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Not a gas crisis. A transportation crisis.
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Not a gas crisis. A transportation crisis.

A recent headline in The Daily Caller read, “Californians are revolting against dems who voted for gas tax hike.”

According to the article, the so-called revolt began following Democratic state Senator Josh Newman’s vote in favor of the Road Repair and Accountability Act, which passed on April 6. That act imposes a “12 cents a gallon hike on citizens (fuel) and raises the tax on diesel fuel by 20 cents a gallon.”

A long, long time ago, I was waiting my turn in a gas line in Miramar, California when the price for a gallon of gas rose to one dollar right before my eyes. I thought the end of the world was near. “A dollar for a gallon of gas,” I thought. “How absurd.” I seriously could not even begin to image gasoline being this expensive.

But that was during a global fuel crisis – not a transportation crisis. And that’s what our country is facing right now.

Let’s be honest. There are a lot of cars on the road these days, and ATSSA is definitely all about making roads safer and more efficient for all road users. If you’ve ever driven in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, you know the drill. In nearby Fairfax County Virginia – 256,000 cars per day is the norm. It can take up-to three hours to travel 40 miles on any chosen road in this area. Not too much wind blowing through your hair with the roof down on these trips.

And what’s a trip without potholes? In addition to getting the tires on my truck rotated every 3,000 miles, I usually get a $75 front end alignment. That expense has unfortunately become the norm.

The website reports “the annual investment required by all levels of government to simply maintain the nation’s highways, roads, and bridges is now estimated to be $185 billion per year for the next 50 years.

Additionally, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gives our fruited plain a D plus, with a price tag to fix everything in the trillions of dollars.

So how are we going to fix and pay for all of this?

ATSSA’s Vice President of Government Relations, Nate Smith, feels Congress has three options to address the current Highway Trust Fund funding shortfall.

“Congress could cut the federal program to have revenues match expenditures, or continue to deficit spend in order to fill the funding hole, or they could raise revenue for transportation and infrastructure through some sort of user-fee based model,” Smith said. “To be sure, the only real, responsible option that Congress has is to raise revenue for the Highway Trust Fund through user fees.”

He added, “ATSSA members should contact their elected officials and urge them to increase revenue into the Highway Trust Fund to improve infrastructure. You don’t need to be a transportation engineer to see firsthand that our infrastructure network needs significant investments to improve safety and efficiency.”

Ashley Wieland, ATSSA’s director of state government relations, shared an additional perspective on the need for an increase in the fuel tax. This stems from the increase of fuel efficient vehicles over the past 15 years. She said, “This trend has really stifled the revenue generating power of state and federal gas taxes. People are filling-up less and driving more.”

This chart, from the Federal Highway Administration, proves that point:

An increase of transportation investments would mean a rise in new construction opportunities across the country, as well as implementing much needed infrastructure repairs on the roads we travel. All of these improvements will require ATSSA member involvement as the manufacturers and installers of roadway safety products, equipment and services.

“Even something as low-cost as a rumble strips, retroreflective pavement markings, or a series of chevron signs in a curve, will help save lives,” Smith said.

ATSSA members are urged to contact their elected officials and ask them to support initiatives that will help our industry, and will help ATSSA members achieve “Zero Deaths” on our nation’s roadways. This will, of course, require all of us to pay a few more pennies per gallon each time we fill up.

Those of us old enough to remember when gas hit one dollar a gallon survived that bombshell. We can surely survive another jolt at the pumps – except this time – it will be for something that positively benefits the roadway safety industry, ATSSA members, and the entire motoring public in the long run.

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