DOT chief: 30-year transport analysis a 'wake-up call'

DOT chief: 30-year transport analysis a 'wake-up call'
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Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE said a recent analysis of the nation’s infrastructure needs for the next 30 years that was conducted by the Department of Transportation should serve as a "wake up call" for lawmakers about the need to boost federal road and transit funding.

The long-range analysis, which has been dubbed "Beyond Traffic," predicted that the U.S. population would increase by 70 million and by 2045, traffic in Omaha, Neb., would be as bad as the current gridlock in Los Angeles.

Foxx said during an appearance on PBS’s “Charlie Rose” show that he hopes the report serves as "a wake-up call to the country that the house is on fire.

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"Use any euphemism you want but we are not investing in the infrastructure we need in the future," the Transportation chief said. "We're not taking care of what we have. And we're not even being as smart as we could be about how we use the assets that are out there today to advance mobility and get people moving again."

The transit forecast comes as lawmakers are attempting to find a funding source for a new piece of legislation on infrastructure this year. The current transportation funding bill, which includes only $11 billion worth of projects, is scheduled to expire on May 31.

Lawmakers are searching for ways to pay for a long-term extension of the measure. However, thus far there is no consensus on a funding source beyond the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, which has been used to fill the Transportation Department's Highway Trust Fund since the 1950s.

The gas tax, which predates the highway system by about 20 years, has been left without increase since 1993. It has struggled since to keep pace with infrastructure expenses in recent years as cars have become more fuel efficient.

The tax at the pump brings in about $34 billion per year. The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on road and transit projects.

Transportation advocates have argued that raising the tax, which predates the highway system by about 20 years, would be the easiest way to close the shortfall. Most lawmakers have been reluctant to ask drivers to pay more at the pump to improve the country’s infrastructure, however.

Foxx said he did not think the gas tax was a viable solution to the nation's infrastructure funding problems, even if it was increased later this year.

"Using the fuel tax ... was able to help us build the infrastructure to have the highway system we have today," he said. "But today, we have two problems. One is we have a legacy system that has to be maintained. And we also have fast-growing areas of the country that need new capacity. So we have both problems that we didn't have back in 1956."

Foxx added that he hoped the Transportation Department's analysis would spur lawmakers to look beyond the immediate problems with the Highway Trust Fund.

"It's running short because people are driving and using less fuel. They are not generating enough revenues, so the trust fund is perpetually falling short," he said. "But what we're not doing — we're budgeting to numbers but we are not budgeting to outcomes. We're not looking at where the country is going, how people are changing the way they use transportation."