ASA Celebrates 2023 Infrastructure Week!
As we celebrate Infrastructure Week in 2023, we find ourselves in a place of unprecedented opportunity. Cities, towns, and villages across America have access to a historic level of federal funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS and Science Act to invest in infrastructure in their communities. The theme for this year’s Infrastructure Week is Infrastructure Works from fixing the roads and bridges that get people to work to strengthening the broadband networks children need to do their homework, cities of all sizes are putting infrastructure dollars to work to transform their communities. Now is the time for the ASA membership to maximize this opportunity and show Congress how our members are getting the job done by using federal infrastructure funds where it matters most.
To that end, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is the most significant investment in the nation’s infrastructure networks since the enactment of the Interstate Highway System in the mid-1950s. The IIJA’s robust funding will help stabilize and enhance every state’s long-term transportation improvement plans. Furthermore, this multi-year plan will facilitate private sector investments in equipment and personnel. As the transportation construction industry works to deliver the improvements needed to build the roads, bridges, tunnels, rail, transit, ports, energy facilities, water conveyance systems, broadband capacity and public works projects funded through IIJA, these are a few of the regulatory obstacles we still must overcome:
- Following the Intent of the Law - The IIJA is a carefully negotiated package of policy reforms and targeted national investments. Departing from the tenets of this agreement during implementation would be counter to the spirit behind this landmark law and could thwart some of the value being brought to each state and congressional district. Specifically, stakeholders at all levels should avoid attempting to relitigate policies that could not secure bipartisan consensus.
Executing Permitting Reform – We, along with the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), have long advocated for needed reforms to expedite the transportation project review and approval process without sacrificing existing environmental protections. While there have been meaningful improvements in this area, the process for many projects still takes far too long. A key area of agreement that allowed the IIJA to move forward in a bipartisan manner are the project delivery reforms included in the law. Accordingly, the Biden administration should prioritize the implementation of “One Federal Decision” and other IIJA process enhancements before adding new regulatory requirements. These include:
- Deterring unwarranted litigation and mitigating permitting review delays at federal agencies;
- Requiring a two-year deadline for completing major project reviews; and
- Enacting page limits on environmental review documents.
These reforms will reduce unnecessary costs and delays, helping our members rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and ensuring the success of the IIJA. At all stages of implementation, we encourage every federal agency to efficiently execute and deliver IIJA’s investment to project planners.
Additionally, without increasing existing user fee rates, or the creation of new revenue streams, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) cash flow disparity will continue to grow in the coming years, exacerbated by improved vehicle fleet fuel efficiency. To cover core surface transportation program outlays during the next five-year surface transportation law at funding levels commensurate to those authorized in the 2021 IIJA, the HTF will need an additional $170 billion. When the supplemental IIJA highway, bridge and public transit programs that were paid for out of the General Fund are added, the total additional resources needed to sustain overall investment levels increases to $240 billion.
The magnitude of the looming HTF crisis and the potential impact of the resulting uncertainty on state transportation improvement plans reinforces the need for proactive congressional action. We urge Congress to:
- Act now to preserve the HTF and user pays system. Any opportunity to tackle debt ceilings, changes to the tax code or the solvency of other government trust funds should be considered opportunities to address the long-term solvency of the HTF.
- Reject all efforts to reduce or eliminate HTF user fees. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to eliminate the heavy truck excise tax with the goal of spurring sales of new, more environmentally friendly trucks. This is shortsighted, serving to subsidize the vehicles that put the most wear-and-tear on the nation’s roads and bridges and only further exacerbate HTF revenue issues.
- Congress should not wait until the current law expires to address this issue.