Stimulus too little for freight transportation infrastructure

(Regarding article “Lawmakers struggle to pay for new transportation bill,” June 2.) In these challenging economic times, America’s leaders are focused on putting people back to work, stimulating our economy and restoring our global competitiveness. It has become increasingly clear that investing in our nation’s transportation infrastructure is a critical component to our economic recovery and long-term sustained prosperity.

Although the infrastructure funding provided as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package was a good first step, our government can and must do more to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Congress needs to enact new surface transportation legislation before the current law expires at the end of September, and addressing goods-movement challenges and alleviating freight congestion must be a top priority.

Seventeen organizations representing America’s diverse freight community have joined together to call for a comprehensive national freight program and adequate infrastructure investment, particularly for projects of regional and national significance, in the upcoming legislation. Under the banner of the Freight Stakeholders Coalition, the group is also seeking the establishment of a multi-modal freight office within the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the formation of a National Freight Advisory Group, and the expansion of freight planning expertise at the state and local levels.

Seaports are at the heart of our nation’s transportation system and road, rail, and waterside connections must have higher levels of federal attention and investment to help facilitate America’s economic recovery and create jobs. Nearly everything we buy or consume — from the clothes we wear to the foods we eat — comes through one of our nation’s seaports. In turn, nearly everything we sell in the global marketplace makes its way there via our seaports. Aging, over-capacity transportation connections raise prices for the goods we create and consume, which lowers our quality of life, puts American jobs at risk and reduces our ability to compete.

In 2007 alone, U.S. seaports generated $3.2 trillion in economic activity and more than $212 billion in federal, state and local taxes. They supported the employment of more than 13 million Americans, with seaport related jobs accounting for $649 billion in personal income. In fact, for every $1 billion in exports shipped through our seaports, more than 15,000 American jobs are created.

Building and maintaining our nation’s transportation system is a fundamental responsibility of the federal government. Funding for our national infrastructure will create thousands of jobs, generate billions in tax revenue and spending and strengthen our seaports. And this is exactly the kind of smart, strategic economic recovery we need.

Alexandria, Va.


Tax miles driven, not gasoline used

From Steve G. Kirkikis

The present 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax should be replaced with a road use tax based on a bar code being installed on the vehicles to reflect the EPA miles-per-gallon rating for the vehicle, with a scanner installed on the pump hose handle, after safety issues are addressed, to read the bar code.

A road use tax of 1 cent per mile, or more, is calculated by the pump to reflect the gallons of gas pumped according to the EPA rating for the vehicle. The road use tax for trucks will be 5 or 10 cents per mile, or more, depending on their weight.

A road use tax for miles driven will address the issue of wear and tear on roads and highways caused by more fuel-efficient vehicles, and by vehicles that do not use gasoline such as electric vehicles, and vehicles that use propane, compressed natural gas and hydrogen.

For the non-gasoline-fueled vehicles, the road use tax can be 1 cent per mile driven, or more, that is paid at the time the vehicle is purchased by paying, for example, for an electric vehicle, $200 for 20,000 miles to be driven; with a cut-off switch on the ignition when the 20,000 miles are driven with warning lights on the dash to alert the motorist that the road use tax mileage will run out soon.

By implementing this road use tax for miles driven over two years, vendors and motorists will have time to retrofit their equipment and vehicles for a smooth transition that will not change the way motorists get fuel for their vehicles. When this tax is implemented, the per-gallon tax is repealed.

Shreveport, La.