February 13, 2018, by David Cullen
Trucking and highway stakeholder groups are less than thrilled with devils in the details of the gargantuan Trump infrastructure plan. Photo: U.S. Dept. of Transportation
Reaction by trucking and highway interest lobbies to the full reveal of President Trump’s gargantuan infrastructure plan essentially mirror views the groups expressed last month, when some of its contents were leaked and when the plan’s funding goal was ratcheted up in the State of the Union address.
The biggest quibble—and it is one worth north of a trillion dollars— these interest groups have is with how the plan will be paid for. They are highly critical of the mere $200 billion in direct federal investment in all (not just for highways) the president contends is sufficient to stoke the spending of another $1.3 trillion or more in public (including state and local funds) and private investments to improve all of America’s infrastructure.
For example, in a statement released shortly after the plan was rolled out on Deb. 12, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear applauded Trump for “kick-starting the debate.”
But he roundly criticized the plan as a proposal that “falls short of the President’s campaign promise to go big and bold, because it lacks the required federal investment. A proposal that relies on fake funding schemes like highway tolls and privatizing rest areas will not generate the revenue necessary to make significant infrastructure improvements.”
Spear frankly stressed that “new tolling on existing interstates is a non-starter for our industry. Tolls are ineffective and wasteful, with as much as 33% of revenue being wasted on administrative and overhead costs.
He also called attention to the status of the Highway Trust Fund, which is supposed to hold monies to finance most federal spending for highways and mass transit projects. The fund is meant to be replenished by proceeds from the federal fuel tax and related excise taxes.
“We also have grave concerns with the failure of the Administration’s budget proposal and infrastructure proposal to address the imminent collapse of the Highway Trust Fund,” said Spear. “To be blunt, America is hurtling toward a highway funding cliff. If we continue on this trajectory, the motoring public, the American taxpayer and future generations are going to pay a very steep and unacceptable price.”
If that message to the White House– and to Capitol Hill– wasn’t stark enough, Spear added that, “Any infrastructure funding proposal that does not address this situation is unacceptable.”
Albeit much less forcefully, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials also argued the importance of the Highway Trust Fund in light of the Trump infrastructure plan. “State DOT leaders appreciate the president’s ongoing interest in, and support for, increased federal investment in infrastructure,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director. “We hope the release of the Trump infrastructure plan can be a starting point for a robust conversation on how best to make the critical investments in surface transportation. AASHTO and its members stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress to address the long-term viability of the Highway Trust Fund and to speed the federal review and permitting process.”
Like ATA, the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors took issue with the president’s prime-the-pump infrastructure funding model. “Freight network improvements cannot be delivered piecemeal by states and localities – over 77% of the nation’s freight moves between states, requiring a coordinated goods movement strategy and robust funding from the Federal government,” said CAGTC Executive Director Elaine Nessle in a Feb.