going to metropolitan areas, and space to add highway lane-miles there is tight. He added, “And so what’s going to become important is having greater transportation choices in those places.”
Looking ahead, Foxx said, “I think if I have a wish for the next [surface transportation bill], it’s that there will be at least equal attention paid to the policy as there is to the funding and the length of time that funding exists.”