March 2, 2009
Blumenauer Plan Calls for Transportation Financing Reforms
By JOHN R. BELL, Program Manager-Communications
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a member of the House Ways and Means and Budget committees, convened a discussion with industry leaders on ways to reform infrastructure financing so solvency can be restored to the Highway Trust Fund. Reforms advocated at the Feb. 27 event, held at the National Press Club in Washington, include an increase in the gas tax and an eventual shift to a fee based on Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) instead of per gallon of fuel—a system pioneered in Oregon.
Numerous industry and advocacy leaders joined Blumenauer at the program.
Blumenauer called for an investment of “at least $500-$600 billion over the next six years,” and detailed his strategy for financing transportation infrastructure at $100 billion per year—an amount he called “an appropriate floor.” Citing the widespread support for such investment, not only in the electorate but across nearly all industry groups, he added, “the missing link in the chain of forces leading to this solution is in the political sector.”
Blumenauer’s 10-year strategy for infrastructure financing, A National Plan to Reinvest in America, includes elements of the final report released earlier this week by the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Committee, including an eventual repeal of the gas tax and implementation of a road-use fee based on VMT by 2020. In addition, his plan calls for a per-barrel excise fee to establish a floor price for oil, which would help to stabilize this commodity and maintain motivation for the development of new fuel-saving technologies.
The plan also includes an expansion of funding sources for transportation infrastructure, which possibly may include freight charges, tax credit bonds, and user and vehicle fees.
Another element of Blumenauer’s plan is the Clean Low-Emissions Affordable New Transportation Equity Act, co-sponsored by Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH) in the House. This bill would allow for the cap and trade of greenhouse-gas emissions, and would devote 10 percent of the revenues from such auctions to funding public transit, transit-oriented development, and measures to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Sponsors of this measure in the Senate are Sens. Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA).
APTA President William W. Millar, who spoke at the announcement, said: “I congratulate Congressman Blumenauer for his leadership in beginning a conversation that is always difficult—how to find the revenue to adequately invest in our transportation infrastructure.”
Support for the Blumenauer plan was unanimous among industry and advocacy leaders who spoke at the event, representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, American Institute of Architects, Associated General Contractors of America, Environmental Defense Fund, the National Construction Alliance, Transportation for America, and Association of American Railroads.