Tom Carper, U.S. Senator for Delaware

The Importance of Investing in Infrastructure

Our nation must use an integrated approach to solve our transportation problems. Though maintaining a safe and effective roadway system is essential, we must work to provide Americans with other methods of transportation as well.

Transportation options like mass transit, passenger rail and places that make it easy to bike or walk offer us more vibrant and livable communities where local businesses can invest and grow. These diverse transit options improve air quality, reduce our reliance on foreign oil and support healthier lifestyles. Since transportation is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions, we cannot effectively fight climate change without reining in pollution from the transportation sector.

A strong national infrastructure is part of the foundation of our economy, but we have a big challenge ahead when it comes to paying for that infrastructure. While the gas tax – which funds our transportation programs – hasn’t changed since 1993, the price of steel, concrete, asphalt, and labor has gone up. And Americans are driving more fuel efficient vehicles, including hybrids, so they’re using less gas and generating less revenue to fund transportation programs. This means that we are investing much less in transportation than we were 20 years ago, even though our population continues to grow and our existing transportation infrastructure continues to age.

I’ve long advocated for gradually restoring that purchasing power of the gas tax that has been lost since 1993, and ensure that our investments keep up with inflation thereafter. This is a fiscally responsible approach to making sure that we have the type of a world-class transportation network that can support a world-leading economy. In the mean time, Congress should explore fair and sustainable alternatives to the traditional gas tax to ensure that America can maintain and expand our transportation system so it can continue to serve Americans safely and effectively for generations to come and so that we can better compete in the global marketplace.

We will also need to make sure that this funding is going to programs that Americans have faith in and that are achieving real results, like cutting congestion, improving safety, and reducing reliance on foreign oil. We also need to make transportation more affordable. For most American families, transportation is the second largest budget item, after housing costs. This is because we built homes far from work places, provided few transit options, and made it unsafe for a child to even walk to school. While we took steps toward addressing these problems in the transportation bill Congress passed into law in 2012, we must build on that progress – especially if we are going to ask Americans to pay more for these services.

One of my top priorities since coming to Congress has been to enhance intercity passenger rail systems, like Amtrak. Amtrak meets the transportation needs of millions of Americans and thousands of businesses nationwide, including more than 700,000 Delaware riders each year. Funding for intercity rail projects is a critical step toward modernizing our transportation infrastructure, reducing congestion on our roads and highways, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Fuel efficiency is also an essential component of our nation’s transportation solution. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was a landmark effort to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil and decrease air pollution. The legislation included a bipartisan compromise - developed by my colleagues and I in the Senate – to increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard from 10 miles per gallon to 35 miles per gallon by model year 2020. President Obama recently moved up this deadline to 2016 and has set an additional goal of reaching 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. By 2025, this enhanced fuel efficiency standard will cut U.S. oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels of oil per day compared with 2010 levels, nearly twice the amount of oil currently imported from the Persian Gulf each day. It will also save consumers $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and result in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 per vehicle.

The Need to Pass a Long-Term Transportation Bill This Year

Congress must act this summer to pass and fund a long-term transportation bill. Last summer, I urged long-term action only to be told we needed another short-term patch to provide the time needed to complete a long-term bill. The time is here. Our states, cities and businesses are asking for more certainty so that they can plan the type of transformative projects that will restore our aging infrastructure and strengthen our economy. 

Here are some of the groups who have called for long-term action in this Congress and last:

2015

2014
Here is what the press is saying:

NEWS JOURNAL: Congress dilly-dallies as roads worsen

By The Editorial Board
June 7, 2015

No matter how many times we hear it said, the claim that our roads, bridges and airports are in desperate need of repair just does not sink in. Congress obviously does not believe it. Late last month it extended the transportation law that keeps our system moving for the 33rd time in six years. Yes, 33 extensions.

This one is for two months. Come July 31, we will probably get a 34th extension. The problem is the gasoline tax, the prime source of funding for road repairs and other transportation updates. In addition, the Highway Trust Fund is now at its lowest since 1966. That too is expected to run out of money this summer. Then what? Another temporary extension, a quick infusion of cash from some other source, and another debt that will have to be paid later.

KANSAS CITY STAR: Congress loves the Highway Trust Fund, but it shirks responsibility

By The Editorial Board
May 31, 2015

For the past decade Congress has failed to pass a long-term funding plan for the nation’s critical transportation infrastructure. Just recently it again kicked the can down the road.

The current Trust Fund authorization was set to expire at the end of May, when the U.S. Department of Transportation would have had to cut off funding for projects around the country. To prevent that, Congress passed a two-month extension. If it doesn’t come up with a plan by then, well, it can punt again.

DENVER POST: Highway Trust Fund needs an honest fix

By The Editorial Board
May 30, 2015

Over the past 12 years, The Hill reports, Congress has passed no fewer than two dozen short-term extensions.

Truly, this bad habit needs to end. It actually isn't that hard to fix the Highway Trust Fund. Compared to tackling entitlements, in fact, it looks like a snap.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Congress, it's time to really fix the Highway Trust Fund

By The Editorial Board
May 20, 2015 

This is Congress at its most frustrating. There is widespread public support for repairing and upgrading the nation's infrastructure, and there have been bipartisan proposals to help close the funding gap by gradually increasing the gasoline tax, which hasn't been raised since 1993. Federal officials have documented the backlog of deferred maintenance — more than half of the nation's major roads are rated poor or mediocre and one-quarter of the bridges are structurally deficient. Yet lawmakers repeatedly passed stopgap measures rather than address the underlying problem, which is that the fund doesn't generate enough money to pay for the essential transportation investments needed.

USA TODAY: Crumbling infrastructure gets another patch: Our view

By The Editorial Board
May 19, 2015 

Imagine setting out on a long trip planning to buy gasoline a gallon at a time and hope it lasts until the next station.

That's pretty much how Congress has been funding road and transit projects for the past six years. Every few months, it passes a temporary measure, called a "patch." Patch No. 32 will run out at the end of this month. And the strong likelihood is that it will be followed by No. 33. The House passed its version Tuesday. It lasts all the way until July 31.

MIAMI HERALD: Congress asleep at the wheel

By The Editorial Board
May 18, 2015 

Congress has consistently shortchanged Amtrak, and this tragedy is unlikely to shake Capitol Hill out of its torpor. House Republicans cut more than $1 billion from President Obama’s $2.45-billion Amtrak funding request the day after the derailment, which would leave it $251 million below current spending levels.

But Congress hasn’t just neglected the nation's passenger railroad — it has ignored the entire transportation system and the nation's roadways, too. The Highway Trust Fund, the main source of funding for the highway system, has been shrinking for more than 20 years and is nearly insolvent.

VIRGINIAN-PILOT: Fix roads by raising federal gas tax

By The Editorial Board
April 29, 2015 

The latest short-term measure, approved in August, was supposed to provide lawmakers a final chance to get their act together and approve a plan that stabilized revenue and permitted construction of long overdue projects.

Yet here we are, barely a month away from the deadline, and Congress has yet to begin serious public deliberation of a sustainable solution.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Commentary: Higher gas tax needed to improve U.S. roads

By Barry Ritholtz
April 28, 2015 

Get in your car and go for a drive just about anywhere in the U.S. You will be confronted with a transportation system desperately in need of a reboot. I'm not referring to a full upgrade to smart roads — the sensor-driven intelligent system that promises to move vehicles more cheaply and efficiently. Rather, I refer to essential repairs: filling potholes, basic maintenance.

In the U.S., we have allowed a transportation grid that was once the envy of the world to become an embarrassing wreck.

BALTIMORE SUN: Time to index federal gas tax to inflation

By The Editorial Board
April 10, 2015 

Wouldn't it be great to live with 1993 prices? A dozen eggs was less than a dollar. First-class postage was 29 cents. And the cost of a gallon of gas was $1.13 […]

So why would anyone believe the United States can have its highways, bridges and public transit for 22-year-old prices? But that's essentially what we're stuck with as Congress hasn't changed the gas tax — the primary source of revenue for the federal Highway Trust Fund — since it was last increased in 1993.

AKRON BEACON JOURNAL: Raise the gas tax, and make better policy

By The Editorial Board
April 6, 2015 

When Congress launched the interstate highway system almost six decades ago, it included a Highway Trust Fund, or funding mechanism that would ensure the effort was self-sustaining. Revenue would be raised through a gasoline tax, a classic “user fee.” And the arrangement worked well, until recently. Money going into the fund from the gas tax has not kept pace with demand. So, the past six years, lawmakers have applied temporary fixes, drawing on general revenue and budgeting gimmicks, borrowing to pay for roads and bridges.

NEWSWEEK: Raise the Gas Tax Now

By Michael Levi
January 13, 2015 

Three months ago, gas taxes were untouchable. Now, with oil prices down, they're having a moment. Public voices ranging from Larry Summers to Charles Krauthammer are calling for hikes. (Summers argues for a carbon tax; Krauthammer says the tax should be raised "a lot.")

More important, serious lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have gotten in on the game. The general thrust of the arguments on offer is that with oil prices falling, it's now possible to raise the gas tax and still leave consumers better off than they were half a year ago.

THE ECONOMIST: Highway to hell

By Buttonwood
July 23, 2014 

NEW YORK TIMES: Highways Need a Higher Gas Tax

By The Editorial Board
July 15, 2014

Related Press Releases

Related News Articles

Related Speeches

There are no records to display that match the provided criteria.

Show Hide

Was this page useful?

Click here to email my office
---Or---
Call my office - (202) 224-2441