Photo by Ian Wagreich, Copyright U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Foxx told transportation conference he also advocates reducing project costs, through steps such as having federal agencies "harmonize" their project reviews.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is taking an ambitious approach to the next surface-transportation bill, due later this year, saying that “a one- or two-year Band-Aid won’t cut it this time.”

In a Feb. 20 speech kicking off a day-long U.S. Chamber of Commerce transportation conference in Washington, Foxx said, “The United States faces a massive infrastructure deficit.” [See prepared text]

He added that if the spending gap crisis isn’t dealt with “it will stunt the recovery we’ve begun and cripple our economy.”

Foxx did not specify how long a bill he would recommend, nor did he say what the funding level should be.

The current highway-transit statute, the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), has a span of a little less than 27 months. Congress has little time to act on a successor bill because MAP-21 expires on Sept. 30.

No such bills have yet been introduced in Congress, but Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) recently said she would like to see a five- or six-year measure and is aiming to have a proposal ready for her committee to vote on in April.

In the House, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said in January that he hopes to have a new highway-transit bill finished by the time MAP-21 lapses.

Added pressure on Boxer and Shuster is coming from the worsening problems facing the Highway Trust Fund, the prime revenue source for highway and transit funding.

Foxx said the infrastructure deficit problem has been “akin to termites in the basement, slowly eating away at our foundation“ but he added, “Now it is a wolf at the door.”

The DOT secretary repeated earlier comments that the trust fund’s highway account could fall into a deficit position—and DOT could “bounce checks”—as early as August.