Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood opened his speech at the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Washington Briefing on Feb. 27 by reminiscing, but before it was over he reminded those in attendance that the good times can quickly cease.
LaHood was quick to cover the positives of his four years as head of the U.S. DOT, pointing to highlights like the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, “which pulled our economy back from the brink and gave us a renewed focus on infrastructure not seen in generations,” he said. Since 2008, between the recovery act and core infrastructure funds, LaHood claimed over 350,000 miles of U.S. roads have been improved and 20,000 bridges have been either repaired or replaced. Another highlight of LaHood’s tenure has been TIGER grants, which have provided over $3 billion in funding for 217 projects.
But the Transportation Secretary’s tone began to sour as soon as he mentioned MAP-21. “Two years was all the money [Congress] could fund,” he declared.
“We know what needs to be done. The question is how to pay for it. Where do we get the resources to get beyond a two-year bill, to do a five-year bill . . . to begin to do what previous generations have done? That is what the debate has to be about.”
LaHood then went on to slam the upcoming sequester and urged AASHTO members to take action before it is too late.
“Sequester is a dumb idea,” he said. “It’s a meat-axe approach. It will not work. It will not work in us reaching our goals to improve America’s transportation. If you want to quote me on that it is fine with me.
“Help us figure out how to get through this short-term mess that’s been created by sequester.”
Both the Airport Improvement Program and Core Highway Program are exempt from sequester cuts. However, the move could effect payments to the Highway Trust Fund.