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The American Society of Civil Engineers
On The Fiscal Year 2010
Surface Transportation Programs
United States Senate
Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development,
and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
April 23, 2010
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)1 is pleased to present to the Subcommittee our views on the proposed budget for the nation’s surface transportation program.
ASCE’s 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure graded the nation’s infrastructure a “D” based on 15 categories (the same overall grade as ASCE’s 2005 Report Card), and said that the nation needs to invest approximately $2.2 trillion over the next five years to maintain the national infrastructure in good condition. Even with the current and planned investments from federal, state and local governments in the next five years, the “gap” between the overall need and actual spending will exceed $1 trillion in 2014.
The following are the grades and the five-year investment needs in the surface transportation area:
*Bridges received a grade of C;
*Roads received a grade of D-, and combined with bridges, have an estimated five-year investment need of $930 billion;
*Rail received a grade of C- and has an estimated five-year investment need of $63 billion; and
*Transit received a D and has an estimated five-year investment need of $265 billion.
As Congress is in the process of developing a comprehensive approach for a new multi-year surface transportation authorization, its Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Department of Transportation proposed budget contains no policy recommendations for programs subject to reauthorizations, including Federal-Aid Highways. Instead, the budget displays baseline funding levels for all surface programs, similar to those enacted in FY 2010, which will not significantly improve the condition of the nation’s infrastructure in the long term.
To reflect the growing imbalance between projected Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenues and baseline spending, the budget shows only the HTF funding that can be supported while maintaining positive annual cash balances in the HTF. However, the current state of the HTF requires infrequent transfers from the General Fund in order to remain solvent, creating an uncertain future for many highway and transit projects. The HTF is unable to remain solvent through the current income from the motor fuel tax, therefore displaying a flaw with the system and increasing the need for additional revenues to come into the fund.
The plaguing problem with the HTF aside, ASCE is mostly pleased with the FY 2011 budget that was proposed by the Obama Administration. The budget contains some ground-breaking new programs like the National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund, which $4 billion has been requested for, and continues to fund high-speed rail corridors with another $1 billion. Both show a move toward a multimodal and modern transportation system, however funding is still necessary to repair, maintain, and improve our existing highway and transit programs.
The FY 2010 enacted level for the Federal-Aid Highways program was $42.7 billion, while the FY 2011 budget requests a slightly decreased level of funding at $42.1 billion. Despite the employment-generating potential of infrastructure investment, highway and transit funding have fallen under the budget freeze that the Obama Administration imposed on the FY 2011 budget. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has proven that infrastructure investment can create jobs when funding is available. According to AASHTO, while infrastructure only received a disappointing 4% of the recovery funds it created 25% of the job opportunities.
The Federal Transit Administration’s proposed request of $10.8 billion is merely $67 million more than the FY 2010 enacted level. Additionally, funding for Amtrak would increase by just $72 million from $1.565 billion to $1.637 billion. While the proposed $10.8 billion budget would include $2.8 billion to focus on a “state of good repair” transit investment, the Federal Transit Administration has estimated that an annual investment of $ 15.8 billion is needed to maintain the current conditions and performance of transit systems, and that $21.6 billion is needed to improve conditions and performance. ASCE maintains that if transit funding is increased, transit ridership will be able to increase more rapidly and the physical condition of the nation's transit systems will improve, while resulting in reduced congestion on the nation’s roadways and the increased development of local economies.
ASCE is satisfied to see that the budget request does continue to highlight the need to increase safety on the nation’s roads. The $20 million funding increase for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the creation of a new Distracted Driver Prevention Program under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration illustrate an endorsement for public safety when investing in our nation’s surface transportation systems. Additionally this funding will enable the Department of Transportation to meet its aggressive goal of reducing highway fatalities by 9.6 percent in the upcoming year.
We believe that the Administration’s proposed budget reflects a reasonable level of funding but have concerns that continuing to operate with baseline levels will only allow us to maintain the inadequate conditions that our current surface transportation systems are under. Without a new multi-year surface transportation bill and with the continued systemic problems with the Highway Trust Fund our transportation infrastructure concerns cannot be fully addressed. The system cannot run properly when it must rely on transfers from the General Fund, in order to remain solvent. Congress must take the lead in addressing this problem to ensure continuity in the nation’s surface transportation program. In the long term, we are concerned that the Administration and the Congress are not addressing the urgent need to upgrade the nation’s aging infrastructure or improve the safety and mitigate the congestion on our nation’s roads, by making a strong commitment to the nation’s surface transportation system.
The longer Congress waits to enact a properly funded and re-designed surface transportation bill, the greater the problem will become. Inaction will lead to a further deterioration of the nation’s surface transportation assets, a continuation of high levels of traffic fatalities and more wasted time and fuel due to increased congestion creating a further drag on the economy.
Currently, most infrastructure investments are made without the benefit of a national vision. To ensure that a new surface transportation bill is one which addresses the nation’s Twenty first century transportation needs, we propose five key solutions:
*Increased federal leadership;
*Promoting sustainability and resilience;
*The development of federal, regional, and state infrastructure plans;
*Addressing life cycle costs and ongoing maintenance; and
*Increased and improved infrastructure investment from all stakeholders.
Usually built to last 50 years, the average bridge in our country is now 43 years old. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, of the 600,905 bridges across the country as of December 2008, 72,868 (12.1%) were categorized as structurally deficient and 89,024 (14.8%) were categorized as
functionally obsolete. While some progress has been made in recent years to reduce the number of structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges in rural areas, the number in urban areas is rising.
To address bridge needs, states use federal as well as state and local funds. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), a total of $10.5 billion was spent on bridge improvements by all levels of government in 2004. Nearly half, $5.1 billion was funded by the Federal Highway Bridge Program--$3.9 billion from state and local budgets and an additional $1.5 billion in other federal highway aid. AASHTO estimated in 2008 that it would cost roughly $140 billion to repair every deficient bridge in the country--about $48 billion to repair structurally deficient bridges and $91 billion to improve functionally obsolete bridges.
Simply maintaining the current overall level of bridge conditions would require a combined investment from the public and private sectors of $650 billion over 50 years, according to AASHTO, for an annual investment level of $13 billion. The cost of eliminating all existing bridge deficiencies as they arise over the next 50 years is estimated at $850 billion in 2006 dollars equating to an average annual investment of $17 billion.
Our nation’s economy and our quality of life require a highway and roadway system that provides a safe, reliable, efficient, and comfortable driving environment. Although highway fatalities and traffic-related injuries declined in 2009, the drop is likely attributable to people driving less.
Next to safety, congestion has become the most critical challenge facing our highway system. Congestion continues to worsen to the point at which Americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic at a cost of $78.2 billion a year in wasted time and fuel costs. The average daily percentage of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) under congested conditions rose from 25.9% in 1995 to 31.6% in 2004, with congestion in large urban areas exceeding 40%. As a result of increased congestion, total fuel wasted climbed from 1.7 billion gallons in 1995 to 2.9 billion gallons in 2005.
From 1980–2005, while automobile vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased 94% and truck VMT increased 105%, highway lane-miles grew by only 3.5%. From 1994–2004, ton miles of freight moved by truck grew 33%.
It is clear that significant improvements and system maintenance will require significant investments. Current spending of $70.3 billion per year for highway capital improvements is well below the roughly $200 billion estimated to be needed annually to improve conditions. The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission studied the impact of varying investment levels (medium and high) and produced the following ranges of average annual capital investment needs (in 2006 dollars):
*$130 billion–$240 billion for the 15-year period 2005–2020;
*$133 billion–$250 billion for the 30-year period 2005–2035;
*$146 billion–$276 billion for the 50-year period 2005–2055.
The lower end of the ranges reflect the estimated costs of maintaining key conditions at current levels, while the higher end ranges would allow for an aggressive expansion of the highway system. Even at the lower range of estimates, an enormous gap exists between the current level of capital investment and the investment needed to improve the nation’s highways and roads.
As regional and intercity transportation corridors in the United States become increasingly congested, investments in intercity passenger rail systems, including high speed ground transportation (HSGT), are increasingly attractive as part of an overall transportation mobility strategy to provide added capacity and high quality service. Investments in this technology are cost effective, environmentally responsive and energy efficient and should be considered as companion investments to traditional highway and air modes. While the U.S. has spent substantial sums in highway and air passenger networks, North America has lagged in the development and implementation of efficient, relatively non-polluting, and highcapacity intercity passenger rail and HSGT networks. The $13 billion for HSGT investment, ($8 billion in
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and $1 billion annually for the next five years), will provide the foundation for advancements in the HSGT area. The Passenger Rail Working Group (PRWG) estimates that an annual investment of $7.4 billion through 2016, totaling $66.3 billion, is needed to address the capital cost of a proposed intercity rail network. It is further estimated that an additional $158.6 billion is needed between 2016 and 2030 and, and that an additional $132.2 billion must be invested between 2031 and 2050 to achieve the ideal inter-city network proposed by PRWG.
Therefore, a federal rail trust fund should be developed to fund rail improvements, using the 80/20 match formula to encourage state participation. Revenues for this trust fund could come from sources such as a tonnage fee, mileage fee, ticket tax, and/or general treasury funds. ASCE also encourages the use of innovative financing methods like revenue bonds and tax exempt financing at the state and local levels, public-private partnerships, and state infrastructure banks.
In recent years transit use has increased more rapidly then any other mode of transportation. Ridership increased by 25% from 1995 to 2005—to 10.3 billion trips a year, the highest number of trips in 50 years. The increased popularity of the nation’s transit sector has led to growth in both the number and size of transit systems in the U.S. While both demand and new investment bring badly needed transit service to more Americans, existing systems continue to require investments to replace aging infrastructure; thus, the revenue that is available must be spread further than ever before. At the same time, dwindling revenues in the Highway Trust Fund impact the transit sector's financial health at a time when more Americans are relying on it for travel.
Transportation is a critical engine of the nation’s economy. It is the thread which knits the country together. To compete in the global economy, improve our quality of life and raise our standard of living, we must successfully rebuild America’s public infrastructure. Faced with that task, the nation must begin with a significantly improved and expanded surface transportation system, which requires that a new multi-year surface transportation authorization legislation be signed into law. The nation’s surface transportation systems cannot plan for long term surface transportation improvements while operating under the current system of extensions which have been in effect since the expiration of SAFETEA-LU on September 30, 2009.
ASCE stands ready to work with Congress as it develops a well funded and financed progressive surface transportation authorization bill which is founded on a strong national vision, adequate funding and new technology which creates a world class integrated, multi-modal national transportation system, second to none.