When we think of America’s transportation system we often think of the roads in our own communities, the interstate highway system, and the trains, buses, and ferries we ride on daily.  But it is much more than our individual mode of travel or our local road that makes up this network.  There are approximately 4 million miles of roads, 117,000 miles of rail, 600,000 bridges, 26,000 miles of commercially navigable waterways, 11,000 miles of transit (including more than 5,000 miles of rail transit), more than 3,000 transit rail stations, 300 ports, and 19,000 airports that permit us to move about the United States.  Much of that infrastructure was built decades ago and the repair and maintenance of that system is falling behind. 

Investments in our transportation infrastructure results in job creation.  For every $1 billion in federal investment in transportation infrastructure, an estimated 27,800 to 34,800 jobs are created (Department of Transportation, 2008).

A modern transportation system will provide more reliability for goods and people to reach their destinations, boost our nation’s economic competitiveness and enhance the quality of life for all Americans.

Americans households spend 17.6% of their budgets on transportation (the second largest expense after housing).  America’s poorest households spend more than 40% of take-home pay on transportation – a figure that has increased 33% since 1992 (APTA: Changing the Way America Moves, Spring 2009).

The United States is falling behind other countries when it comes to infrastructure investments.  For example, by 2020, China plans to build 55,000 miles of highways, more than the total length of the U.S. interstate system (Atlanta Fed, 2008).

Repairing existing roads and bridges creates 9 percent more jobs per dollar than building new roads or bridges (Surface Transportation Policy Project, 2004).

Building America’s Future Educational Fund believes that every American, elected official, and business must care about the future of our transportation network.
 
As an American, these are your roads, your highways, your rail and transit systems, and you deserve the right to enjoy them.  As elected officials, it is our duty to ensure the resources and investments are made wisely, efficiently, and transparently.
 
We will continue to educate those charged with maintaining and building our national transportation system about the benefits to America’s economic competiveness, job growth, and goods and people movement when we make these smart investments.

Ports

The journey of much of our nation’s commerce begins or ends at our ports – whether they are on the East, West or Gulf Coasts.  Billions of dollars in economic goods pass through these vital trading routes and to ensure America is able to export products from our businesses we must ensure these ports operate more efficiently and can handle the projected increase in cargo traffic. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, there are 360 American sea and river ports.  By 2020, every major U.S. container port is projected to at least double the volume of cargo it was designed to handle.  Some West Coast ports will triple in volume and some West Coast ports will quadruple.  On an average day, some 43 million tons of goods valued at $29 billion move on the nation’s interconnected network of ports, roads, rails and inland waterways.

While our nation has vibrant network of port facilities, we are not doing enough to keep up with our international competitors.  Other countries are leapfrogging past us by investing in world-class ports.  China is investing $6.9 billion; the port of Shanghai now has almost as much container capacity as all U.S. ports combined (Source: Brookings Institute).

With the increase in supersized vessels, it is more critical than ever before that the appropriate resources are devoted to deepening our ports as to accommodate these new and larger vessels. The number of the world's Post-Panamax vessels, container ships that are too large to fit through the Panama Canal, increased from 331 in 2001 to 561 in 2004, with another 426 on order (USDOT MARAD 2005). We must wisely invest in port deepening projects so that we remain competitive with ports like Halifax and Vancouver. 

Impediments to the efficient movement of goods can help drive up costs to consumers.  Too often outdated infrastructure impedes the efficient flow of goods into and out of our ports.  We must also employ innovative ideas and technologies to help reduce congestion at our nation’s ports.  Initiatives like the Port of Los Angeles’ PierPass have helped make strides in reducing bottlenecks. 

To remain  economically competitive with the rest of the world, means having a modern and first class port system.

Airports

As of 2010, we have over 19,000 airports in the United States with over 600 million people flying on an annual basis, yet air traffic delays, an aged air traffic control system, and increasing costs are threatening to paralyze air travel.  Under investments in our airports results in greater delays and travel hassles for the flying public.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers our aviation system received a grade of ‘D’ in 2009 – an unacceptably low grade for a nation as great as the United States.  In addition, our air traffic control system is in dire need of modernization as we are operating with a system based on World War II era technology.  We must move more rapidly to deploy NextGen which is an umbrella term for the ongoing, wide-ranging transformation of the National Airspace System (NAS). At its most basic level, NextGen represents an evolution from a ground-based system of air traffic control to a satellite-based system of air traffic management. This evolution is vital to meeting future demand, and to avoiding gridlock in the sky and at our nation’s airports.

NextGen will open America’s skies to continued growth and increased safety while reducing aviation’s environmental impact.

When fully implemented, NextGen will allow more aircraft to safely fly closer together on more direct routes, reducing delays and providing unprecedented benefits for the environment and the economy through reductions in carbon emissions, fuel consumption and noise.

A 21st Century transportation system must employ the most cutting edge technologies such as NextGen to ensure the efficient and safe movement of people and goods.

Railways

We must move our goods more efficiently to ensure that we remain economically competitive with the rest of the world, grow the U.S. economy, and keep the costs of goods low for every American consumer.  

On an average day, some 43 million tons of goods valued at $29 billion move on the nation’s interconnected network of ports, roads, rails and inland waterways (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2008).   In 2003, freight logistics costs were 8.6 percent of GDP but rose to 9.5 percent in 2005, the largest such increase in 30 years. A full one-third of the increase in cost was attributable to inefficiencies in the transportation system (AASHTO, 2007).  Freight traffic on U.S. railroads increased more than 50% from 1990 to 2003 (The Brookings Institute: A Bridge to Somewhere, June 2008).   Freight bottlenecks cost about $200 billion or 1.6% of GDP per year (The Presidents Economic Recovery Advisory Board, December 2009).   If 10 percent of the long-distance freight that moves by truck moved by rail instead, we would save more than a billion gallons of fuel per year, and annual greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by more than 12 million tons – the equivalent of taking 2 million cars off the road or planting 280 million trees (Association of American Railroads: Rail Intermodal Keeps America Moving, May 2010).

We must also make investments now to ensure that high speed rail becomes a viable travel option for Americans. By creating a true high speed rail system we can reduce dependency on short-route airplane flights that could ease congestion in our airspace and reduce travel delays.   The environmental benefits of taking cars off the road and the likely reduction of short haul flights between cities that are served by a high speed rail line are compelling. According to the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Irvine, the proposed California high speed rail system will require one-fifth the total energy per passenger of a single typical single-occupancy car and one-tenth the energy of a commercial airplane.   The reasearchers have also forecasted a carbon dioxide emissions reduction of nearly half a billion pounds by the year 2035.

We must work to ensure that freight and people can move across the land at higher speeds while maintaining safety and reliability.

Highways and Roadways

By 2050, the total U.S. population is projected to reach 420 million, a 50 percent increase over 50 years. This growing society will demand higher levels of goods and services, and will rely on the transportation system to access them, according to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

Inefficiencies in our transportation system are costing billions and the statistics about the current condition of our highways and roads are alarming:

Americans waste 4.2 billion hours and 3.9 billion gallons of fuel a year sitting in traffic – equal to nearly one full work week and three weeks’ worth of gas for every traveler; the total cost of congestion in 2009 was $115 billion (Texas Transportation Institute, 2009).   The national impact of crashes in 2003 was $230.6 billion (2.3% of GDP) according to U.S. DOT.  By way of comparison, Medicare annual costs in 2008 were just over 3% of GDP (The New York City Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan, August 2010).   One-third of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and 45 percent of major urban highways are congested (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2009).   A 2005 FHWA study estimated the direct cost of highway bottlenecks to truckers at $7.8 billion a year.  Most of the bottlenecks—124 million hours of delay--occur at urban interstate interchanges at the cost of $4 billion.  Each of the top ten Interstate bottlenecks causes more than a million truck-hours of delay a year (The National Chamber Foundation: The Transportation Challenge, 2008).  

The primary source of funding for federal investments in our highways and mass transit system comes from the Highway Trust Fund.  The Highway Trust Fund was created in 1956 to construct the Interstate Highway System which has grown to 47,000 miles.   Funds deposited into the Highway Trust Fund include excise taxes on motor fuels and truck-related taxes, including taxes on gasoline, diesel fuel, gasohol, and other fuels; truck tires and truck sales; and heavy vehicle use.  In 1983, the Highway Trust Fund was divided into the Highway Account and the Mass Transit Account.  More than 80 percent of the total fund is the Highway Account, including a majority of the fuel taxes as well as all truck-related taxes.  The federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon and has not been raised since 1993. (source: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10780.pdf)

To address growing needs, including repair and maintenance of existing assets, more resources will be needed and we must find smarter, more efficient ways to make these investments to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.

Transit

When people in urban and rural areas need to commute to their jobs, schools, doctors, or just to see their families, millions of them use public transportation whether it is a train, bus, ferry or some other form of mass transit.  Using public transit helps reduce traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, and America’s dependence on foreign oil.   The statistics regarding transit ridership are impressive. According to the American Public Transportation Association, public transportation ridership grew 36 percent from 1995 to 2008, almost three times the growth rate of the U.S. population (14 percent).  And passengers took 10.5 billion trips and rode transit vehicles for 55.1 billion miles in 2008.    The nation’s largest transit agency, MTA New York City Transit, carried passengers on 3.3 billion trips for 11.9 billion miles.  Public transit reduces petroleum consumption by a total of 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline each year. This represents 108 million fewer cars filling up – almost 300,000 everyday (ICF International, 2007).   In 2006, public transit around the country saved 3.4 billion gallons of oil and prevented 26 million tons of greenhouse gases (Maryland Public Interest Research Group, 2008).   Public transit users save more than $9,381 per year by taking public transportation instead of driving (American Public Transportation Association, 2010).

As urban areas continue to grow, and roads reach their capacity, there will be an increased demand for transit buses, trains, vans, and other means to move people efficiently and without harming the environment.  We must continue to make smart investments in our mass transit systems so that people will have choices when it comes to their mobility.

Infrastructure That Needs Investment