Sen. Rockefeller: 'I wish I were confident' Congress will increase transportation funding

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"These overly siloed formula programs cannot meet our multimodal infrastructure needs," Rockefeller continued. "Existing funding programs aren’t equipped for strategic investments across modes on transformational projects that can really make a difference. I’m talking about projects that eliminate crippling bottlenecks in major freight corridors. I’m talking about multimodal transit and rail projects that bring communities together and empower the traveling public."

The 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) bill included approximately $109 billion for transportation projects in 2013 and 2014. The measure was partly funded by the $35 billion per year that is brought in by the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax.

The remainder of the funds for the MAP-21 bill came from a combination of trust fund sweeps and fee increases that was used to generate the approximately $20 billion difference.

As they were congratulating themselves about passing the MAP-21 bill in the midst of the 2012 presidential election, lawmakers in both parties swore the patchwork funding mechanism that were used to pay for the measure would not be repeated in 2014.

The 2012 bill is now halfway over, however, and few ideas for funding sources beyond the federal gas tax have emerged.

Rockefeller said Tuesday that it was time to start looking for places outside of the Capitol.

"So where do we go from here?" he said. "I say it’s time to look beyond just the Federal ledger. We need to use the limited federal funds we have wisely by leveraging them to attract other sources of capital and increase overall infrastructure investment. 

"It is well documented that pension funds, private equity funds, and other alternate sources of capital are able and willing to put billions into infrastructure projects in this country," Rockefeller continued. "Now, more than ever, we as policymakers should be creating an environment and providing tools to incentivize these pools of funding into infrastructure projects."

Rockefeller chided lawmakers for not addressing the transportation funding shortfall sooner.

"Sadly, we have accustomed to an ad-hoc, piecemeal approach to funding the nation’s infrastructure, spending the bare minimum in order to keep our transportation network functioning," he said. "This is unacceptable, and it’s fair to say that we in Congress have simply not done our jobs when it comes to investing for the future. Collectively, Congress has shown neither the will nor the courage to put aside divisions and work together to find a solution to our infrastructure deficit."