Shuster and Graves opening statements at the hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Long-Term Funding for Highways and Transit Programs”
(Remarks as Prepared)
Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
We’re here today for a very important reason. Long-term certainty and stability in infrastructure funding is critical for our states. Without it, our states, our economy, and the American people face the consequences. Highway and transit projects get delayed, project costs go up, and our people and businesses continue to suffer the impacts of congestion and inefficiency.
Through the FAST Act, we made great progress in providing states the certainty they need to make critical investments in projects that will build a modern and efficient 21st century infrastructure. But that certainty ends soon and once again the Highway Trust Fund will face insolvency. Congress is running out of options to cover the periodic Trust Fund short falls. We need to be forward-looking, and fundamentally address this issue in a sustainable manner.
Fortunately, the President’s focus on infrastructure has given us an opportunity to tackle the problem. I look forward to working with the White House and my colleagues in Congress, including the Ways and Means Committee, on a bipartisan infrastructure plan that includes a fiscally responsible solution for the Highway Trust Fund. I know our witnesses have some ideas on how to best do that and I thank them for participating in today’s hearing.
Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO)
Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
The question before us today is: how do we ensure we have the resources in place to build and maintain a surface transportation system that will meet the needs of our growing population and guarantee our Nation remains competitive in the 21st century?
Forecasts predict that America’s population will grow to nearly 400 million by 2050. The movement of freight is expected to increase by 40 percent over the next 30 years, while vehicle miles traveled are projected to increase by nearly 20 percent. At the same time, driverless vehicles and other advances in technology are going to change the way freight and passengers move through our Nation.
Our surface transportation system needs to keep pace with these changes. Unfortunately, our current method of providing the funding necessary to maintain and improve the system is no longer sustainable.
Beginning as early as the spring of 2020, states may have to halt construction of surface transportation projects because, once again, the Highway Trust Fund will not be able to meet its obligations. There are many reasons for this – motor fuel taxes have not been raised in 25 years, fuel economy standards have increased, not all users pay into the Trust Fund. But the fact remains, the Highway Trust fund is going broke and Congress must act to fix it. However, continuing to rely on bailouts from the General Fund is not the answer. There simply isn’t any money left under the couch cushions.
We need to work together to reform the Highway Trust Fund to ensure that users that benefit from the system, pay into the system. We need a long-term, sustainable solution that gives our states the certainty they need to plan and build surface transportation projects. We need a solution so we can build a modern and efficient transportation system. A system that will move people and goods at less cost, grow American jobs, and ensure we retain our position in the global marketplace.
Our witnesses will offer potential solutions, and discuss some innovative new approaches to funding our surface transportation programs. I thank them for appearing before us today.