AASHTO Journal

Stakeholders Pivot to Trust Fund Issue, Look Toward Shaping Legislation

Major stakeholder groups, which had waited a year for President Trump to offer his vision for infrastructure investment, thanked him for generating attention to the issue but quickly focused on fixing the Highway Trust Fund for the long term and shaping investment legislation as it emerges in Congress.

Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said: "State DOT leaders appreciate the president's ongoing interest in, and support for, increased federal investment in infrastructure. We hope the release of the Trump infrastructure plan can be a starting point for a robust conversation on how best to make the critical investments in surface transportation."

He continued: "AASHTO and its members stand ready to work with the administration and Congress to address the long-term viability of the Highway Trust Fund and to speed the federal review and permitting process."

At the Associated General Contractors of America, CEO Stephen Sandherr called the Trump plan "thought-provoking" but said that "many, including this association, will seek changes to further improve upon the president's concept."

bridgework2.jpgAmong other things, Sandherr said, "Congress must identify ways to address chronic funding shortfalls affecting the federal Highway Trust Fund that have put needed highway, bridge and transit improvements at risk too many times during the past decade. And Congress must also identify effective and long-term ways to fund other infrastructure improvements that are just as vital to our continued economic success."

He added that the most significant aspect of the Trump plan "is that it signals the start of what should be a timely, bipartisan and bicameral process to identify the best ways to fund and finance desperately needed improvements to our public infrastructure."

American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said it was "heartening" that the president pushed the issue to the forefront.

However, Spear noted that the ATA has proposed levying new federal motor fuel taxes at the wholesale level to bolster the trust fund and pay for other infrastructure needs without tolls that truckers generally oppose.

"While the White House's plan kick-starts this debate," he said, "it unfortunately falls short of the president's campaign promise to go big and bold, because it lacks the required federal investment. A proposal that relies on fake funding schemes like highway tolls and privatizing rest areas will not generate the revenue necessary to make significant infrastructure improvements."

Spear added that "we also have grave concerns with the failure of the administration's budget proposal and infrastructure proposal to address the imminent collapse of the Highway Trust Fund."

The Transportation Construction Coalition – made up of 31 industry and union groups – said it agreed with proposals in the investment plan to speed project permitting, but did not like Trump's budget proposals to cut some transportation programs.

It said the issues now shift to Congress, and said the coalition members will work to help produce project investment legislation.

"All eyes are now on Congress to send to the president for his signature an infrastructure package, before the August recess, that provides additional resources to help improve, not just maintain, our nation's infrastructure," the coalition said. "There is no better way to do just that than by passing a package that includes a permanent, growing, user-based Highway Trust Fund revenue solution."

Thomas Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, credited Trump for releasing the plan but Donohue noted that he recently proposed phasing in a 25-cent-per-gallon increase in motor fuel taxes to fund transportation improvements.

He also focused his attention on shaping the legislation to come.

"We look forward to working with the administration, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, and stakeholders across industries and communities to rebuild America's infrastructure to support a modern, growing economy," Donohue said.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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