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July 13, 2011 - ASCE Letter - Including Transportation Deficit Reduction and Fical Stability Talks

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July 13, 2011

To President Obama and Members of Congress:

As stewards of the nation’s infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) strongly urges you to make future funding and certainty of the federal transportation programs a focal point of ongoing debt limit and deficit reduction negotiations.

Transportation investments are a proven economic stimulus and due to the nation’s current infrastructure crisis, also extremely necessary. In ASCE’s 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the nation’s surface transportation system included roads receiving a grade of “D-”, bridges receiving a grade of “C”, and transit receiving a grade of “D”. Additionally, to bring just these three surface transportation categories up to an acceptable condition would require a five year investment of $1.2 trillion, from all levels of government, according to ASCE estimates. If the nation continues to under invest in infrastructure and ignores this backlog until systems fail, we will incur even greater costs.

ASCE acknowledges the challenges of the current fiscal environment and believes that the nation’s surface transportation programs should undergo examination and reform; however public infrastructure is a core responsibility of the federal government and deserves a thoughtful debate over the direction of the programs.

Unfortunately, this debate has not moved forward in nearly two years due to the inability of Congress and the Administration to address the financial challenges confronting the Highway Trust Fund. Without identifying a way to stabilize federal transportation funding mechanisms, the next multi-year authorization will include substantial cuts of as much as one-third to surface transportation programs. These cuts would only accelerate the deteriorating performance of the nation’s surface transportation system and greatly undermine U.S. economic growth and competitiveness.

As transportation improvements are vital to the nation’s economy, we urge Congress and the Administration to work to preserve the existing levels of surface transportation investment and ideally to develop a reliable revenue model to enable future investment levels to meet the nation’s growing needs. The current debt limit and deficit reduction negotiations are an opportunity to address both of these critical national issues. In fact, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recognized the impact of transportation investments on the economy by voting in favor of a proposal to increase trust fund revenues, so that surface transportation was no longer a burden to the Treasury’s General Fund.

A long-term, sustainable surface transportation program is necessary for our nation’s economic growth and competitiveness. ASCE requests that the President and Members of Congress provide the resources necessary to sustain, and ideally increase, surface transportation investments as part of the deficit reduction and debt limit solution.

Sincerely,

Kathy J. Caldwell, P.E.
President, ASCE