NSSGA has long supported development of a new vision for our nation’s surface transportation system. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the law creating the National Interstate Highway System in 1956 and it was largely designed and constructed during the 1960s and 1970s, at a time when the population of the United States was approximately 200 million. Today there are more than 310 million people using America’s roads and bridges, an increase of over 50 percent since Ike was in the White House. Highway congestion is costing more than $78 billion annually in lost productivity, wasted fuel, and lost time with family and friends. It is estimated that in 2020 congestion will cause severe transportation delays along growing stretches of interstate highways.
President Obama signed into law a five-year, $305.5 billion surface transportation authorization bill that reauthorizes the federal highway and public transportation programs for fiscal years (FY) 2016-2020 on Dec. 4, 2015. The legislation, called the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) [P.L. 114-94] handily passed the House of Representatives 359-65 and the Senate 83-16. It is the first long-term surface transportation bill since TEA-21 in 1998 and stops the cycle of 36 extensions.
The legislation grows annual federal highway investment by 15.1 percent from the current $40.3 billion to $46.4 billion by Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 and boosts core transit program investment by 17.8 percent from $10.7 billion to $12.6 billion in FY 2020.
The FAST Act, however, does not provide a permanent solution to the Highway Trust Fund’s structural revenue deficit. The measure uses a variety of one-time cost savings and non-transportation resources to supplement incoming trust fund revenue to support its investment levels over the next five years. As such, the Highway Trust Fund will be facing another revenue shortfall in roughly four years and the current $15 billion per year gap will widen between what current trust fund receipts can support and the existing investment level.
A stable and sustainable funding option for the future is critical in order to achieve a bold, new, long-term, multi-modal vision for our national transportation system that reflects societal changes, economic imperatives, technological advances, environmental concerns, and national security needs in order to ensure the continued prosperity and security of the United States.
Passage of a multi-year reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration programs is critical, not continued extensions of the program that deny certainty essential to informed resource allocation and planning.
NSSGA will continue to work with its coalition partners to advocate for increased funding for the Airport Improvement Program, which funds improvements at airports across the nation and supports more than 100,000 jobs annually in the aviation and transportation construction industries. NSSGA also supports modernizing the Passenger Facility Charge by setting the federal cap on the locally set user fee at $8.50 to provide airports monies needed to finance critical infrastructure projects without relying on scarce federal funds.
NSSGA urges Congress to return to a bi-annual process for approving the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes important navigation, flood control, recreation, and environmental protection projects. Congress also should fully fund the projects through the Energy & Water Appropriations bill. Too often projects are halted or slowed due to inadequate funding resulting in longer completion timelines and higher costs. Fully funding important water infrastructure projects will return dividends to the American people through an increasingly efficient water transportation network, better environmental protection, and increased recreational opportunities.
NSSGA also urges Congress to increase funding for the clean water and drinking water state revolving fund (SRFs) programs that allow localities to leverage federal dollars to pay for essential water and wastewater sewer projects.