Ag Policy Blog

Life is an Unfunded Highway

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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I have to find symbolism where I can get it, even if it means cranking up Tom Cochrane's "Life is a Highway." Don't bring up the Rascal Flatts version, which is like a highway with a bridge that is washed out.

So I thought it was somewhat interesting that as I'm touring agriculture this week along a small piece of a famous highway that the White House is focusing on highway infrastructure this week. Key senators on Monday also released their proposal for reauthorizing the highway bill as well.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee leaders issued a news release Monday announcing the bill text and committee meeting for the highway bill, known as MAP-21, or Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. (Seriously, what would Congress do without minions to craft legislative acronyms for legislation?)

The Senate proposal would spend $330 billion over six years on infrastructure and would seek to consolidate some Department of Transportation programs. It would also provide new money for projects considered to have regional or national significance. Some funds would be set aside specifically for rural areas as well.

One thing the Senate bill doesn't do is address the long-term dwindling of the Highway Trust Fund. The trust fund comes from fuel taxes, but has dwindled in recent years because of increased fuel efficiency in vehicles as well as the recession that caused long-distance highway travel to decline. Lawmakers have not come up with solutions to prop up the trust fund mainly because of resistance to raising fuel taxes or look at alternatives to fuel taxes.

The White House released an analysis Monday arguing for the need for spend more on highway infrastructure. The analysis states 65% of major roads are rated as "less than good condition" while one in four bridges require significant repair or upgrades to handle traffic.

The White House also stressed that the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money by September. Absent legislation, states will be forced to delay or stop work on some highway and bridge projects as well as mass transit projects.

President Obama is proposing spending $302 billion over four years on infrastructure projects. That's a 37% increase in spending. The president would pay for this play by "using one-time revenue and reforming our business tax system." The president's tax proposal would generate roughly $150 billion more in taxes, but is unlikely to receive backing in Congress.

The president will travel to New York on Wednesday to make his case about boosting infrastructure spending.

White House analysis:…

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5/21/2014 | 8:25 AM CDT
Jay Mcginnis
5/20/2014 | 12:03 PM CDT
I find your insistence on learning my address to be personally threatening Craig, you have been asking this for months now along with being demeaning.
5/20/2014 | 8:49 AM CDT
Jay Last year the FED printed and sent to Wall Street $200 million more than we spent in Iraq over 10 years. They were hoping their trickle down program would benefit Main Street and it didn't. In the next 10 years we sill spend at least $800 billion on food stamps helping making poor people fat. All the benefits we throw at people that don't work, whether they want to or not, and not one hour of community service is required to get them. Yep, your president is doing good for the US. You are a government employee, aren't you? Come on Jay, city and state just once, if you have any guts to back up your words.
Roger Cooper
5/19/2014 | 8:56 AM CDT
I'll just stick with my E85 ---- clean burning, 105 octane, renewable, domestic, good for animal feed and ag!
Jay Mcginnis
5/18/2014 | 7:45 AM CDT
The electric car is doing fine Craig, 21,000 carbon free miles on it and yes I do have a regular gasoline pu truck. No they aren't the answer for everything oil powered but thats the point. We as a society could replace huge amounts of oil with these, how many people drive short drives and own a 2nd car? If the demand is there the battery technology will become better for longer range. Why is big oil afraid of electric cars and solar if it doesn't work? Also the Amtrack in the Northeast is a success story but could be one for the country as a whole. We needed high speed trains more then a war in Iraq, the return would have been much greater on the $800 billion wasted. $800 billion would have connected all cities 5000 pop and above with high speed rail. Airlines are an extreme waste of fuel and huge carbon emitters,,, also high speed rail would be much more comfortable. So what did the Iraq war accomplish? Who's money was used to fight it? You seem to worry about how your tax money is spent and Id love to know your appreciation for the Bush administrations decisions?
5/16/2014 | 8:15 AM CDT
Jay - No rants about how great your electric car is? And how much did you get to drive it the last winter? Do you really own one and is that all you drive? And why should we just punish those that you don't like while giving a free ride to those that you do like? And don't you think that if they had spent more on infrastructure with the last stimulus instead of bloating government agencies and exploding SNAP that that might have improved things. And we are paying billions in the rail system and all we have to show for it is a money losing Amtrak.
Jay Mcginnis
5/16/2014 | 7:24 AM CDT
We should do what they do in Europe, treat driving as the luxury it is, tax gasoline to $10/gallon and use the funds not only to upkeep the roads but build the rails! Trains are the most economical, energy saving, smallest carbon footprint and most comfortable means of transportation! But maybe everyone really likes the time they sit in traffic going 5 mph breathing all that smog?
Bonnie Dukowitz
5/15/2014 | 3:57 PM CDT
Better roads cause excessive speed and less efficiency, no matter what energy used. How about just staying home and knitting a little more often.
Jay Mcginnis
5/15/2014 | 11:20 AM CDT
Just raise the gasoline tax to make up revenue lost from efficient fuel cars, doing so will get the gas hogs in more efficient vehicles and lessen greenhouse gasses and oil dependance. There are probably more Amish driving buggies and bicycles on the roads them electric cars so you guys may want address that as well, you'll have just as much luck! If the GOP didn't cut the stimulus we would have better roads and I suspect that the Highway fund will run out probably because the party of TEA doesn't like roads, they are too Socialist.
Pedro Sanchez
5/13/2014 | 11:12 AM CDT
Craig, that's is a good point, though how much "revenue" would those cars bring in. I don't even have the foggiest idea either. As we get more and more hybrid/electric cars on the road, we will need to find a source of revenue for road repair from those vehicles. I don't want to pay anymore for my fuel than I currently do, but at least (most) of the tax we pay from our fuel goes to repairing our roads.
5/13/2014 | 8:31 AM CDT
Gas taxes pay for construction and upkeep of the road systems. How much do electric car owners pay for the right to drive on the roads?