At this year's American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) 2019 Washington Briefing, congressional transportation leaders discussed a variety of transportation funding options while emphasizing the strong support that exists in Congress to pass infrastructure legislation this year.
According to the AASHTO Journal, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) stressed during the briefing that Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the House T&I Committee, is setting an aggressive schedule to get a transportation infrastructure funding bill done this year. DeFazio is said to be aiming to get a bill delivered out of the committee by May.
The transportation funding options put on the table included a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee, wider use of tolling and a hike in the federal fuel tax. Graves said in his remarks that he is not a fan of tolling, but does support a VMT fee. He also emphasized the difficult political realities of raising the federal gas tax, particularly with movements toward more efficient internal combustion engines as well as movements away from fossil fuels altogether persist.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, noted in his remarks that the Highway Trust Fund is projected to become insolvent in 2021. But he also emphasized the need for maintaining reliable formula funding to protect long-term planning in addition to the need to speed up project delivery by "cutting red tape" in the permit approval process.
DeFazio called attention to restoring earmarks for transporation funding, which he believes would help legislatures more directly connect user fees such as the gas tax to transportation improvements. He also said he supports the exploration of VMT fees, adding that his committee's transportation bill will include provisions for a national VMT pilot program.
Full remarks by transportation leaders in Congress at the Washington Briefing can be found on the AASHTO Journal website.
Source: AASHTO Journal