They’ve shown us the money (in theory)…now who’s going to pay for it?

I attended the “Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure for Global Competitiveness” 2009 National Infrastructure Conference yesterday in Washington, D.C.

And the two biggest points that came out of were: They’ve supposedly shown us the money (for now) with investment from the stimulus bill, but there’s still the question of how we are going to pay for it.  Then there’s still the problem of solving the long-term transportation capacity crisis.

Not to be greedy, but the money set aside for infrastructure in the stimulus package is a start, but it barely puts a dent in the money needed for infrastructure in the United States while other countries are roaring full-speed ahead.

The Highway Trust Fund is still going to go bust, and we stand to lose highway investment by nearly half. And there’s still that pesky reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU. And we all know it’s going to be a long, uphill struggle–hopefully this time without 12 extensions throughout a two-year period.

Oh, then there’s the recent decision by the Obama Administration to take other solutions off of the table. First, let me preface this by saying, I really don’t look forward to creating any new expenses for myself, especially in this current rotten economy. And I certainly am enjoying the lower costs at the gas pump after paying out nearly $4.50 a gallon in some parts of Chicago this past summer.

But…there’s always a but isn’t there?…but increasing the gas tax was a possible solution–albeit maybe not popular–to solve some of the Highway Trust Fund solvency problems. Just in the short-term. It’s certainly not meant to be a long-term solution.

However, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood says he won’t consider it at this point. Then there’s the proposed Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) user-fee. Essentially, those that use the system pay for its use. Those that don’t, won’t. It’s still hard to figure out all the logistics for this, and there are certainly issues with enforcement and privacy.

But it was a proposed solution to restore some of the funding issues at hand. Again, I’m not saying I want to pay more to drive, but we somehow need to solve this problem.

Now that the Obama Administration has poo-pooed this proposal, too, it brings back to square one. It doesn’t like what the industry is proposing, but it doesn’t have any alternative solutions.

And around and around we go.

There’s so much more to cover here. Please check out the April 2009 print edition of “Better Roads” magazine for a special report in the news section of the magazine when it comes out.