In historic fashion this week, the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee heard the perspectives of national stakeholders on transit investment needs for the upcoming reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs. This was the first public hearing, other than nominations, that the Committee has held on transit infrastructure in several reauthorization cycles, and will continue to build on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee’s success in passing their portion of the reauthorization earlier this year.
In his opening remarks, Chairman Mike Crapo’s (R-ID) stated:
“A long-term reauthorization bill is critical to providing the certainty and stability that transit agencies, cities and states across the country need to make responsible transportation planning decisions. However, we find ourselves at yet another surface transportation reauthorization where the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is the most significant issue that needs to be addressed in order to advance a comprehensive, long-term reauthorization bill. While this Committee does not have jurisdiction over how surface transportation bills are paid for, it is important that revenue shortfalls are addressed in a way that meets current transportation needs.”
Testifying before the Committee was Mr. Paul Skoutelas, President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA); Mr. Patrick McKenna, President of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO); Mr. Scott Bogren, Executive Director of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA); Mr. Ed Mortimer, Vice President of Transportation and Infrastructure, Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America; and Mr. Larry Willis, President of the Transportation Trades Department at AFL-CIO. Each group took this opportunity to ask lawmakers for more robust transit funding, echoing the need to fix the HTF since the Mass Transit Account receives 20% of collected revenue for needed infrastructure projects.
In the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, our nation’s transit system received the grade of a D- respectively. This subpar grade is in large part a result of our dated federal gas tax and inability to properly fund the HTF and our current transportation infrastructure needs. In addition to finding a long-term HTF solution, coupled with increased federal investments, leaders at all levels must properly budget and fund transit maintenance and improvements and implement asset management best practices to ensure high system operability.
Transit serves communities of all sizes across the nation. Whether its in large metropolitan areas, rural communities, or somewhere in between; transit can connect individuals and communities to economic and social opportunities, enhance safety, and minimize environmental impacts. ASCE applauds the Senate Banking Committee for taking this first step in developing comprehensive legislation and we are eager to work with the Committee to ensure our nation has a strong transit network as part of a comprehensive, multi-modal transportation system.