At the second annual U.S. Chamber of Commerce Transportation Summit held Thursday in Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that the Highway Trust Fund is in much worse shape than most know, coming up short with cash well before the current surface transportation bill, MAP-21 expires on Sept. 30.
"The United States faces a massive infrastructure deficit. If not addressed, this infrastructure deficit will stunt the recovery we've begun and cripple our economy," Foxx said. "A number of commentators have expressed concern about what happens to transportation spending when the Highway Trust Fund runs out in fiscal year 2015. Little do some of them know that the HTF is on track to bounce checks before FY 2015—as soon as this August."
Foxx expressed his relief that Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) are both striving to have a bill before MAP-21's expiration at the end of September (Boxer wants to see one by April, Shuster by August) and said immediate transportation investment is needed.
"Less revenue, more people, more freight, more gridlock. This is not a good formula for success," Foxx said. "We should stop aiming just to get the Highway Trust Fund level again; we should aim to cut into a bigger piece of our infrastructure deficit by investing more—now."
Foxx said that while MAP-21 was a great step in making reforms and streamlining transportation projects, the new transportation bill should go further.
"We have a surface transportation bill that will expire—and we need to go further than technical corrections to MAP-21," Foxx said. "We need a bill that reshapes the transportation for the 21st century, building on MAP-21 but going further. We need a transportation system smart enough to plan along economic lines, not just political ones."
Wrapping up his remarks, Foxx called on business leaders to demand more in a transportation bill.
"We need you to speak up. All of you can play a role in putting our transportation system on a more certain and sustainable path," he said. "Tell Congress no more one-year or two-year band-aids. Tell them what's at stake for you and your employees and the products you sell. Tell them to get to yes."
A video of Foxx's speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Transportation Summit is available here and his full written remarks are located here. Additional thoughts from Foxx can be found on his FastLane blog here.