The American Highway Users Alliance warned Congress today that the projected $8.6 billion 2003 transportation budget cut could be "calamitous" for state transportation projects and the economy.
"A 27 percent cut in one year in the nation's largest infrastructure program is too much," said William D. Fay, president of the American Highway Users Alliance. "It would have serious economic repercussions just at a time when the country is struggling to get out of a recession, and it would be a devastating blow to our national transportation system."
Speaking at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Fay put the magnitude of the cut into perspective. He noted that Nevada would lose more than $53 million of the $200 million it received in transportation funding this year. Similarly, Oklahoma would lose $118 million out of its $428 million in 2002 receipts. Fay said that the cut is likely to result hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.
"Equally important from the perspective of motorists," Fay said, "a 27 percent reduction in funds will delay the important benefits of roadway improvements - the safety benefits of reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities; the air quality, time-saving, and fuel-saving benefits of relieving traffic congestion; and the economic and productivity benefits of speedier deliveries."
Citing a landmark study commissioned by The Highway Users in 1999, Fay explained that very modest traffic flow improvements at the nation's 167 worst bottlenecks would result in 287,000 fewer crashes over 20 years, including 1,150 fewer fatalities and 141,000 fewer injuries; would significantly improve air quality; would slash fuel consumption by nearly 20 billion gallons; and would reduce commuters' travel time by an average of 19 minutes per trip.
Fay said the Highway Users Alliance strongly supports The Highway Funding Restoration Act, which would restore $4.4 billion to FY 2003 transportation funding. He also encouraged Congress to enact the proposal to funnel gas tax receipts from the sale of ethanol into the Highway Trust Fund, close the loopholes that have been used by some individuals to evade fuel taxes, and invest in the nation's transportation infrastructure.
"All of that money in the Highway Trust Fund] has been paid by motorists. All of it was intended to be used for road and bridge improvements. It ought to be used for its intended purpose," Fay said.
Fay said Congress should protect the integrity of highway use taxes and reject proposals that could reduce transportation funding, including the expansion of the ethanol mandate and suggestions that Highway Trust Fund monies be diverted to support passenger rail service.
"We need a well-funded federal highway program to improve safety, reduce congestion, enhance air quality, and keep our manufacturers and producers competitive in the marketplace," Fay concluded.
About The American Highway Users Alliance
The American Highway Users Alliance represents motorists, truckers, and a broad cross-section of the businesses that depend on safe and uncongested highways to transport their families, customers, employees and products. Known as The Highway Users, the group's members pay the bulk of the taxes that finance the federal highway program and promote public policies that dedicate those taxes to improved highway safety and mobility. More information can be found on the Internet at www.highways.org