The American Highway Users Alliance on May 21 urged Congress to take action to relieve the traffic congestion that is choking highways, slowing commerce, and jeopardizing safety.
"As a nation, we have failed to build the roads we need to meet either our population or economic needs," said Highway Users chairman Michael J. Toohey. "We must invest properly in our transportation infrastructure to reduce congestion and address growing gridlock."
Toohey testified at a hearing on congestion held by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
According to the American Highway Users Alliance, Toohey noted that during the past 30 years the number of licensed drivers in America has grown by 63 percent, the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has climbed by 132 percent, but total road mileage has increased only 6 percent.
"Communities that added road capacity at or close to their rate of growth experienced a lower level of congestion than those who did not," said Toohey, citing a Texas Transportation Institute study. "And, as our own studies show, congestion can be reduced significantly and safety can be enhanced by making even modest improvements at traffic bottlenecks."
Toohey suggested that Congress consider a balanced approach to relieving congestion that combines additional highway capacity with a variety of transit improvements, new technologies, and other efficiency options. He also said that the Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality (CMAQ) program within TEA 21 should be amended to include highway construction projects that will reduce congestion, and he encouraged efforts to streamline the environmental review process for highway projects.
"Naming the U.S. Department of Transportation as the lead agency for conducting the reviews, establishing clear deadlines for the inputs from other departments and agencies, and establishing a format for state and local participation all have the potential to help reduce the current 10 to 12 year review timeline to a more reasonable pace," Toohey said.
Toohey also urged Congress to protect the Highway Trust Fund to ensure the reliability and predictability of highway investments. He encouraged Congress to shift ethanol tax receipts into the Trust Fund, compensate the Fund for revenues lost to the gasohol subsidy, and stem fuel tax evasion.
The American Highway Users Alliance represents motorists, truckers, and a broad cross-section of businesses that depend on highways to transport their families, customers, employees, and products. Highway Users members pay the bulk of the taxes that finance the federal highway program and advocate public policies that dedicate those taxes to improved highway safety and mobility. More information about The Highway Users can be found online at www.highways.org
The full testimony can be found at www.highways.org/congestion_testimony.html