As big as the highway bill now snaking its way through Congress is — up to $295 billion in the Senate version — it won't be near enough to fix America's highways unless it is passed with innovative funding options and as little pork and red tape as possible.
That's the contention of Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). He says a recent DOT report states that an average annual investment of $116 billion (in constant 2004 dollars) is needed by all levels of government over the next 20 years to truly improve road conditions.
That report holds that a $62 billion annual federal investment is necessary — compared to the current federal investment of just $34 billion. “Even at a funding level of $295 billion,” Sandherr warns, “this transportation deficit will continue to grow and impact the economic future of this nation.”
According to Sandherr, the transportation deficit will require funding far beyond the amounts in the House- and Senate-passed versions of the highway bill. The only way to get enough funds, he argues, is by allowing the separate states “the greatest array of options for increasing investment in transportation infrastructure.”
What's more, contends Sandherr, not only must more be spent on highways, it must be spent more wisely. To get the most bang out of the highway buck, he is urging Congress to drop various provisions that would, for example, divert funds from highway projects to environmental ones or cause monies to be lost to unnecessary regulations.