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Driving Increases in Wisconsin and Across the Nation
Americans drove 221 billion miles in February according to new estimates from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration(FHWA). This represents a 2.8 percent increase over last February and the second highest February ever.
U.S. DOT Secretary Foxx says this growing traffic volume underscores the need for increased transportation infrastructure investment.
Over the first two months of this year, U.S. driving increased 3.9 percent. The new estimates are consistent with projections made by Secretary Foxx in his “Beyond Traffic,” which projects a 43 percent increase in commercial truck shipments and population growth of 70 million by 2045.
“By measuring the demands placed upon our nation’s roads and bridges, we are better able to understand the need for greater investment in them,” said Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. “Americans are driving farther and more frequently, which makes additional investments in our highway system more important now than ever.”
Wisconsin traffic volume year-over-year grew 4.5 percent in February and 7 percent in January.
More States Step Up and Increase Transportation Investment
Earlier this year, gas tax increases were signed into law in Iowa, South Dakota and Utah. Now, two more states – Idaho and Georgia – have also passed transportation packages with new revenue.
Idaho Governor Butch Otter (R) signed legislation that will increase the state’s gas tax 7 cents a gallon as of July 1st. In addition, vehicle registration fees will increase $21 for most cars plus $25 for trucks and $10 for motorcycles. Idaho will also join a growing number of states adding charges for electric or hybrid vehicles by assessing $140 annually for electric cars and $75 for high-mileage hybrids.
The package is expected to generate $94 million a year.
The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation to raise an additional $900 million a year for transportation by increasing fuel and vehicle fees, ending tax breaks for electric and high-efficiency vehicles and adding a new hotel tax. The measure also allows local governments to increase transportation-related taxes.
The legislation raises approximately $700 million by converting the current sales tax on motor fuels to a per-gallon excise tax. This, in addition to the existing 7.5 cent per gallon excise tax, brings the charge as of July 1st to 26 cents per gallon for gasoline and 29 cents per gallon for diesel. The bill also creates a formula for adjusting the fuel tax annually beginning in 2016.
Governor Deal (R) says he looks forward to signing the bill.
According to the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center, more than 30 states, or well over half of the country, are considering new transportation funding legislation. Nine states— Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas and Washington — are currently considering legislation to increase their gas tax or sales tax on gasoline. Three more states— Arkansas, Michigan, and Missouri — have pending legislation to convert the flat-rate excise tax on fuel entirely to a variable-rate tax. Additionally, a bill in Maine proposes indexing the current flat gas tax to the Consumer Price Index.
A New Council to Learn What Works, What Doesn’t
More and more, states and local governments are making the link between transportation investment and economic development, safety and quality of life. Unfortunately, their transportation dollars are not keeping up and in many cases are not enough to even maintain existing transportation service levels.
So far this year, several state legislatures – including Iowa, Idaho, Georgia, South Dakota and Utah – have passed transportation funding packages with new revenue. So how did they do it?
The American Road and Transportation Builders Association has launched the Transportation Investment Advocates Council to help answer this question. The Council is national network of people who share a common interest in building support for transportation investment in their states and local communities.
The Council, an arm of the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center (TIAC), offers national and regional forums for sharing of intelligence and best practices. This includes campaign strategies, tactics, messaging, opinion and economic research and legislative and ballot language. In other words, what’s worked and what hasn’t.
The idea is to interact with and learn from others who work for national, state and local better transportation groups and coalitions, chambers of commerce, state legislatures and civic bodies, public agencies and other interested firms and organizations.
The Council has a number of co-chairs including Craig Thompson, executive director of the Transportation development Association of Wisconsin.
Visit the TIAC website for resources and consider joining the Council.
Rep. Ribble and Others Issue HTF Solvency Proposal
A bipartisan group of House legislators including Representative Reid Ribble (W-8) put forward a proposal to address the Highway Trust Fund’s sustainability for the next decade.
The bill would deal with the short-term solvency of the trust fund by indexing federal fuel taxes to inflation effective July 1, 2016. The inflation increase would be repeated each year.
Even with indexing, the trust fund would still face insolvency early in fiscal year 2017. For a long-term solution, the bill establishes a new bipartisan, bicameral commission to recommend sustainable funding. If the commission is able to reach an agreement by supermajority, that plan would then have a mandatory up-or-down vote in Congress.
If Congress doesn’t enact legislation that provides at least 3-years of funding for the Highway Trust Fund – either through a commission recommendation or an alternative plan – by December 31, 2016, the federal fuel taxes will increase to a level necessary to provide funding for the 3-year period.
Another round of automatic fuel tax increases would kick in on January 1, 2020 and provide funding for the next 5 years if Congress has not acted to provide the funding.
TDA along with many other Wisconsin transportation stakeholders sent letters of support to Representative Ribble’s office.
Interesting News Coverage
Eau Claire Leader-Telegram Editorial, April 23, 2015 – “Road borrowing to hit 'next generation'”
Beloit Daily News Editorial, April 22, 2015 – “Funding puzzle needs solutions: Important projects remain at-risk because politics is given priority.”
Asbury Park Press, April 21, 2015 – “Poll finds more NJ voters willing to raise gas
The Atlantic, March 31, 2015 – “How red states learned to love the gas tax”
The Hill.com, March 25, 2015 – “Poll: Travelers willing to pay higher airport fees”
Transportation in the News
More Wisconsinites support raising fees over borrowing for transportation. The spring 2015 Wisconsin Public Radio poll, The Wisconsin Survey, conducted by the St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute found that 48% of those surveyed would support increased fees to fund transportation investments, while 33% would support continued borrowing.
ARTBA analysis reveals 61,000 deficient bridges in the U.S. Closer to home, Wisconsin has 1,212 structurally deficient bridges or 9% of the state’s bridges. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the federal Highway Trust Fund is the source of approximately 52 percent of highway and bridge capital investments made annually by state governments. The latest extension of the federal surface transportation program funded through the HTF expires May 31st.
U.S. 41 has been officially added to the Interstate System as I-41. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officially approved the Interstate designation – the final step in a process that began nearly 10 years ago. Installation of about 3,000 new signs will begin this summer with signing expected to be completed by November 2015.
“The official designation of I-41 is tremendous news that will support the safe, efficient movement of people and commerce for many years to come,” said Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb.
Register Today for the TDA Drive-in
2015 TDA Drive-in
May 6th at The Madison Club
Leadership Isn't Easy
Wisconsin’s significant transportation needs have been well documented. In the Badger State, we are particularly dependent on a reliable and efficient transportation system due to the dominance of the manufacturing, agriculture and tourism industries. Opinion leaders and elected officials all seem to agree on this point.
Verbal support and nice words, however, are not fixing our growing transportation financing problem. As the public and elected officials have grappled with the best method to pay for our transportation needs, the can has been kicked down the road.
Come to the TDA Drive-in on May 6th to hear from our elected leaders, share your perspective with them and make the case for bold leadership and sound transportation investment.
You can register online or send your registration form to the TDA office by fax or pdf. Please register by this Friday, May 1st.
East-West Classic / 7TH Annual WTS Golf Outing
The annual East-West/WTS golf outing is at the Oaks Golf Course in Cottage Grove on Wednesday, June 10. Proceeds from the event willbenefit students pursuing transportation-related education.
10:30 AM announcements
11 AM shotgun start (4 person scramble)
Fee: $75 (Fee includes 18 holes of golf, cookout and range balls
Register by May 15th for the early bird rate of $75.
Mark Your Calendar
- TDA Annual Meeting: Tuesday, September 15th.
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