U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx Calls for Long-Term Highway Funding

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx continued pushing for more funding from U.S. Congress, saying the short-term 10-month $10.9 billion transportation “patch” passed by the House of Representatives and now being considered in the Senate is only a temporary fix for a “crumbling” highway system that shows a growing number of potholes and other damage. The fix means that “at current spending levels, we will fall almost $850 billion short of transportation needs nationally by 2020,” he said during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

“It’s a sad commentary that we are, in effect, managing a declining system, a system that is crumbling before our eyes, a system that is growing potholes, a system that is creating longer commute times and a system that will cause us to lose jobs we have no business losing in America,” said Foxx. “… What I am saying, in effect, is that America needs more than just an incremental adjustment. We need a transportation reset, and it’s got to be big.”

“[G]o to Rhode Island, where I was just a couple of weeks ago,” he added. “We talked to Governor Chafee and his Department of Transportation director and they can show you that at current levels, even if we get a patch, even if we get 50 more patches, as current levels over the next 20 years, roads in Rhode Island are going to get worse. And Rhode Island is not by itself.”

Instead of growing and improving the transportation system, “we’re actually ramping down.”

After his speech, Foxx was asked if the $10.8 billion “patch” the Senate is currently considering will keep the system adequately funded through next May?

“I think from a funding standpoint, the answer is yes,” he responded. “But again, I want to reemphasize that the system we have is really a system that depends on certainty. And while there is a patch potentially that Congress passes, that’s not going to really help the certainty issue. If we’ve got a big project that takes multiple years to get done and you’re in the middle of a planning process, do you go for the longer term or don’t you? With a 10-month patch, you don’t know what’s on the other end of that 10 months and that’s the problem we have on our surface system right now,” he said.

The government official was also asked about the vehicle miles traveled tax. As vehicle fuel efficiency increases, is this something to be considered?

“I think the vehicle miles traveled tax is something that is not very likely [to be considered],” Foxx said. “But at the same time, there are pilots out in Oregon and other places and I’m sure that in the future, these things will be looked at.”

What about the future of vehicles, such as vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity?

“This whole idea that vehicles in the future will communicate with each other is a really big deal,” he said. “It’s a big deal for safety, and it’s a big deal to our team because it’s an opportunity to engage the automobile in the work of ensuring collision avoidance, and not only between automobiles potentially, but also with pedestrians and there’s even technology that allows the automobile to communicate with the infrastructure around it.”

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