What if the freeway you travel on everyday was shut down because it was no longer safe to use? What if your daily commute doubled or tripled due to indefinite delays in transportation infrastructure? Or, your car was routinely damaged due to severe potholes from roads that weren’t repaired?
While this probably sounds like scenes from a movie, the fact of the matter is this is a real possibility unless we take immediate action to restore transportation funding in the country and in our state.
The situation is dire. If additional revenues are not secured, the Highway Trust Fund will be depleted within a year, leaving zero funds for transportation projects, jeopardizing the safety and security of the motoring public. Necessary road maintenance and repair work will go undone, and new projects designed to alleviate congestion and allow for growth will be postponed or cancelled. Each year that necessary upgrades are delayed, the cost to complete these projects rises and the country falls further behind. These effects are felt acutely in Arizona, as funding for transportation projects and maintenance has been slashed roughly $350 million over the next five years alone.
Gas taxes, which have traditionally funded our transportation needs, haven’t kept pace with rising transportation demands. In addition, in recent years, funds that were reserved solely for transportation projects under the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) were diverted from transportation to the state’s general fund. It is obvious that a permanent funding solution must be found.
On the national front, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced a proposal last month to increase the federal gas tax by 15 cents per gallon. The bill would phase in the tax increase over three years and index the gas tax to inflation once it is fully implemented. The legislation also expresses the intention of Congress to replace the gas tax with a new funding source by 2025.
However, to date, neither Congress nor recent administrations have been willing to advance needed policy changes to address the short or long-term funding shortfall.
At the state level, this issue is no less important. Recognizing that policy makers must balance all of our state’s needs with fewer resources, we can no longer delay this dialogue. We must act now in order to secure safe and efficient transportation for our immediate and future generations.
To this end, AAA has supported raising the gas tax to meet transportation and infrastructure funding needs as long as adequate accountability and performance metrics are in place.
AAA also understands that, with increasingly fuel-efficient cars and expanding use of alternative fuel vehicles, the gas tax is not a long-term solution. A permanent replacement will be required in order to provide adequate funding to sustain and grow the system.
As an advocate for the safety and security of the motoring public, AAA recognizes the importance of safe and adequate transportation infrastructure. It’s the reason we were founded in 1902 and continues to be at the core of our mission. Therefore, we will continue to monitor any proposed legislation and urge the federal and state government to address this critical issue.
• Linda Gorman is communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650-2716 or firstname.lastname@example.org.