Transportation Concerns Press for Passage of Federal Transportation Bill

Apr 29, 2014

Credit Jo Naylor/Flickr

A coalition of state and city transportation concerns recently released a poll that shows a majority of New York residents want Congress to take action on the transportation bill.

The poll commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association found that 71 percent of respondents felt it is very important that Congress makes sure road and bridge funding that is funneled to states continues.

Congress is currently struggling to pass the federal transportation bill, and its highway trust fund will run out of money if no action is taken by October 1st.
According to the NY Public Transit Association, the Trust Fund annually provides the NYS Department of Transportation with about 54 percent of the money for road, bridge and public transportation projects, and about 27 percent of Metropolitan Transportation Authority funding comes from the federal program.
Rochester Genesee Region Transit Authority CEO Bill Carpenter is a board member of the New York Public Transit Association. “Growing ridership is straining our systems and we need more infrastructure funding that the Highway Trust Fund would provide. We support the economy here in New York State. There’s thousands of manufacturing jobs that our systems depend on from rail cars, busses, suppliers. The Highway Trust Fund provides support for the New York State economy. We need to see that continue and to see the funding grow.”

American Public Transportation Association Vice President of Government Affairs Rob Healy says it’s urgent Congress act before the October deadline. He explains that by the beginning of August, the Federal Highway Administration will be unable to make full payments on current projects.  “We polled New Yorkers because we wanted to be able to go to your federal representatives, many of whom are in key positions, and say that New York’s voters feel that the federal investment in infrastructure is important. Absent some action by Congress, the state DOT’s cannot put out bids for new projects beginning in October.  Congress has to act.”

The federal transportation program is supported by gas and diesel taxes that go into the Highway Trust Fund’s mass transit and highway accounts. Those taxes have not been raised since 1993.

General Contractors Association of New York Managing Director Denise Richardson says while consumers are frustrated with rising gas prices, increasing those taxes is crucial.  “The gas tax historically has been the user fee that has funded transportation projects throughout the nation. Right now we need an immediate solution and the immediate solution is an increase in the gas tax.”

The American Public Transportation Association’s Rob Healy expects a short-term fix before the Congressional recess in August. But he wants a long-term bill that increases the dedicated funding to the Highway Trust Fund.  “Since 2009, you’ve had no increase in highway or transit spending at the federal  level and the needs continue to grow.”

The poll surveyed 500 registered New York voters and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.