DOT Adviser Praises Congressional Commission Proposal to Reform Transportation Financing

February 26, 2009

Dan Cronin, 202-572-3354-w or 202-251-9549-c,

(Washington, DC – February 26, 2009)  Environmental Defense Fund praised a new report that identifies under-investment in transportation and dependence on the federal gas tax as key causes of poor transportation system performance that cost drivers $78 billion a year in congestion-related costs. 
The report, “Paying Our Way: A New Network for Transportation Finance,” was released today by a bi-partisan, congressionally-appointed National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission. The report shows the growing consensus for implementing a comprehensive new transportation revenue system by 2020 or sooner.  It recommends a temporary federal gas tax hike that transitions to a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee. 
“If we are serious about fixing our country’s transportation crisis, this report is a good place to start the debate,” said Michael Replogle, a civil engineer, transportation director for Environmental Defense Fund and an adviser to the U.S. Department of Transportation on intelligent transportation systems. “We applaud the Commission for introducing ideas, such as the VMT fee, that can both raise revenue and reward infrastructure and personal decisions that result in less environmental impact. New, innovative funding mechanisms like the ones proposed in this report — coupled with a cap on global warming pollution — could help finance a shift to a cleaner infrastructure.”
“However, a great deal depends on how revenue is spent, not just how it’s raised,” Replogle added. “The report’s recommendations need to be paired with a new federal cap on global warming pollution and strong requirements that transportation plans and programs cut greenhouse gas emissions by cutting traffic growth and congestion.”
“Otherwise, there is a danger that revenue increases will worsen our problems by wasting money on building new roads to crumbling bridges, fueling more sprawl, traffic growth and pollution,” concluded Replogle. “A portion of revenues from a carbon cap could be used to supplement transportation funding, expanding travel choices for Americans who are stuck in traffic without any alternatives to driving.”