Last week, when President Obama signed the jobs bill into law, he also extended the Highway Trust Fund through the end of 2010.
This is important--not only for users of our roadways--but for all users of surface transportation in the United States. That includes transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians. And it's great that the Fund is good-to-go through the end of the year.
But we cannot afford to wait until the end of the year to begin thinking about how to finance our surface transportation in the years to come. And the members of the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association I welcomed to Washington this morning know that.
In the past, the Highway Trust Fund has been largely user-supported through fuel-tax revenue. The idea is that drivers who use the roadways will need to buy gas, and generally how much gas they buy corresponds to how many miles they've driven or how much they've used our roadways.
However, technology and behavior have changed enough that this approach is no longer sufficient. As we move forward with surface transportation reauthorization, we need lawmakers and experts to think creatively about how we're going to fund our transportation infrastructure in the 21st century. One group of experts I think we can count on is the IBTTA.
Look, collecting toll revenues may not make the IBTTA the most popular group in the world, but the tolls we love to hate do help pay for the high costs of transportation improvements.
At DOT, we’re in the process of drafting principles that will guide our thinking on tolling, pricing, public-private partnerships and other financing mechanisms that will be considered during reauthorization.
We've already got some good ideas:
- A $4 billion National Infrastructure and Finance Fund for 2011
- The TIFIA loan program that leverages $10 in credit assistance and $30 in loan assistance for every $1 the federal government spends.
- Our Recovery Act TIGER grant program that has been renewed by Congress with $600 million.
But we have more work to do. So today I congratulated the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association for its past innovations, and encouraged members to help us move forward.
These folks have pioneered the use of innovative funding tools in the past, and their input will be important to DOT, to Congress, and to all transportation users as we navigate together the route ahead.