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Transportation Infrastructure

  • Summary

    • ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card graded the nation’s roads a “D,” bridges a “C+,” transit a “D-,” and aviation infrastructure a “D.” As the nation’s infrastructure continues to age, the cost to repair and modernize our transportation system will continue to increase. 
    • The U.S. is on track to invest less than half of what is needed in surface transportation infrastructure over the next decade (a $1.1 trillion deficit) and $42 billion less than what is needed in aviation infrastructure. 
    • Road, bridge, and transit projects are typically funded through a shared cost by both the state and federal government, with the federal share coming out of the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The HTF is primarily funded by the federal motor fuels tax (an 18.4 cent per gallon tax on gasoline and a 24.4 cent per gallon tax on diesel), which has not been raised since 1993. Inflation has cut its real value by 40%. The FAST Act included a $70 billion transfer from the general fund to the HTF, but did nothing to address the HTF’s long-term revenue problem.
    • Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) and the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) are key sources of aviation infrastructure funds. PFCs are fees airports collect from departing passengers and use to fund federally approved capital improvement projects. Since 2000, the federal government has capped PFCs at $4.50 per enplanement, restricting local airports abilities to determine their own needs, raise necessary funds, and invest in their own infrastructure. Direct federal investment in aviation infrastructure is made primarily through the AIP, a grant program for capital improvements.

    Activities in the 116th Congress

    • For Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 (P.L. 116-6), spending levels for key transportation infrastructure programs continued to move in a positive direction from the FY2018 Omnibus Spending Bill (P.L.115-141).  In FY2019, $86.5 billion overall for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT); $900 million for BUILD grants; $13.4 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which includes $2.55 billion for Transit CIG program; $17.5 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which includes $3.35 billion for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) with a $500 million supplemental; and $49.3 billion for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
    • As we near the September 2020 deadline for a new FAST Act, a surface transportation authorization, ASCE is working with lawmakers to ensure our next authorization meets the challenges for our current surface transportation system. We ask for a long-term solution to fix the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), develop a network that is more resilient and sustainable manner, and include the ever growing of technology in assets and in modes. 

    Recent Success

    • In December 2015, Congress passed the FAST Act, a five-year surface transportation authorization. The law ended the cycle of short-term, multi-month program extensions and provided a slight increase in funding. Five years of funding certainty allows states to commence long-term projects and work to reduce their project backlog, but the authorized funding levels will not come close to filling the investment gap.
    • Congress passed a 5-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in October 2018 (P.L.115-254). Despite lobbying from infrastructure advocates and the documented investment gap, the law kept funding for the AIP at $3.35 billion per year. The law also did not modify the $4.50 cap on the federally-imposed PFCs. 

    ASCE Position

    • ASCE recommends raising the federal motor fuels tax by 25 cents per gallon and indexing the tax rate to inflation to help meet our nation’s near-term surface transportation needs. 
    • ASCE supports exploring a mileage-based user fee through additional pilot programs to test charging motorists based on how much they use roads with the long-term goal of using mileage-based user fees to fund the HTF. 
    • ASCE supports removing the cap on PFCs to allow airports to raise necessary funds locally for modernizing the nation’s aviation infrastructure. An increase in PFCs would support enhanced airport design, additional runway capacity and efficiency, and reduced air traffic congestion in order to help get travelers to their destinations safely and on-time.
    • ASCE urges Congress to increase funding for the AIP in the next FAA reauthorization bill. Since 1970, the majority of AIP funding has been supported by direct and dedicated user fees through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. The expenditure of Airport and Airway Trust Fund monies for airport improvements is critical to meeting the demands of the national aviation system.
    • ASCE urges Congress to guarantee that the FAA implements the NextGen system over the next several years. NextGen is designed to minimize delays by reducing the time aircrafts sit on the ground, therefore making our aviation system more efficient.

    Further Information