National road and highway traffic volume has increased by 14 percent since 2000, putting greater pressure on Washington to embrace a new era of infrastructure construction.
So says Ray LaHood, former Transportation Secretary and current co-chair of the Washington-based group Building America’s Future.
In testimony given to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, LaHood noted that in the 1930s just over 4 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product was spent on infrastructure investment, but as of 2016 that number was down to 0.6 percent.
“Almost 40 percent of our bridges were built over 50 years ago when traffic volumes were less,” said LaHood.
Noting that there are today over 54,000 structurally deficient bridges in the U.S., LaHood remarked that if those bridges were connected end to end, “the length of them would stretch 1,216 miles or nearly the distance between Miami and New York City.”
LaHood additionally noted the irony of a country increasingly dependent upon and/or demanding same-day delivery services and the condition of many of the country’s urban streets and thoroughfares.
“Trying to drive in any major city is like trying to navigate an obstacle course with delivery trucks and other vehicles doubled parked on both sides of the street,” he said, adding: “Our streets have become almost impassable.”
Speaking to the same committee, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged Congress to pass infrastructure legislation that rewards innovation, “ensuring new technologies for reducing traffic, cutting emissions, improving goods delivery, facilitating the arrival of scooters, boring tunnels, and bringing electric and autonomous vehicles to our streets that are all developed here in the United States.”
Representing the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Garcetti also said Congress should keep a “keen eye on how we can establish steady, lasting revenue streams so our infrastructure does not fall into dire disrepair in the future with no rapid way to fix it.”
While others appearing before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have pushed for an increase in the current federal gas tax of 18.4 cents and diesel tax of 24.4 cents to help pay for the country’s infrastructure needs, other participants urged a greater shared funding effort between Washington and the states.
By Garry Boulard
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