U.S. surface transportation funding

With a potential U.S. infrastructure investment totaling $1 trillion over the next 10 years, transportation leaders need to ensure funding is allocated to crumbling infrastructure and boosting our nation's global competitiveness

America was built on transportation. It spurs supply chains and gets goods to market. It facilitates economic and personal mobility, and creates meaningful, transformative jobs. As our political leaders begin to recognize these benefits and advocate more strongly for investment, our deteriorating roads, bridges and transit systems face a more certain future. These investments not only promote safety and security, but can advance our transportation network to match the fast pace of technological development and increasing global competiveness. 

President Obama's December 2015 FAST Act marked the end of a frustrating series of stopgap funding measures – more than 30 across the past decade – that underscored previous divisions in Congress and the political toxicity of trying to increase infrastructure investment in a slumping economy. Though beneficial and poised to provide $305 billion in funding over five years, the FAST Act may be followed by even greater investment from the incoming administration. 

With the new administration's potential investment totaling $1 trillion, U.S. transportation infrastructure may soon see a massive overhaul. If passed and funded, this infusion could boost our transportation system to a new level of performance beyond repairing our damaged infrastructure.

Ananth Prasad, PE, leader transportation practice, has been a leading voice in the national discussion about ways the investment can be used effectively and efficiently. Read his Viewpoint here. 

Chris Price, PE, HNTB national bridge practice leader, authored this Viewpoint about the FAST Act, innovative delivery and impacts to U.S. bridges.

Tolling as a viable option
For most of the 20th century, the answer to funding our roads and bridges was held within federal and state gas taxes. Today, for every gallon you pump, you pay a federal tax of 18.4 cents. It’s been the same for more than 20 years, resulting in a loss of 50 percent of its purchasing power over time. The gas tax brings in approximately $34 billion at its current rate, resulting in a nearly $16 billion annual shortfall in current federal transportation funding. In other words, an 11 cent per gallon increase is needed to fully pay for current federal funding levels.

Kevin Hoeflich, PE, is HNTB's chairman of toll services, focusing on toll client service, strategic planning and growing the firm's overall tolling practice. Hoeflich echoes the sentiment Americans revealed in a 2016 HNTB America THINKS survey, which revealed 45 percent of Americans prefer tolls to pay for future transportation infrastructure, compared to 32 percent who prefer user fees and just 23 percent who prefer higher taxes. 

Photo: Capital Beltway/I-495 HOT lanes in Virginia