05 March 2008
US infrastructure investment needs to more than double current levels, says the latest report from the US Congress' 12-member National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.
After 22 months of deliberations, the US Congress' 12-member National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission has produced its final report, which recommends a huge increase in US transport infrastructure spending. Transportaion for Tomorrow is intended as a blueprint for how the US should update its infrastructure in the face of a growing population and the demands of increasing trade.
Among the Commission's findings was the conclusion that the US needs to spend a minimum of US$ 225 billion per year on infrastructure. However, current investment is less than 40% of that figure. The Commission also emphasised that if under-investment continued, roads would become less safe and there would be a higher death toll from traffic accidents.
The Commission has made two key recommendations about how the US can improve its infrastructure. The first is to reform the project development process to cut the time and cost required to deliver projects. The second is to adopt a performance-based approach designed to tackle problematic issues.
Among the ten areas the Commission has identified for Federal-level attention are; the need for a national asset management programme for infrastructure, the need to improve freight transportation, congestion relief, safety, better transport for smaller cities and rural areas, the need for an inter-city passenger rail network in high-growth areas and environmental protection.
In the short term, the Commission says most of this investment will continue to be funded by motor fuel taxes. However, it also says legislation is required urgently to ensure the Federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) remains solvent.
Over the longer term it says a range of funding sources will be needed besides fuel taxes, which currently provide 90% of the HTF. Besides recommending that fuel taxes should be indexed to inflation, the Commission also suggests the introduction of a Federal ‘ticket tax', Federal freight fees, the use of some customs duties revenues to improve freight transport and increased tolling on the Interstate network. Congestion charging should also be considered.