AASHTO, NRDC Urge Congress to “Go Big” on Transportation

In a joint July 16 letter, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Natural Resources Defense Council urged both Democrat and Republican Congressional leadership to “go big” in terms of funding all modes of transportation – including roads and bridges, transit, passenger rail, active transportation, aviation, and water transportation.

[Above photo by the Architect of the Capitol]

“We are at a historic crossroads in surface transportation history. Intertwined crises confront us – a catastrophic pandemic, an uncertain economic recovery, a reckoning with racial injustices, and global climate change,” the two groups said in their letter. “Now more than ever, we must find common ground to advance policies and investments to solve these monumental challenges.”

Photo by the Hawaii DOT

While recognizing that both are “often on opposite sides” on transportation policy debates, “we are united now in encouraging lawmakers to come together to pass a long-term surface transportation bill as part of an ambitious infrastructure package. This will create good jobs, address the racial inequities built into our transportation system, and tackle the climate crisis. We need to go big and we need to do it now.”

To that end, AASHTO and NRDC said Congress should focus its surface transportation work on three key areas:

  • Securing long-term revenues and timely passage of five-year surface reauthorization legislation: That includes exploring many “possible revenue sources” for the Highway Trust Fund, including, but not limited to, fuel tax increases and indexing, per barrel oil fees, freight fees, and vehicle miles traveled or VMT fees. “Funding stability provided by federal transportation programs is absolutely crucial in order to avoid short-term program patches that cause unnecessary program disruptions and delay realization of safety, environmental, and mobility benefits for states and communities throughout the country,” the two groups said.
  • Carbon reduction, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure and expanded low-carbon travel options: Zero-emission vehicles including electric vehicles – “cars, buses, trucks, you name it” – are key to solving the “existential problem” of climate change, which is impacting state DOTs. “We also need alternative fueling and EV charging stations in metropolitan and rural areas nationwide to support the transition away from the internal-combustion engine,” AASHTO and NRDC said.

Advancing racial justice and incorporating equity, diversity, and inclusion in all aspects of transportation: That includes overhauling investment priorities, policy development, plus project and program delivery by more effectively engaging disadvantaged communities. Those are issues AASHTO’s board of directors addressed in a resolution unanimously passed at the organization’s virtual annual meeting in November 2020. “We must be inclusive and equitable in any new policies and investments moving forward,” AASHTO and NRDC said. “Both our groups support meaningful efforts by infrastructure owners and operators to explore ways to reconnect people and communities that have been divided by infrastructure barriers.”

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