No Federal Bailout: States, Regions Confront Transpo Funding Woes
When Congress passes a new $450 billion six-year surface transportation reauthorization sometime in the next 18 months or so, it would directly yield $90 billion per annum, split nationwide over its term. That probably sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not. As the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s blueprint for the reauthorization bill notes on p. 7, needed U.S. road and transit projects require $225 billion to $340 billion per year in public and private investment over each of the next 50 years – this according to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. Even scaled-down needs identified by the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure and Finance Commission – also cited in the committee’s reauthorization blueprint – are sizable: $200 billion per year in public investment to maintain and improve the most essential components of the nation’s highway and transit systems.
The expected $48 billion in 2009 ARRA stimulus bill spending on transportation makes only a minor dent in either amount. Despite the possibility of some additional leveraged funding via an envisioned infrastructure bank that could be rolled into the reauthorization bill, it’s increasingly clear that manna from Washington – though important – isn’t a stand-alone solution.
That’s because of deepening maintenance and construction needs resulting from four decades of robust growth in passenger and freight vehicle miles traveled, plus simultaneous under-investment in infrastructure, and continuing population growth. And so across the U.S., more and more states and regions are grappling with difficult political choices to pay for fixing eroded transportation infrastructure, and for building new capacity and instituting other strategies to ease traffic congestion as the economic recovery unfolds in the next several years.
The first step is realizing you have a problem. There’s a fair amount of that going around.